Mahonia × media ‘Arthur Menzies’

hybrid mahonia

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

  • © Roy Forster

Outstanding Qualities

This statuesque, evergreen shrub is a stellar specimen for the winter garden. 'Arthur Menzies' has dramatic, frond-like leaves that grow in whorls along its coarsely branched stems. Great sprays of gold flowers appear in winter, developing into grape-like clusters of wax-coated black berries by late summer and autumn. Beautiful foliage and upright growth habit make this hybrid mahonia a strong focal point in the garden. Plant it with Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata', Stachyurus praecox, Helleborus x hybridus, Carex testacea and Cyclamen coum. 'Arthur Menzies' originated at Seattle's Washington Park Arboretum. Seedlings germinated at Strybing Arboretum (San Francisco) of the frost-tender Mahonia lomariifolia were grown on in Seattle. (The original seed was from the garden of Arthur Menzies.) From the beginning this clone looked different from its siblings. After the very cold winter of 1962, it alone survived. Its relative hardiness indicated that it was a hybrid, most likely of M. bealei. It was named by Washington Park Arboretum curator Brian Mulligan for his colleague Arthur Menzies (1916 to 1973). Menzies worked at Strybing from about 1953, until his untimely death, at which time he was Assistant Director.

Quick Facts

Plant Type: vase-shaped shrub

Foliage Type: evergreen

Plant Height: 8 ft. 0 in. (2.44 meters)

Plant Width/Spread: 5 ft. 0 in. (1.52 meters)

Plant Height-Mature: 0 ft. 0 in. (0.00 meters)

Plant Width-Mature: 0 ft. 0 in. (0.00 meters)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 to 9

Flower Color: yellow

Sun/Light Exposure: full sun to dappled shade

Water Requirements: Occasional watering during dry weather. Once established, drought tolerant

Wildlife Associations: birds

Colors & Combos

Great Color Contrasts: gold, silver, white, variegated

Great Color Partners: dark green, chartreuse, blue

Culture Notes
This hybrid mahonia is tough. It will grow well in full sun to dappled shade. It prefers a well-drained soil, but will tolerate sandy sites and clay. Once established it is drought tolerant, although plants in full sun can yellow if kept excessively dry. Occasional watering during dry weather will help plants in sun to maintain a rich green foliage color. Prune the tips in early spring, while the plant in young, to make a fuller bushier specimen. Older plants need little pruning other than the removal of dead, broken or poorly formed limbs.
Geek Notes
"see emails Jan 2006 from Barbara M. Pitschel (BELOW)Head LibrarianSan Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum Helen Crocker Russell Library of Horticulture Ninth Avenue at Lincoln Way, Golden Gate Park San Francisco, CA 94122 Phone: 415-661-1316 x303 Fax: 415-661-3539 Arthur L. Menzies (1916-1973) worked as a gardener for the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department in 1946 (following 3.5 years in a coal mine as a prisoner of war during World War II). In 1947, he left to catalog rock garden plants for noted Bay Area horticulturist Victor Rieter. As Victor began downsizing his nursery, Art was persuaded to take the Civil Service Gardener's Examination, following which he returned to Golden Gate Park in 1953 and to the Park's Arboretum sometime thereafter. He served as Plant Accessions Supervisor under Strybing Director Percy ""Jock"" Brydon (who was director from 1960-1969) and Roy Hudson (director from 1969-1971). Director John Bryan (1971-1979) implemented the necessary administrative process to win for Art the title of Assistant Director, which he held until his untimely death. Arthur Menzies was a great man in his own right. He was Assistant Director of our garden until his death in 1973. I quote an excerpt from the memorial article written in our newsletter: ""...a walking encyclopedia of flora and fauna...[h]e was known in horticultural circles throughout the world for his expertise, as is evidenced by his global correspondence and exchange of seed and plant material."" Our award-winning native garden, the Arthur L. Menzies Memorial Garden of Native Plants, was named in his honor. In the 1970s some 13 of a possible 14 species of Mahonia were recorded as being on view in the Native Garden.If you are interested in further information about Art Menzies and the memorial garden, I recommend two articles in California Horticultural Journal, v.36, no.2 (April 1975), p.54-62. "