What about this “Oregon grape”?

When is an Oregon grape not an Oregon grape?

When it’s from China!

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ is an exotic relative of our native Oregon grapes (Mahonia nervosa and M. aquifolium). Its parents are M. japonica (yes, from China) and M. lomariifolia.

‘Charity’ is a statuesque plant with dramatic evergreen leaves up to 45 cm (18 in.) long and composed of almost two-dozen holly-like leaflets. In winter, the plant throws up rich-yellow flowers that add to the overall impact of this tall shrub ‘Charity’ (and its equally handsome siblings ‘Lionel Fortescue’ and ‘Winter Sun’) tend to become lanky due to their quick, upright growth. Pinch the new leaf buds in spring before they unfurl. This will force side shoots to emerge.

Plant ‘Charity’ in part shade with adequate moisture. Ensure good soil fertility with an organic mulch or fertilizer. Great companion plants would be Stachyurus praecox and hellebores. A bonus: the winter flowers develop into clusters of showy, wax-coated, blue berries – hence the common name of Oregon “grape”. ‘Charity’ is hardy to zone 6.

With more than 30 years experience in horticulture in B.C. – in wholesale, retail and at VanDusen Botanical Garden for a decade – Carolyn Jones brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to GardenWise and www.gardenwiseonline.ca as staff horticulturist.