Woodland 007 Wm


We need to go foraging, to find some bits and pieces with which to decorate the house.


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 You’ll need to watch your step. The wood is still littered with fallen branches and trees. A carpet of leaves conceals animal burrows and uneven ground. And then there are the ivy runners that trail out across the woodland floor. Trip wires for the unwary. It’s an atmospheric morning though, with the valley shrouded in mist.


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I was after holly berries, but it doesn’t look like we’re in for much luck. There are several thickets of holly like this one but, so far, not a single berry to be seen. Didn’t I read somewhere you need to have trees of both sexes to get them? Maybe that’s the problem.


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On the way through the wood we’ll pass the old duck pond. It’s the only infinity edge duck pond I know, built out over a mound of earth and overlooking the river below. No wonder it leaks. Down at the river level the mud will suck you in like quicksand. It’s where I hope to establish a bog garden one day.


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If you ever doubted how damp it really gets in Devon, take a look at these ferns. They are growing on the surface of a tree branch, some 15 feet up in the air.


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But here is an interesting discovery. Holly berries, dropped on the ground. At some point then, they were growing on the trees. Growing long enough to ripen. Could the birds really have stripped all those branches bare, before I’d even noticed that the berries were there?

Perhaps this year I’ll try something different with the Christmas decorations. Minimal.


 Ivy on tree 001 Wm




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A few Ivy flowers..


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Buds from the Skimmia bush..


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Perhaps do something with these Cotoneaster berries too.

Watch this space.


Steam off roof 001 Wm


At last the sun is breaking through, strong enough to evaporate the moisture on the roof.

At least, I hope that’s what it is..


We’ve almost reached the top of the hill now. Standing beside the oil tank, I’m reminded of what happened this time last year. But after an hour and a half of battling through the undergrowth, will we find any holly berries at all?


Woodland 003 Wm




2018-02-17T10:01:00+00:00December 18th, 2013|Tags: |


  1. Freda December 18, 2013 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    8 is good Jessica! We have none is Coronation Wood, but someone has given us a female holly so we have hopes for the future! Hope your oil tank is full..

    • Jessica December 18, 2013 at 5:49 pm - Reply

      Half full… enough!

  2. Sue December 18, 2013 at 4:13 pm - Reply

    Well you have eight more than us 🙂

    Where my Mum has just moved to their is a lovely variegated holly in the communal gardens that is covered in red berries ….. I wonder if they would miss a few branches 😉

    • Jessica December 18, 2013 at 5:52 pm - Reply

      My mother lived in a similar development until a year or so ago. They had CCTV. Just sayin’…

  3. Abby December 18, 2013 at 4:13 pm - Reply

    Love the aerial ferns! Like a rainforest! Atmospheric photo of your steaming cottage too! Looking forward to seeing your decs 😉 x

    • Jessica December 18, 2013 at 5:55 pm - Reply

      Deep in the wood it feels almost primeval.. it certainly hasn’t been altered in many many years.

  4. elaine December 18, 2013 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    I can’t believe I am only your second comment – usually it’s in the 50’s by the time I get round to your posts. It is definitely the birds stripping the berries – I had my eye on a tree for weeks and when I came to collect every berry had gone so I had to resort to my cotoneaster tree which only gets stripped by field fares in the harshest of winters. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

    • Jessica December 18, 2013 at 6:00 pm - Reply

      I suppose I can let them off. If it’s going to be a hard winter as they say the berries are better off in their store cupboards than decorating my door. It would have been nice if they’d left me a few more though..

  5. Joanne December 18, 2013 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    I have a few more than you though not that much, I’m leaving mine for the birds until the tree is a little taller. I may invest in another female holly tree in the new year to give me a bigger chance of picking some for the house.

    • Jessica December 18, 2013 at 6:02 pm - Reply

      It sounds like I need to get a female tree too. Good plan.

  6. BadPenny December 18, 2013 at 4:20 pm - Reply

    I’m sure however you decorate it will b e gorgeous x

    • Jessica December 18, 2013 at 6:04 pm - Reply

      I’ve seen some great ideas on the net, just need to find me some twigs..

  7. 1gus1 December 18, 2013 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    Beautiful photos. We have plenty of pyracantha berries – the birds don’t usually strip them until it gets colder. Our slaughtered holly is recovering well but has no berries, unsurprisingly.

    • Jessica December 18, 2013 at 6:07 pm - Reply

      The pyracantha has been stripped too. Glad to hear your holly is recovering, it should be getting nice and bushy now and marvellous next year!

