a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Plant of the moment – Mahonia

19 Comments

The sun and mild temperatures continue to keep the garden bright. The Cosmos sulphureus, that was dying off, has decided to push out more flowers and the other Cosmos are growing from this year’s seed and flowering. Today my neighbour went to cut down the dead growth on her asparagus plants only to find that they had shot up shoots for a second time and she was able to harvest a good quantity to eat.

Nevertheless, we are going into the season that is optimal for planting new trees and shrubs – or at least for planning.

I would like to share the stars and stalwarts of my garden in the hope it might give ideas to other gardeners and also to hear from other bloggers.

My Mahonia “Charity” is perhaps not placed in the ideal position for it as it is mainly in the shade but it is near the house, so it has to make do!

Mahonia Media “Winter Sun” is in a better position for light but it is very dry in the summer at the bottom of the garden. However, it blossoms abundantly despite the hard love it gets.

We have a second Mahonia “Winter Sun” which is very shady as well as dry in the summer. They all take this tough treatment without any special care and no sign of disease.

The flowers are adored by the bumble bees.

The honey bees and butterflies are attracted by the nectar too.

Of course, the downside of Mahonias are their sharp leaves. However, you can choose the variety “Soft Caress” which I have found to be just as resilient as my other Mahonias. The leaves really are fine and agreable to stroke, if you are in the habit of stroking and talking to your plants.

The only downside is that it flowers here in September when there are more flowers. It is also a smaller plant only growing to just over a metre tall. It is evergreen, like all the Mahonias, so still a beautiful plant for the early autumn.Mahonias are my sort of plants. I would love to hear about your tried and tested favourites.

Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

19 thoughts on “Plant of the moment – Mahonia

  1. Mahonia is currently in full flower here in south Devon and I have seen people taking photos of the brilliant yellow displays. The weather has been poor, grey and damp, so insects have not had much of a chance to get out. I have seen some bumblebees but so far it is mainly honeybees. Another shrub that the bees like here is winter honeysuckle and that has just come into flower.

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  2. Beautiful shrubs. I love their scent in spring when they are one of the first flowers to open for the bees here. I am not sure what sort they are, but must have been in our countryside for decades as they spread everywhere – just like the wild clematis if you let it! I have never had to plant one. 😉

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  3. Good idea! I love the winter flowering ones too.

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  4. We have them here in in the Pacific Northwest, in forest clearings, a native variety, AKA Oregon Grape, they also seed themselves, though when we moved in 21 years ago, we bought seedlings from the county conservation initiative, little knowing that we had them in all sorts of places. It is lovely to see one, bright yellow at the top, on a gloomy day. They grow happily wherever they can get a little day light, seem to appear as the leaves drop, and it seems that there is often a snowberry growing alongside. Not as fancy as your cultivars Amelia, but still a joy. Also the berries of some varieties are edible.

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    • There are so many of our favourite garden plants that owe their origins to the USA. I know that there are gardens that can keep to just native plants and have a great display. I feel that there are less Euroean plants. The land in Europe has been cultivated since prehistoric times and I suppose many species were destroyed by ancient ploughing and farming. Amelia

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  5. Definitely going to follow your blog!

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  6. Nothing else gives fragrance and masses of yellow flowers in November and December, every garden should have mahonias. I have huge mature shrubs , some of them labelled ‘Charity’ and some of them named ‘Winter Sun’. To tell the truth I can’t tell them apart. Can you tell me the difference?

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  7. We are not far from the native range of the Oregon grape, but it does not seem to do well for us. I suspect that it prefers less arid coastal climates, but even here near the coast, it always looks grungy. It responds favorably to alternating canes, but not many of us prune it like that much.

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