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Chelsea Flower Show Plant Of The Year Winner: Mahonia 'Soft Caress'

Mahonia 'Soft Caress': New spine-free Mahonia. Image ©
The winner of the Chelsea Flower Show 2013 Plant Of The Year was announced late on Monday. The award goes to Mahonia eurybracteata subsp. ganpinensis 'Soft Caress'. A selection of a Chinese species, made in Georgia, I feature it on my Royal Horticultural Society New Plants blog in September last year. This is what I said:

Mahonias are amongst the most impressive and dependable of flowering shrubs – but they have a problem. They’re spiny, sometimes viciously spiny. Not any more.

Mahonia eurybracteata is a modestly sized evergreen shrub that grows wild in five provinces of south west China. Reaching 3-4ft/90-120cm in height, and about as wide creating a more or less rounded plant, the long slender divided foliage is slightly greyish green, soft to the touch and not at all spiny or holly-like as so many varieties are.

From August until October the flowers appear, upright clusters of spikes at the tips of the shoots are lined with slightly fragrant, bright yellow flowers that last for many weeks and are followed by blue berries.

‘Soft Caress’ is a new form selected for its extra hardiness and for foliage which has a more noticeably silvery sheen. The leaves may also take on reddish tints as the days shorten and the nights become cooler. ‘Soft Caress’ is neat enough to be grown in a container, or is happy in a sunny or partially shaded border where it appreciates fertile, but well-drained soil.

‘Soft Caress’ was selected by Ozzie Johnson and Karen Stever from a group of seedlings of Mahonia eurybracteata grown at ItSaul Plants in Chamblee, Georgia.

In Britain you can order Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’ from Crocus and from Gardening Express.

In North America you can order Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’ from Wayside Gardens and from Springhill Nursery.