Plant: Tall Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) Why it's choice: The state flower of Oregon, it has just about everything going for it as...

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Plant: Tall Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium)

Why it’s choice: The state flower of Oregon, it has just about everything going for it as a garden plant. It starts out in spring with copper-colored new growth, turns shiny green in summer and then the whole plant turns an attractive bronze-purple for fall and winter. And did I mention the golden yellow flowers and the dusty blue berries?

What it can do in the garden: Its upright habit makes Tall Oregon grape perfect for formal hedges, and the fact that it is evergreen makes it a natural for barriers and screens. It also has a place in informal plantings where it shines on its own, or in woodland plantings with other Northwest natives.

Where to see it: Look for it in open woods, mostly west of the Cascades, from British Columbia through Washington and Oregon to Northern California. It is also widely planted around Seattle.

The facts: Tall Oregon grape grows to about 6 feet tall, and about 3 feet wide. The plant is not fussy and will grow in sun or shade. Pruning is easy: Simply cut back old or damaged stems all the way to the ground.

And in addition: If you want to attract birds to your garden, this is the plant that will do it. Robins, waxwings, juncos and towhees among others, find the berries irresistible. You can eat them too — they make a nice jelly. Or, you can make a bright-yellow dye from the shredded bark. Truly an all-purpose plant.

You can find out more information about native plants, including where to buy them, from the Washington Native Plant Society: www.wnps.org.

Cynthia Spurgeon is affiliated with the Washington Native Plant Society and enjoys gardening in Seattle cspurgeon@msn.com.