Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Color Collaborative: December: Berry






Nandina shrub next to my back patio, August - December 2015

Nandina is a plant I'd never experienced before moving to New Mexico. Everywhere else I've lived is too cold, and maybe too wet, for nandina to thrive. But here in the high desert, nandina is ubiquitous in landscaping. It's hardy, colorful and low-maintenance. In some places, such as Texas, it's considered an invasive species. Birds spread the seeds over areas where they shouldn't grow. Nandina's strong underground stems are part of the problem too. However, it remains popular in many places. Some know it as "heavenly bamboo," which I think is a beautifully fanciful name. It's not really bamboo, though. It's actually an evergreen shrub, a relative of the barberry.

Nandina one of those plants you really want to watch, because it changes so dramatically over the growing season. It flowers in mid-summer, tiny pyramidal white buds that become green berries. The berries grow all summer, eventually taking on a pinkish tinge in the fall, progressing to red by Christmas. The red berries remain all winter, perfect food for birds. By spring, there will be just a few dried, brownish berries left; soon the plant will flower again for a new season. The leaves are interesting; they may change color in the fall, or they may stay green all winter. It seems to depend on the plant, and it can vary even within an individual plant. I have one nandina that turns bold orange-red in fall, and one that stays glossy dark green. Both are lovely throughout the year, I think.

In spite of my acquired love for it, my early encounters with nandina were hardly auspicious. When my daughter was just learning to walk, she spied a clutch of fallen berries on the ground under one of our nandinas. Before I could stop her, she had stuffed them into her mouth. I panicked; a friend had told me that nandina contained a cyanide compound and was toxic to small animals! This might have included her. I made a frantic call to Poison Control, during which I was assured that the most serious record of poisoning involved a dog who had consumed several nandina branches and later threw up, but survived. My daughter showed no adverse signs after her berry snack, but I watched her very carefully around the nandinas after that.

Today, I've grown accustomed to these plants in my backyard. Whether I'm washing dishes or sitting at the table in the breakfast nook, I can see these shrubs with their lacy leaves, slender stems, white buds or changing berries. They're peaceful and just a bit exotic, a plant to enjoy year-round. I'm especially appreciative of nandina at Christmastime, when the berries are ripest - bright red, shiny and heavy on their stems. Each year, I wait avidly for this natural progression toward festive beauty in my own backyard.

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Don't forget to visit the other Color Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts. Just click on the links below: 

Annie at Annie Cholewa
Sarah at mitenska
 
What is The Color Collaborative?
All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a color related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about color in new ways.

20 comments:

  1. Such a pretty plant, and one that is very good value for the garden with so many berries. You clearly have a green finger! It's always nice to follow a plant through the seasons isn't it. I'm wishing you and yours a very happy New Year Jennifer. CJ xx

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  2. How fascinating to see the same berries grow and colour like that! Happy New Year, Jennifer. :o)

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  3. Lovely plant and so interesting to read about it and see it through the seasons. I'm glad your daughter was ok! There are so many plants with berries in the hedgerows around here. Unfortunately, I only know the names of a few of them.
    All the best for 2016, Jennifer :)

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  4. I love your photos and thank you for sharing such an interesting plant from your part of the world. It is one of the things I love about blogging learning about different parts of the world :). A very Happy New Yeat to you and yours.

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  5. Plants which change over time like this are lovely to have in the garden. Wishing you all the very best for 2016.

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  6. Barberry I know - as a dyer as well as a lover of gardens if not a gardener - but your nandina is quite new to me. And how quite gorgeous! What a lovely change from the ubiquitous red holly berries here :)

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  7. So nice to see these photo's, garden plants and flowers give so much colour and joy.

    Good wishes to you and yours for a Happy and Healthy 2016.

    All the best Jan

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  8. I have a big Nandina in front of our house, right under the family room window. So, it is happy in Oregon, anyway. :-) I also like it in all the seasons, the summer with it's pretty bunches of white flowers and then finally the sprays of red berries.
    *:._.:*~*:._.:*~*:._.:*~*:._.:*~*:._.:*
      *H*A*P*P*Y* *N*E*W* *Y*E*A*R*!*
    *:._.:*~*:._.:*~*:._.:*~*:._.:*~*:._.:*
    ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  9. Nandina is such a good-value, hard-working plant – flowers, berries, semi-evergreen foliage that changes colour. I love it. Here's wishing you a happy new year Jennifer. Sam x

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  10. Great photographs, Jennifer. I love seeing the changes in colour as the seasons change. That must have been frightening when your daughter ate some of the berries. Earlier today Joe and I had a discussion about not eating wild mushrooms and toadstools. Not sure how much of it registered to be honest!
    Wishing you a wonderful New Year and lots of good health for 2016.
    Sarah x

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  11. Good morning Jennifer. I had never heard of the Nandina plant before. Thank you for giving me such a wonderful overview of it. I specially like the berries turning red at Christmas, a little bit like Holly. I'm wishing you and your sweet family a very happy new year!
    Blessings, Betsy

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  12. As always I love learning anything about your local area as it seems so exotic to me. I think the berries are prettiest in early autumn but I love how they are deep red right on time for Christmas. Xx

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  13. I fell for the name, heavenly bamboo, but it is such a neat well-behaved evergreen shrub in my garden and its flowers and berries are so pretty that I have never regretted introducing it. In my garden the leaves colour when we have an especially harsh winter; in this mild and soggy winter they have remained resolutely green. Happy New Year's Eve Jennifer.

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  14. My next-door neighbor has some crazy bushes and invasive plants growing wild by her house that sometimes overhang our property (until I start hacking away at them)...one of the plants has red berries that look just like the ones you posted. The leaves may be different though - I can't remember. I'm thinking it's probably not the same plant since I live in northern IL.

    Happy New Year to you and your family!

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  15. Hi Jennifer,

    Have never heard of Nandina and was good to read about yours - I love the pretty red berries and such a great plant to have around for Christmas.
    Happy New Year, to you and your family and best wishes for good health and happiness for 2016
    hugs
    Carolyn

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  16. Dear Jennifer, I have three of this shrub but have never heard it is called Nandina. My mother called it Sacred Bamboo, and I too love its seasonal activities, and the red berries best of all. Happy New Year to you and your lovely family, and I hope 2016 brings joy and good health to all. xx

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  17. Beautiful to see the wonderful colour's of that shrub develop. Thank you for sharing and have a very happy new year! Xx Leah

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  18. While I never thought about it much before reading this post, berries in the world around us offer an interesting array of colors, don't they. I appreciate being able to view your Nandina over nearly half a year, and learn more about it. Since I noted in the above comments that Teresa has Nandina at her farm over the hill and dale from me, maybe we could grow some at our place, too. I think they are beautiful! Thanks for posting, Jennifer, and Happy New Year to you and yours :) xx

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  19. That is a very pretty plant! The colors really change dramatically between August and December. Wishing you a great year in 2016 and may it bring realizations of dreams and lots of happiness!!

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  20. That is a very attractive plant, and interesting to see it change through the seasons. I distinctly remember eating a poisonous (not too poisonous!) plant in the garden when I was about four, and my mother holding me upside down over the kitchen sink swilling water in my mouth (and my eyes, and up my nose) and screaming 'Did you swallow any? Did you swallow any?' All very dramatic! X

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