Winter Interest

“Winter Interest”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 


With all the warm weather we had last week, the leatherleaf mahonia, that was here when we moved in, has started showing its blooms.  It usually blooms in mid January, so it is only a little early in showing its flowers this year.  You can see in the picture below that it won’t be too long before the little yellow flowers open.  It is nice to have another flowering winter shrub around, and I am starting to appreciate this particular plant more and more.  It thrives on neglect, takes shade, and adds interesting texture and color.




The flowers, borne on five inch racemes, quickly turn into frosty-looking blue berries which the birds adore.  In fact, the berries rarely last past ripening before they are devoured by hungry cardinals and blue jays.  The distinctive foliage is another plus – spiney, compound leaflets on horizontal stems.


Because of its coarse texture, this shrub is better as an accent plant especially in a shady area.  In fact, I am thinking about trying to root some cuttings to place in the side yard where I have some winter honeysuckle.  Having these two plants blooming in late winter might be a good combination, and the contrasting foliage would give extra winter interest to basically a green area.  I guess that is something to think about doing in 2009.


  1. mothernaturesgarden said,

    December 30, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    I brought one home from my brother’s garden. He has many mature beautiful ones. Mine just sits there. It does nothing. It definitely needs something.

  2. Phillip said,

    December 30, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    I love this shrub. Mine grows underneath a dogwood tree. It always blooms in late January and early February.

  3. Jan said,

    December 30, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    Mothernaturesgarden, mine has not grown too much either. I think they must be slow growers. I know it needs moisture, but well-draining soil, too. Maybe compost will help?

    Phillip, you are right this is a great shrub which is why I am going to try to make some more. Mine seems to be blooming a little early this year.

  4. Jon said,

    December 31, 2008 at 1:09 am

    Jan, Nice post as usual….this gives me ideas about mine which is NOT thriving where I have had it for several years. I think I will dig it up and split it in several clumps and put it where it can get morning sun and more moisture. I think I’ll wait until spring has sprung to tackle it.

    Hope you have a Happy New Year and all the best in 2009!

    Jon at Mississippi Garden

  5. patientgardener said,

    December 31, 2008 at 3:50 am

    I acquired a Mahonia this year and am really pleased with it. It has just finished flowering and I am wondering if I will get the lovely berries that you describe.

  6. Jan said,

    December 31, 2008 at 7:23 am

    Thanks for the kind words, Jon. It might be a good idea to move yours to morning sun. These plants are so architectural, more of which is needed in my garden. Having new ideas of what to do with plants makes waiting for spring that much harder.
    Have a Happy New Year, Jon.

    Patientgardener, I am sure you will get berries, but you need to look for them fast if you have a lot of birds around. They can wipe out the berries very quickly as they just LOVE them.

  7. May 31, 2011 at 4:21 am

    winter.. snow.. good thing I grow my plants indoors.

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