November’s Bloom Where You Are Planted Edition
Photo by Paul W. Meyer
Our History at Home offerings typically sprout from history and architecture. Today, and once every month, we offer a conservation cornucopia from the Conservancy and some friends on trees, gardening, and stormwater management. We hope to help you “Bloom Where You Are Planted.”
November – American Holly
by Paul W. Meyer, Conservancy Board Member and
Morris Arboretum’s Retired F. Otto Haas Executive Director
American holly is one of the relatively few broad-leaf, evergreen trees that grow in our region. As such, it gives welcome green relief to the gray winter landscape while providing food and shelter to overwintering birds and other wildlife. Its natural range includes coastal areas from Massachusetts to Texas.
In Pennsylvania native stands are rare, occurring primarily in the lower Susquehanna River Valley. It can be found in the understory of the Wissahickon Valley, but these plants are likely naturalized from nearby landscape plantings.
American holly is quite slow growing, and in landscapes it is often treated as a shrub. But when allowed to grow into its natural arboreal form, it can reach well over 60 feet in height. It withstands shearing and can be planted as a clipped hedge.
American holly is dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate plants.  Hollies are insect pollinated, often by honey bees, so one male in the neighborhood can provide pollen for many females. Many female clones have been selected, for their more prolific fruit set and often, for dark green foliage. Some of my favorite clones are ‘Old Heavy Berry’, ‘Satyr Hill’, and Jersey Princess’.  Also, several clones have also been selected for their unusual yellow berries. A very fine collection of hollies, including many clones of American holly are growing at the Morris Arboretum. Go to the Arboretum for a winter walk and select your favorite.
Usually birds will not eat the fruits until late winter or early spring. By then the fruits are beginning to ferment on the trees. Many years I have observed flocks of raucous robins on a drunken feeding frenzy. I cannot explain it, but this year in our garden, the birds are already stripping the trees of fruit and not leaving any for late winter, when food is scarcer.
As we enter the dark days of winter, branches of well-fruited holly can be cut and brought indoors as natural decorations. This tradition dates back to Druid and Roman traditions, who used the closely-related English holly. During the feast of Saturnalia, holly branches were offered to the god Saturn. Druids thought holly to have magical powers, which brought good luck.  Christians picked up on these seasonal traditions and began associating holly with Christmas celebrations, which are celebrated at the same time of the year. Of course, the fact that holly is usually looking its best in December, makes it a perfect non-denominational home decoration for the winter season.
See the entire gallery of images for this month’s article at our Tree of the Month page! Visit our History at Home page for more information.
Chestnut Hill Conservancy is regularly highlighting special trees in our community, both large and small, as well as common and obscure. In doing so we hope to promote an appreciation of our arbor legacy and foster a culture of stewardship and renewal of this invaluable resource.
Photos by Paul W. Meyer:
Top: A stately American Holly, growing at the Chestnut Hill Free Library.
Second: Hollies have male and female flowers on separate plants. Note the plump green central ovary on these female flowers, and the diminished stamens with no pollen.
Third: Morris Arboretum Holly collection in the snow.
Bottom: One of the best clones of American holly, ‘Old Heavy Berry’.
November – Bulbs
Invest in the Future. Plant Bulbs in the Fall for Spring
by Emilie Lapham, Conservancy Board Member, avid gardener, botanical artist, and active participant in several noted local and national garden organizations.
If you want to see a culture that values bulbs and flowers as part of life, visit the Netherlands in the spring. Agriculture and particularly the growth and production of flowers and bulbs is a 10 billion dollar industry there. Two of the photographs above are views of vast fields of bulbs seen from the train and one is the famous gardens of Keukenhof.
Planting bulbs in the fall basically guarantees a show of color in the spring and a green thumb is not required for success with bulbs. Catalogues or the internet will provide the largest selection of choices to select from but there are local sources too. When looking at these resources it will be obvious why I have mentioned the Netherlands. The suppliers make it very easy to learn how to garden with bulbs and they provide lots of information about planting also.
The Romans planted Daffodils as early as 300 BC but a remarkable part of horticulture history is Tulip mania. Shipping brought great fortunes to the Dutch and some spent vast sums of money on single bulbs in the 17th century. Anna Pavord wrote a wonderful book, The Tulip, about this part of history.
Allium is another wonderful show stopper to add to the garden. Tall stems with floating spheres of purple pink and white add personality to a spot.
The list is long but here are some bulbs to try: Allium, Amaryliss (Indoor), Anemone, Camassia, Crocus, Daffodils, Fressias, Fritillaria, Galanthus, Hyacinths, Hyacinthodes, Leucojum, Muscari, Narcissi, Ranunculus,Scilla, and Tulips.
Experiment with some bulbs indoors to make your house fragrant and colorful even on the coldest day. And now I am going to plant some bulbs…
All Photos by Emilie Lapham
Top: View from the Train, Holland. Second: Holland on a train. Third: Tulips at Keukenhoff. Fourth: Keukenhof. Fifth: March 29th, Foxlea meadow. Sixth: April 14, Foxlea meadow. Seventh: Allium. Eighth: Allium going to seed, just as fun. Bottom: Select and purchase bulbs.
The blooming season can start very early with Snow Drops, sweet little bell shaped flowers that brave the cold and as the name suggests, even snow. Narcissus or the common name Daffodils can brighten the landscape for many weeks in the spring. I plant varieties of Narcissus that are are labeled to naturalize and look how well they spread along the landscape. Planting in a natural location eliminates the need to cut or remove foliage after the blooming period but that depends on the available space. Deer leave Daffodils alone but be careful where you plant Tulips they are a favorite treat. There are so many exceptional colors and shapes of Tulips to choose from.
Introducing our new A Gardener’s World webpage, featuring the full gallery of articles and images. Check back each month as we contribute these wonderful features! Click HERE.
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