25 Years, 25 Great Plants: Part III Shrubs

September 4, 2020

Welcome back to our blog! After many weeks of uncertainty, we can rely on one truth – plants will always be here for us! Over the past 25 years in the nursery and landscape industry, we have come to know and understand many varieties of plants, from great oak trees to small ornamental grasses and succulents. Today in the third installment of our 25 Years Series, we will take a look at our favorite shrub selections. Stay tuned for the next and final part of our series: Grasses, Perennials, and Succulents.


Arctostaphylos pajaroensis ‘Paradise’ – Paradise Pajaro Manzanita

This shrub is native to California’s Central Coast, particularly focused in the Monterey Bay region. ‘Paradise’ Pajaro Manzanita is especially exquisite in its display of foliage and flowers. As new leaves emerge, they first appear as bronzy red, and shift to shades of bluish-green as they mature. Large, striking clusters of rosy pink flowers are long-blooming and followed by prominent rust-red berries that are enjoyed by local birds. ‘Paradise’ Pajaro Manzanita offers attractive zig-zag branches and a spreading habit, this robust selection is tolerant of full sun and occasional to little supplemental watering after it is established. We offer ‘Paradise’ Pajaro Manzanita in 1 gallon, 5 gallon, 15 gallon, and 24 gallon containers.


Ceanothus gloriosus ‘Anchor Bay’ – Anchor Bay California Lilac

‘Anchor Bay’ California Lilac is an exceptionally dense, spreading groundcover that will blanket the earth in deep blue fragrant flowers throughout spring months. Native to coastal regions of California, this selection is highly tolerant of seaside conditions and thrives along sunny banks – where the benefit of erosion control can be taken advantage of. Dark green and leathery leaves are small but so numerous and dense they help to hold down weeds. Highly attractive to pollinators and birds, this is a keystone species for a native garden. We offer ‘Anchor Bay’ California Lilac in 1 gallon and 3 / 5 gallon containers.


Cotinus x ‘Grace’

‘Grace’ is a shapely and attractive hybrid of European Smoketree (C. coggygria) and American Smoketree (C. obovatus). Rounded, soft plum to cool green colored foliage is similar in appearance but much larger than that of C. coggygria, while the overall form of this shrub is similar to C. obovatus in that it is upright and spreading; because of the hybridization with C. obovatus, ‘Grace’ will get taller than other Cotinus species, maturing to about 15 feet tall. This tree or large shrub bears a showy display of feathery plumes in summer, followed by a dramatic shift in foliage color, from plums to fiery orange-red to deep burgundy. We carry Cotinus x ‘Grace’ in 2 gallon, 5 gallon (both shrub and standard tree forms offered), Premium 10 gallon, and 15 gallon containers (both shrub and standard tree forms offered).


Heteromeles arbutifolia ‘Davis Gold’ – Davis Gold Toyon

Heteromeles arbutifolia is classic California native that has a native range from the California coast to the Sierra Nevada foothills, and south to Baja California. ‘Davis Gold’ is a treasured cultivar, as it has unusual and bright yellow berries, compared to the red fruits of the parent species. Although drought tolerant, ‘Davis Gold’ Toyon accepts some supplemental irrigation and thrives most beautifully with light moisture. This cultivar of Toyon is reported to be more disease resistant than the parent species, but it is still vulnerable to fireblight. A valuable choice for a privacy screen or bank planting as erosion control, Toyon’s presence in the garden is irresistible to local birds and butterflies as an essential source of food. We carry ‘Davis Gold’ Toyon in 1 gallon, 5 gallon, 15 gallon, and 24 gallon containers.


Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snow Queen’

‘Snow Queen’ Oakleaf Hydrangea instantly adds a beautiful and regal note to the garden, as implied by the cultivar name. ‘Snow Queen’ possesses uniquely oak-shaped, large dark green leaves that provide a contrasting backdrop to remarkably large, white flower panicles. Each flower head is held upright on strong stems that maintain their structure through heavy rains and wind. Flower heads are densely packed with single, white flowers that mature and adopt shades of pink and soft purples. Arrival of fall sparks a color shift in the leaves, from deep greens to vibrant reds and purples. We offer ‘Snow Queen’ Oakleaf Hydrangea in 1 gallon, 3 / 5 gallon, Premium 5 gallon, 7 gallon, and 10 / 15 gallon containers.


Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’

‘Soft Caress’ Mahonia possesses all the attractive features of Mahonia, without the spiny leaf margins. Soft, feathery foliage is deep green in color and looks like bamboo. A wonderful performer in both beds and containers, ‘Soft Caress’ Mahonia instantly adds interesting texture to shade and partly shaded gardens. Clusters of tiny, bright yellow flowers sit atop foliage attracting bees – these flowers first make an appearance in winter months and followed by blue ornamental berries that attract local birds. We offer ‘Soft Caress’ Mahonia in 1 gallon, 2 gallon, 3 / 5 gallon, and 10 / 15 gallon containers.


Rhamnus californica ‘Leatherleaf’ – ‘Leatherleaf Coffeeberry’

A native species of California, Southwest Oregon, and Arizona – this shrub is incredibly versatile and tolerant of a range of soil conditions and sun exposure. ‘Leatherleaf’ will eventually reach about 6 feet high and wide but grows more compact than the parent species Rhamnus californica, and can take on several different forms in different landscapes; ‘Leatherleaf’ grown along the coast may have more of a low and spreading habit, compared to specimens found in woodlands where we may observe a more upright form. As the name hints, the leaves of this shrub are thick and leathery to the touch. Dark green foliage provides a wonderfully contrasting backdrop to small, white spring flowers, that are shortly followed by reddish black fruits in the fall. Both flowers and fruits attract beneficial insects and birds. We offer Rhamnus californica ‘Leatherleaf’ in 1 gallon, 5 gallon, and 15 gallon containers.


Sources Used:

Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium Staff. Hortus. New York: Macmillan General Reference, 1976.

Norris Brenzel, Kathleen, ed. The New Sunset Western Garden Book. 9th ed. New York: Time Home Entertainment, 2012.

San Marcos Growers. https://smgrowers.com/.


Photos taken at Devil Mountain Nursery, San Ramon.