In a Vase on Monday: Yellow

I’ve never cut Forsythia for the house before and I really pleased I have chosen it for this week’s Monday Vase post.

My forsythia bush is to be pitied.  It grows right up against the fence and has struggled for years in the shadow of a large sycamore in my neighbour’s garden.  With their clearing of the boundary more light has flooded in and with the removal of the sycamore the competition for moisture has diminished. Just as the shrub is flexing its muscles with the improved environment so I too want it to grow and expand to soften the fence line and break up the view.  I remembered reading Christopher Lloyd, probably in the Well Tempered Gardener, saying that when you prune forsythia you shouldn’t prune it into a mound but you should remove the odd stem to keep the shrub within its boundaries.  This is the approach I decided to take as well as taking into account the lessons learnt last week at Ashwoods about thinning the canopy of shrubs.

The vase is a Poole pottery one bought from the local flea market a few years ago and this is the first time I have used it for flowers. For some reason I just thought the blue grey of the glaze would work with the yellow flowers.  I’m not 100% sure if I am right but I quite like the effect.

As for photographing the vase – well the fact that instead of the usual backdrop I have been using this year the vase is plonked on the dining room table demonstrates just how difficult it was to photograph the stems well. However, I think the simplicity of the setting fits the simplicity of the stems well.

Thank you Cathy for hosting this meme every week which is making me think a little laterally about what I can bring indoors.  Check our her blog for more Monday vase posts.

Plant of the Moment: Mahonia x Media ‘Charity’

2012_12090014

I know it isn’t considered very fashionable but I rather like Mahonias particularly at this time of year when they come into their own.

Mahonias come from north and central America and East Asia, particularly the rocky and woodland areas.  They were named after Bernard M’Mahon, an Irish political refugee, who opened a seed shop in Philidelphia and published the American Gardeners Calendar in 1806.

Mahonia xMedia ‘Charity’ was bought from Ashwood Nurseries probably five years ago.  It is planted in part shade under the branches of my neighbours trees so it has taken a while to really establish and get its roots down through the tree roots.  I like the dark green leathery foliage which I hope will provide a good back drop to the spring and summer plants in front of it.

However, now is its real season of interest with beautiful fragrant acid yellow flowers. The flowers are frost-resistant and an excellent food provider for pollinators which might  still be roaming around in the winter.  It is also nice to have something in flower at this time of year.

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ is a large variety and can grow up to 400cm(13ft) tall.  I have been hoping that mine would produce branches and therefore a wider plant but so far there is only one tall stem.  I wouldn’t call it leggy yet but I am wondering whether I should prune it after flowering but I don’t know if I have the courage just to cut the top off! The RHS website says that whilst Mahonia can be stooled to about 45cm (18in) it is best to prune them over three years, removing a third each year.  It also appears as though I should have pinched out the dead flowers when the plant was little as this would have encourage more shoots  and a better shaped plant – well you live and learn.

Another interesting thing about Mahonias is that in the roots of species plants is a substance called berberin  which has antibacterial  effects and is used as a bitter tonic.  Apparently there is also evidence that Mahonia may have anti-tumour properties.  The flowers are followed by blue/black fruits which have the common name of Oregon grape.  My research tells me that they are very nice to eat raw or cooked so I might try one this year.

2012_12090016

I love the shape of the flower head it is like some sort of mad octopus – how can you not like it.