Articles in Category: Shrubs

Heaths and Heathers

on Thursday, 21 November 2019. Posted in Winter Interest, Evergreen, Fall Color, Shade Plants, Deer Resistant, Shrubs

Heaths and Heathers

EricaHeaths and Heathers are two closely-related evergreen shrubs that are great additions to the shade or partial shade garden. 

Heaths (Erica sp., see photo to the left) have needle-like leaves and bloom during the winter, a welcome sight during those cold, gray months! Plants are low growing - generally from 6" to 15" tall by 2' wide - and have flowers in shades of white, pink, and purple. Heaths can tolerate full sun, but are also happy in partial sun. 

CallunaHeathers (Calluna sp., see photo to the right), on the other hand, have scale-like leaves and bloom from summer through the fall. They get a bit larger than Heaths; generally growing from 1' to 2' tall by up to 3' wide. Flowers are also various shades of white, pink, and purple. Heathers do best in part-sun, and can be a little fussy about watering (they don't like being over-watered or under-watered).

Both Heaths and Heathers prefer well-drained soils, and are relatively deer-resistant and undemanding. As an extra bonus, many varieties of Heath and Heather have foliage that colors up nicely in fall weather, in shades ranging from copper to orange to red. If you plant a mixture of the two, you'll end up with something in bloom for most of the year - along with some great fall color!

Baccharis 'Twin Peaks'

on Thursday, 14 November 2019. Posted in Attracts Pollinators, Native, Deer Resistant, Shrubs, Drought Tolerant

'Twin Peaks' Coyote Brush

Baccharis flower'Twin Peaks' is one plant that really took me by surprise in the Shooting Star display gardens. 

Coyote Brush is widely known as a sturdy, fast growing, drought tolerant, evergreen native plant. The straight species (Baccharis pilularis) tends to be a little rangy and weedy-looking, but the 'Twin Peaks' cultivar forms a dense, mounding shrub - generally reaching around 2' tall by 6' wide. These plants thrive in the hot sun and in a variety of soils; including clay soil if they are planted on a slope. In fact, they're frequently used to help stabilize slopes and banked areas. As an extra bonus, deer tend to avoid them. 'Twin Peaks' is attractive enough to use up close to your house as an evergreen shrub, but is also a great choice for planting in extremely sunny areas, areas with poor soil, and out away from regular irrigation.

Baccharis Twin Peaks smThe thing that surprised me about 'Twin Peaks'? While the flowers (shown above) are fairly modest and unassuming, these plants are one of the best pollinator plants we grow here at Shooting Star - and we grow a lot of pollinator-friendly plants! On a recent late fall afternoon, the 'Twin Peaks' in our display garden was not only covered in flowers, but hosted the most diverse assortment of pollinators I've seen on a single plant: honeybees, bumblebees, tiny solitary bees, skippers, butterflies - even a big bee fly! 

While 'Twin Peaks' is a truly low-maintenence plant, a light annual pruning in early spring will help keep the plants looking full and dense. 

Ceanothus 'Emily Brown'

on Tuesday, 08 October 2019. Posted in Attracts Pollinators, Native, Evergreen, Deer Resistant, Shrubs, Drought Tolerant, Flowering Plants

Ceanothus 'Emily Brown'

Ribes odoratum 'Crandall'

on Wednesday, 27 February 2019. Posted in Berries Attract Wildlife, Fragrant Blooms, Attracts Pollinators, Fall Color, Shade Plants, Edible, Shrubs, Drought Tolerant, Flowering Plants

'Crandall' Blackcurrant

CrandallHere is a stellar plant that is beautiful, fragrant, and delicious - as well as being good for the birds! 

'Crandall' Blackcurrant is woefully under-utilized, perhaps people haven't eaten a currant before or not visited the nursery when they are in bloom. But come visit in April and you will see a drift of them planted in part shade in our drought tolerant display garden; handily close enough to the rock pile for little hands to pick the fruit when they ripen in summer and beckoning you for a closer look with their clove scented, yellow blooms.

Appealing to hummingbirds and butterflies, the flowers develop into black, round fruit that are tart/sweet with a more mild currant flavor and especially high in Vitamin C. My daughter loves to pick them fresh but they can be made into preserves or baked goods or dried. The cool weather and shorter days of fall bring out gorgeous red foliage color, too.

Most currants would appreciate a spot out of extreme heat but will tolerate full sun with good water. Part shade or morning sun is ideal. They will get 4-5' tall and wide, and bear fruit on second-year growth. Currants can be drought tolerant once established and do best in a well-draining but compost-rich soil. They can be a great addition to a mixed use garden - full of edible and ornamental power!

Arbutus unedo 'Compacta'

on Wednesday, 15 November 2017. Posted in Good for Screening, Winter Interest, Berries Attract Wildlife, Showy Bark/Stems, Attracts Pollinators, Evergreen, Shrubs, Drought Tolerant, Flowering Plants

Compact Strawberry Tree

arbutus-unedo-plant-of-the-

Compact Strawberry tree is one of our favorites for so many reason: it can tolerate sun or shade, is drought tolerant, provides fall flowers for the hummingbirds, has long lasting, spectacularly colored fruit, and it's evergreen!

You can easily see how this relative of our native Madrone gets its common name of Strawberry Tree. The orange and red fruits resemble strawberries, and although the fruit is technically edible, they are more for suited wildlife as they are bland  and mealy in texture. The honey scented, white, urn-shaped flowers can appear from fall into early spring and the fruits often come on at the same time or not long after.

Arbutus medSome years seem to have heavier fruit set than others, but the fruits are so decorative and long lasting that they don't qualify as messy. With leathery, dark green, oblong leaves, reddish new stems and shaggy auburn bark it is handsome all year. Compact Strawberry Tree is not the most fast growing evergreen shrub, but it will grow steadily to 5-7' tall and wide (eventually larger). With annual pruning it can be kept tighter and smaller. This is one of those rare plants that is happy in sun or part shade making it a great choice for a hedge with varied conditons. It is also tolerant of various climates and soils.

We have some planted on the north side of our house that have done wonderfully with no supplemental water after their first year and even survived the 7 degree winter with no damage! In extreme cold they will show some damage; so best to plant where they are not completely exposed to cold winds. The winter of 2013, where we got to zero degrees for several nights, proved fatal to some Arbutus and some rebounded after suffering damage on top.

We wish they were deer resistant but unfortunately the tips get chewed too much to be reliable.  Arbutus unedo 'Compacta' is great in foundation plantings  or hedges. You will be hardpressed to find an evergreen shrub with more year round interest - plus the hummingbirds will thank you for providing a much-needed winter nectar source!