When I admired 'Soft Caress' mahonia at Wells-Medina last week, the nursery guy told me many of these cool new shrubs have gone home with employees. I'm not surprised...I stared at it for awhile before I even grasped that it was a mahonia, for 'Soft Caress' has none of that usual heavy, dark-green mahonia look. Its slender leaves lend an airy appearance, and it could easily be mistaken for a nandina or a tidy little form of bamboo.
Yet despite its unusual looks, 'Soft Caress' has the characteristic growth pattern of mahonia, takes shade, and is topped with a burst of fragrant yellow flowers in winter. It's evergreen like its relatives, and grows to about four feet high - although because it's such a new hybrid we really don't know how large it'll grow here in the Northwest. Nor can we be sure about its tenderness..even though the tag reads "hardy to 10 degrees F.", nursery staff recommended a sheltered spot in the garden. I'd love to grow it in a container, and am considering the risk....look at those red stems....isn't it a beauty?