Articles in Category: Shrubs

Vitex agnus-castus

on Thursday, 01 September 2022. Posted in Good for Screening, Attracts Pollinators, Deer Resistant, Trees, Shrubs, Drought Tolerant, Flowering Plants

Chaste Tree

Vitex edThis drought tolerant Mediterranean native absolutely thrives here in the Rogue Valley! Vitex needs consistent heat in order to bloom profusely, and our long hot summers give them exactly what they like. From mid-summer into early fall, Vitex is covered with long spikes of flowers ranging in color from soft lavender to dark blue. The blooms slowly open from the base to the tips, eventually reaching up to 12 inches long and lasting at least 4 to 5 weeks; attracting bees and hummingbirds from far and wide.

VitexFlipSide editVitex’s fragrant leaves are very attractive in their own right. Their shape is similar to a lace leaf Japanese Maple; and are a lovely shade of soft blue-green. Most varieties are gray-green underneath, but Flip Side features a dark purple reverse – making them truly stunning in a breeze. As an extra bonus, the fragrance helps make this plant quite deer resistant.

One of the fun things about Vitex is that you can grow it into whatever form you like, multi-trunk or single trunk tree, or a large, broad shrub. The straight species, and varieties like Shoal Creek get about 10-15’ tall and wide. Varieties like Flip Side and Delta Blues are smaller – maybe 8-10’ tall and wide at maturity. Vitex bloom on new wood, so they take very well to a severe pruning, even all the way back to the ground if needed. We have also seen them be used successfully in large containers against hot walls and parking lots.

Vitex grow slower with drought conditions and grow fairly rapidly with regular water and richer soil, but will tolerate both conditions well. We have been very impressed with the cold hardiness and drought tolerance of these shrubs as well as their many uses. Vitex are one of the few choices for a small tree or large shrub that thrives in the heat and has lovely blooms late in the season!

Choisya arizonica x ternata 'Aztec Pearl'

on Tuesday, 24 May 2022. Posted in Good for Screening, Winter Interest, Fragrant Blooms, Attracts Pollinators, Evergreen, Deer Resistant, Shrubs, Drought Tolerant

'Aztec Pearl' Cutleaf Mexican Orange Blossom

Choisya Aztec Pearl

Here's a great choice for that elusive 4-5' tall evergreen shrub! Choisya ‘Aztec Pearl’ smells great, is deer and drought resistant, pollinator-friendly, insect and disease-resistant, and is also a good firewise shrub.

One of the tricks in creating a drought tolerant garden is to select plants that actually thrive in our summer-dry climate, and this plant definitely fits the bill. Choisya ‘Aztec Pearl’ is a hybrid between C. ternata - which is native to Mexico (hence its common name) and C. arizonica – which is native to Arizona.

Choisya Aztec Pearl sm'Aztec Pearl' grows well in exposures ranging from full sun to half a day of sun. It looks handsome all year and especially when it is covered with clusters of fragrant white flowers in the late spring that have a spicy, citrusy fragrance like orange blossoms. Its five-fingered leaves have a wonderful texture that contrast well with rounded leaf forms or purple foliage. Plants generally reach 5’ by 5’ here in the Rogue Valley, but it is easy to tip prune them to keep them around 4' tall and wide.

‘Choisya ‘Aztec Pearl’ is hardy to near 0 degrees, under the right conditions. The key is to place it where it gets at least some winter sun, and make sure that the soil is well-draining and doesn't get waterlogged over the winter months.

Ceanothus 'Emily Brown'

on Saturday, 07 May 2022. Posted in Attracts Pollinators, Native, Evergreen, Deer Resistant, Shrubs, Drought Tolerant

Ceanothus 'Emily Brown'

Ceanothus Emily Brown sm

Anyone who has visited Shooting Star's demonstration gardens in spring has likely been stopped in their tracks by one of our favorite native plants - 'Emily Brown' Ceanothus - in full bloom and literally humming and buzzing with pollinators.

One of the common names of Ceanothus is "California Lilac", and it's easy to see why. 'Emily Brown' is covered with deep, blue-violet flowers in early spring, which contrast beautifully with its dark green holly-shaped leaves. Plants are fast-growing, reaching 4' to 6' tall by up to 12' wide. They're also extremely drought-tolerant, and won't need any summer water when established.

This is a showy, sturdy evergreen shrub that is a perfect choice for that place in the yard that doesn't have any irrigation lines running to it. The toothy leaves ‘Emily Brown’ makes it more deer resistant than its smooth-leafed cousins. But it will still benefit being protected from deer when young. 

