Oak. Evergreen or deciduous trees or shrubs. The size, form, color and leaves all vary. All oaks like warm summers and full sun. Do not water existing, native oaks. Tolerant of a wide variety of soil types, but many do best in deep loam with periodic deep watering during summer. Although considered slow growing, many of these oaks grow rapidly once established and when located in favorable conditions. Oaks quickly develop a tap root. The following are all native to California.
agrifolia: Coast live oak, California live oak. Most common and best-known of the Southern California oaks. A medium to large evergreen tree growing 25-60’ tall with a broad, dense dome-shaped crown 40-70’ wide. Its short trunk divides into several massive crooked branches with deep gray bark either smooth or broken into small plates on old trunks. Thick, dark dull-green leaves are curled and have prickly-toothed edges. Foliage appears to be evergreen, but falls when new leaves form in spring. May drop some leaves when stressed. Acorns are long, narrow and brown and appear in autumn. Live oak is resistant to heat, cold, drought, and is one of the fastest growing of the native oaks. Tolerant of shade, and does well in dry, loamy or gravelly soils. Growth tends to be stunted on exposed seashore sites. Collected in 1791 by the Malaspina Expedition. The tree under which Padre Junipero Serra said his first mass in California. Its wood was harvested and sold as fuel for early coastal steamers. Occasional to infrequent water once established. Hardy to 10F. California Coast Ranges, San Francisco Bay south to Baja.
lobata: Valley oak, California white oak. Patriarch of the western oaks; a large, graceful, deciduous tree with a rounded crown and often broader than tall, growing 50-70’ tall and wide. Features a short trunk and large arching limbs. Deep green, lobed leaves are shed in autumn. Acorns are mahogany or chestnut brown in color. Bark is dark brown or ashen gray and heavily fissured. White oak favors hot valleys away from fog and ocean influence. Will take considerable shade, but prefers full sun. Best in deep, rich soils of deltas and flood plains and will grow rapidly once its tap root reaches ground water. Adapted to long summer seasons of drought and heat as well as extreme moisture but is highly sensitive to construction and urban landscaping activities that have disturbed soil grades, microclimates and natural moisture conditions around established specimens. Long, drooping outer branches sometimes sweep the ground. "Oak balls", which result from insect activity, are lightweight, corky spheres the size of tennis balls. They turn black and tan before falling and do not harm the tree. Occasional to infrequent water once established. Hardy to 0F. California interior valleys; Sacramento and San Joaquin, Sierra foothills and Coast Ranges away from direct coastal influence.
suber: Cork oak. This is the tree from whence most commercial cork is derived; the strange twisted trunk develops a thick, deeply furrowed corky bark that is harvested in Spain, Portugal and in other parts of the Mediterranean region. Mature trees can reach 60’ tall and form a broad canopy of toothed, shiny dark green leaves that are silver-gray beneath. Chocolate brown acorns are held loosely in caps and provide food for bird and beast. Plant in deep, well-drained soil in full sun and provide moderate water. Hardy to 10F. Southern Europe, Northern Africa.
tomentella: Island oak. Small to medium symmetrical evergreen tree growing to 60’; upright and exceptionally handsome. Young trees are almost columnar. Lower branches will naturally brush the ground like a Christmas tree, unless pruned up to a more formal look. Large slightly toothed leaves to 3" long, thick, leathery, dark green above, lighter beneath and densely tomentose when young. Tolerates poor soil and drought, but grows faster with summer water. Acorns are nearly 1" long. Chooses canyon bottoms and exposed slopes, in rocky soils. Introduced by Carl Wolf, from Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, it is the least familiar and rarest of the California oaks. Exceptional native tree for coastal gardens. Occasional to infrequent water once established. Hardy to 10F. Isla Guadalupe, Channel Islands, Sierras Juarez.
Raoulia x ‘Greenstone’
Vegetable sheep. A strange common name to go with a strange plant, this one falls into our "weirdo plant" category. Perhaps the lowest growing plant we produce, Raoulia absolutely hugs the ground growing no more than 1" high. In ideal situations plants can spread up to 3’ across, creating a dense carpet that covers rock and soil alike. Diminutive silver-green leaves are held in tight proximity to one another and tiny paper-like flowers may appear in summer. Plant in full sun in sharply drained soils and provide moderate water. Established colonies must have protection from heavy winter rains, or rot will ensue. Hardy to 20F. New Zealand.
