Now I finally know what serious bird watchers feel like – you are on the look-out for that bird rarely sighted in your area. Early off when you first started bird watching, this bird was on your list – but over the years, you resigned yourself to the bird being rare. Yet in the background your antenna is always up. And wow – there it is after years of not spotting it – can you believe it? You weren’t even seeking it. Well that is how I feel about finally stumbling into Oregon Grape Holly or Mahonia aquifolium..
Mahonia aquiflorium is neither a grape nor a holly but a member of the barberry family. The specific variety I purchased is ‘Orange Flame’. The leaves are about 2 inches long and ringed with spiny teeth making them rabbit and deer unfriendly. New leaves are orange-bronze and stand out against the deep green mature foliage. They bear clusters of fragrant yellow blooms followed by powder-blue to black grape-like fruit.
‘Orange Flame’ does best in light shade, but will tolerate full sun if kept well watered. It will grow to become 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide. It also has a wide pH tolerance unlike holly that requires acid soil and in my garden means amending the soil. Oregon Grape Holly is also supposed to be completely immune to insect and disease problems – we shall see. But it does seem that this shrub is easy, and easy is what I am looking for. Continue reading