Also flowering

Not to be forgotten, the winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum, below) growing with low, arching branches beneath a wide spreading paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha) along the edge of the koi pond is flowering. Some years, this happens as early as December, but this late January is more average. Access to a closeup view of the jasmine’s bright yellow blooms is limited unless you care to wade into the icy koi pond, but with no fragrance there is no reason to get closer.

The winter jasmine’s rambunctious growth has long been tamed in this garden by the paperbush and a red leafed Japanese maple with pendulous branching, each arching over to limit its sunlight. I suppose without limits stems of the jasmine could root into soil and spread forever, but here it has spread just a few feet in all directions where it is no problem.

Scattered flowers of winter jasmine peer out from beneath the paperbush at the right edge of this photo.

Winter jasmine is best suited to scrambling down over walls or planting on slopes to control erosion, but I favor winter flowers, so any initial caution was overlooked. Today, I’m happy to see it in bloom, and in a few weeks the unremarkable shrub will be mostly forgotten until next winter.

‘Winter Sun’ mahonia begins flowering in November, with blooms often lasting into the new year. This January, a few flowers persist into the end of the month. Bees take full advantage of the nectar when afternoon temperatures rise into the fifties (Fahrenheit).

The early and late winter flowering mahonias (above and below) are more prominently positioned in the garden, with good reason. While mahonias are reputed to be invasive in some areas, I see only a rare seedling growing near communities in local forests. I’m quick to agree that burning bush and Japanese honeysuckles can be problems, but I see little or no evidence in the area that mahonias and some others are problems. I planted mahonias long before the notions about invasiveness were broadcast, and I’ve seen no reason to chop them out.

Leatherleaf mahonia typically begins flowering in late winter, but on occasion (this year) it begins in mid January. Leatherleaf is best known as a potential invasive, but beyond a few stray seedlings within twenty feet I’ve seen no seedlings in the neighboring forest or in forests in the region.

Besides yellow blooms that persist for months in cold temperatures, the glossy, spined foliage is also attractive, though it should be placed with room to grow and where it cannot be rubbed against. I’m told that its flowers are sweetly fragrant, but my nose draws a blank. A recent introduction of the autumn flowering mahonia, ‘Marvel’ has only a single spine at the leaf tip.

If invasiveness is an issue, the problem begins when pollinated flowers turn to large, grape-like fruits (above) in early spring. These are quickly consumed by birds, but the concerned gardener can remove fruits prior to ripening. While autumn flowering mahonias are more upright in growth, winter blooming leatherleaf is sprawling. Both are treasured for cheerful flowers in periods when there is less color in the garden.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. bev R. says:

    Hi Dave; my first comment here although I’ve been reading and enjoying for years! Re invasive mahonias – I volunteer at Historic Londontown and Gardens in Annapolis MD. We definitely see a fair amount of reseeding of M. bealii in that garden, to the point where it is a pest, but not overwhelming. I have no data on the more recent hybrids, certainly no seedlings in my garden. FYI!

    1. Dave says:

      No doubt, fruits consumed by birds can be spread. I experience a few seedlings, but not to the extent that Mahonia bealei is displacing any native flora. I think that an overly expansive interpretation of invasiveness detracts from the cause. I rarely see fruits on late autumn flowering mahonias such as Winter Sun. I think that quite often flowers are not pollinated due to the scarcity of bees. I have not read if seeds of hybrids are viable.

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