April 8, 2019 By Moss Elvis In Garden Plants
Combining two shades of the same color is often most effective. The lovely evergreen Mahonia japonica is handsome enough in foliage to warrant inclusion on that score alone. Dark, lustrous green leaves carried on a bush 4 or 5ft (1.2-1.5m) high form a proper backcloth to the racemes of pale primrose-yellow flowers open anytime from January.
An under planting of Eranthis hyemalis will spread like a deeper yellow shadow under the mahonia, growing denser with each year that passes as it self-seeds to match the spreading bush. Carry interest on into summer with glaucous yellow- and green-leaved’. A whiff of the delicate fragrance from the flowers turns February into June, if only briefly.
When some one hundred and fifty years ago David Douglas found the ‘Silk Tassel Bush’ growing wild along the Columbia river and sent specimens back to England it caused quite a stir in botanical circles, for it represented a completely new genus and natural order. In fact, in my opinion, until recently that is, Archibald Menzies, who stumbled on the some thirty years previously and ignored it, showed the better judgement. The dark almost green leaves lack the glossy well polished charm of the camellia or even the laurel.
Close acquaintance with the catkins reveals that they are fragrant and prettily marked with pink and lime green. Unfortunately, harsh weather ensured that until three years ago I never saw the bush without scorched brown leaves, a disfigurement which made unsightly to the point of ugliness until May or later. A succession of mild winters, combined with putting a male, which carries the longest catkins, in the right context has given me a new appreciation of the austere, classical beauty.
In my own grouping all the shrubs used are growing along a dry stone wall which provides an illusion of shelter. To the left-hand side facing the group is a golden privet, Ligustrum ovalifolium ‘Aureum’, one of the most cheerful of shrubs even in winter. Next comes the rejoiced enormously by the bright gold of the privet. Close alongside to the right is an Elaeagnuspungens Maculata whose green leaves are relieved by a gold central stripe.
Intermingled with the is a winter ]asmme,Jasminum nudiflorum, whose cheerfully brassy yellow flowers are in evidence at the same time as the catkins of Garrya elliptica. The overall effect, particularly when the catkins are stirred into rippling movement by a zephyr breeze, is delightfully lovely in the flowering season, and handsome throughout all the remaining months, particularly so if the ground planting is of lilies, Schiostylis coccinea, whose gladiolus-like 2ft (61cm) high spikes of scarlet flowers form an embroidered hem to the shrubs during late summer and autumn.
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