  8. Jenny December 18, 2013 at 4:50 pm - Reply

    Beautiful photos, thanks for the walk around your woods. 8 berries is better than nought – I look forward to seeing the finished wreath.

    • Jessica December 18, 2013 at 6:09 pm - Reply

      I think it’s about one berry for every three trees! I wonder what they did to be spared.

  9. Sue@GLAllotments December 18, 2013 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    I wonder whether your title will have affected your hot rate? You do need both male and female plants for most varieties of holly to produce berries but there are some self fertile varieties, Strangely Golden King is female and some Silver Queens are male.

    • Jessica December 18, 2013 at 6:12 pm - Reply

      I am assuming that what I have is males, as I have very few berries. Is there a way of telling the difference, so I get the right trees next time?

      • Sue@GLAllotments December 19, 2013 at 9:12 am - Reply

        I think you have to rely on your nurseryman or buy an all female variety. It should really tell you on the label

        • Jessica December 19, 2013 at 12:55 pm - Reply

          Getting an all-female variety seems the safest route. Thanks Sue.

  10. Simone December 18, 2013 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    Sing with gusto to the tune of a partridge in a pear tree …………….’and the squirrels ate the holl-y berr-ieeessssssssss’ or could it have been Ptolomy? Haven’t heard about him for a while? x

    • Jessica December 18, 2013 at 6:20 pm - Reply

      For some unaccountable reason I didn’t think about the squirrels. I could blame them couldn’t I.
      The pheasants are back, I just haven’t been able to get a decent picture of one yet. One of them spent a lot of time in Ptolemy’s old haunts, so you never know. They are still a bit skittish at the moment, no doubt they will get braver when they discover the bird food again.

  11. Alison Collins December 18, 2013 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    Would love to see what you come up with decoration wise…I bet it will be gorgeously natural and creative 🙂
    Take care, Alison.

    • Jessica December 18, 2013 at 6:21 pm - Reply

      The way the storm is whipping up outside I won’t need to go far looking for the twigs..

  12. Crafty Gardener December 18, 2013 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    8 is better than 0 … and if you combine them with some other berries it will look lovely.
    I love the moss on the old trees, reminds me of Vancouver Island where daughter and family live. We just don’t get that around here, the temperatures are too extreme.

    • Jessica December 18, 2013 at 6:25 pm - Reply

      In a good summer the moss and the ‘tree ferns’ shrink back, but they return as soon as it gets damp once again. The first summer we were here they stayed all year, we had that much rain.

  13. wherefivevalleysmeet December 18, 2013 at 6:38 pm - Reply

    Skeletal and minimal sound good – it will show the 8 berries off well. Love the picture of your ‘steaming’ roof.

    • Jessica December 18, 2013 at 9:29 pm - Reply

      It will. Glad we went out looking for foliage yesterday, the weather has been dire today.

  14. Anne @ Life in Mud Spattered Boots December 18, 2013 at 6:58 pm - Reply

    Beautiful atmospheric photos. I had my eye on some holly berries but haven’t been back to check if they’re still there. I hope there’s more than 8. No doubt you’ll create something wonderful with your abundance of other foliage.

    • Jessica December 18, 2013 at 9:31 pm - Reply

      I hope there’s more than 8 too. But those blackbirds are sneaky.

  15. Jo December 18, 2013 at 7:09 pm - Reply

    My cotoneaster berries are being eaten by the blackbirds, though there’s still plenty left. The second to last photo is beautiful, so atmospheric.

    • Jessica December 18, 2013 at 9:33 pm - Reply

      I’d better go and rescue the cotoneaster then too. Now that they’ve run out of holly.. Thanks Jo.

  16. Brismod December 18, 2013 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    Beautiful photographs. I hope you find your decorations. Eight berries seems pretty good to me. Xx

    • Jessica December 18, 2013 at 9:45 pm - Reply

      I’d rather be decorating with frangipani flowers though..

  17. Cathy December 18, 2013 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    And all of this holly berry desert is yours, Jessica…..? What a lovely piece of land to own – worth putting up with your slopes, I guess?

    • Jessica December 18, 2013 at 9:48 pm - Reply

      As far as the river, which forms one of the boundaries. I ought to draw up a map like yours.

  18. Denise December 18, 2013 at 8:07 pm - Reply

    Beautiful photos, Jessica. You really have inspired me to get my camera out in the new year and try something other than pictures of cats! And I love those ferns growing in the tree. And the shot of your lovely cottage from the top.

    • Jessica December 18, 2013 at 9:54 pm - Reply

      I don’t know how the ferns manage without any soil. But somehow they do. Look forward to seeing your pics… please include chickens! Thanks Denise.