Buckthorn. The following are evergreen shrubs with attractive, dark green foliage. Rugged and easily grown in sun or light shade with reasonably well-drained soil, they require only occasional watering once established. Adaptive to many types of soil, buckthorn can be used in various situations for screen and slope plantings. Hardiness varies. Widely distributed in North temperate areas, with a few species in Eastern and Southern Africa and Brazil.
californica: Coffeeberry. Variable shrub that may be upright and sprawling 3-15’ or low and spreading when grown on coastal bluffs. Leaves are 1-3" long, shiny dark to dull green and paler beneath. Fragrant greenish-yellow blossoms are inconspicuous but attract a range of insects. Large, showy berries begin to form in summer and mature through a range of colors, green, then red, and finally black when ripe. Tough and adaptable, it is not particular to soil type and needs little water when established. Hardy to 0F. Western United States.
californica ‘Eve Case’: California selection similar to the species but dense to 10’ tall with an equal spread. Distinctly broader, with flatter leaves and a dark dusty green. Looks best with occasional or moderate summer water. Size can be controlled with regular pruning or even cutting the plants back to the crown to allow for fresh new growth. Hardy to 5F.
californica ‘Leatherleaf’: Features dark, leather-like leaves and a strong, dense habit. Leaves are larger than typical coffeeberry and have distinctive depressed veins that create the leathery feature in the foliage. Plants reach 5’ with an equal spread and provide a rich contrast for lighter green shrubs. Suited to full sun or light shade.
californica ‘Mound San Bruno’: Dense form of coffeeberry selected by Roger Raiche from San Bruno Mountain just south of San Francisco. Tightly branched with dark green leaves that are narrower than is typical for the species. Spring flowers are cream-colored and develop into maroon fruits that are attractive to a wide range of birds. Mature plants will reach a height of 5’ with an equal spread but can be pruned to maintain a smaller size. One of the most garden tolerant native shrubs available in our experience and can be used in both sun and shade. Drought tolerant once established but fully compatible with regular garden water. Hardy to 10F.
crocea: Redberry. Ubiquitous native shrub found commonly in the chaparral of the Coast Ranges, featuring small round leaves with a glossy, dark green surface and golden brown undersides. Plants are variable, but generally form a mound to 5’ with an equal spread. Bright red berries are extremely attractive to birds. Full sun or light shade and infrequent water once established. Hardy to 5F.
Rhodanthemum hosmariense (syn. Chrysanthemum hosmariense)
Moroccan daisy. Perennial herb 4-12" tall and 2’ wide with silvery, finely cut foliage and white daisies with yellow centers held over a long season. Plants bloom most heavily in winter, but typically have scattered blooms throughout the year. Plant in full sun in well-drained soil and provide moderate water. Plants often benefit from a light, periodic shearing to encourage more blooms and to maintain a tidy form. Hardy to 15F. Morocco.
Dwarf, tuberous perennials grown for their pink, red or white flowers, blooming early spring into autumn. Plant in rock garden or container in sun and well-drained soil. Best with regular moisture in spring and summer. Winter dormant. Hardy to 0F. Southeast Africa.
baurii: Tufts of narrow, hairy, lance-shaped leaves, 2-3" long that are nearly hidden by masses of 1" white, pink or rose-red flowers blooming over a long season. Tubers multiply quickly with good drainage and adequate water. Full sun and regular water. Completely dormant in winter.
‘Tetra Red’: Exceptionally large, bright red star-like blossoms. Cultural requirements similar to above.
Sumac. The following are evergreen shrubs or trees grown mainly for their form and attractive foliage. Sumacs are adapted to drought and heat and are commonly found in full sun with little to no water. The following are hardy to 20F. Subtropical and temperate North America, Southern Africa, subtropical East Asia, Northeast Australia.
integrifolia: Lemonade berry. Versatile, aromatic shrub generally 3-10’ high and as wide. Leaves are variable in shade, dark green and leathery to 3" long, sometimes with shallowly toothed edges. White to pink flowers appear in dense clusters from February through March. Small, flat, clustered fruit is red-orange and gummy, with acidic pulp that can be used to flavor drinks. Grows best near coast where established plants need little water. Prefers full sun, well-drained soil and is well adapted to dry summer conditions, but also accepts regular water and tolerates salt-laden winds. Useful on banks and slopes, as a windbreak, screen or clipped as hedge. Branching pattern could be used as an espalier. Hardy to 20F. Southern California.
lancea: African sumac. Small, graceful, weeping tree or large shrub to 25’ with an open, spreading habit. Bark is gray or brown with contrasting branches of russet-red. Leaves are linear, dark green above, paler beneath. Pea-sized, berry-like yellow or red fruit on female trees can be messy on pavement. Tolerant of high summer heat although in the desert it needs some summer watering, and can be trained to a single or multi-trunked tree. Use as a screen, clipped hedge, or background plant. Adapted to heat, aridity, poor soils and drought, but best with well-drained soil and regular water. Hardy to 20F. South Africa.
