Heavenly Bamboo

heavenly bambooThere is no better name for this shrub than heavenly bamboo, (even if it isn't bamboo).  We are always on the hunt for plants that stand up to the grayness, dullness, and darkness of winter with their bright colored foliage, berries or even flowers. Heavenly Bamboo, as you can see from the picture, is a champion in this category, with an abundance of bright red leaves on its new growth and cascades of berries that make it a real looker. In fact, a healthy specimen properly fertilized has color variations all year long:

"The semi-evergreen, delicate foliage of most varieties of this hardy plant shows different colors every season—pinkish in the spring, then fresh, light green, then bronzy purple in the fall and bright crimson in winter. Large clusters of creamy or pinkish white blossoms appear in late spring, followed by showy red berries." (Cheryll Greenwood Kingsley, WSU Whatcom County Extension)

This beautiful and somewhat delicate looking plant is actually fairly rugged and uniquely suited to our climate and soils. It is cold, heat, and drought tolerant, has rugged woody stems, comes in a variety of forms and sizes, and is easy to care for and transplant.  It is not expensive considering its virtues and is readily available from vendors around our valley.

These facts make it often-used in local landscaping, but you can employ your ingenuity to avoid stereotyped hedge-like presentations in your yard if you wish.  For instance, why not let it grace the edges of your fountain and rock garden with its cool , delicate, exotic-looking green leaves and accenting red colors. In our picture, you see it buffering a hedge to lawn transition while adding needed color and texture contrast.

Nandina Domestica is the scientific name of this plant, which is native to eastern Asia. It is not bamboo at all, and gets its common name from its delicate pinnate leaves which change colors with growth and season. It does grow a number of stems out of the roots, but they are in no way segmented, reedy, straight, or green like most bamboo. A caution regarding the plant is that it is apparently somewhat toxic.  However, it is not irritating to touch, or likely to be toxic  to humans; it might be harmful to cats or grazing animals.  Just don't put it in the salad or use it as a garnish, and don't feed it to bossy the cow. (Seriously, the cats in  this writer's neighborhood live amid a number of these shrubs, and so far no problems have been reported.)  The upside of all this is that our plantings have proven to be deerproof.  They have not been subject to the uprooting, leaf eating, or bark stripping that hungry deer will do,so the acidic toxins of nandina must not be pleasing to the deer palate.


Bottom line, nandina is beautiful, a year-round pleaser, hardy, inexpensive and easy to find. Pick a nice spot, row, or garden bed and look forward to easy-care pleasure from this plant all year long!



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