  19. Wendy December 18, 2013 at 8:27 pm - Reply

    Beautiful photos of your misty valley and woodland and I love the last photo of your cottage in the winter sunlight. I’ll also be foraging for natural decorations soon and holly will be the problem here, too. Most of our holly is berry-less and so we planted some female trees a few years ago – but the birds always strip them well before Christmas. You have eight berries more than we do!
    Have a lovely Christmas!

    • Jessica December 18, 2013 at 9:57 pm - Reply

      Oh dear, I thought female trees was going to solve the problem. I’d try a very large net, but our blackbirds peck holes in those too.
      You have a lovely Christmas too Wendy.

  20. Laura December 18, 2013 at 8:47 pm - Reply

    Beautiful and green! Love the ferns. Would so love to go foraging, berries or not!

    • Jessica December 18, 2013 at 10:00 pm - Reply

      It sounds like it’s getting very cold over there, and snowy! Take care.

  21. Seagull Suzie December 18, 2013 at 9:32 pm - Reply

    Beautiful images-the woods look so still and moist and I love the moisture coming off your roof in the sunshine.

    • Jessica December 18, 2013 at 10:06 pm - Reply

      Who knew Devon would be so wet? It’s a great climate for a gardener though, provided I choose the right plants!

  22. snowbird December 18, 2013 at 9:43 pm - Reply

    Lol….well I suppose eight is better than none. I loved those ferns growing on the branch, nature is so inventive. I look forward to your final arrangements!xxx

    • Jessica December 18, 2013 at 10:10 pm - Reply

      As usual the wildlife come off better than me, but would I have it any other way?

  23. CJ December 18, 2013 at 10:18 pm - Reply

    Oh how I envy you your beautiful woodland, it’s stunning. Love the high up ferns. And the photo of the steaming thatch is magical. A lovely post. Shame about the lack of berries, but I’m sure you’ll pull something wonderful together!

    • Jessica December 19, 2013 at 12:25 pm - Reply

      I’m still not sure whether the lack of berries is absence of female trees or bird stripping. I suspect a bit of both. I shall get some female hollies next year and hope the birds then leave me some in exchange for all the seed and nuts they get!

  24. Bilbowaggins December 18, 2013 at 10:46 pm - Reply

    Yesterday I noticed loads of cotoneaster berries on the ground, I suspect they were blown down.

    Love all the moss on the branches in your second photo :}

    • Jessica December 19, 2013 at 12:28 pm - Reply

      That could well be a possibility. There’s been plenty of opportunity. If I ever have the time to bother with hanging baskets again, I’ll have plenty of moss. The lawn is also an excellent source!

  25. Josephine December 18, 2013 at 11:43 pm - Reply

    We share the same design for decorating using what’s available within reach.
    I did have lots of red berries, I can only think they were not the variety of choice for the birds.
    I absolutely love the pictures of the moss and ferns growing, such a lush woodland there at your place in Devon !

    • Jessica December 19, 2013 at 12:34 pm - Reply

      Certainly lush!
      Natural decorations do seem more in keeping in a rural environment, but it does mean going out and looking for them and the climate/wildlife playing ball!

  26. nataliescarberry December 19, 2013 at 12:16 am - Reply

    Great post! Great photos! Loved the journey you took us on and the view of your thatched roof home. Blessings, Natalie 🙂

    • Jessica December 19, 2013 at 12:37 pm - Reply

      Thanks Natalie. Every time I venture out into the wood I wish we could make more of it. In due course I hope.

  27. Natalie December 19, 2013 at 1:30 am - Reply

    Such pretty photos! (And so green!) And yes, you need boy and girl holly plants to get berries.

    Gorgeous pics!

    • Jessica December 19, 2013 at 12:41 pm - Reply

      I had better get some more girlies in then! Thanks Natalie.

  28. Suzanne Dutchess County, NY, USA December 19, 2013 at 3:56 am - Reply

    A shame the hollies were stripped. Yes, you do need male and female hollies. The good thing is that you only need one or two males for a large planting of females and the males can be of another variety of holly all together. Here in the US ilex verticillata our native can pollinate ilex meserveae the typical Christmas holly.
    If you have no berries, I have used rosehips. If you can deal with out using red, I’ve used iris siberica dried seedheads and painted them silver or gold. I’m sure you put together something great.

    • Jessica December 19, 2013 at 12:50 pm - Reply

      I have a few rose hips left, but something has had a go at those too. I like the idea of the dried seed heads. As I plant up the garden I really need to think more about things that I can harvest for winter. The dried flowers at Cotehele have really inspired me to do that, and we don’t have enough ornamental seed heads yet. Female holly bushes too of course.

