Skimmia japonica is a lovely broadleaf evergreen shrub — except when your dog goes the bathroom on it. Then it turns into this, a yellowed sad skeleton. It used to be stately and lush, a perfect plant for deep shade, but that all changed.
A Pretty Green Scheme
I planted this skimmia in an effort to contrast with the variegated dogwood growing behind it. For years it worked perfectly. The deep green leaves of the broadleaf evergreen mounded horizontally against the upward vase shape of the light-colored dogwood. But then last winter, my dog made it his pee post and by this spring, it had perished.
Gardening with dogs can be frustrating. I’ve had to protect my beds with ticky tack fencing. But when I want to weed or even step into the garden, I have to wrestle with the lightweight fencing, which often flops over and is hard for one person to set upright in the ground. And so I left the skimmia unprotected. He didn’t bother with it for years and I had assumed he never would. But I was wrong.
This isn’t the first plant I’ve lost to dog urine. I’ve lost a beautiful purple-leafed loropetalum, an expensive and unique kalmia, a huge-leafed rhododendron (sinogrande). And those are only the highlights. There’s also arbutus, magnolia, lavender. Even my young loquat suffered. It can be depressing.
Anyway, the above picture, courtesy of the Oregon State University Plant Database, shows what a healthy skimmia looks like. They grow from about four feet wide to four feet tall and are hardy to zone 6. They keep their dark leaves all year round and the flowers are fragrant. The berries are poisonous but carmine red and lovely. This is a great choice if you have deep shade and don’t know what to plant. Just don’t let the dogs near it!