Nothing cheers the gardener’s heart quite like a winter flowering wonder. The Mahonia x Media hybrids certainly fit the bill. Sturdy, hardy, evergreen with a good architectural structure, Mahonia x Media Charity and the smaller Mahonia x Media Winter Sun are an excellent choice if you are seeking a winter flowering shrub with all year round interest.
Related to Berberis, Mahonia x Media are evergreen winter flowering shrubs with impressive yellow flowers even in the bleakest of winters. The large glossy, spiky, green leaves grow in pairs that can take on more red hues in the coldest of winters.
The small yellow bell-shaped flowers are long lasting from about November right through December and even into January. The flowers are followed by pretty purple berries, to the delight of our native winter birds who love to feed on them.
The Mahonia x Media is a relatively new hybrid (20th century) created from parents Mahonia Japonica and Mahonia Iomarifolia (the latter a delicate Chinese native with slow growing and upright habit known commonly as Chinese Hollygrape).
Mahonia shrubs are easy to grow and notoriously UK hardy. They will grow in most soils but prefer a sheltered spot if possible. Mahonia can be very useful as a shrub in a mixed border bringing a burst of colour in the winter with its flowers and berries and contrast through the rest of the year with its large glossy evergreen foliage and architectural growth habit. Mahonia will also do well in a shady spot. For a spot in the partial shade, consider a Mahonia hedge, which looks stunning in full flower, its prickly spines deterring any unwanted intruders.
In terms of varieties, Hybrid Mahonia x Media Charity is perhaps the best known of Mahonias and will grow to quite a large size – circa 2 metres over time. Mahonia x Media Winter Sun usually flowers around November producing long racemes at the top of each branch. The flowers are beautifully scented and can be used in small winter flower arrangements.
Encouraging your Mahonia to bush out will lead to more profuse flowering next season. Mahonias can be pruned back after flowering to encourage new growth, also helping to maintain a more compact shape.
Overall, Mahonia is a great shrub with year round interest but coming into its own in the winter months.