Marvel at Mahonia - a true winter wonder of the garden
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Marvel at Mahonia - a true winter wonder of the garden

AS the last of the leaves are gathered and bagged, I look around with disgust at the increasing moss and discoloration creeping over the lawn, paving, and hard landscaping.

The lawn has never been worse and, having applied a variety of moss killers without success, I now think that a dressing of lime should be applied.

This will increase the Ph of the soil and make nutrients available once more to the grassroots.

And yet all is not lost, and I remain positive.

November may indeed see the garden at its lowest ebb of the year, but I marvel now at the wonderful family of winter flowering shrubs sold as Mahonia.

In any winter garden scene, a mature specimen of mahonia will be found best at making an architectural statement.

With lustrous foliage plastered with frost or glistening in rain, each spray of flower can easily look like a string of vivid topaz.

All that at a time when there would be little else to admire, but which variety to choose?

The best forms smell of Lily-of-the-Valley, and their berries, unlike those of the holly, can be made into jam (I’m told).

'Charity' is an excellent variety, distinguished by its size and perfect sprays of golden-yellow flowers.

It will grow to six feet and more in good conditions but is easily controlled by pruning immediately after the winter blooms fade.

This annual exercise is vitally important and one third of the growths on all varieties should be cut to a few inches above soil level.

New shoots will arise from the remaining stumps, and these are the ones which will bloom best in subsequent years.

In small gardens, Mahonia 'Winter Sun' will be found very tidy, and so too 'Lionel Fortesque', a well-behaved shrub which holds its blooms like outstretched arms but on a distinctly higher plane.

Whichever variety you choose, do not be afraid to prune as suggested otherwise they will get long and leggy in a short span of time.

Is there a limit to their value?

No, if you value their yellow winter blooms, their striking-coloured leaves, and in more than a few varieties, a delicious perfume.

Their blooms I assure you can be as dramatic as fireworks and dominate the scene for weeks on end from late autumn.

The variety with the finest leaves is to be found on M.lomariifolia an aristocrat of the family which boasts sprays of up to two feet, pinnate like a killer shark, and equally as sharp.

Caption for attachment; Bright yellow blooms throughout winter, distinctive holly-like foliage, and a perfume akin to Lily-of-the-Valley are the hallmarks of many Mahonia varieties.

They would make a very presentable Christmas gift.