Mahonia media and Corylopsis pauciflora
Right now there is a little magic occurring in the garden. A small and very special group of shrubs flower in late winter, just as the days are lengthening and spring is approaching. Of course these are a delight, bringing colour and excitement to beds and borders. What comes as an unexpected pleasure is the scent that some of these produce. Especially if situated in sheltered corners of the garden, this scent can accumulate and intensify in the moist, heavy air of winter days.
Mahonia media is the perfect candidate if flowers and scent are what you want. Also known as Lily of the Valley bush, Mahonia media is the perfect choice for a shaded or partially shaded position. One way to maximise the benefit of this plant is to grow it at the back of borders so that when the plants in front die back, the flowers and foliage of the Mahonia are clear to see.
The fruits of Mahonia
‘Winter sun’ is an appealing idea as well as a beautiful shrub and if the real thing fails to put in much of an appearance, the dense clusters of beautifully scented yellow flowers along the stems of this Mahonia will bring joy to dull days.
The fruits of Mahonia deserve a mention as they are edible either raw or cooked. Some people swear by them as an accompaniment to breakfast cereals such as muesli or porridge, so after all the fun of flowers in winter you can enjoy fruit in spring.
If you are on the lookout for cracking shrubs that flower around now, Corylopsis pauciflora is another that delivers the package of tough shrub and early flowers, though they tend to come a little later than the Mahonia. Abundant flowers you can rely on, plenty of winter structure and attractive leaves in the growing season (bright green at maturity, bronze-tinged when young) give this plant real year round appeal.
Both shrubs are tolerant of a range of normally encountered garden soils; they’re trouble free and easy to look after. Mahonia needs a light trim after flowering to maintain shape. Corylopsis benefits from a thin out pruning in late winter to remove untidy shoots. Mahonia media is a much bigger shrub, achieving a height and spread of 5m and 4m respectively in comparison with 1.5m and 2.5m for Corylopsis pauciflora.
Both these shrubs will make a contribution to intercepting harmful particulates in the air that circulates around your house and garden. Placing several of these between your home and a road, for example, will improve the local air quality as well as provide you with a wonderful display of flowers – just another example of the broader benefits that plants bring to our lives.