Shade is often seen as one of the biggest problems in the garden. If you have acid soil, a mild climate and mostly deciduous trees there is still a wide range of plants, like Rhododendrons, Boxwood and Camellias, that will grow in the shady parts of your garden. If however you are on alkaline and clay soil, in cold districts and you have evergreen trees like cedar and fir, then your options are limited. If that sounds like you, then welcome into your garden the Oregon Grape. This plant is not a Grape at all, and its foliage is somewhat like Holly, so it is also sometimes called the Oregon Grape Holly. Whatever you choose to call it, this evergreen shrub, with its bold, glossy, rich green leaves is a terrific addition to your garden if you have areas of deep shade.
The plants remain low, growing to around three feet or sometimes up to five feet tall, but they are wide-spreading, easily reaching five feet across. This means a few plants will transform that bleak, empty space beneath your fir and cedar trees into an attractive bed of green, highlighted every spring with bunches of bright yellow flowers followed by deep blue edible berries in fall. As long as this plant receives moisture in spring it will tolerate the typical dryness of summer easily, so it requires no special attention. It is also free of pests and diseases.
The Oregon Grape can be planted in all kinds of gardens and fits into everything from a garden of native plants to a formal garden of clipped hedges, plus everything in between. It is superb covering the bare ground that develops beneath fir trees and in the shade of evergreen hedges and it can be used alone or if you have suitable soil, mixed with other shade-loving shrubs from Rhododendrons to Japanese Maples. The great thing about this plant is its tolerance of conditions that will defeat almost any other shrub, so if you have problem shade-areas of your garden, Oregon Grape is the answer.
The Oregon Grape, Mahonia aquifolium, is native to North America, growing from southern Alaska to northern California and eastward to Colorado and Alberta, Canada. It thrives in gardens right across the cooler parts of America, being only limited by the heat of Florida, southern Texas, coastal and southern California and New Mexico. It was a valuable food plant for Native Americans and early settlers alike, who even made wine from it and used the bark to dye cloth yellow.
The leaves are leathery and shiny green and about 12 inches long. They are divided into smaller leaflets with spiny edges, which is why some people see it as a ‘Holly’. The flowers are small, but carried in clusters three inches long and are a bright yellow color, visible right across your garden in early spring, when they emerge at the first touch of warmer weather, long before many other plants are awake. These are followed by clusters of blue berries in fall, which are edible and give you the opportunity to experiment with jellies and wines. Since the leaves are evergreen you are never faced with a bare bed of twigs when you plant this useful shrub.
Our growers produce our plants from selected specimens with good flower color in large clusters and heavy crops of berries. They root stem pieces from these top-grade plants, rather than growing them cheaply from seed, which gives variable and often inferior results. Avoid cheap seed-grown plants that can easily disappoint you.
When it comes to soil, the Oregon Grape is an easy plant and will grow happily in everything from sand to clay and from acid to alkaline soils. It does benefit from annual organic mulch around the roots and plenty of water in spring while the new leaves are emerging and maturing, but nature usually takes care of that. As summer proceeds these plants will happily survive drought, once they are well established, but equally if they do get water they will not be concerned. They have no pests and diseases so they are ideal for a natural garden too.
Or Oregon Grape plants are the guaranteed native species and they are ideal for natural gardens and wilder areas, as well as fitting well into more formal gardens. Our suppliers are regularly shipping new stock to us but with such a hardy and useful shade plant the demand is high and supplies can be limited. Order now to solve that deep shade problem that bothers so many gardens.