Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Wasting Away in Manzanita-ville

Once a week watering and early June heat and dryness have not been kind to my new Japanese maple. I really was counting on our spring rains to keep it watered and to help it settle in. But our spring rains shut themselves off early this year, and it has more or less burned to a crisp. I'm going to dig it up and pot it in an attempt to save it, but I don't have high hopes of success with that. We'll see.

Poor pathetic baby gasping for a drink and a little shade

In the meantime I'm going to replace it with an Arctostaphylos (Manzanita) from Xera Plants, which I bought this past weekend from the nursery Garden Fever, during the first Annual Garden Bloggers Bazaar in Portland (a really fun event where I sold a bunch of plants -- and bought one -- and got a sunburn).

Manzanita is the common name of plants in the genus Arctostaphylos. The name is Spanish and means "little apple." They are evergreen shrubs or small trees native to western North America, from British Columbia to Mexico. I tend to associate them with California, having read about them in descriptions in some of the novels I've read that are set there (along with Jacaranda). One of the PNW's most common natives, kinnikinnick or bearberry, is an Arctostaphylos (A. uva-ursi). They have wonderful twisty limbs and peely mahogany bark.

Arctostaphylos 'Sunset"

The word is they prefer summer dryness. I planted two in that bed last year when I first started planting it up. Although I watered the bed quite a bit more last year, they didn't seem to mind. This year in an effort not to bankrupt us, I've been trying to water quite a bit less, a policy that has led to the (near) demise of the maple.

Here's what the Xera tag says about 'Sunset:'  "Beautiful and easy to grow 'Sunset' is a fantastic hybrid manzanita. New leaves emerge orange/red and then change to a stylish olive green. The edges of the leaves are crusted in white. Twisting mahogany bark peels in shreds. To 4' tall and up to 6' wide in 5 years. Tip prune in summer to shape. Small white flowers in late winter followed by berries. Full sun to light shade. Little water when established. Good drainage, ideal for hillsides."

You can read even more about this particular variety here at the website Plant Lust.

Last year that bed got almost daily summer watering, which the two manzanitas I planted there didn't seem to mind a bit. But I hope weekly water this summer will be enough to establish this little one.

Another Manzanita (Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Howard McMinn') in that bed is thriving, surrounded on all sides by flowers (can you even see it there in the center of the photo?)

Lovely peeling bark

And a third manzanita in that bed (Arctostaphylos 'St. Helena')

A pink California poppy self-sowed itself at her base and is flowering up through the foliage

If you're curious, you can see what those two Manzanitas looked like just a little over a year ago when first planted in that bed. Check out this post.


  1. Hopefully you'll have more success with the Manzanita replacement, I have a feeling you will :) summers here are not warm enough apparently and winters too wet for it to thrive here.

  2. Perfect title! Your Manzanita will be much happier in that space. Given a little shade and water, your maple will probably make a comeback. Plants are pretty resilient!

  3. So sorry about the maple, but excellent choice for a replacement! I don't water my Manzanita at all in the summer, and they're happy as can be. Of course they might be getting a little moisture when I water the surrounding plants - but even they are on a mostly water free regime.

  4. Happy choice, Alison! A manzanita will be wonderful there, as long as they don't get any summer water (after it's established of course). As Sean Hogan says, NO summer water. None. I learned that lesson the hard way but you're smarter than me, Alison :) Sorry you got sunburned.... :(

  5. Your poor maple! I hope you can save it. Manzanitas are wonderful plants. It's surprising that they're not found featured more in garden centers here given their low summer water needs. They have a reputation as serving as "fire ladders" here but that risk has been repudiated. A friend of mine has 2 beautiful plants in her front garden, which are gorgeous in bloom, and she's the stingiest irrigator I've ever met.

  6. The Manzanita looks the perfect substitute for the maple. They're so pretty I need to look it up. Drought tolerant is a good idea even though we've had a lot of rain.

  7. Your manzanitas are gorgeous. I found some at Xera that are a little hardier I want to plant in the far back of my property where it is too hard to drag hoses, and hope they will be carefree there. I'm also attracted to them for the edible berries, but I don't know if the birds and animals will leave them alone.

  8. hope your maple can make a come back!

  9. I'm sure your little maple will revive once in a pot and watered back to health. Your Manzanita sounds a wonderful tree, I've not heard of it over here, I will have to look it up.

  10. Sorry about your maple, but excellent replacement choice! I bet your maple will recover with some careful tending.


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