This isn’t exactly the holly time of year. The christmassy archetype of tight red berries, chiming merrily against green-glossy spikes, belongs to another, brisker season. Holly is sinewy, intense and colour-coded for snow. As if it only existed in winter.Or so I thought. But last weekend, I changed my mind. We human beings are good at change. That’s the key to evolutionary success. My epiphany was that a holly bushes are either male or female – and that both genders offer flowers irresistible to bees.
As it turns out, the male holly pods are tight, tinged bundles which burst, double-antlered with pollen prongs. And female holly bears a bud, green and nectar-sweet, when unfurled on its white pedestal. And bees hum from flower to flower, weaving a scrupulous commerce, conjugating next winter’s clutch of holly berries.
And to think. I have lived all these years with holly crammed into the gap between the first Noel and the New Year litter of bare-branched Christmas trees abandoned on the pavement.
Why? I suppose I just saw holly as a Christmas fixture, from childhood onwards. The set-piece was unchanging: the tribal gathering, a ritual consumption, the short joy of gifting and, finally, the flame-frazzled holly sprig from the pudding: festive dross.
From now on, my perception of holly will not freeze-frame as a December ceremonial, hung on the hook of recall until next Christmas. Holly is evergreen, a venue for flower and bee to exchange their gifts of creation in an unshedding interaction.
Holly. You just have to know how to celebrate it, that’s all. The bees do.