This handsome low growing and compact Manzanita has great performance in our climate. Glossy mid-green foliage clothes a dense growing plant to 2′ x 4′. Admirable low ground cover as a massed subject but individual plants have glossy mahogany trunks that develop character with age. Masses of small light pink urn shaped flowers appear in late winter to early spring. Healthy looking at all times and not prone to black spot. Takes reflected heat well and even tolerates a light amount of shade. No water necessary once established, but it will take light water on slopes. Great small scale for small gardens. In time you can lift the plant up by pruning to reveal the small trunks. Long lived. One of the finest smaller varieties. Central CA coast.
Plant Type: Shrub
Shrubs are the backbone of Pacific Northwest Gardens. We’re able to grow an incredible amount from all over the world. Evergreen to deciduous the choices are vast. We focus on mostly (but not all) low water species and many native western species. Shrubs are often much less thirsty than other plants and live for a long time if properly sited. They can sport amazing foliage or showy flowers. From Manzanita to Ceanothus and even Grevilleas nothing makes a garden look more western. Our choice of shrubs is from years of experience growing them in our own gardens.
The best treatment leads to success
Treat all shrubs well when you plant. Dig a large hole and apply ample mulch and water to establish well. Do not let the shrub dry out completely until you are sure it is established and make a point to mulch each shrub. This is particularly important if you are creating a hedge or massing shrubs. Treating them all consistently well is the difference between continuity and chaos.
Pruning shrubs 101
The most daunting thing about growing shrubs is pruning. I try to include information about pruning each individual plant – but there are several rules that I adhere to when I prune a shrub that I am unfamiliar with. First, if you do not know the shrub let it bloom. Take note if it blooms on established wood from the previous season or if it grows and then blooms- an indication that it blooms on new wood. If it blooms on wood from the previous season – or ‘old wood’ then you can prune it directly AFTER blooming is done. That way you have less chance of eliminating bloom for the coming season and if it blooms on new wood you are safe too. Plants that bloom on new wood can be pruned in early spring some examples are Lagerstromia, Abelia, Indigofera. Once you understand this it makes pruning MUCH less intimidating. Make sure that you have very sharp pruners and it hurts nothing to sterilize them first. 1 TBS bleach to a bucket of water and a quick dip. Pruning can introduce disease so this is prudent.
New compact plants preclude pruning
Over the eons and more so lately nursery people have been selecting shrubs for more compact habits as well as vibrant bloom. Take advantage of these slower and smaller growing tendencies in the garden. Choosing the right size plant saves work in the future and eliminates the need to prune at all.
Many shrubs will morph into trees over time
In time many shrubs can pose as small trees and this should always be figured into a design. It is far easier and more natural to let a shrub become arboreal than the tortured look and continual work of making it small. Some shrubs that go on to become trees in time are Osmanthus (many) Phillyrea, Camellias, Manzanita (many). Leptospermum. Many reach tree like proportions in a decade or so. They may have their lower limbs removed to reveal shady planting space beneath and to accentuate the view of the bark which can be quite showy. They may also be trained to single leader to produce compact appropriately sized trees for courtyards and smaller gardens for a more formal appearance.
Topiary- a precise art
Topiary is an art that we dabble in at Xera. More than just torturing plants it is a process that takes a bit of planning and plant choice. It introduces a little discipline to the gardener in the form of regular maintenance and the effects are worth the effort. For the best effects and adaptability we use the tried and true forms of myrtle. They’ve been the subject of topiary for eons and we know why. They take a lot of pruning with no harm. They live long lives in containers are drought adapted and we choose the cold hardiest cultivars. The flowers which are adorable are in perfect scale with the leaves, Topiaries can introduce small amounts of formality in a garden and we love the way this plays in larger wild landscapes.
Rely on our soils own fertility
Shrubs in our climate and soils for the most part do not need fertilizer. In fact, over time I’ve seen more ill effects of overfertilization than I have seen benefits. Most often the plant is not getting enough water and the solution is a layer of mulch and a more consistent irrigation program. Often very drought adapted shrubs will react to added water in a dramatic way- Ceanothus, Grevilleas, Leptospermums, Arctostaphylos are genus’ that respond to water in a big way- in fact they react as if having been fertilized with no improvement to the soil at all and they explode in growth. Therefore, we recommend no supplemental irrigation for these genera when established but if they are slow to take off don’t be afraid to water, Irrigation requirements are in each description as well.
