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undergrowth to the oak, the ash, and the pine. In Ireland, the holly is not very common; but about the lakes of Killarney it attains a large size. The holly has been much admired from the earliest periods.
Its use for ornamenting churches and dwellings, at Christmas, is well known, though the origin of the practice is uncertain. The custom of putting evergreens in places of religious worship prevailed long before the birth of Christ; and several passages in Holy Writ have reference to it :
" And they found written in the law which the Lord had commanded by Moses, that
“And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem,
NeneMIAH, viii. 14, 15. The holly appears to have been first employed for this purpose by the early Christians, at Rome; and was probably adopted for decorating the churches at Christmas, because it was used in the great festival of the Saturnalia, which occurred about that period. It was the policy of the Christians to assimilate the festivals of the Pagans as nearly as possible in their outward forms, to avoid exciting unnecessarily their prejudices; and it was customary among the Romans to send boughs of holly, during the Saturnalia, as emblems of "peace and good-will,” with the gifts they presented to their friends at that season. It was for this reason, independently of any desire to conciliate the Pagans, well adapted to be an emblem of the principal festival of a religion which professes, more than any other, " to preach peace and good-will to man.” Whatever may have been the origin of the practice, it appears to have been a very ancient usage; for Bourne, in his “Antiquities of the Common People," cites an edict of the Council of Bracara, forbidding Christians to begin to decorate their houses at Christmas, with green boughs, at the same time that the Pagans decorated theirs at the Saturnalia, which commenced about a week earlier. Dr. Chandler, in his “Travels in Greece," supposes that this custom was derived from the Druids, who, he says, decorated their dwellings with evergreens during winter, “that the sylvan spirits might repair to them, and remain unnipped with frost and cold winds, until a milder season had renewed the foliage of their darling abodes." The earliest record of this custom in England, perhaps, is in a carol in praise of the holly, written in the time of Henry VI., and preserved in the Harleian MSS., in illustration of which, it must be observed, that the ivy, being dedicated to Bacchus, was used as a vintner's sign in winter, and hung outside of the door.
“Nay, Ivy, nay, it shall not be I wys;
Ivy stond without the dore; she ys full sore a cold." Stow, in his "Survey of London," in 1598, says that, in his time, “every man's house, the parish churches, the corners of the streets, conduits, market-crosses, &c., were decorated with holme, ivy, and the bayes, at Christmas.” Formerly, in England, when it was customary to enclose and subdivide gardens by hedges, the holly was employed by all who could afford to procure the plants, and wait for them to grow. Evelyn had a magnificent hedge of this kind, at his gardens at Say's Court, which he thus rapturously describes :-" Is there under heaven a more glorious and refreshing object of the kind than an impregnable hedge, of about four hundred feet in length, nine feet high, and five in diameter, which I can show in my now ruined gardens, at Say's Court, at any time of the year, glittering with its armed and varnished leaves, the taller standards, at orderly distances, blushing with their natural coral ?" Other holly hedges, famous in
their day, were those of Lord Dacre, at his park in Sussex, and of Sir Matthew Decker, at Richmond. "I have seen hedges," observes Evelyn, “or, if you will, stout walls of holly, twenty feet in height, kept upright; and the gilded sort budded low, and in two or three places one above another, shorn and fashioned into columns and pilasters, architecturally shaped, and at due distance; than which nothing can possibly be more pleasant, the berry adorning the intercolumniations with scarlet festoons, and encarpa.” In Scotland, the most celebrated holly hedges were those of the Earl of Haddington, at Tyningham, and those at Collington House, and at Moredun, near Edinburgh. Those at Tyningham were chiefly planted in 1712, and are two thousand nine hundred and fifty-two yards in length, from ten to twenty-five feet in height, and from nine to thirteen feet wide at the base. Most of the hedges are regularly clipped in April, and are carefully protected, by ditches on each side, from the bite of cattle, and more particularly of sheep, which are very fond of the bark, shoots, and young leaves of this tree.
Pliny tells us that there was a holly-tree, in his time, growing near the Vatican, in Rome, on which was fixed a plate of brass, with an inscription engraven in Tuscan letters, and that this was older than Rome itself, which must have been more than eight hundred years. The same author notices a holly-tree, in Tusculum, the trunk of which measured thirty-five feet in circumference, and which sent out ten branches, of such magnitude, that each might pass for a tree itself. He says, that this single tree alone, resembled a small wood.
Cole informs us, in his “Paradise of Plants,” that he knew a tree of this kind which grew in an orchard, and “the owner,” he says, “cut it down, and caused it to be sawn into boards, and made himself thereof a coffin; and, if I mistake not, left enough to make his wife one also. Both the parties were corpulent; and, therefore, you may imagine the tree could not be small.” Evelyn mentions some large holly-trees near his own place, at Wooton, in Surry, in the neighbourhood of which was once a fort called “Holmsdale Castle,” from, as he supposes, the number of holms or hollies, which once grew there. The names of " Holmsdale," " Holmwood," and "Holme Castle," occur in various parts of Scotland, and are generally supposed to have been applied in consequence of the abundance of hollies at these places at the times the names were given. Hayes mentions a variegated silver holly at Ballygannon, in Ireland, twenty-five feet high, with a trunk five feet in circumference; and another, on Innisfallen Island, in the lake of Killarney, with a trunk fifteen feet in circumference, and of about the same height before it began to branch out.
