Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Holly With a Side of Ivy, Please!
There are very few berries to be found on the holly bushes situated around my house and gardens this year. According to garden legend, the absence or presence of holly berries on a bush can foretell winter weather: a few berries means a mild winter is in the forecast while a lot of berries on a bush means a hard winter as these extra berries will help provide the birds with enough food to keep them fed through the long, harsh conditions to come.
As to the lack of berries on the holly bushes in the yard this year, my theory is that perhaps its because every morning I awake to find an entire herd of deer grazing in my back yard. The "alpha" is always sitting down--literally--looking all too serene, while the other 15 deer are nosing their way through my garden beds looking for whatever it is they like to eat. Apparently, they like to eat just about anything (like holly and holly berries) planted back there. I have tried, on several occasions, to get a picture of the lead deer along with her cohorts lounging about, but I can't get close enough before she jumps up and leads her followers blithely over the fence and into the woods--I'm sure snickering all of the way.
I am growing tired of watching those thankless deer help themselves to my salad bar of winter greens and goodies, from hollies and lavenders (yes, they have even nibbled on lavender) to azaleas and laurels. Yet, they come back every morning in spite of sending Tucker to chase them away or me yelling at them to leave--pointless, I know. I'm sure, to the deer, we are merely the waiters asking, "Can we clear your plates from this lovely grass table and, oh, don't bother leaving a tip...we've got it covered...come again...soon!"
In spite of the lack of berries, the assortment of hollies, some with prickly leaves and others with smooth leaves are beautiful even without their red adornments. Their green, waxy leaves provide polish and shine amidst the winter garden.
In Christianity, holly branches are used to decorate as a sign of the coming sadness of Good Friday in the spring. The meaning of holly in the language of flowers means "forecast." Holly trees are associated with Easter because it is said that the cross was made of holly wood and that all holly berries were yellow until the crucifixion of Christ when they turned red from his blood.
I found these two little variegated beauties paired with ivy leaves on the steps of a store in Leesburg and it made me think of the Christmas song that goes, "The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown, of all the trees that are in the wood, the ivy wears the crown." Then the chorus actually goes on to talk about the rising of the sun and the running of the deer--just like in my backyard! Yep, it's definitely Christmas time around here!
In garden lore and legend, the holly tree represents masculinity, steadfastness and holiness while ivy represents femininity because of its clinging properties and its unpredictability...say what?! In any case, holly and ivy are beautiful Christmas greenery that humans, birds and deer all enjoy. 'Tis the season to share. I'm wondering what the deer will leave in my yard as Christmas gifts for us this year? Don't tell me I think I have a fairly good idea!