Love at First Blush: Tending a holly orchard on Whidbey Island

Henderson Holly Farm
Henderson Holly Farm

Rob Henderson’s holly orchard brings a little magic to the holidays

written by Catie Joyce-Bulay

Henderson Holly Farm
Henderson Holly Farm arrangements
Born and raised on Whidbey Island, Rob Henderson has been working on his family’s holly farm since he was a boy, when, he said, he first fell in love with the orchard.

It takes up to sixty years before holly trees are large enough to harvest, said Henderson, whose 800-tree orchard was planted in the 1950s. Henderson bought the farm’s current site from avid amateur horticulturalist Virginia Morrel, who helped design Seattle’s Washington Park Arboretum. The farm has seven types of holly trees, including some rare varieties.

The holly leaves and berries are used to make wreaths, garland, holiday arrangements, corsages, and to fill the natural wood planters Henderson and his crew create in all shapes and sizes from reindeer to snowmen. More than a hundred stems of only the best holly and boughs from the surrounding noble firs and cedar go into the meticulously handcrafted wreaths. “Mrs. Claus doesn’t like to have blemishes on her holly,” said Henderson, who enjoys watching visitors take family photos in the orchard, decked out in their holiday best.

Like his visitors, Henderson’s crew of eight is made up of mostly locals who come back year after year. It’s important for Henderson to let visitors into the shop to witness the time and care that goes into each wreath. “We get them to see what we see to get the product right, but also to see the joy in their eyes,” he said. “I call it the magic of the shop.”

1889 Washington 2017 Holiday Gift Guide

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