Green Grows the Holly – it’s an old Christmas carol I’ve been singing with the Island Voices Choir on Portland this year, and it’s the first thing that came to mind when I needed a seasonal subject. I love plants and holly would do very nicely – but since I’m also your Writer on the Beach, let’s stick to the seaside theme and make it Sea Holly.

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I love sea hollies – the native British one grows down here near the Chesil Beach and I see it every year. But there are lots of others from around the world. They are strikingly beautiful both in form and colour – particularly tending to blue. Observe an aqua-blue leaf or an amethystine stem, both suggesting the paint-pot rather than a work of nature.

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Some of them carry a halo of spines the colour of sea-mist. Not at all your typical plant colour – and some have deep blue-green leaves marbled with cream.

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The architectural form is varied, too, some with broad ruffs beneath the flower recalling a triceratops, some narrow and almost fluffy-looking. And some of the taller ones have the elegance of an egret plumed with spines. It’ll be quite an unconventional look if you deck the halls with boughs of this holly!

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Our own sea holly here on the Chesil has very holly-like leaves – but they’re a livid blue-grey. Where they sprawl among the grasses in summer they form a patch looking for all the world like a length of lost fishing net as if they don’t belong at all. But they do. At this time of year they have dried to the colour of sand, beautiful blues all gone, but form retained. They come adrift from their moorings, and blow about the beach in the rough winter winds – they are the Chesil’s very own home-grown Christmas decorations.

 

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