Plant of the Month January 2017

Mahonia x media Charity of the family Berberidaceae originates from Central America and Asia. All media varieties are tall upright evergreen shrubs. Charity is no exception and may grow to 4m. Preferring to grow in shade it may become ‘leggy’, but can be hard pruned to half a metre and will recover. As an alternative these shrubs can be under-planted with smaller shrubs.

The leaves growing in rosettes are a handsome dark green, frond like in shape with sharp spines along the edges.  The flowers are bright yellow, cup shaped and borne in clusters on erect spikes at the apex of the plant. They are fragrant with a scent similar to lily of the valley. This is attractive to pollinating insects with resultant formation of black or purple berries. These in turn are food for birds. The flowers open in December and January and are a welcome sight when little else is flowering.

There is a fine group of these hardy shrubs on the roundabout at the junction of the High Road and the Elstree Road near St Peters Church on Bushey Heath. I often hope the traffic lights will be red so I have longer to admire them!

Better still; visit Reveley garden and find one growing behind the yard tool sheds. It has reached the low roof so only  only tall people will be able to put their noses in the fragrant flowers.

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