Shrubs- furniture for the garden
We need to shift our definition of shrubs. For too long they’ve been the tortured class of plants. The recent trend of grasses mixes excellently with shrubs but not if they are pruned into submission. Take the time to pick the correct plant for the site and be realistic. Plants grow fast in Oregon.
Climate Adapted Plants for Gardeners in the PNW
Arctostaphylos hookeri ‘Wayside’
At the North Willamette Experimental Station in Wilsonville where OSU conducted a trial of scores of Arctostaphylos species and cultivars this special ground cover Manzanita has been consistently one of the best performers. Deep green pointed leaves are held perpendicular to the sun on cinnamon red stems. In time it forms glossy red bark that is very showy. Low and dense growing to 2′ tall and 6′ wide. Excellent bank cover or ground cover in any soil that is not amended or boggy. Profuse white flowers in spring. First rate weed suppressing plant for hellstrips, rock gardens, dry borders. Excellent appearance year round. No summer water. Take advantage of its low dense growth to cover and suppress weeds. Wonderful plant for baking hot locations. Very easy to grow.
Arctostaphylos manzanita ‘Dr. Hurd’
An old and venerable cultivar of this species. This small tree achieves 12′-15′ with great age forming a showy and jaw dropping evergreen. Pale sea foam green/ grayish foliage is large and very circular giving this tree a billowing appearance. In winter white tinted pink flowers erupt from all the branch tips. These morph into large russet berries consumed by birds. The mahogany twisting, muscular bark is the most outstanding feature. Fast growing in youth (2′-5′) per year when excited. Give this dry loving shrub EXCELLENT air circulation in an open exposure. It can be afflicted by black spot in wetter than normal springs. ‘Austin Griffiths’ which is 1/2 this cultivar is more resistant to black spot. In time you can remove the lower shaded branches to show the trunk and improve air circulation as well as general good looks. Tall and often half as wide. Locate in a hot sunny place and water to establish then set it free. Very striking tree that is best planted as a smaller plant. Large specimens will NOT live as long and will be more difficult to establish.
Arctostaphylos manzanita ‘St. Helena’
A tree type manzanita that has been a stellar performer in our gardens. Rapid growth to 10′ x 10′ in 8 years. Broad, rounded sage gray-green foliage is held perpendicular to the cinnamon red stems to avoid moisture loss (no flat leaves baking in the sun). In winter to early spring, clusters of white flowers are effective and visited heavily by pollinators. Russet red berries follow but do not last long because of animal predation. Open habit with time that exposes the muscular, smooth mahogany trunks. (Its thought the bark exfoliates to deter moss and lichen growth). This is a very hardy drought adapted west coast native shrub to small tree for average, well drained soils and NO summer irrigation. Full sun and room to spread. Avoid rich, amended soils- leaner conditions produce a much hardier and longer-lived plant. Very similar in scale to ‘Austin Griffiths’ but leaves are grayer and flowers are distinctly white. Great garden performance. Good air circulation.
Arctostaphylos nummularia ‘Select Form’
Stunning glossy perfectly round leaves line wiry stems on this dense, mounding, very happy low-growing Manzanita. New growth is tinted red and settles to bright green. To 2′ tall and 4′ wide creating a dense weed-suppressing dome of foliage. White flowers in spring. Very garden tolerant for full sun to very light shade. Moderately fast growing. Excellent candidate for hellstrips, hillsides, etc. Great performance at the Oregon Coast. Little to no summer water once established. Very very good looking plant. It thrives in perfect conditions- neglect and sun and is much more fussy in shade. Cold hardy to 5ºF. Nummularia= coin shaped, referring to the leaves Takes a little bit of shade- especially if there is a very high tree canopy. Adapted to coastal conditions including sandy soils. The glossy leaves and dense nature of this shrub make it hard to capture in photographs.
