There is nothing rare or unusual about Nandina domestica ‘Richmond’ but it gives cheerful colour for many months in the colder season – an orange antidote to the dominant winter pinks. I read an English article which described it as the Far Eastern equivalent of holly berries, for hollies do not berry well in warm or even in mild climates. Clearly it is not attractive to birds. Otherwise they would strip it in a matter of days. It does, however, pick well if you are into flower arranging.
The nandina occurs naturally across much of Asia, from the Himalayas to Japan. It was introduced to the west in 1804 from a plant collection in China. Overseas, it is widely referred to as the heavenly or sacred bamboo, but it is not a bamboo at all. In fact it is related to barberry – but not prickly – and a member of the beriberidaceae family. It is hardy, evergreen and not fussy about growing conditions from full sun to semi shade. Our plants are just over 2 metres high and maybe 1.5 metres wide. We give them the occasional thinning every few years and snap off the spent flowering stems but beyond that, they are genuinely easy-care plants. ‘Richmond’ is a form selected because it berries particularly well and is hermaphrodite. In other words, you don’t need a male and a female plant to get the berries, which nandinas normally require. The flowers are white but tiny and insignificant. It is all about the winter berries.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.