In the Yard: Mahonia

I am often asked by clients to design a drought tolerant yard, or a low maintenance yard. Well, no plants are more suitable and easier to maintain then plants born and bred right here in California.

Photo: prise à Vernet-les-Bains (France) © Jean Tosti — GNU Free Documentation License

This week I am going to spotlight Mahonia. Also known as “Oregon Grape”, Mahonia is not from Oregon, nor is it edible. It is, in fact, a wonderful shade tolerant shrub that can be used as a privacy screen, informal hedge, or to cover up your neighbor’s rotting fence.

Mahonia is a tough, spiny shrub with glossy, dark green leaves. This spiny leaf also makes it an effective barrier against the neighbor’s kids when that fence has disintegrated.

Its yellow flowers attract bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies, and its blue berries attract all manner of birds. To top off all these amazing colors and attributes, Mahonia’s dying leaves turn a brilliant red before they fall off.

Mahonia is also an evergreen shrub that looks best when planted in large groupings. Try and plant seven or eight in a crescent shape.

Plant native perennials on the inside portion of the crescent, and put a table and chairs inside of that. You now have an amazingly drought tolerant hideout within your own yard.

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