Plant Recommendation: Mahonia x media

Plant Recommendation: Mahonia x media
Even in December, the Honey Bees are busy. Whenever there's enough sun warming the hive and the outside temperature isn't TOO frigid, they're off gathering whatever they can find. And they find a lot.

Where are they finding all that pollen? Often, in our Mahonia x media plant.

Mahonia x media is a winter-blooming plant, also known as "Charity" or "Winter Sun"; it's hardy in USDA Zones 7-9. Birds and bugs love it so much that we planted one in front of our kitchen window so that we, and our cats, can watch the show.

As a nervous second-year beekeeper, I race out to the hive to investigate whenever there's activity. Saturday I tracked them to see which plants they were collecting from.

Though there are heaths blooming here too, and some over-wintering herbs, the most activity I saw was at our Winter Sun Mahonia. I examined the buds to try to find a bee to photograph and was buzzed - by a BIRD.

Can you tell what kind?

A hummingbird!

Our Mahonia was being fiercely guarded by a hummingbird. Just after this shot, the hummingbird zipped over my head to chase off another hummingbird. He then returned and kept watch.

And then took a few more sips before standing guard again.

We planted our bushes about ten years ago; since the first season, they've thrived with no help from us.
Plants that provide off- or odd-season nutrition for bees and birds are vital. While Colony Collapse of Honey Bees has not been fully explained, nor has the general population decline, one known cause of death is starvation. Thoughtful landscaping can provide important food sources.

Consider Mahonia x media for its months'-long winter color, for its beautiful clusters of late-summer deep blue berries, for the year-round wildlife show, or for its drought tolerant ease of care.

Or do it for the bees!

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