The First Scent of Spring Has Arrived!

Mahonia Blooms

oregon grape hollyIt’s been a weird late winter in our area with temperatures that keep going up and down. I’m in Grow Zone 7b. It's mid-March, 2021. We had temps in the 30's today and it was up to 78 a few days ago. We've also had a lot of rain the past month or so.

So I was a bit surprised to find how truly predictable the early yellow blooms of my Mahonia shrubs can be.

Enjoying lunch in my back yard over the weekend (when it was warmer) brought an amazing, lily-of-the-valley scent in the light breeze. I knew immediately, Mahonia blooms.

Mahonia are flowering evergreen shrubs that are also called Oregon Grape Holly, (Mahonia aquifolium).  I have 5 Leatherleaf Mahonia shrubs towards the back of my yard. I first panted them about 6 years ago. They grew to over 7 feet tall but I gave them a pretty heavy pruning last year.

The bright yellow blooms were just starting to open and already they were alive with bees swarming in for the pollen. I am not a great photographer but have posted a few pictures below.

Just seeing all the bees for the first time in a while was cool to watch. Anything in suburban life that can keep the bees busy is a good thing.

Mahonia are one of the first shrubs to bloom each year. They are worth it just for the amazing scent in late winter through early spring.  There are even newer introductions that are small enough to grow in containers to keep closer to your home around your patio or entryway. That way you can enjoy their scent even more. You can view a list of Mahonia varieties and the best prices from our top rated nurseries here.

Most Mahonia varieties are woody, upright growing evergreen shrub.  There are varieties rated as far north as grow zone 5 and go down to grow zone 9. They are also great for shady areas. I have mine in a natural setting, underneath a huge oak tree.

If you want something unique for an evergreen hedge, Mahonia may be for you. Most varieties have rough, pointy leaves, similar to many holly leaves. Also keep in mind you will be sharing your hedge with a lot of bees when the blooms come out.

The bright yellow, bell shaped flowers eventually turn to a powdery-blue fruit that resemble small grapes.  The leaves, as you can see from the pictures below resemble holly leaves. The shrubs originate from the Orient and were first brought to the United States in Oregon. Thus, the moniker Oregon Grape Holly.

Buy Evergreen Shrubs compares lowest prices on 4 Mahonia varieties:

Variety Grow Zones Features View Prices
Oregon Grape Holly 5 to 9 Unique flowering evergreen 6 feet tall & wide check prices
Winter Sun Mahonia 6 to 9 Smaller variety 2-3 feet tall & wide check prices
Soft Caress Mahonia  6 to 9 Feathery foliage - great for containers check prices
Marvel Mahonia 6 to 9 Blooms in late fall check prices