  29. Amy at love made my home December 19, 2013 at 9:12 am - Reply

    The cottage looks beautiful with the steam coming off the roof in the sunshine like that! So very seasonal. Apparently you do need a male and female holly to get berries. We have a holly and so does our neighbour, they stand right next to each other. Guess who has the one with the berries. Yep, next door!! I’m not bitter – much!!! Hope that you find some berries and other lovely greenery for decorating with Jessica. xx

    • Jessica December 19, 2013 at 12:52 pm - Reply

      I hope they donate some of the berries, it would be only fair!!

  30. Janet/Plantaliscious December 19, 2013 at 9:23 am - Reply

    First things first, yes please, a map! You have eight more berries than I do, even the cotoneaster berries are manky, something brought home to me every time I try to take a photo of them for a blog post! Those adventurous ferns are rather magical. I am beginning to regret having ripped out quite so much ivy, I will have to venture further afield to forage for goodies for the house, assuming I can make the time. Christmas has caught me by surprise this year, I think I am still in denial.

    • Jessica December 19, 2013 at 1:03 pm - Reply

      I will work on a map, I’m not a very competent artist though!
      Those ferns get everywhere. If you look at the photo of the dilapidated pond there are some on a trunk top left hand corner. You can see them more in context there.
      I am always in denial about Christmas. I enjoy it when it arrives, a good excuse for doing not a lot, but by new year I’ve had enough and thoughts are turning to spring. Then I get really frustrated because it’s about the time the weather starts to get even worse.

  31. rachel December 19, 2013 at 7:06 pm - Reply

    All the old ladies here have been complaining about the lack of holly berries this year, which contrasts sharply with the profusion of nuts and apples during the autumn.
    Nice roof, by the way; plain and no-nonsense. I love the way the moisture rises from it!

    • Jessica December 19, 2013 at 7:39 pm - Reply

      It is a roof of many holes. Heaven forbid, one day soon we might have to have a chat with that thatcher you know. Perhaps it will last until the lottery win (that it must be our turn for by now).

  32. Vera December 19, 2013 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    Beautiful photos, and lovely to share to go on a walk with you.

    • Jessica December 19, 2013 at 9:50 pm - Reply

      Thanks Vera. The weather is starting to get tricky for walks, wish we had some of your warm days.

  33. CherryPie December 20, 2013 at 12:32 am - Reply

    Despite your lack of holly you walk has certainly provided a wealth of beautiful photos.

    • Jessica December 20, 2013 at 7:57 pm - Reply

      It was rather nice walking about as the sun broke through the mist.. must do it again. Thanks Cherie.

  34. Dorothy December 20, 2013 at 1:38 am - Reply

    I enjoyed the walk in your woods! It looks so peaceful. With all that you collected, I think you will be able to create some lovely natural decoratons. We don’t have holly, but I had planned to place some pyracantha cuttings in some old fashioned milk bottles on my front porch. Just haven’t done it yet!

    • Jessica December 20, 2013 at 7:59 pm - Reply

      That sounds lovely Dorothy. The birds have had my pyracantha berries too!

  35. Pauline December 20, 2013 at 8:57 am - Reply

    I’ll be doing the same this weekend, hardly any holly berries here either but the purple berberis is covered so I think I will use those instead. I won’t just be cutting for the house but church too, so I hope I find plenty when I go foraging! Thanks for taking us with you on your walk through your wood, lovely views and your ferns are beautiful.

    • Jessica December 20, 2013 at 8:03 pm - Reply

      I collected more than I needed, as it turned out. Luckily a little goes quite a long way. Good luck with your decorations, sounds like you’ve got a lot to do.

  36. Rosie December 20, 2013 at 2:10 pm - Reply

    Eight is great! We have a holly hedge across the top of our garden – usually full of sparrows who love to roost in it – and not a berry in sight! It must be a male hedge then! I enjoyed your walk and the ferns growing on the branch are an amazing sight:)

    • Jessica December 20, 2013 at 8:06 pm - Reply

      Either a male hedge or hungry sparrows! I do find it amazing that those ferns can survive on so little.

  37. justjilluk December 20, 2013 at 4:29 pm - Reply

    A week before the 10th December, which was my wreath making session I checked our spinney. Huge evergreens, no idea what they are, let alone their latin name! Covered in berries. I couldnt understand the plethora of blackbirds. Going to cut branches for said session not one berry. Then I understood…

    • Jessica December 20, 2013 at 8:08 pm - Reply

      The early bird catches the berry.. 🙂

  38. Linda December 20, 2013 at 6:43 pm - Reply

    Lovely photos of your walk in your wood. I’m sure your home looks festive with the greenery you gathered.The blackbirds especially have had a feast around here. We have a holly in the garden, but no berries. I cheated on the Advent wreath and put artificial ones. There are huge old holly bushes in our area that were full of berries a while ago, They used to be grown for fodder on the common land and farmland and the old name ‘hagg’ – ‘a place where holly grows’ is incorporated into the names of some lanes around here.

