I first discovered this plant several years ago while walking through the wonderful winter garden at the Washington Park Arboretum. The winter garden is a hidden treasure to explore during this cold and bare season. Once I broke away from the witchhazel, Mahonia x media was the next plant to catch my eye. This striking hybrid between two Asian species of Oregon grape (Mahonia japonica and Mahonia lomariifolia) is a fast growing evergreen shrub. It grows in partial shade to full sun in a moist environment of USDA zones 7-9. It can reach 10-15 feet, like the mature plant at the arboretum, but can be kept smaller if pruned when young. I have since observed Mahonia x media growing in different locations. It is definitely an independent plant, going where it wants, sometimes loose and leggy. Not a tidy, manicured shrub that can be cut into a ball, or a square, or a turtle. It needs room to grow, but will reward you with that lovely winter bloom and beautiful deep green leaves all year long. This plant stands out in our green jungle because of that bright yellow January surprise. It’s like sighting an exotic bird in our temperate forest. A lucky observer might also see Anna’s hummingbird nearby, the only hummingbird to spend the winter in our Northern climate.