Mahonias are winter-flowering evergreen shrubs that I happily enjoy in public spaces or other people’s gardens. The one above is Mahonia x media ‘Buckland’ and it’s growing outside Bristol University library and spreading a magnificent five metres in both directions. Currently it’s clothed in masses of pale yellow flowers but a word of warning, it was basking in the winter sun and the flowers had absolutely no scent. Since it has a dominant presence with rather spikey holly-like leaves then scent would be essential in my view and Mahonia japonica would be the one to plant. The perfume is reminiscent of Lily-of-the-Valley and if caught on a gentle breeze it can flood a garden with a stunning fragrance from autumn till spring.
Another shrub that I spotted in full flower in spite of the frost this week is Leycestria formosa (Himalayan honeysuckle). It’s planted in front of the warm walls of a sports centre which may explain why it’s still flowering now rather than its usual time in summer. The unusual white flowers emerge through purple-red bracts that form pagoda-like clusters and purple-red berries follow on. It’s valued by flower arrangers and the stems remain attractive throughout winter and look effective when combined with dogwoods.
My hardy outdoor Cyclamen coum are looking delightful sitting at the feet of some flowering hellebore in four pots outside the kitchen door. The soil is frozen solid but the pure white flowers soldier on. I may re-plant both the hellebore and cyclamen in the ground later in the year but currently I am enjoying having pots of flowers at an otherwise quiet time in the garden.