Lovely Lady Holly

November 4, 2014 parkway 008


This venerable holly stands in a median on the Colonial Parkway where one turns to visit the Jamestown Settlement exhibits.  Not the archeological site, this is near the museum where Jamestown history is interpreted and where school groups eat their picnic lunches.

This gorgeous tree grabbed my attention during a drive down the  Colonial Parkway earlier this week, because it is one of the first we’ve seen covered in bright red berries.


November 4, 2014 parkway 009


Here is the first sentinel of nature showing us that the winter holidays are on their way.

Holly and ivy remain iconic native plants for the winter holidays, partly because they remain green all winter long.


November 30 Parkway 008

The red berries produced by the female holly tree reminded our ancestors of the sun, fire, warmth, and renewal.  They still shine brightly  on grey wintery days, even  from underneath a blanket of snow;  reminding us that the sun, and summer, will return.


These berries growing on a holly right beside our home are still in the process of turning from green to red.

These berries growing on a holly right beside our home are still in the process of turning from green to red.


Our Virginia woods hold many native holly trees.  The birds help spread their seeds each year as they eat their berries, excreting the seeds far and wide.

We rarely notice the holly trees until late November when most of our deciduous trees stand bare.  Then, we can see through the forest to the small army of holly  shining in winter’s sunshine.


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Many of these trees remain stunted.  Growing at the base of oaks, maples, poplars, and pines, they rarely have a chance to fully develop.

Holly prefers full sun, which rarely reaches those growing in the forest.

Holly trees grow along the Colonial Parkway near Jamestown Island.

Holly trees grow along the Colonial Parkway near Jamestown Island.


We see these beautiful trees’ full potential when they grow on the edge of the woods, or remain, growing alone, like the venerable  lady in the median.

Holly, one of the trees counted as “holy” by the Celtic druids, grows as either a male or a female throughout its life.


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Only the female holly trees cover themselves in berries each year.  And  even the female trees don’t produce berries until several years into their lives.


November 8, 2014 holly 004

We protect a small grove of seedling holly trees in our woods.   They were only a few inches high when we came to this forest garden.


November 8, 2014 holly 012


We watch them add height each year, looking forward to when the females among them bear their first berries.

A small holly also grew at the corner of our house, peaking out from behind a Hydrangea when we first arrived.  It has grown now to a small tree, and we are happy to find it is a female covered in bright berries this year.


November 8, 2014 holly 002


This is its first year to cover itself in bright fruit; a tremendous source of pleasure as we come and go each day.

The “grand dames” of holly trees may be found along the Colonial Parkway, mostly near Jamestown Island.

Protected at least since the road was completed as a part of the National Park in the late 1950’s, these holly trees look to be much older even than that.

Those growing near the road enjoy full sun year round, and remain one of the first of nature’s messengers  that the winter holidays are close at hand.


November 24 2013 trees 031

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013- 2014



December 13 2013 poinsettias 003

  Holiday Wreath Challenge

About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

5 responses to “Lovely Lady Holly

  1. what a lovely lovely holy tree that is !!!

  2. We are too far north for this holly, but I wish we could grow them for I love their pyramidal shape (as well as the berries, of course!). What we can grow are the smaller-leaved Asian hollies of which I have two types. They are more bushes than trees, but I am thankful for their shiny foliage and berries when it comes to holiday decorating. 🙂

    • Yes, they are all so beautiful in the winter months. Eliza, you’ve taught me something once again: I didn’t realize that our native hollies won’t grow as far north as Massachusettes. We are so fortunate to have them here. Have you ever lived in a more southern latitude? Hope you are all enjoying the weekend. Best wishes, WG

      • It is possible that they can grow on Cape Cod, which is milder, but I don’t recall seeing any personally.
        I have always lived in MA, with brief times in ME, but never in the south. I have a sister who lived in FL, but now in SC. I travelled a bit when I was just out of college to SA & Europe. But I am a New Englander, even though I am not that fond of cold and winter!
        Hope your weekend is enjoyable, also.

        • Dear Eliza,

          It is a wise person who knows where is home, and grows deep roots. I’ve lived in Virginia since I was 4, and have lived in several different areas of the state. Here is what I found on Ilex opaca: I don’t believe the female tree in the median, which I featured, is the native species. There are so many varieties, and certainly Ilex aquifolium has been imported and planted in Virginia, along with many other species and cultivars, since Capt. Smith’s time. The native hollies, Magnolias, pines, and cedars just light up our wooded areas all winter long. And there is (invasive?) ivy growing everywhere, too. I hope you will plan a trip at some point to breathe in the warmth of Virginia in the late autumn. Enjoy the weekend 😉 WG

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