From under the snow and ice

Yes, I know that the title of this article contains the words “snow and ice,” and believe me, I’m as over it as all of you are.

The female Skimmia has small white spikes of flowers that will produce berries in the late summer. The berries you see here are from last summer and stay throughout the winter.

But let me tell you about what I found in the shade section around my koi pond. There they were, bright, shiny red berries, like a beacon emerging from under all of the ice and mounds (over two feet) of snow.

The reason I’m telling you about it now is because now is the time that the garden/nursery centers are getting in fresh crops of trees and shrubs. I first saw this adorable little shrub at a garden show a few years back. It wasn’t labeled so it took a while to find out what it was. But I searched until I located the name and where I was able to purchase it and I couldn’t be happier with this absolutely ‘no maintenance’ shrub!

This evergreen is a low grower. You can even use it as a ground cover if you like. It grows no more than 12 inches tall and spreads very well. This is one of those shrubs that as the new branches touch the soil within a year will have rooted. This is great because you can easily cut the branch and replant the new growth in another location.

And there is a lot more to love about this native. It is from eastern Asia, the Himalayan region, Eastern Siberia, Taiwan, the Philippines and Japan. The botanical name is the same as its common name, Skimmia.

As I said it is a ‘no maintenance’ evergreen shrub. The foliage is dense, elliptical in shape, four inches long and two inches wide. The color is a dark shiny green.

This is one of those “male needs a female” shrubs. In late winter both produce flowers. The male plant has large clusters of white tinged with pink flowers. The female plant has small spikes of white, not so exciting looking flowers. When the flowers of the female Skimmia mature, she makes up for their dullness with the berries that are produced. The berries are pearl size and a bright, shiny almost glowing red color.

You need both male and female Skimmia, but you needn’t go crazy with one male for every female. A one to five ratios (one male/five females) works perfectly for fertilization. Skimmia grow best in a part- to full-shade setting which keeps the soil slightly moist. Full morning sun, which is a much cooler sun, is fine as long as the Skimmia is in shade for the rest of the day.

So if you are looking for a low growing, no maintenance shrub/groundcover with multi-seasonal interest, Skimmia is the way to go. I use it around my koi pond and in my client’s gardens for a woodland/natural look or for something to go with azaleas or rhododendrons. By the way, there is a relatively new variety that does not need a male and female plant, Skimmia ‘Rees’ but I find that it does not produce nearly the quality or quantity of flowers and berries as the separate male/female plant does.

Remember – there can never be enough flowers, so enjoy!

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