Holly plants are the ideal choice for adding colour to a shady spot in your garden. These wonderful shrubs will thrive in the shadiest of conditions which is why you often see them living as an understory species in woodlands around the UK. The glossy green leaves will still keep their lustrous shine and vivid colouring in a shady spot and the female varieties will produce shiny red berries. Ilex has long since been associated with the festive winter period, even before it became associated with Christianity, and its pretty red berries and glossy leaves have been used to make wreathes for centuries. Pagans used to use the holly leaves to protect their house from witchcraft and goblins and believed it had properties to protect their house from evil. The wood of the tree also had many uses in the past and its hard, white wood was made into chess pieces (with ebony being used for the dark pieces). Interestingly, holly has a mutually dependent relationship with birds; the birds find refuge from predators when they hide between the spiny leaves, they also eat the berries as a source of winter food, and in turn the birds disperse the seeds away from the parent bush.