Monday, January 28, 2013

Winter Pleasures Hummingbirds perch on the metal gridded arbor, waiting their turn to sip from the yellow flowers of Mahonia ‘Arthur Menzies.’ One little guy sits patiently at the top of the cutleaf alder, flashing his red head as the sun glints off his tiny feathers. This winter the flowers on ‘Arthur Menzies’ are more splendid and full than ever before. I count a dozen spikes of yellow flowers at the ends of one stem, and at least as many flowering stems, so that the whole shrub, standing eight feet tall, is a brilliant beacon. Never mind that the leaves are leathery and spiny, so that pruning this shrub is as dangerous as handling agaves, the winter bloom that begins in December when the buds swell and begin to show color and continues for weeks and weeks, is worth the occasional pain. Had I known how spectacular this plant would become I would certainly have bought half a dozen and plunked them all around the garden for more winter color. Right now in January I want to rip out the mock orange that looks like a bundle of twigs and replace it with another Mahonia—I still don’t have ‘Charity,’ ‘Lionel Fortescue,’ ‘Winter Sun,’ or ‘Underway.’ Hmmm. Come to think of it, there are several mock oranges that only bloom for a short period of time, and have ho hum leaves, while Mahonias with their jagged leaves and long-blooming flowers would be much more interesting, for so much longer.

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