The autumn flowering mahonias (Mahonia x media)) are past their peak, a considerable change from a year ago when flowering continued into late January. I expect blooms will remain into this new year, but likely not for long.
‘Charity’ mahonia (Mahonia x media ‘Charity’, above) shows no sign that it will flower this year. Several ‘Winter Sun’ (below) are at peak bloom, and I suspect ‘Charity’ suffers in ground that is marginally too damp. I fear that the lack of flowers forecasts the mahonia’s eventual demise, but I suppose that a drier next year could possibly revive it.
Of the two oldest ‘Winter Sun’ mahonias, one is the picture of health, rising far over head and flowering abundantly. The other has suffered several traumas in recent years with all tallest branches pruned to waist height. This has, I think, rejuvenated it, so it’s flowering with no further signs of dead wood.
In fact, the late autumn flowering mahonias are sturdy and trouble free, suffering foliage damage only in the coldest recent winters. In sun or part shade, all thrive, though one that is crowded between a Japanese stewartia and a large camellia is losing the battle to maintain its space. I hear occasion tales of deer nibbling fresh growth, but mature leaves are too dangerous to tempt any but the hungriest beast.
‘Marvel’ is a more recent introduction, notable for its lack of spines, and while it thrives in a shaded spot, it has not flowered in two years. I am quite certain that it is too shaded, so once I figure a better location I’ll dig it and give it more sunlight. I am somewhat anxious to get this done since ‘Marvel’ could overcome the objections that most people seem to have that mahonias’ sharp spines will injure the gardener and children from miles around.
The late autumn, and occasional early winter blooms are certain to please, but if these should fade too quickly in this unusual season where confusion reigns, the leatherleaf mahonias (Mahonia bealei, above) are months ahead of schedule.