July – Month of the Holly


Finding a holly (Ilex aquifolium) in Helsinki is no easy matter, but there are some hollies here, although they have trouble surviving the winter and need a protected spot to grow in. Hybrids between the usual holly, which grows as far up north as Denmark, and another relative (Ilex rugosa) have been created to survive here (Ilex x meserveae), although their leaves are not as sharp, they say. The holly is the tree (or shrub) for the 9nth lunar month in the Celtic Tree Calendar from July 8 to August 4, and one of the most difficult ones from a Finnish perspective. My original idea was to find trees for the tree calendar on the shores of Helsinki, but some compromises are necessary. At the end of the Töölönlahti bay there are some thriving hollies, but they are completely mixed with other shrubs and growing in a narrow area between the footpath and the main road, thus difficult to perform with. The holly that I decided to begin with I found in the Kajsaniemi Botanical Garden, growing in a corner next to some Magnolias. At first I thought it completely impossible to do anything with the hollies there, since they were cramped in a corner, against a wall and he area was so limited, but then that proved an asset. Instead of sitting on the ground next to them, as I planned at first, I framed the image so that the signs describing their names remade out of sight below the frame and stepped “inside” the shrub, standing amongst the branches. I made three attempts, and in the last one I am actually standing next to the wall, behind the holly, as it were. I tried to stand immobile for approximately ten minutes each time, and it was relatively easy, except in the first image when some of the sharp leaves tried to get into my eyes so I had to keep them closed for most of the time. That image is probably the nicest, though, since I am almost completely covered by the leaves. The last image is probably the most beautiful in a conventional sense, because of the sunlight playing on the wall. Anyway, I think I am happy with these first attempts, although they have very little in common with the first images of the calendar, when I tried to find trees by the sea shore. The three sessions resulted in three videos, Holly in July 1, Holly in July 2 (9 min 22 sec.) and Holly in July 3 (10 min 20 sec.). The third one is fascinating, because after a few minutes the camera decided to focus on the leaves in the foreground rather than the human being in the background, probably waiting in vain for the human to continue to move. And when the leaves move in the wind, they then get the attention they deserve.