It’s that time of year when our native holly – with its glossy, dark green leaves and bright red berries -really comes into its own.

How about growing your own sprig of holly to decorate the Christmas pudding?  There are lots of varieties to choose from apart from the common holly (Ilex aquifolium). For leaf colour, try ‘Handsworth Silver’, a dense, columnar tree, with creamy margined leaves and bright red berries.

‘Madame Briot’ is very popular, with purplish stems and bright golden leaf margins, (we have a fine young specimen here at the National Botanic Garden of Wales).

‘Bacciflava’ is female and has yellow berries, and the berries of ‘Amber’ – as the name suggests – are amber-yellow and abundant.

Remember most hollies are either male or female; if you want berries then you will need both male and female or at least make sure there is one male tree in the vicinity.

Hollies are woodland plants often associated with oak and beech woods and are tolerant of shade but varieties with variegated leaves do best in the open.

Hollies also provide great cover for birds all year round and the berries provide food in the winter and are a particular favourite of thrushes.

Angela Singleton, senior horticulturist