Bright yellow fruitfulness. These evergreens are brightly lemon-colored and bring sunshine to dull winter days

  • Nigel Colborn visited the hotel that overlooked a large cluster of buttery yellow flowers.
  • UK-based gardening expert says Mahonias have great garden value 
  • These evergreen plants can withstand frost and are extremely durable.

Serendipity is always unexpected, especially in a budget airport hotel. The lush, green foliage that covered my dark bedroom was a stark contrast to the darkness of my room. Each upright stem had a large cluster of buttery yellow flowers at the tip.

The sweet scent of Mahonia japonica, if I had opened the windows, would have drifted into my charmless living room. The damn thing wouldn’t move.

I was utterly defeated by serendipity. A group of tiny, beautiful birds moved through the flower beds.

These were small blackcaps warblers, with large heads and dark eyes. They were able to eat the nectar and pollen of yellow flowers, as they had a limited supply.

Long-lasting: The yellow blooms of M. aquifolium are followed by blue-black berries

Lasting: Blue-black fruits follow the yellow blossoms of M.

Mahonias may not be for everyone. Others have irregular growth patterns and some are very prickly. They are great for gardens because they can be grown year round and have many winter flowers.

The flowers can be arranged in beautiful clusters or with slender stalks.

These are frostproof and durable, as well as extremely long-lasting.

Mahonias can be a wildlife friend, hence my blackcaps in front of the hotel. In the past, these and other warblers had to abandon Britain for overwintering near the Mediterranean.

However, the arrival of blackcaps, and other warblers, has made it a more common sight, even in winter. Even some fly north to continental Europe where the winters can be colder.


Oregon grape (M. aquifolium) is one of the easiest mahonias to grow. The Oregon grape or M. aquifolium grows about one metre tall and can spread to around 1.5 metres. Its compound leaves have leaflets that resemble holly. The prickles, however, are less sensitive and so more comfortable to the touch.

In spring and summer, shrubs are full of dense, yellow-colored, nectar-rich blooms. Blue-black berries follow. Mahonia, which is native to the Rockies of western North America, grows taller and has fewer prickly leaf. Rotundifolia’s form has oval-shaped, sparsely prickled Leaves.

M..repens and M..aquifolium are charming despite their rough shapes. They can also look great in full flowers and then again in fall when the dark blue-black fruits appear. The leaves can develop subtle autumn shades.

M. japonica, which is taller and has a more defined outline than other species, is most likely the best. It blooms from mid-spring through November, and has a delicious lily of the valley fragrance. You can also find exceptional japonica hybrids., which is a cross of M. japonica and M.lomariifolia, is one of the most outstanding japonica hybrids.

They resemble shuttlecocks because they have a more yellowish color and are higher up.

M. Charity is a popular flower variety with elegant spikes. However, its scent is not as strong as M. japonica.