ovata: Sugar bush. Shrub or small tree 15-20’ in height and spreading 20-25’ wide. Stems of glossy leathery leaves 2-4" long, trough-shaped and pointed, exhibit dense clusters of cream or pink flowers from March to May, followed by groupings of large red-brown fruit coated with a sugary secretion. Sugar bush can be used along the coast where it is not exposed to salt spray and sea winds. Plant in full sun and well-drained soils. Durable, it will tolerate many months of summer drought. Useful on slopes for erosion control and screening. Hardy to 20F. Southwestern United States.
Currant or Gooseberry. Evergreen or deciduous ornamental shrubs grown for their attractive form, foliage, flowers and fruits. Spined species are gooseberries and those without are currants. Generally drought tolerant and suited to many soil types. In Southern California, best with filtered shade or protection from the afternoon sun. Occasional water required. Northern temperate regions.
aureum var. gracillimum: Golden currant. Deciduous, erect shrub 3-6’ tall with lobed, light green leaves that are toothed. Clusters of small but showy yellow flowers that fade to a red-orange form, in spring, followed by edible summer berries that are yellow-red to black in color. Best with moderate summer watering. Hardy to below 0F. Southern California.
indecorum: White-flowered currant. Deciduous shrub to 9’ with dark brown, shredding bark on older specimens. Medium green leaves are palmately lobed, rough textured, and highly aromatic. White flowers appear in short, pendulous clusters from late autumn into winter. No summer water is required once established. One of the most heat and drought adapted species. Deciduous in late fall, but quickly produces leaves and flowers with onset of winter rains. Hardy to 10F. Southern California, Northern Baja.
malvaceum ‘Montara Rose’: Chaparral currant. Winter-blooming shrub selected from near the summit of Montara Mountain in San Mateo County. Flowers form in drooping clusters of rose-red buds that open a dark rose color in December and January. Tough and durable with dull green leaves, a rough texture and twiggy, branching habit. Mature plants reach 5’ with a slightly narrower spread. Plants in our garden have produced remarkable, although short, butterscotch colors each fall. Best used in full sun or light shade in coastal gardens. Hardy to 0F. California.
sanguineum var. glutinosum ‘Claremont’: Red-flowering currant. Deciduous shrub 4-12’ high with maple-like leaves to 3" wide. Dense clusters of two-toned pink flowers, aging to red, appear January through March. Dull blue berries form later. Edible if one is desperate, as the taste is less than desirable. Full sun in coastal climates, partial shade inland, drought tolerant, but needs some water away from the coast. We find most sanguineum cultivars are better garden subjects with occasional summer water. Hardy to below 5F. Garden origin.
sanguineum var. glutinosum ‘Mesa Rose’: Vigorous selection from a seedling in our garden with typical sanguineum foliage and long clusters of rose-pink flowers. Columnar habit to 8’.
sanguineum var. glutinosum ‘Spring Showers’: Bushy and roughly vase-shaped growing to 6’ tall, with fuzzy, bright green leaves and pink flowers that hang in pendant clusters to 8" long. Hardy to 5F.
speciosum: Fuchsia-flowered gooseberry. Variable shrub, growing 3-10’ with numerous horizontal branches and sharp spines at nodes. Dark green, round leaves are thick and leathery. Excellent choice as a barrier plant. Fuchsia-like flowers with long, protruding stamens are crimson to cherry red and drooping; appearing January through May. Attractive to hummingbirds. Gooseberries may be evergreen with adequate summer water; otherwise, they lose their leaves in summer, then leaf out in late fall with the rains. Although preferring full sun on the coast and shade inland, they accept sun or shade, as well as moist or dry conditions. Suitable for north-facing banks, woodland gardens and the understory of native oaks. Hardy to 5F. California.
thacherianum: Santa Cruz Island gooseberry. This rare California native indigenous to Santa Cruz Island with arching, prickly branches and maroon-pink to white flowers, forms handsome thickets beneath our native oaks. Fall deciduous, the 6-8’ shrub forms 1" shallowly lobed, toothed leaves just after the display of late winter or early spring blossoms. Plants are found naturally in chaparral and riparian communities and perform best in part to full shade with regular water. Hardy to 25F. Santa Cruz Island, California.
viburnifolium: Catalina perfume. Evergreen shrub growing to 3-6’ tall with wide spreading stems to 8’. Leathery, oval, dark green leaves are fragrant after rain or when crushed. Wine-red stems may root in moist soils. Stem color complements the light pink-red flowers from February through April. Preferring sun or light shade on coast and light to medium shade inland, they are best in well-drained soils with moderate to occasional watering. Utilize as a groundcover or bank cover under oaks. Hardy to 20F. Catalina Island, Baja California.