Mahonia species

on Monday, 04 April 2022. Posted in Winter Interest, Berries Attract Wildlife, Attracts Pollinators, Native, Evergreen, Shade Plants, Deer Resistant, Shrubs, Drought Tolerant, Flowering Plants

Oregon Grape

mahonia_compacta

Being a local native plant, Mahonias can take both our winter wet and summer dry, and can be very drought tolerant once established. Their thick leathery leaves and spiny edges also make them unpalatable to deer.

Most species of Oregon Grape are evergreen, but still turn a rainbow of colors in the fall and winter, giving them more interest than your average evergreen shrub. Spikes of cheerful, fragrant yellow flowers emerge early in spring and turn to blue-black fruit that are edible but more appealing to birds than humans. Most varieties spread via underground runners and make a nice colony, so best to give them room to shine and do their thing! 

The ones we use the most here in the Rogue Valley are:

Mahonia flowerMahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape) - This is the taller species of our native Oregon Grape, getting to 6' or more and spreading by underground runners. They look best as a mass planting in a native woodland situation and perform best in shade, but will take some sun. Can be pruned hard if getting too leggy and will quickly fill in. Mahonia aquifolium is resistant to oak root fungus - it's a great plant to grow under native oaks, as it also doesn't need much water. 

Mahonia aquifolium 'Compacta' (Compact Oregon Grape) - Pictured above left. This variety will stay about 2' tall  and makes a nice, broad colony. New foliage is glossy and becomes matte with age. This plant always looks good, staying full to the ground and cheering up the dark days of winter with its bronzy red winter color.

Mahonia repensMahonia repens (Creeping Mahonia) - This native has a spreading habit and will get about 2-3' tall. It tolerates more sun the the taller Oregon Grape, as well as growing well in part shade, and is very drought tolerant. Its leaves are usually more matte than the upright Mahonia but get the same yellow flowers and blue fruit. Great choice for mass groundcover or under oaks.

Mahonia nervosaMahonia nervosa (Longleaf Mahonia) - This Mahonia is a little more particular than the other native species; requiring more shade. But it's every bit as drought tolerant as M. aquifolium and M. repens.  The leaves are more stiffly upright and bit longer. Makes a nice low shrub or groundcover - around 2' tall - for a shady, woodland garden.

Sarcococca

on Monday, 28 February 2022. Posted in Winter Interest, Fragrant Blooms, Attracts Pollinators, Evergreen, Shade Plants, Ground Cover, Deer Resistant, Shrubs, Flowering Plants

Fragrant Sweetbox

Sarcococca ruscifolia

Dark and shady places - like the north walls of a home - can be extremely challenging sites to plant. Sarcococca, or Sweetbox, is an ideal shrub for low-light situations like this. Thriving in everything from part sun to deep shade, Sweetbox is an attractive, broad-leafed evergreen with glossy dark green leaves that provides a good backdrop for airier ferns and flowering shade perennials. 

There are a handful of different species ranging from upright shrubs to slowly spreading groundcovers. They all have simple leathery leaves and are for the most part deer resistant, making this genus a true problem solver in a myriad of ways. Not to mention they bloom in late winter when most plants haven't even broken dormancy! 

Even though their small fringy flowers are not what you would consider showy, they amply make up for it with a powerfully sweet, vanilla-like fragrance that is sure to get attention. Add in red to black berries that lend a festive quality later in the year, and you've got a great four-season plant!

In return, this understated plant merely asks for moderately fertile soil with decent drainage and regular water throughout the hotter months. That is not to say Sweetbox wouldn't prefer rich, humusy and acidic soil, but it is quite adaptable once established. 

 Here are some of our favorite types:

Sarcococca confusa gets 3-5' tall and wide at maturity, with a moderat growth rate; perfect for a low hedge or evergreen border in a shade bed! It is such an easy, reliable shrub to grow that it has received an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Sarcococca ruscifolia or Fragrant Sweetbox is the largest of the more common species reaching 3-6' high and wide with an arching habit and more rounded leaves. It is known to naturally espalier itself against a house and thus can be useful in tight spots and under windows. Its growth is slow to moderate and can easily be kept at 3’.

Sarcococca 'Fragrant Valley' is a compact yet vigorous selection growing to 18-24" tall and 3-4' wide. 

Sarcococca 'Fragrant Mountain' attains a slightly larger size at 2-3' tall and 3-4' wide, making it a great alternative to Skimmia japonica. 

Sarcococca humilis (Dwarf Sweet Box) is the smallest member of the group, reaching just 1-2' tall and 8-12" tall at maturity. It's an elegant little shrub though, with slender, tapered, glossy dark-green leaves.

All of these varieties are disease resistant and tolerant of drier soils and less than ideal conditions. Sarcococca species are great supporting cast members for the shady garden (…we can't all be stars...) - and a must have for lovers of fragrant plants!