The largest holly in England, is at Claremont, in Surry. It grows in a sandy loam or gravel, and in 1835, measured eighty feet in height, with a trunk two feet, two inches in diameter, and an ambitus, or spread of branches, of twentyfive feet.
At Paris, in the Jardin des Plantes, there is a tree of this species, which attained the height of thirty feet in fifty years after planting. And Baudrillart speaks of holly hedges, in France, that are upwards of two hundred years old.
In Prussia, the holly grows wild in a forest twenty miles from Berlin, nevertheless, in the botanic garden of that city, it requires protection during winter.
In Italy, at Monza, there is a tree of this species, which attained the height of twenty feet in thirty years after planting.
The European holly was probably among the first trees introduced into North America by the early settlers, but owing to the severity of our climate in winter, it appears not to have thrived north of the Potomac. There are several fine specimens of this tree in Virginia, which have long been standing there, and probably were planted soon after the settlement of Jamestown, in 1607.
Poetical and Legendary Allusions. In the language of poets, this tree is
regarded as a symbol of foresight, and was considered by the ancient Romans as an emblem of "peace and good-will.” The disciples of Zoroaster believed that the sun never shadows the holly-tree; and the followers of that philosopher, who still remain in Persia and India, are said to throw water impregnated with the bark of this tree in the face of a newly-born child. A number of curious carols, and other verses, ancient and modern, in reference to the holly, will be found in Forster's "Calendar;" and an elegant poem by Southey, alluding to the circumstance of the lower leaves of large plants being spinous, while the upper ones are entire, is printed in Johnston's "Flora of Berwick upon Tweed,” from which we make the following extract:
O reader! hast thou ever stood to see
Its glossy leaves,
Wrinkled and keen;
Can reach to wound;
In ancient times, Pliny tells us that “Tiburtus built the city of Tibur near three holly-trees; over which he had observed the flight of birds that pointed out the spot whereon the gods had fixed for its erection;" and that these trees were standing in his own time, and must, therefore, have been upwards of twelve hundred years old.
Soil and Situation. The holly, according to Loudon, attains its largest size in a rich, sandy loam; but it will grow, and even thrive, in almost any soil, provided it is not overcharged with moisture. Cook says, it does best on soils somewhat gravelly; Miller, that it prospers on gravel over chalk; and Boutcher, that it refuses not almost any sort of barren ground, hot or cold; in short, it is found on all soils, except in bogs or marshes. The largest hollies at Surry and Kent, are in loam or chalk; those at Tyningham are on a deep, alluvial sand; and those in Aberdeenshire, on granitic clay. The most favourable situation for the holly, in England, is said to be a thinly scattered wood of oaks, in the intervals of which, it grows up at once sheltered and partially shaded. Yet it will thrive completely beneath the shade and drip of other trees; for which reason it is surpassed, as undergrowth, by no other evergreen shrub or tree, except the box.
Propagation and Culture. The holly may be propagated by seeds, by cuttings, or by budding and grafting. As the seeds, like those of the hawthorn, do not come up the first year, the berries, in England, are commonly buried in the soil, or kept mixed up in a heap of earth for one year. Mr. Loudon recommends mixing the berries as soon as gathered, in a heap of earth, which should be turned over several times in the course of the season, to facilitate the decomposition of the pulp and husks. This will generally be effected by the autumn succeeding that in which they are gathered from the tree; and they may then be taken, and separated from the earth, with which they are mixed, by sifting, and sown in beds of finely prepared soil, and covered to a depth of about a quarter of an inch. Thus prepared, when sown in autumn, they will come up the June following. A covering of half-rotten leaves, or of straw, placed over the seed-beds, will protect the soil from extreme heat and drought, and will greatly facilitate the progress of the germination. As the holly is liable to suffer from transplanting, it should never be kept in the nursery longer than two years in one place. When the seeds are to be sown immediately after gathering, Boutcher directs that the berries should remain on the trees till December; or, if they could be kept out of the reach of birds, till February or March. As soon as they are gathered, he says, "throw them into a tub with water, and rub them between your hands till the seeds are divested of their thick, glutinous covering; pour off the water, with the light seeds that swim, the mucilage, &c., and spread the sound seeds on a cloth, in a dry, airy place, rubbing them often, and giving them a fresh cloth daily till they are quite dry. If this be done in autumn or winter, mix them with sand, and keep them dry till spring; but, if they have been gathered in spring, let them be sown immediately.” When cuttings are made choice of for the propagation of the holly, they are selected in autumn, of the ripened summer shoots. They are planted in a sandy soil, in a shady border, and covered with hand-glasses; and they generally strike root the following spring. It has been found by experience, that cuttings of trees and shrubs generally, which are grown nearest the ground, or on the north side of the tree, and so planted as to be kept moist and shaded, always take root more readily than those which have been taken from the summit, and more exposed to the influence of light and air, the moisture and shade being the predisposing causes of the production of the roots. The operations of budding and grafting may be performed at the usual times and in the usual manner; but it has been observed by Tschoudi, that cleft-grafting does