Articles in Category: Winter Interest

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.

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!

Hamamelis x intermedia

on Sunday, 30 January 2022. Posted in Winter Interest, Fragrant Blooms, Attracts Pollinators, Fall Color, Shrubs, Flowering Plants

Witch Hazel

witch_hazel

Witch Hazels (Hamamelis) provide delight in the garden year-round. Not only do they brighten these late winter days with their bright, fragrant spidery blooms decorating their bare branches; they turn around and repeat the show all over again in the fall with spectacular leaf color. 

Hamamelis Arnolds PromiseMost Witch Hazels have a nice open form that provide sculptural interest even when these shrubs shed their leaves in winter.

Their vase-shaped growth habit also provides a nice opportunity to use other plants at their base – think Hellebores, Heucheras, or early spring-flowering bulbs. Flowers appear in early February and continue through March, with thick, pleated-looking leaves emerging once flowering is finished. 

Hamamelis JelenaAn exposure with morning sun is best for Witch Hazels. They also look wonderful in a wooded shade garden - just make sure they get some bright light for the best flower production and fall color. 

Witch Hazels aren’t the best choice for a hot spot in your yard, even though you will read that they will tolerate full sun (and you will see them looking spectacular in downtown Ashland in full sun). However, you’ll find that they are prone to leaf burn in the hot summer sun, and you’ll need to mulch them heavily and water more often if you choose to plant them in a hot exposure. Hamamelis

Overall, Witch Hazels are easy, low-maintenance shrubs. They do best with regular watering - including deep soaks throughout the summer months - and prefer a fertile, humus-rich soil. They’re also tolerant of clay soils as long as they are well drained.

Witch Hazels are slow to moderate growers that generally only need pruning to control their size and shape. As with most spring flowering shrubs, they prefer to be pruned in late spring once they have finished blooming. Avoid fall or winter pruning, or you’ll end up cutting off the next seasons flower buds!

Fun Plant Trivia: Witch Hazels are closely related to one of our favorite small shade trees: Parrotia persica (Persian Ironwood). Both plants tend to have outstanding fall color.

Here are some of the varieties we generally carry (check our current retail availability for details):

'Amethyst' - Rounded shrub, 8' to 10' tall. with reddish-purple flowers

'Arnold's Promise'- Vase shaped with fragrant yellow flowers and yellow fall color. 12-15' tall and wide.

'Diane'- Rounded form with red, mildly fragrant flowers and orange-red fall color. 8-12’ tall by 12-15’ wide.

'Jelena'- vase shaped vigorous grower with very fragrant large copper-orange flowers and orange-yellow fall color. 8-12' tall and wide.

'Sunburst'- upright, with lemon yellow blooms up to 1 inch long, early bloomer and yellow-orange fall color. 9-12' tall by 6-8' wide.

Arbutus unedo 'Compacta'

on Tuesday, 14 December 2021. 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 reasons: it can tolerate sun or shade, is drought tolerant, provides fall flowers for the hummingbirds, has long lasting, spectacularly colored fruit and wonderfully shaggy bark - and it's also evergreen!

You can easily see how this relative of our native Madrone and Manzanitas 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 (Fun fact: the species name unedo is a combination of the Latin words unum meaning "one" and edo meaning "eat" resulting in "I eat only one", in reference to the technically edible, but distinctly untasty fruit!).

Arbutus medThe honey scented, pinkish-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. As with many other fruiting shrubs, some 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 fastest 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 conditions. It is also tolerant of various climates and soils.

Arbutus2 treeLooking for something a bit taller, but with all the same great attributes as the Compact Strawberry Tree? The full-sized species - Arbutus unedo - gets about 10-15’ tall and wide at maturity. In its native habitat (Britain and the Mediterranean), Arbutus unedo usually grows as a multitrunked plant, but we also carry single-trunked specimens which make a really lovely small tree.

Arbutus flower and fruitWe 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.

Arbutus unedo 'Compacta' is great in foundation plantings or hedges. You will be hard-pressed to find an evergreen shrub with more year-round interest - plus the hummingbirds will thank you for providing a much-needed winter nectar source!