Matilija poppy. Robust perennial to 8’ with erect stems and deeply cut leaves of gray-green. Tolerant of aridity and most soil types. Large white, fragrant flowers with yellow centers that resemble a fried egg and give plants a dramatic flair in late spring and early summer. Sporadic flowering is common into fall. Keep away from less vigorous plants, as it can be invasive, spreading by rhizomes. Utilize on roadsides and hillsides to hold soil. Withholding summer water helps to keep growth in check. Cut back hard once a year for a tidy, well kept appearance. Prefers full sun and deep, well-drained soil. Hardy to 0F. California, Mexico.
coulteri: Large white flowers up to 9" wide with crinkled petals borne May to July and blooming into autumn if watered. Cut back nearly to ground in late fall and new shoots will emerge after first winter rains.
coulteri ‘White Cloud’: Bushy shrub featuring glaucus foliage, a vigorously spreading habit and a prolific show of large, scented flowers.
Rose. Extensive hybridization has produced a wide range of forms and colors including miniatures, climbers, erect and spreading shrubs and now, even ground covers. Shrubs are mostly deciduous, but can be evergreen in mild climates. Flowers may be red, pink, white, cream, yellow, orange, blended and bicolor, magenta, purple, lavender, tan and brown. Many are fragrant. Most require full sun or light shade and regular water.
californica: California rose. Branching shrub growing 6’ tall and forming broad thickets by underground shoots. Stems are closely set with pale green to blue-green leaves, many prickles, and single pink flowers to 2" that decorate the plant most of the summer. Best in full sun and tolerates a wide variety of soils. Useful for re-vegetation or as a groundcover. Another of the plants collected by Chamisso and Eschscoltz, during their scientific expedition in the 1800’s, and referred to in Chamisso’s diaries. Reflecting on a California summer he says, "The season was not favourable for us. We, however, gathered the seeds of several plants, and have reason to hope that we shall be able to enrich our gardens with them." Hardy to 0F or less. Western North America, south into Baja California.
chinensis ‘Mutabilis’: China rose. Bushy in growth with slender arching stems, growing 3-8’ tall, this fine shrub exhibits purple or coppery-tinged leaflets when young and single fragrant flowers. Blossoms are 2-3" across and shaped like a shallow cup. Flowers open in yellow with an orange back, then move through a spectrum of coppery salmon-pink and are a warm pink when the petals finally drop. All color phases are present at one time. Tolerant of many soil types, but does need full sun. Hardy to 0F. Western China.
minutifolia: Low shrub to about 3’ tall with spreading, spiny stems and small, closely set leaves. 1" pink flowers in summer. Best in full sun. Hardy to 15F. Baja California.
polyantha ‘Cecile Brunner’: Climbing, slender-stemmed shrub growing to 10’ with dark green, satiny foliage that is resistant to some of the common diseases that attack roses. Flowers are a modest pink but provide a rich contrast to the foliage. Hardy to 0F.
‘Ballerina’: Compact, spreading shrub to 5’ tall and wide with bright, shiny leaves and many-flowered clusters of single, flat 1-2" blossoms appearing at the shoot tips. This perpetual bloomer bears rose-pink dainties with white centers. ‘Ballerina’ tolerates a wide variety of soils and is best full sun. Hardy to 0F. A Hybrid Musk.
‘Cocktail’: Fragrant single flowers are scarlet-red with a yellow eye. Forms a loose 6’ shrub or a 12’ climber with support. Full sun. A shrub rose.
‘Happenstance’: Growing nearly flat on the ground, this shrub spreads slowly. White edged, 2-3" blossoms appear, with pale yellow center; fading to nearly pure white as they age. Requires full sun and good drainage, but will tolerate a wide variety of soils. Hardy to 0F.
‘Iceberg’: Floribunda variety featuring quantities of flowers clustered on vigorous and bushy plants to 3’ tall. Leaves are glossy and a rich green. Large white 3" flowers are double with a creamy-yellow center. Pink highlights develop in the flowers as they age. Blooms summer through autumn. A Floribunda.