not succeed nearly so well with the holly as whip-grafting. In England, the stocks budded or grafted, are generally of four or five years' growth; and the grafting is performed in March, and the budding in July. No plant requires less care than the holly, when it is once established. This species rarely needs pruning; and the varieties which have been grafted or budded require little more than the removal of shoots from the stock. To prepare them for removal, however, whether of a large or small size, they ought to be taken up and replanted every other year. The seasons most usually adopted for the transplanting of evergreens, are the spring, and in mild weather in winter, although summer and autumn are generally stated to be the proper times for performing that work. The principle which justifies the practice of removing them in winter or spring is, thạt most plants are more safely removed when they are in a comparatively dormant state, and when the weather is temperaie, the air moist and still, rather than dry and in motion. It is well known that the greatest degree of torpidity in plants or trees exists a short time before they begin to germinate or push out shoots; consequently, as evergreens begin to grow only a week or two later than deciduous trees of the same climate, the proper time for transplanting them must be nearly the same. The chief difference to be observed is, the circumstance of evergreen trees being at no time whatever in so completely a dormant state as deciduous ones; and hence, such weather in winter, autumn, or spring, must be chosen for removing them, as will least affect their fibrous roots and leaves by evaporation. When the holly is to be planted as a hedge, if it is desirable that the growth shall be rapid, the soil ought to be trenched to the depth of three or four feet. If the subsoil be poor, it is recommended to dig a trench, in the direction of the intended hedge, three or four feet wide, and as many deep, and to fill up the space with good surface soil taken from the neighbouring ground or elsewhere. The soil in the trench should be raised at least a foot above the adjoining surface, to allow for settling; and along the middle of this ridge, the plants should be set from one foot to eighteen inches apart. According to Miller, holly hedges should never be clipped, because, when the leaves are cut through the middle, they are rendered unsightly; and the shoots should therefore be cut with a knife close to a leaf. This mode, undoubtedly, is more appropriate for hedges in gardens and pleasure-grounds, where it is desirable to preserve an effect more pleasing to the eye; but, as this method leaves a rougher exterior surface, and involves a much greater expense than clipping, it is unsuitable where the object is to prevent birds from building in the hedges, and to maintain effective fences at the least expense. The proper time for clipping appears to be just after the leaves have arrived at maturity; because at that season, in the holly, as in the box, the wound is repaired, in a measure, by the healing over, produced by the remaining sap, still in circulation. · When it is desired to cultivate the holly for timber, it should be grown in the same manner as in close plantations, either with or without nurse-trees, according to the situation; and the stems should be deprived of their side branches, when they are less than half an inch in diameter, to a certain height, say one fourth of the entire height of the tree, in order to have a clean trunk.
Properties and Uses. The wood of the holly is almost of an ivory whiteness, except near the centre of very old trunks, where it is of a brownish hue. It is very hard and compact, with a fine grain, and susceptible of a high degree of polish, which renders it well adapted for many purposes in the arts. When dry, it weighs forty-seven and a half pounds to a cubic foot, and is very retentive of its sap, in consequence of which, it is liable to warp, unless it is well dried and seasoned before being used. It readily takes a durable colour of almost any shade, and hence it is much used by cabinet-makers in forming what are technically called " strings and borders,” in ornamental works. When properly stained black, its colour and lustre are little inferior to those of ebony. It may be applied to a great number of purposes by joiners, cabinet-makers, turners, engineers, mathematical instrument-makers, and, next to the box and pear-tree, it is the best wood for engraving upon, as it is compact, and stands the tool well. Among its principal uses in England, at present, is, when dyed black, to be substituted for ebony, in the handles of metallic teapots, &c. In France, the young shoots and the branches are given to sheep and deer, during winter; and the stronger straight shoots, deprived of their bark, are made into whip-handles and walking-canes. The bark of the holly contains an abundance of viscid matter; and, when macerated in water, fermented, and then separated from the fibres, it forms bird-lime. Medicinally, the bark of this tree is mucilaginous, emollient, and solvent, and is said to possess strong febrifugal powers. The berries are purgative, and six or eight of them, when swallowed, will cause violent vomiting; though they are considered as poisonous to men, they form the food of some birds, more especially of the thrushes.
As a hedge plant, in temperate climates, the holly forms, perhaps, the most impenetrable and the most durable of all live fences; and it has this superior advantage over deciduous-leaved trees, that it is seldom attacked by insects, and will well endure the shears. Its chief objection is the very indifferent progress which it makes for the first few years after planting; but, after it becomes established in a suitable soil, or about its third or fourth year, there are but few hedgeplants that will surpass it in their growth. It may be carried to a great height, and, consequently, is well adapted for situations where strength and shelter are required, especially during winter, when most other hedges are deprived of their leaves.