Holly: a useful Christmas evergreen in your garden

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WP espresso coffee cup

WP espresso coffee cup

This year’s weather has had a detrimental effect on the coffee bean crop: bad news for coffee lovers. Strictly speaking, coffee is from the beans of the Coffea shrub, a tropical evergreen. But there may be an alternative evergreen growing in your garden. Did you know that certain Holly leaves can be brewed to make a caffeine rich drink?

The leaves of several species of Holly (Ilex) contain caffeine and are used to make a stimulating drink. Holly is a species of both evergreen and deciduous broad leaved trees, shrubs and climbers ranging across both tropical and temperate zones. Whilst many readers will be thinking of either the European Holly (Ilex aquifolium Europea) or the American Holly (Ilex aquifolium opaca) it is the tropical and sub tropical species that are the richest (if that is the phrase) in caffeine.

WP holly variegated

WP holly variegated

The best known caffeine drink from Holly is yerba maté, made from the leaves of Ilex aquifolium paraguayensis. This South American sub tropical species grows naturally in Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. Although the Spanish ‘yerba’ suggests it is an herbaceous plant, it is an evergreen tree. The leaves are not the prickly edged ones most Europeans and North Americans think of when visualising holly, but are glossy green with softly serrated edges. The berries or fruits are dark purple/red; an attractive contrast to the leaves.

As well as containing caffeine (rich in anti antioxidants), Holly leaves have anti-inflammatory properties and a high levels of vitamins. The beneficial properties of yerba mate don’t stop there. If normal coffee keeps you awake, may find these particular caffeine rich Holly leaves more to your taste. Although there are high levels of caffeine, enough to give you that ‘buzz’, the brew doesn’t seem to cause the ‘jitters’ that some people find an unwelcome side effect of coffee drinking.

The Maté tree has also been cultivated in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, where the refreshing brew is a popular drink. Yerba mate has quite a grassy taste, so not what you’d expect from coffee, more as you would expect from green tea; but with that caffeine ‘kick’ of course.

And as for the decorative and wildlife friendly uses that Holly can be put to in your garden, well, that’s another blog…or why not have a read of our eBook?

For more tales of Christmas evergreens, planting ideas for your winter garden, and a gallery of photographs and original sketches, why not add our eBook “In Your Winter Garden with Plews Garden Design” to your Christmas present purchases? Available from Amazon and Smashwords in formats to suit PC, iPad and Kindle.

If you would like some garden design advice, so your winter garden looks like a wonderland, get in touch: info@plewsgardendesign.co.uk

WP Holly 'ferox'

WP Holly ‘ferox’

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