8 December 2000

Last holly grower has hung up his cutters

BRITAINS only commercial holly farmer has retired. Peter Boardman who has been growing holly for over 30 years at How Hill Farm, Ludham, near Great Yarmouth, has handed the work and management of his 1.2ha (3 acres ) of holly trees over to his nephew, Nicky Coller.

Peter, aged 68, has been trying to shed his Christmas holly image for some time to concentrate on other things, like travelling and gardening. The six weeks work entailed in harvesting the seasonal crop at the back-end of the year is very time-consuming. "At last I can say I am out of it to all intents and purposes," said Peter. "But it has been a good crop this year, the best I can remember for numbers of berries and quality. The weather must have been ideal at the right time and we havent been bothered with too many birds."

There are 500 holly trees on his 101ha (250-acre) farm, made up of 100 varieties, mostly English, with some American, Japanese and Chinese types. The orchards include hollies with red, black, yellow and orange berries. Some are rarities.They were originally planted by his father before the war. Peter got interested in 1968, adding more trees.

His swansong to holly has been to plant a 300m-long avenue of the trees to mark the millennium. Sixty hollies up to 20-years-old and 12ft high, grown from cuttings, were dug up and re-located.

All have survived.

Tom Montgomery