Using Native Shrubs in the Landscape

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Holland flower bulbs are now available for fall planting. These lovely gems will bloom for you next spring.
    • Protect the pond from the worst of the leaf fall with a fine-mesh net over the surface of the pond.
    • Fragrant Paperwhite narcissus will bloom indoors by Thanksgiving if planted now in rocks and water.
    • Pansies, snapdragons, stock, calendulas and primroses can be planted now to replace summer annuals.
    • Garlic should be planted now for an easy crop that you can harvest next spring. Choose from Early White, Late Pink, Spanish Roja or Elephant Garlic.

Using Native Shrubs in the Landscape

Our climate here in Willits consists of cold, wet winters and hot dry summers. As every gardener knows, this is a very challenging place to garden. However, there are a number of plants that are native to California and accustomed to this extreme climate that will grow here with minimal care.

One of the best known natives is Manzanita, or Arctostaphylos. This plant comes in many different forms from large shrubs down to low-growing ground covers. The ground cover plants are fast-growing and make a rich green mat, 6 to 12 feet across. Their pretty pink bell-shaped flowers hang from the ends of the branches in spring.The low-growing ‘Emerald Carpet’ is a particularly fine plant with a dense, spreading habit and pleasing flowers in the spring.

Bush Anemone, or Carpenteria, is a large, evergreen shrub with attractive leaves and showy, fragrant white flowers up to 3 inches across in early summer. They can be used as a specimen or in groupings, and will grow well under native trees.

Ceanothus, or California Wild Lilac, is well-known for its display of rich blue flowers each spring. (Actually the variety that is native to this area has white flowers.) With its dark green foliage, varieties such as ‘Dark Star’ grow 5 to 6 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide. Ceanothus ‘Concha’ makes a handsome 4-ft. round shrub with bright, cobalt-blue flowers. ‘Yankee Point’ is lower growing to 2 feet high and 10 feet wide. It covers the ground quickly. Plant them where they have room to grow.

Heteromeles is known as Toyon or Christmas Berry. This large shrub can grow 6 to 10 feet tall and as wide. It makes a find background or screening plant and the berried branches can be used for winter decorations.

There are two kinds of Ribes that are useful landscape plants in partial shade. The Pink Flowering Currant is a deciduous shrub to 6 feet or taller. It has attractive pink flowers in 6-inch-long clusters in March. Hummingbirds love the flowers. It is drought tolerant but grows faster with some summer watering.

Evergreen Currant makes a fine, shrubby ground cover in dry, shady areas. It grows 2–3 ft. high and can spread to 8 feet wide with glossy, dark green leaves. It works very well under native oak trees.

White sage, Salvia apiana, is a 5-foot shrub with soft grey leaves. The flowers emerge in summer and are white with a little lavender. It is a fine shrub for hot, dry banks and needs no summer water once established. Use it to make your own smudge-sticks. It has many medicinal and sacred uses.

When planted in the fall, native shrubs will become established over the winter and be able to withstand considerable drought by next summer.