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Like Autumn in Spring

This article was first published on 18 Oct 2017.

Mahonia oiwakensis

Mahonia oiwakensis

Photo by the Otago Daily Times

We don’t often think of plants ripening their fruits in spring; spring seems more about buds bursting, new growth and spring flowers.Fruit is far more common in late summer and autumn when warm settled weather ripens them.

Mahonia oiwakensis, synonym M. lomariifolia, does the opposite to the norm, producing yellow flower spikes in autumn and then ripening its fruit in spring. Beautiful displays of bunches of blue grape-like fruit contrast well against the glossy green foliage.

A great shrub from China with a variety of uses in the garden, Mahonia oiwakensis a narrow evergreen growing to 3-4m tall. This makes it particularly useful for the back of a border, in a mixed shrub border or as an informal hedge.

One should be aware of its rather prickly foliage; position it away from where people might brush up against it. On the other hand, this feature is very useful for using as a barrier to stop people going into unwanted areas.

Pruning back is easy and the shrub will shoot away if pruned hard back. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to have any pest or disease issues. Mahonia oiwakensis likes to have some light shade, moist soil and good drainage. It will survive reasonably hard frosts but dislikes strong winds when young. Propagation is by seed or semi hardwood tip cuttings in summer.

You can see it in a number of different locations around Dunedin Botanic Garden including a display behind the bandstand in the lower garden.

Garden Life is produced by Dunedin Botanic Garden. For further information contact Stephen Bishop.

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