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.
Annie at Annie Cholewa
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
Gillian at Tales from a happy house.
CJ at Above the River
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.