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The best piece of gardening advice

mahonia charity“Never plant two of anything in a group. Even numbers just don’t work. Stick to odd numbers one, three, five or a drift.” Roger Sagger (R & R Saggers Nursery Garden, Newport, Essex).

This is probably the best piece of gardening advice that I have ever been given. If you think about it, Roger Sagger is right. Imagine four tulips in a border and then consider how five would look. The odd number gives a natural feel to the group. Unless they are planted in a straight line.

I have only one Mahonia x media Charity. It grows in a rather dry shady area of a south facing border in between the oil tank and an old tree stump. It was overshadowed for years but the wet summer clearly has clearly has given the Mahonia the perfect boost.

I opened the back door a few days ago and noticed that it had five huge flower heads. Each was in bud and gearing up for action. Today the buds have just started to open. The flowering heads must be a foot across and the scent is superb. The perfect foil far a damp and overcast morning in early December.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Kate(uk)

    Our Mahonia is the best it ever has been. I am planning to extend our automatic watering along this border next summer. These flower heads are just the nudge that I need.

    I love the way ours is so big but the can become enormous, so thanks for the tip on pruning.

  2. Mahonias seem to have liked all the rain this summer, there is a stunner over the road in a garden that is mainly car park and neglected shrubbery, This spring they decided to do some gardening,i.e pruning everything to within inches of the ground. The mahonia didn’t care one jot, it has shot up and is stupendously floriferous, so, if yours gets too big, don’t worry about pruning, they love it!

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Toni-anne,

    I’d love to hear how you get on.

  4. Toni-anne

    Thank you for the info. Looks like there will be a large crop to harvest here in a few weeks. I shall try different methods of utilizing I think.

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Joanna,

    I’ve tried bringing some of the Mahonia flowers inside. You’re right, it does scent the room! Thanks for the tip.

    Hi Toni-anne,

    The fruit is edible. Some people make jelly with it. I must have a go.

    Hi Celia,

    Love the idea of a turquoise Barbie pond! The scent of our Mahonia is heavenly.

    Hi Clare,

    Thanks so much for giving us the link.

    i Sarah,

    A link to a wine recipe is just up my street. Thanks!

    I get a bit bored with yellow flowers too(especially in the Spring). Totally agree that these are wonderful on a cold, grey day.

    Pleased that you’re not flooded. The rain must have an adverse effect on your work as a gardener.

  6. I tried Mahonia/Oregon Grape when I was a child and thought it was bland but sour. Oregon grape grows wild here, it is our State flower! The birds love the fruit and eat most of it so I have never come across a enough of it to think of harvesting them. I just found a recipe for wine on the web, I may try to collect enough fruit this spring to make some:

    While I am not really a fan of bright yellow flowers, Mahonia is a welcomed sight on a rainy winter day. Yesterday was the first dry day here after several days of record rainfall (our house is dry but many areas of Oregon and Washington were or still are flooded), yesterday was also the day I saw the first Orgon Grape flower in bloom!

  7. Toni-anne, I’ve just done a quick google search, and this page: says that yes, the fruits are edible but benefit from a frosting (either naturally or as with sloes in the freezer!)

  8. Lovely reminder – the scent is beautiful! It reminds me of lily-of-the-valley. When we moved here there was a giant mahonia next to a tiny ugly pond (turquoise liner like Barbie’s swimming pool!). When I found the mohonia had flowers with no scent I dug it out to make way for the pond/bog garden extension. The roots were amazing – when broken they were bright orange and the sap stains everything and those thorny leaves – ouch. Wear full protective kit if you ever have to dig out a mahonia!

  9. Toni-anne

    I’ve heard that the berries are edible, anyone know the truth of this?

  10. I have the same mahonia, and it, too, is flowering freely – amazing how such big flowers on such a big plant can steal up on you so suddenly! This is supposed to be the year when it comes out, to make way for veggies, but I can’t bear to just now. It will have to wait until March. Lovely to pick a tiny piece, as it scents the room with that lovely sweetness

    Joanna x

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