Plant to Watch – Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’

I thought I would just share some details of this plant which was recently brought to my attention by several clients, and which is now cropping up increasingly in garden centres.  It was Plant of the Year at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2013.   I am about to try growing it in my garden (and one or two customers have agreed to be guinea pigs too!).  If it lives up to its hype, it could be a lovely and very useful plant.

Mahonia Soft Caress is a compact evergreen shrub, likely to grow to around  1m tall and wide over time.  Unlike other Mahonias it doesn’t have spiny leaves;  instead it has soft, fine finger like dark green leaves, which have a hint of the exotic in them.  It has the same (slight scented) yellow flowers (and blue black berries) as its relatives, but it flowers earlier in the year – August to October.  It will grow in full sun to partial (or even full) shade in any well drained, moderately fertile soil.  One client has teamed it with ferns, a Fatsia and hellebores.

I have seen the odd report which questions the full hardiness of the plant, so time will tell.  It may be that it benefits from the frost protection that a tall tree canopy can provide.  But if it proves to be hardy and reliable, it should have a multitude of uses – general border planting, to flank paths and path entrances, as low hedging,  as a small feature plant (particularly in small gardens), in pots and containers, as part of a lush planting theme… the list goes on!

If you’ve grown Mahonia Soft Caress, leave a comment to let us know how you got on. I am particularly interested to hear more anecdotal evidence on it’s hardiness or otherwise!

Mahonia eurybracteata 'Soft Caress'

Image credit: Leonora Enking.

 

2 comments

  1. Joanne Philip says:

    My experience since 2013 launch is that it fulfills the growers’ claims however, two points worth mentioning are: it starts to fade in August prior to flowering spikes forming so requires a boost of fertilizer (general purpose seems to suit) and uneven growth in year four can be improved by moderate pruning.

    1. Alison says:

      Thank you Joanne for your helpful comment! Interesting, as I planted 5 of these as a mini hedge earlier this year, and also noticed that they flagged a tad in August as they were, no doubt, channelling their energy into producing flower buds. I found that a bit of a feed, as you suggested, plus plenty of water (it can be very dry late summer / early autumn) helped the plants a lot.

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