A Garden of Second Chances: Nandina

It is so ubiquitous in our gardens that we take it for granted. It is so amenable to everything we throw at it....sun or shade, wet or dry, hot or cold, windy or not....that we don't recognize that it too would like just a   little bit please   of our gardening attention. Yes, that ol' reliable, but EVER SO VALUABLE IN THE LANDSCAPE....

the heavenly bamboo nandina domestica.

When I was on the Garden Writer's Tour a number of years ago (an event that drew visitors from literally all over the world), I was surprised at the number of gardeners from England, Canada, and northern US climes, who were smitten with it and our ease of growing it in the South... for its vibrant berries and delicate foliage.  Like so many other things in life, I had to look at it through the lens of others to full appreciate its merits and its value in our gardens.

Nandina berries floating in rainwater in the birdbath...with a zen and spa-like cascade flourish of viburnum petals and a singular Japanese maple leaf.

I think one of the reasons it is disliked here in the South is because it gets woody and leggy and bereft in appearance when not properly pruned. The one and only demand, I might add, that it makes of us.

So I prevail upon you to reconsider your attitude towards this invaluable shrub.  Because, really, all it wants, like most of us... 

is a second chance. 

And it is within our power to provide it!  

For nandina is about only shrub I know that can be pruned anywhere along the cane...even all of the way to the ground...at about any time of year...and it is so unforgiving that it will flush out at the site of the cut.

I have lots, LOTS, of nandina that serves as a backdrop to my other plantings. But I have one stand-alone length of Plum Passion Nandina (here) that had
developed that forlorn look of which I speak. So with absolutely no fear, I cut it all the way back to the ground and within two weeks it was producing new, succulent, decidedly unwoody canes and fresh foliage.

Here it is this morning, more than living up to my high expectations and reinforcing my belief that...

everything in life and in gardening deserves a second chance.

Today's Takeaway Tip:  If your nandinas are looking woody, leggy, and less than their best, consider giving them a hard prune. If pruning ALL of the canes is too drastic a move for you, just prune the canes in front, leaving those in the back to hold their place in line. :)

For more gardening tips and projects join me and Linda Cavanaugh on Fridays at 4:30 on KFOR's 4 Your Garden.

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