Plants, Stone, California Landscapes


Mr. Manzanita’s Favorite Manzanita

Arctostaphylos pajaroensis Paradise flowers

Flowers of Paradise

Happy Solstice! (9:47 AM for Berkeley, CA.) Here is the last of my photos from the botanic garden, a collection of manzanita photos. I tried to estimate how many of the manzanita varieties in the garden were blooming, and decided about one fifth or one quarter. If I were Mr. Manzanita I would declare that manzanita season has begun.

Paradise with Moss Rock

Paradise with Moss Rocks

But, sadly, I am not Mr. Manzanita. That name belongs to one of the staff at Tilden who, rather tongue in cheek-ly, wears a sign with that title during the plant sale every spring and answers all the questions about all the different manzanitas for sale. I had a question, ‘Which one is the best?’ Well, manzanitas cover quite a range, from ground covers to trees, all with their own subtle merits and attributes, and you generally need to know the site conditions before you can choose the right manzanita, so it’s rather ridiculous to ask someone to just pick one and say, ‘This is the best one.’ But I asked Mr. Manzanita to do that, to choose his favorite, all-purpose, reliable, not-too-fussy-about-soil, not-too-fussy-about-water, interesting, consistently beautiful, generic-recommendation manzanita. And he humored me and made a choice, choosing ‘Paradise,’ an A. pajaroensis selection introduced by, not too surprisingly, the botanic garden at Tilden.

Arctostaphylos pajaroensis Paradise

Arctostaphylos pajaroensis Paradise

There are several different specimens in the garden, all in bloom now, generally growing to about shoulder height, wider than tall, with an interesting zigzag branching pattern. Brad at RootedinCalifornia has photos of the bronzy-red new growth they get in the spring, almost like floral bracts. On the strength of Mr. Manzanita’s recommendation, I sold it to him while I was volunteering at the sale last year, and so far he seems satisfied. Whew.

Arctostaphylos pajaroensis Paradise Trunk

Arctostaphylos pajaroensis Paradise

Cactus Jungle has a photo of the berries and calls it a favorite, and Las Pilitas is bullish on it, too. More manzanita photos are below.

Arctostaphylos pajaroensis Paradise

Paradise with Ants

The garden has a lot of plantings that just combine two different manzanitas, subtle but surprisingly effective when the foliage colors contrast.

Gray Manzanita with Green Manzanita

Gray Manzanita with Green Manzanita

Manzanita with Manzanita

Manzanita Thicket with Manzanita Groundcover

Manzanita Groundcover with Manzanita Shrub

Manzanita Groundcover with Manzanita Shrub

Various Green Manzanitas

Various Green Manzanitas

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14 Responses to “Mr. Manzanita’s Favorite Manzanita”

  1. December 21st, 2009 at 10:55 am

    lostlandscape(James) says:

    Happy solstice (and manzanita season) to you too! In a flower-fixated gardening world it’s terrific to have a plant that people appreciate for a lot of its other qualities. I really dig the branch structure on the Paradise and the planting with the green- and gray-leaved plants. I guess in the end I’m mostly a form and texture sort of gardener and not so much a flower grower (as much as I appreciate flowers).

  2. December 21st, 2009 at 11:31 am

    ryan says:

    Happy manzanita season. I agree, flowers are good but foliage and form are really important. The Paradise specimens would look really good if they had a contrasting background like some of the other manzanitas in the garden. They have green evergreen trees, including redwoods on their north side, around them, so they don’t pop visually as much as some of the other manzanitas. But the branching is very cool when you get up close.

  3. December 21st, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Town Mouse says:

    Great photos! I do hope to get over to Tilden next week, when I’m off work. I’m sure it will be different even then. What fun!

  4. December 21st, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    ryan says:

    I guess I don’t need to tell you to take a camera. There should be more things blooming, I think. I saw mahonias, huckleberries, and ceanothus, among other things, with buds that looked just about to open.

  5. December 22nd, 2009 at 4:23 am

    Carol says:

    What a lovely shrub and new to me… Manzanitas have flowers similar to blueberries… a bit of a stretch but to me they do. I love the different colors in the foliage. Happy Solstice!! Carol

  6. December 22nd, 2009 at 4:25 am

    Susan Tomlinson says:

    I love manzanitas–thank you for sharing some photos of them.

  7. December 22nd, 2009 at 8:11 am

    Lynn says:

    Oh thank you! I miss Manzanitas so much. Seeing and touching that silky burnt ember bark is one of the joys of hiking in the high desert for me. Those plantings with the contrasting greys and greens are so simple and beautiful. Thank you & Mr. Manzanita!

  8. December 22nd, 2009 at 9:08 am

    ryan says:

    C – I agree about the flowers. They’re both in the same family, so I guess the botanists agree, too.
    ST- My pleasure.
    L – Not to many of them back east, I imagine. The high desert manzanitas can be amazing, every single one different. The bot garden has some great high desert specimens.

  9. December 31st, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Brad B says:

    Thanks for the mention. And I’m extremely satisfied with my purchase. I needed a specimen plant for a berm and once it’s bigger it will be a much needed touch of color and form for the front yard.

  10. January 1st, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    Matt says:

    Ha! I was starting to think, “hey, I’ve been hearing a few things about the pajaroensis,” and now I found that they are all linked together. I go to Tilden with my daughter frequently, and we always romp around the manzanita, especially the Kings . . . mountain is it? Magestic.

    I used to HATE manzanita because my only experience with it was when I had to bushwhack through stands of it in the Sierra. Miserable! And it usually meant it was hot out, too. I started to see them in gardens as individuals instead of thickets, and saw how beautiful they can be: that characteristic color, the flowers, and the branch structure. I mentioned it to my wife (also climbing partner) and she basically said NO WAY until I showed he garden selections. We now have about 5 in our yard, but they are the McMinns. I envy some of the more striking versions, but maybe I just need to be patient and let ours grow.

  11. January 3rd, 2010 at 10:28 am

    ryan says:

    I’ve done some endless manzanita bushwacks too, where the sea of manzanita seems to go on forever. It does always seem to be scorching hot. But it’s better than fighting through mountain whitethorn…

  12. March 15th, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    chuck b. says:

    ‘Paradise’ is nice! It took me a while to warm up to the parajo manzanitas but they’ve been my favorite for awhile now. Betsy Clebsch advocates ‘John Dourley’. She says the big, showy fruit make it standout. I don’t disagree. But I have ‘Lester Rountree’. Which I got for…free. (No more rhymes) Visually, I’m not very happy with it right now but I’m going to give it a few more years to develop the trunk structure I like so much.

  13. March 16th, 2010 at 8:14 am

    ryan says:

    We have a John Dourley and have planted it in a few yards. It’s nice, all have survived, but they have all been slow compared to other manzanitas. I’ve seen really beautiful Lester Rountrees, but have never planted one. I want to try one; no doubt eventually I will. There are so many good manzanitas.

  14. December 12th, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Clark says:

    Hello, you’ve solved a great mystery for me. I have a house south of San Felipe, in Baja, and taken a (very) amateur interest in the local botany. There is one very prevalent tree that I’ve never been able to pin down, but your picture of a Red Elephant Tree, Bursera hindsiana, makes me think that’s what it is. I’d ruled out the Elephant Tree because my field guide, and other photos, always show a different subspecies, which has yellowish bark, but my trees are markedly red, or reddish brown, and your photo looks just like what I’ve been admiring all these years. Thanks!

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