Friday, March 26, 2010

Mahonia Magic

Have you noticed the yellow winter blooms bringing attention to the Oregon Grapes that, 8 or 9 months out of the year, reside demurely in a background or hedgerow?  Winter and early fall are the times they're most likely to tempt money from the gardener's wallet.  Starting as early as January, the beautiful lemon bells have a slight, sweet fragrance that succeeds the Witch Hazels' own.  The flowers are edible and citrusy, making a nice addition to winter salads.  Following into Autumn, the blue-black berries have formed; hanging succulent temptations for urban birds and home canners who adore the sweetened jam.   

Mahonia aquifolium can reach 7-10 feet tall.  Several cultivars are grown for varying floral display.  These are sometimes found in retail nurseries.  The species pictured here, Mahonia aquifolium 'Compacta' will grow 2-3 feet tall and approx. 1 1/2 feet wide.  Width can easily be controlled by removing suckers.  Oregon Grape performs best year-round in dappled shade, but will tolerate full sun and a range of soils.  


Bleeding Heart Blooms

Always reminding me of Lewis Carroll's famous Queens,  Bleeding Hearts are a must for the sweetheart garden, a woodland planting, and for early spring confidence that sunshine will soon again find its way into your home and garden.  The species shown here, Dicentra spectabilis, is native to east Asia and will grow 2-3 feet in height and approx. 2 feet wide.  Bleeding Hearts grow happily in semi-shaded areas among ferns, Heucheras, and Oregon Grape.  Other species worthy of mention are the later flowering native Bleeding Heart, Dicentra formosa, and the early white-flowering cultivar Dicentra spectabilis 'Alba'.  The elegant flowers are excellent, though not long-lasting, in a vase.