‘The Fairy’: Vigorous with arching stems to 4’ high, spreading to 3’. Small flowers in large sprays, bloom most of the year in California. Large clusters of small 1" flowers are light pink. Resistant to black spot and will tolerate light shade. Hardy to 0F. A Poyantha.
Rosemary. Immortalized in the children’s story, Tale of Benjamin Bunny by Beatrix Potter. The widowed old mother rabbit earned her living by selling herbs such as rosemary and rosemary tea. Rugged, evergreen, aromatic shrub with linear leaves, glossy green on top and whitish-gray beneath. They range in size from low groundcovers to large 8’ shrubs. Showy masses of small, blue to lavender flowers are featured in winter and spring and intermittently throughout the year. Rosemary is multi-faceted, with foliage used for seasoning and flowers that attract bees and birds. An enduring, functional ornamental. Utilize for dry borders, clipped hedges, cascading over walls or as a background screen. Once established it requires little to no water, but does prefer well-drained soils. Rather tough, rosemary will tolerate full sun, coastal conditions, aridity and wind. In our garden, the stand of rosemary near our kitchen supplies the raw material for a favorite recipe, Rosemary Bread. Hardy to 15F. Mediterranean.
‘Albus’: Erect shrub to 4’ with dusky-white flowers.
‘Blue Spires’: Thick, dense selection that branches from the base with upright stems to 5’. Distinctive habit, narrow and strongly erect. Rich blue flowers appear to pull a Mediterranean light from the January sky.
‘Boule’: Named for the game played commonly in the South of France. Plants form a tight, dense mound to 2’ with an equal spread that has a particularly formal appearance. Narrow leaves are typical of the species and the winter flowers are a medium blue. Full sun to appreciate the unique form.
‘Collingwood Ingram’: Smaller growing, to 3’ tall with arching branches to 6’ wide and narrow, dark green leaves. Intense purple-blue flowers form in early winter.
‘Golden Rain’: Ah! A variegated rosemary. Green-and-gold streaked leaves set this cultivar apart from all the rest. Plants grow 3-4’ tall with an equal spread and bear light blue flowers the color of your oldest jeans through most of the year. Plant in full sun to maintain variegation, and use in coastal gardens or dry borders.
‘Irene’: Not really named for our Labeling Supervisor, but we like to pretend that it is! This is a strong low-growing rosemary with vivid blue flowers and a low mounding habit. Ask Irene and she’ll tell you it’s a much better groundcover than the ubiquitous ‘Prostratus’, and we agree.
‘Ken Taylor’: Decumbent, trailing branches to 2’ with lustrous dark green foliage and bright lavender-blue flowers accent this vigorous groundcover.
‘Majorca Pink’: Stiff, upright habit to 4’ tall with lavender pink flowers.
‘Prostratus’: Dwarf rosemary. Low growing shrub to 2’ tall and spreading as much as 8’. Forms dense, prostrate mats with clusters of pale blue flowers in late winter and spring. The trailing form is useful creeping over walls or the edge of a raised bed. Not as hardy as some rosemaries.
‘Tuscan Blue’: Rigid, upright branches grow to 4’ tall, to 6’ in favorable sites, and feature rich blue flowers in late winter. Rich green leaves are larger than the prostrate forms. Suitable as an attractive, tall, narrow screen.
Rubus calycinoides (R. pentalobus)
Bramble. Prostrate, evergreen shrub, forming a dense carpet of hairy, rooting stems. Stems of lobed, mallow-like leaves are glossy green, crinkled above, felt-covered below. Small white flowers appear in summer, resembling those of strawberries, but often concealed by the dense foliage. Red, edible berries appear in fall. Durable, it is suitable for the rock garden or as a groundcover. Requires good drainage and average soil, moderate water with full sun or light shade. Hardy to 10F. Himalayan.
ursinus: California blackberry. Evergreen shrub 24-36" tall, spreading to 10’ wide under favorable conditions. White springtime flowers are followed by edible fruits in summer and fall. Plants tolerate a wide range of soil types, and do equally well in sun or shade. Provide regular water. Hardy to 0F. California.
Rue. The subject of many myths, rue is still believed by some to ward off disease and guard against poisons which is the basis of its status as an herb. It is an aromatic perennial herb to 2’ with fern-like, blue-green leaves. Small, chartreuse flowers bloom from June to August. Some people are allergic to the white sap and may develop a rash or blisters. Tolerates dry conditions well and takes full sun with little to moderate water. Hardy to below 0F. Balkan Peninsula, Southeastern Europe.
‘Blue Mound’: Mound-forming with larger leaves, tinted blue. Grows to 2’.
‘Curly Girl’: Dwarf and compact with lacy blue leaves.