Selective Love

I’ve never been a huge fan of nandinas in the garden. I find the more typical forms very difficult to integrate from a design perspective, and I find the popular Nandina ‘Firepower’ to be near the top of the list of most grotesquely ugly plants used in American landscapes. Yes, it’s colorful, but the plant lacks any grace, and has the form of a pile of wet red Kleenex.

Of the older cultivars, I like Nandina ‘Harbor Dwarf’, with it’s low spreading form, but the paucity of fruit keeps most people from planting it. The only downside for us is that it spreads to cover a very large footprint, so can choke out other nearby plants. We continue to trial all of the new nandina introductions to see if anything strikes our fancy.

My favorite member of the genus, which I first met at the JC Raulston Arboretum back in the 1980s, is Nandina domestica ‘Filamentosa’. This cutleaf, slow-growing, non-fruiting selection from Japan is often marketed under the trade name San Gabriel. It adds a distinctly Japanese flavor to the landscape, which is why we planted a mass in our new Japanese garden. Here is a photo from this week with it’s lovely rosy winter color. Winter hardiness is Zone 6b-9a.

7 thoughts on “Selective Love”

  1. I would plant this, since it doesn’t fruit. The berries of the others are poisonous to our native birds, which don’t always know not to eat them.

    1. Nandina fruit contains tiny amounts of cyanide, as do apples, peaches, crabapples, cherries, peaches, and apricots. The chances of birds getting poisoned from any of these are miniscule. In fact, there has only been one recorded case of bird poisoning from gorging on nandina fruits in the history of the United States. That single event certainly was hyped as a sensational news story.

          1. Still, for me, it’s reason enough not to grow Nandina, even if poisonings are rare. I don’t suppose many bird deaths are observed/reported at all, and if they are, they’re not news, other than mass deaths. I’d much rather have a winterberry or, well, just about anything else.

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