Woody shrubs add year-round curiosity, fullness, and top to the panorama, defining borders or offering shade and privateness. These sizable choices usually bridge the hole between taller bushes and shorter annuals, grasses, and perennials. Many additionally present shelter, nectar, and berries for quite a lot of pollinators, birds, and different wildlife. In the event you’re on the hunt for the proper shrub or two so as to add to your NorCal panorama, California native shrubs needs to be on the very high of your procuring checklist. Not solely are they totally tailored to our summer-dry local weather (and due to this fact are drought tolerant), however they’re additionally simple to take care of, pest resistant, and unfussy. And since they’ve advanced proper alongside California native wildlife, they’re completely outfitted to offer the meals and shelter important to the well being of our native butterflies, bees, mammals, and birds.
Late September by mid-November is the proper time so as to add any type of California native plant to your panorama, and native shrubs aren’t any exception. The day size is shorter, the air temperatures are cooler, and but the soil remains to be heat—all of which inspires newly planted native shrubs to forgo foliage and flower manufacturing in favor of pushing down deep roots and rising a strong root system, which is important for the long-term well being of any plant. And if fall and winter rains (fingers crossed) return, it will helps to water in your shrubs which have bigger, thirstier root balls. Add all these elements collectively and also you’ve acquired your self the proper formulation to advertise a superb burst of wholesome, new development as quickly as spring arrives! The next are my high picks for engaging, intriguing, no-fuss, drought-tolerant native shrubs.
‘Darkish Star’ California lilac
(Ceanothus ‘Darkish Star’, Zones 8–10)
Rising 6 ft tall and spreading shortly to eight to 10 ft vast, this spectacular sun-loving California native is hard, evergreen, simple to take care of, and drought tolerant. It truly resents common water. Small, crinkled, deep-green oval leaves cowl the stiff, barely arching mahogany-colored twigs and branches, and sprays of gorgeous, aromatic, darkish cobalt blue blooms cowl it in late spring. Present well-drained soil, water sparingly if in any respect, and prune flippantly to form or tidy it up.
‘Fort Bragg’ manzanita
(Arctostaphylos nummularia ‘Fort Bragg’, Zones 7–10)
This Mendocino County native is dense, compact, and evergreen, with small, spherical, shiny, deep inexperienced leaves clothes raspberry-colored stems. The brand new spring foliage is purple, maturing to wealthy, deep inexperienced by summer season. Attractive clusters of pink-blushed, bell-like blooms (beloved by pollinators) emerge in spring and are adopted by late-summer berries that feed birds and different wildlife. This pest-proof, drought-tolerant shrub reaches 3 to 4 ft tall and vast, and although it fortunately tolerates full solar in coastal areas, it prefers afternoon shade in hotter areas.
‘Ken Taylor’ flannel bush
(Fremontodendron ‘Ken Taylor’, Zones 7–10)
Daintier than most flannel bushes, ‘Ken Taylor’ reaches simply 4 to five ft tall and 6 to eight ft vast. But it surely’s simply as beautiful, with huge, showy, golden-yellow, cup-shaped blooms gracing its arching branches from midspring to the top of summer season. Effectively-drained soil is important for this extraordinarily drought-tolerant solar lover. In reality, it performs greatest with zero supplemental water, making it a superb alternative for uncared for, hard-to-water areas.
(Ribes speciosum, Zones 7–10)
It is a extremely engaging, semi-evergreen shrub with arching, spreading, thorny branches and rounded, shiny, aromatic, dark-green leaves. Late winter and early spring heralds the bloom present of dangling, shiny purple, fuchsia-like flowers, a lot to the delight of nectar-seeking hummingbirds; edible berries comply with later. Low-maintenance and drought tolerant, this 4-to-6-foot-tall-and-wide shrub is a perfect candidate for dry shade, however it’s going to carry out fairly nicely in sunnier places if watered extra constantly. Prune it to tidy up if wanted. And well-drained soil is important.
‘Snow Angel’ monkey flower
(Mimulus bifidus ‘Snow Angel’, Zones 9–10)
Snowy, azalea-like flowers with cream-colored throats pop in opposition to the darkish inexperienced shiny foliage of this lush, bushy, evergreen shrub. It blooms nearly all yr lengthy, with the flower present peaking in spring and summer season. This drought-tolerant magnificence makes a superb addition to any habitat backyard, attracting bees of all types in addition to butterflies and hummingbirds. Simple to develop and ignored by pests, ‘Snow Angel’ reaches 2 to three ft tall and vast in full solar or partial shade and has minimal irrigation wants. Prune it again by half in late winter to encourage branching and considerable blooms.
For extra on Northern California native crops, go right here.
—Fionuala Campion is the proprietor and supervisor of Cottage Gardens of Petaluma in Petaluma, California.
Photographs: Fionuala Campion