    • Jessica December 20, 2013 at 8:15 pm - Reply

      That’s really interesting Linda, thank you. I wouldn’t have thought holly pleasant eating material, but having seen a couple of pigs clearing a bramble patch almost overnight, maybe it’s caviar!

  39. Sarah December 20, 2013 at 8:03 pm - Reply

    I am planning my foraging this week end if the weather is accommodating. I have seen lots of holly berries so I hope I can gather more than eight! I’m glad your oil tank is fuller this year!
    Sarah x

    • Jessica December 20, 2013 at 8:20 pm - Reply

      Good luck with the foraging. The wind is whistling round here again tonight. I’m rather glad there is oil in the tank too! Thanks Sarah.

  40. Anna December 20, 2013 at 8:43 pm - Reply

    Oh what a magical place to go foraging for seasonal goodies Jessica. Now eight berries do not make a multitude but I’m sure they will be even more treasured. There are a handful of self pollinating hollies such as JC van Tol so you do not always need a male & female for berry production 🙂

    • Jessica December 20, 2013 at 9:50 pm - Reply

      Thank you Anna, I will look that one up.

  41. Annie @ knitsofacto December 21, 2013 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    Hard won, but worth having!

    That pic of your home from above is perfection, and it totally says ‘Devon’ to me 🙂

    I hope your Christmas is everything you wish it to be Jessica x

    • Jessica December 21, 2013 at 9:36 pm - Reply

      Thanks Annie. And yours too. Enjoy the break x

  42. Annie (Lady M) x December 21, 2013 at 6:54 pm - Reply

    Amazing post with beautiful pictures. The duck pond is absolutely amazing. So glad you managed to find some holly with 8 berries. I just attached some grapes to some ivy using wire because I gave up the hunt!

    • Jessica December 21, 2013 at 9:43 pm - Reply

      Neat trick!
      I’m not sure what the future of the duck pond is at the moment. It seems rather high maintenance, even if we were to restore it.
      Have a wonderful Christmas Annie, great to see you back!

  43. Jeneane December 21, 2013 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    I remember one of my mentors saying that the ratio of female to male plants from a seed-sowing is about 1 in 10. It would take a long time to see if you get two females out of your little handful of berries! Maybe you should dye your hair red for Christmas 🙂 Kitty is practising the older version of The Holly and the Ivy to sing at our village Carol Service – “The holly it bears a berry as red as any blood,” if you can find any! Your decorations will be wonderful for having had to think outside the box.

    • Jessica December 21, 2013 at 9:54 pm - Reply

      You know, I never thought about sowing any.. bad gardener.
      Have a great Christmas Jeneane. I will try not to think about you sitting in the sun. They are now saying snow here.

  44. woolythymes December 22, 2013 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    i wish i was a bit closer to share some of my holly with you….the one thing i seem to have an abundance of…..but I’m sure whatever you find, you will make look beautiful in your home. happy days ahead!

    • Jessica December 22, 2013 at 6:18 pm - Reply

      And water…! I hope you got your leak fixed. Thanks Steph and have a great Christmas.

  45. Helene December 22, 2013 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    Love the ‘Jurassic look’ around your house – very different from East London! Not much to forage around here but I used to have a huge holly tree in my garden and it was a great source of berries every December, there were always plenty left. The tree had to be cut down when the neighbour built their extension last year, it was about 5m tall and really too tall and wide for my garden anyway, but I miss it at this time of year. Looking forward to seeing what you will create of Christmas decoration!

    • Jessica December 22, 2013 at 6:24 pm - Reply

      Jurassic is a good word! I certainly feel as though I am going back in time when I walk around the far reaches of the garden.
      It’s such a shame when a big tree has to come down, but at least you got more space and light out of it. The birds will be missing it too.

  46. Em December 23, 2013 at 11:54 am - Reply

    Really interested to see the fallen Holly berries as, when out for a sodden walk with the dogs, we tried to shelter under a holly whose entire contents were lying on the floor like red snow. What is going on? I love that first yew picture. x

    • Jessica December 23, 2013 at 12:07 pm - Reply

      Perhaps they do get blown off. It’s not as though we’ve had no wind..

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