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SHARING SECRETS: Not-so-shabby Shrubs

Water-wise, clump-forming, beautiful Clivia miniata.

Edited by Dayle Cheever.

In keeping with our speaker's topic this month, I got to thinking about flowering shrubs. Is there a particular flowering shrub or decorative shrub that you have had success with? Is there something special that you do that contributes to that success (e.g. soil treatment, pruning, voodoo)?

Charlotte Getz: I have had great success with many varieties of Grevillea and also Leucadendron. I use them in my clients’ yards. ‘Robyn Gordon’, ‘Mt. Taboritha’, and ‘Coastal Gem’ are among my favorite Grevillea. ‘Red Gem’', ‘Winter Red’, and ‘Safari Sunset’ are favorite varieties of Leucadendron, plus ‘Long John’. They all thrive with full to part sun, long bloom cycles from spring time through fall, good drainage, and moderate to little water. All the plants in my yard are watered by Netafim, a drip irrigation system. Hummingbirds flock to all these plants! Minimal pruning required of all the varieties I mentioned.

Candace Kohl: I just love Grevillea and Leucospermum. Some of my Grevillea, including ‘Long John’, ‘Moonlight’, and ‘Superb’, are almost never out of bloom. They are tidy and attractive all year long. The Leucospermum are just fantastic in bloom—starting now. The display they make for me can’t be beat. There are many different cultivars with flowers from clear yellow to dark orange-red. Both of these genera require little water and are easy and fairly fast growing. Until they are not and die for no reason. Still, I find them worth the risk. They do require excellent drainage and NO(!!) phosphorus in the fertilizer.

Susan Starr: I like my Moroccan daises (Pyrethropsis hosmariense; Rhodanthemum hosmariense). Not very exotic, but very dependable. Right now, mine are blooming their little heads off. I give them zero care. Maybe that’s the secret!

Andrea Wagman-Christian: I adore Clivia miniata (Natal lily; bush lily), azaleas, Pittosporum, nandina, and ornamental garlic. I always plant new shrubs and flowers in “potting soil” to give them a head start, and I mulch with potting soil as well. It works very well for me! Everything is thriving in my quarter acre garden with our drip irrigation system.

Catherine Tylka: Purple lantana. A group grows in partial shade in very warm Escondido. Once a year, I have my hubby weed-whack it to six inches and I water it about once per week when it is really hot.

Kathryn Blankinship: I have a number of camellias and find them to be a very easy shrub to grow. They only need a moderate amount of water. They need to be planted in soil amended with peat moss and then fed a few times a year. I feed with cotton seed meal two to three times per year to fertilize and keep the soil acidified. They also have wonderful flowers and require little pruning! Some will grow in full sun. They will also grow in shade without becoming leggy (the north side of a home or fence). These shrubs are really underrated considering their landscape value.

Annie Forseth-Smith: Wow, where do you start? California natives are always the best: Verbena lasiostachys (California vervain) is a butterfly and insect attractor. Blooms through the year in coastal gardens and is very fragrant. Arctostaphylos ‘Sunset' (Sunset Manzanita) has beautiful bell-shaped blossoms and is a hummingbird attractor. Ceanothus (per your region) has beautiful blue flowers and is a fragrant habitat plant. I use cactus/succulent mix, blended with native soil, to give them a boost when planted. Do not overwater and or use fertilizers. Plant while they are small, they get happy quickly. Exotic choices includeVitex trifolia 'Purpurea' (Arabian lilac), which is fragrant and drought tolerant. Also, the Grevillea cultivars ‘Superb’, ‘Robyn Gordon’, and ‘Long John’. Most like light—‘Robyn Gordon’ will tolerate less. Be careful in windy areas and be sure to stake the plants. They grow quickly with shallow roots. Hummingbirds love these plants. Plant with cactus/succulent mix. Do not overwater. I only use Worm Gold on these plants. Always note where you plant—hill, light, soil, moisture. Don’t kill these plants with kindness. Best of luck.

Kate Engler: Camellias, for sure… no special effort required! If you are lucky enough to have them thrive in your garden, life is good.

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