January 3, 2022
Reflections, Day 82
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
― Maya Angelou
Winter color in the urban landscape is interesting to explore.
I have left a screen against our rear chain-link fence which is somewhat cultivated and somewhat wild. The screen does its job, though, giving us a variety of colors and textures, some color all year round, and it lends a feeling of privacy.
While walking around the yard after a rain, I noticed two most interesting pieces of color—the red berries on a nandina domestica and the yellow flower spikes on a mahonia japonica, otherwise known as “Leather leaf mahonia.”
Both of these plants have their good qualities, the nandina shows off with its small red to bronze to green leaves, its flowers in the summer, and its red berries in the winter. The mahonia is evergreen with interesting stiff spiky leaves and a fragrant flower in the early winter. These turn to panicles of purple berries later on.
These two plants are easy to install, will take sun or shade, drought or flood, heat or freezing weather. They are true survivors.
However, their good qualities are also bad qualities from the landscaper’s point of view. Since they are survivors, they grab on to their land and become determined to stay there. To perpetuate their species, they make berries that taste good to certain birds who eat them, digest the fruit of the berry and then spread the seeds all over town. I heard it said that the birds have an enzyme in their systems which treat the seeds and cause them to germinate and grow rapidly.
For these reasons, both of these plants have been placed on the “invasive species” list in the southeastern United States. Bob Hicks, my father-in-law, a most well-read and erudite man once pointed to a mahonia and remarked, “John, that plant comes from the Pleistocene. It survived the dinosaurs.” I believe him.
But, then, there is the color in the winter garden. Oh Well…