Mahonia – Popular Shrubs for the Garden
Mahonias – which are related to the berberis and sometimes included under berberis in catalogues – these evergreen shrubs differ mainly in having large leathery leaves divided into a number of leaflets. The kind mainly grown is Mahonia aquifolium, an excellent shrub for under the shade of trees though it will grow in more open situations, in time reaching some 3-6 feet tall, with a spread of 3-5 feet. The large leaves have up to seven pairs of spiny toothed leaflets.
As winter approaches these turn purplish or are often flushed or edged with red. These colours persist until the spring. In late winter the shrub , producing lemon-yellow deliciously fragrant blooms, in long clusters, springing from a central point. The flowers are followed by berries, green at first, changing to dark purple with a plum-like bloom, almost as handsome as the flowers.
The shrub spreads by underground suckers, but seldom at a rate to make it a nuisance and this habit makes it useful for ground cover under trees. It also makes it easy to propagate by digging up pieces of sucker growth.
Mahonia japonica is a taller plant, with even more fragrant flowers, with a distinct lily-of-the-valley scent. These are produced in late winter in longer clusters or sprays.
These mahonias are not demanding in theirrequirements. The leafy soil beneath trees suits them admirably though they will flourish in any kind of garden soil including chalky ones.
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