This time of year our garden is always bursting with blooms, but this year has been a little different. Due to a very mild winter, everything bloomed much earlier than usual. Plants that normally cover themselves with blooms in June began blooming in May. Oakleaf Hydrangeas are particularly beautiful this year. I believe they all have a bloom cluster at the end of each and every stem.
I have never seen the species Hydrangea quercifolia in my garden so beautiful as they are now. I dug these from my brother's property in Beulah, Alabama.
Snowflake Hydrangea is gorgeous with its pure white double bloom clusters. This plant always reminds me of my good friend Laura who was with me when I purchased it. Laura suffered from cancer that was overtaking her body. Time spent with her was precious. We spent the day touring Wilkerson Mill Gardens in the little town of Chattahoochee Mills, Georgia. The kids loved it, as did we. We bought several plants that day, which have thrived in our garden. So if you get a chance to see the garden and nursery there, I highly recommend it.
Hydrangea quercifolia 'Alice' has sprawled all over the place and will have to be cut back for rejuvenation. However, her blooms are large and fragrant. The fragrance was a surprise to me, but now I understand why the bees love Alice Hydrangea so much.
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Bright yellow bloom spikes atop Mahonia provide winter nectar for pollinators which are buzzing around this holly-like evergreen from China. Every year, I look forward to seeing these bright flowers open in the middle of a cold winter. Bloom time for the mahonia is dependent on the temperatures we are having any given winter. I have seen them open as early as December, but usually the blooms open soon after Christmas. We have had a very mild winter, so on warm days we are seeing bees buzzing around anything with flowers, including our many mahonia bushes.
|Mahonia Berries develop after the blooms|
You won't find many plants easier to grow than the mahonia. This plant grows happily in sun or shade and in any type of soil. However, foliage stays greener making a much more attractive plant when grown in shade. Supplemental water is unnecessary.
I hope I do not receive numerous comments and emails chastising me for planting and recommending mahonia in the home garden, for this is one plant that gardeners either love or hate. There is no middle ground with mahonia. Many call this plant invasive, but I disagree. Mahonia is not capable of crowding and choking out native plants. Mahonia shrubs grow alongside our native trees, shrubs, and groundcovers without killing them or harming them in any way. And since pollinators are frequently darting around on warm days searching for nectar in our mild climate, I will consider any plant that blooms in January.
A common name for Mahonia is Grape Holly, so named because the bright yellow blooms develop into dark purple/black drupes that resemble grapes. Birds will eat them, but usually only after they dry a bit and look like raisins. These attractive fruits give Mahonia value on into spring.
Mahonia is a shrub that is beautiful any time the year. Evergreen "holly-like" prickly leaves have an architectural habit that is unusual and can be a focal point in the garden. Add to that bright yellow blooms in January that attract pollinators and blue black fruits in Spring, and you have a great plant for the Southern garden.
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