Nandina domestica 'Nana'

Nandina domestica Nana

This tenacious evergreen shrub has been given a bad name because it has been overused by landscapers for the past few years. When we moved to our current garden, there were about fifty of these plants marching down the path towards the front door. I pronounced them 'hideous' and demanded that they be immediately removed. That was when I was in my cottage gardening phase and they were anathema to my plans.

Nowadays, I like this Nandina and can appreciate its many assets. It certainly is a tough plant, which can put up with very hot, dry situations as well as shady spots. It forms a neat round shape to about 45cm in height with vaguely bamboo-like foliage, although it is no relation to the real bamboo. The best feature to my mind is that these leaves take on pretty red, orange and even purple tints in autumn, and because it doesn't lose its leaves, these remain decorative all through winter. The foliage colour is developed best when the plants are grown in a hot, dry spot. In spring, it has very attractive lime green new growth.

I think it is at its best when grown to give structure amongst plants of a looser form with orange or red flowers in summer and winter, which will echo the foliage colour. Some examples are lion's tail (Leonotis leonurus), red or orange Salvia, hot-coloured florists' chrysanthemums, poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) and Lobelia laxiflora. It is also a candidate for being grown in a bright blue pot, as it forms a natural topiary. I have seen it used as an effective low hedge. The leaves are useful as cut material for vases.