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.  


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