Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Friday, May 9, 2014

My favorite plant in the garden this week: Berberis x stenophila 'Corallina Compacta'

Such a big name for such a small shrub. Berberis x stenophylla 'Corallina Compacta' is my favorite plant in the garden this week. Compact coral barberry is a hybrid between Berberis darwinii and Berberis empetrifolius.

This small shrub has a wonderfully quirky growth habit, somewhat wild and random, but still architecturally pleasing. This one is growing off of the back patio.

The flower buds start out red, immediately following the reddish new growth (seen on the lower branch) and extending the bronze/rose flush that precedes the orange to dark yellow flowers.

Please excuse the exposed landscape fabric. I haven't gotten around to cutting it out yet. That contractor does love his landscape fabric and black plastic. But this photo does display how well this barberry pairs with stone.

Each plant has it's own unique shape.

As the buds expand, they lighten from red, through orange, to a dark yellow-orange with darker sepals.

The tiny leaves, about half an inch long and an eighth of an inch wide, are dwarfed by the open flowers.


 The stats on Berberis x stenophylla 'Corallina Compacta'

  • Sources vary on size. Most say 6"-1'. Some say 2-3.5' tall and 4' wide. Given that most shrubs keep growing as long as they live, it may eventually reach the larger size, but only after a few decades.
  • Hardy in USDA zones (5)6-9(10). Again, varying information depending on the source.
  • Small, narrow, evergreen leaves with bronze to pinkish-red new growth.
  • Relatively large, dark yellow-orange flowers from red buds.
  • Sharp thorns and prickly foliage make this dwarf shrub practically deer-proof
  • drought and clay-tolerant. 
  • A great plant for smaller spaces and rock gardens.


The name may be bigger than the plant, but this little shrub is packed with character. It's a good thing that I like that character, because this soft-looking plant is surprisingly spiky. Prune with caution.

I wonder if this deceptively dangerous plant will catch the eye of our host for the My Favorite Plant meme, Loree of Danger Garden. For her favorite plant this week, as well as other bloggers' favorites, click here.

12 comments:

  1. Oh, what stunning flowers! I love those colors.

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  2. This is a beauty! I have a few Berberis darwinii that the hummingbirds and I love but these are even nicer than their parent!

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    1. It's an adorable little hybrid. I love the evergreen barberries and want to get some of the larger ones to use as screens along the road.

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  3. I love this plant: just the mention of "compact" and "orange flowers" and I'm in. Except for the thorns of course, which keep me on the side line. Your comments may persuade me to reconsider: there is one small sunny spot on the driveway...

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  4. Seriously, I've been loving this one for quite awhile. The spikes, the orange flowers, what's not to love? It's one of those plants I would definitely be finding a place for in my garden except for the fact there is beautiful one growing a block away. I can kind of treat that one like it's mine, and that's a good thing...

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    1. Growing plants vicariously through your neighbors. Now that's expanding your garden space!

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  5. Hey Evan, there's a Kelso/Longview plant swap coming up on May 17. If you're interested, contact me via email and I'll send you directions. plantobssession@gmail.com

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    1. Thanks, Peter! I sent you a message.

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  6. Wow! What's not to love? This one would make a wonderful addition to my own garden. I haven't ever seen it offered locally but there are 2 mail order sources listed on Plant Lust. Thanks Evan!

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    1. Always happy to enable fellow plant hoarders, Kris. ;)

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