Arctostaphylos pajaroensis ‘Lester Rowntree’
Virtually the same as ‘Warren Roberts’ it is completely interchangeable with that cultivar. Why do we grow ‘Lester’? Aside from having amazing blue foliage and clusters of deep pink flowers from January to March we LOVE Lester Rowntree. She was an amazing, intrepid self-taught botanist who roamed California in the 1930’s in her simple pickup truck camping and botanizing throughout that state. Her incredible book ‘Hardy Californians’ is a must read for any gardener on the west coast. And its not just about plants- Check it out. This shrub is large in time to about 4′ tall by 8′ wide. The pink flowers born on the blue foliage is a sublime combination. Following bloom new spring growth is a fantastic red/ orange before settling to blue. Bark is a smooth mahogany with time and the trunks are sinuous and winding. This is an excellent shrub in our climate. Once established it requires absolutely no supplemental water- ever. Sailing through temps in the 100’s and bone dry with NO visible signs of stress. Our kind of shrub. It is cold hardy and completely climate adapted. Hell strips, dry borders, informal shrubberies. Mix with Ceanothus, Grevilleas, Halimiums. Very pretty year round.
Arctostaphylos pajaroensis ‘Myrtle Wolf’
Always at the top of the list of Arcto Afficianados this is not often seen in gardens. An excellent winter blooming Manzanita that has been a fantastic performer in the PNW. Upright growing shrub with blue foliage- new growth is briefly tinted red. In January to March copious bright pink clusters of urn shaped flowers appear. Anna’s hummingbirds are not far behind. To 5′ x 5′ in 6 years in full sun and average, well drained soil. No summer water when established. Excellent winter blooming shrub that is always good looking. This is a reliable cultivar for spectacular floral shows. Place close to an exit or entrance where you can stare into the pendulous pink flowers and the winding branch structure. Supply good air circulation. Photos by Chris Hembree
Arctostaphylos pajaroensis ‘Warren Roberts’
Big beautiful Manzanita that has thrived at our very cold wholesale nursery for almost 20 years and has never been harmed by weather. To 4′ tall and up to 8′ wide the new growth emerges a fiery orange red before settling down to a nice gray/blue. In late winter pink tinted urn shaped flowers decorate the whole shrub. The combination of the blue foliage and strongly pink flowers is magical in winter. Well drained average to poor soil in full sun is ideal but it can get by with less than ideal conditions. Water to establish the first summer then none in subsequent years. This is a great landscape shrub that retains its good looks year round. Very adaptable to garden situations where water is curtailed. Long season of bloom in February to April. Blushed small apple shaped fruits are stripped quickly by wildlife. Foundations, hillsides, sterile road cuts. Adaptable and very pretty shrub.
Arctostaphylos pumila ‘Grey Leaf Form’
Surprisingly happy in our climate in its native Monterey Bay area of California its known colloquially as Dune manzanita. Very gray blue leaves are not huge and hug the stems tightly on a compact moderately growing Manzanita. To 5′ tall and wider over time. In mid winter to early spring white flowers tinted pink appear in clusters at the tips of the plant. The trunk becomes deep mahogany brown over time and contrasts greatly with the light colored foliage. All around fantastic shrub for full sun and average, unimproved soils with little irrigation once established. Not as fast growing as other Manzanitas, usually less than 5″ per year.Very pretty plant that mixes wonderfully in droughty shrub borders, and even as a foundation shrub. Makes a nice life in a containers for years. Long lived. Probably harbors some deer resistance. Extraordinarily drought adapted. Native to a restricted range on the central California coast. Great performance on the Oregon coast.
Arctostaphylos pumila ‘Small Leaf Form’
Immensely handsome dense rounded Manzanita that has smaller than average silver foliage and fantastic bark. Moderately fast growing shrub to 4′ tall x 5′ wide in 8 years. In late winter each branch tip is bedecked in clusters of small white flowers- they are born in profusion and expand from pink buds. Russet colored berries often follow and are consumed by wildlife. The black/mahogany glossy bark is beyond striking with the silver foliage. It splits, rolls up into ribbons, and exfoliates in late summer. In time it may be pruned to reveal trunks–for most of its youth they are hidden by dense almost formal looking foliage. Adaptable to many soils including clay soils- especially on slopes. Excellent long term landscape plant that looks great year round. Very good cold hardiness enduring 0ºF with no problem. Dig a hole 3x as big as the rootball in the pot to loosen the soil and allow the new roots to penetrate virgin soil. Water regularly through the first summer- then little to none in subsequent years. Combine with green leaved Arctos for great foliage contrast. Perfect on slopes, areas with intense reflected heat such as parking lot planter islands. Great urban shrub. Appreciates good air circulation.
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