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Moosa Creek Blog

The Manzanita in Your Life

Creekside Chat

 Manzanitas, Arctostaphylos spp., should be featured in everyone’s garden. Their small bell-shaped white or pink flowers heavily adorn the plant in the winter, and offer a food source to hummingbirds and native insects when few other plants are blooming. The leaves are evergreen, rounded and lightly grey. Their roots fix nitrogen in the soil, so they benefit the plants around them. Nothing can beat the beautiful reddish bark that turns these specimens into showpieces.

There are manzanitas for every garden. Some are sprawling plants that act as lovely groundcovers and slope stabilizers. Carmel Sur is one that can tolerate heavier soil but appreciates some afternoon shade inland. Another is Emerald Carpet, which tolerates more water so is good to plant near non-native landscaping. Bert Johnson makes a thick 1’ mat that roots along its stems, holding soil in place and protecting the ground from the ravages of sun and hard rain.

Baby Bear is a moderate sized shrub which makes a good screen or hedge in the landscape. It has dark pink flowers and almost purplish bark.  Austin Griffiths is a tall shrub with twisted mahogany limbs.  Bigberry is true to its name in that it produces a small fruit (drupe) which can be made into jelly. Howard McMinn is very easy to grow and would be the last Manzanita in your collection to bloom in early spring.

One of the most stunning elements in a native or drought-tolerant landscape is a mature Manzanita tree such as Dr. Hurd taking center space. The dark red smooth limbs make a living sculpture, while the tree itself is excellent for wildlife even when not in bloom.

There are many Manzanitas you can grow; use Moosa Creek’s search engine to see the many varieties on offer. What manzanitas on the whole don’t like is drip irrigation (constant moisture on the roots), fertilizer, or summer water after being established. Hosing the leaves off during the cool part of the day simulates a summer rain shower, and that is enough for them. Overall they are tough, beautiful and environmentally important plants for any landscape. 

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