Who would guess that one could find holiday cheer in a manzanita? Well, come to the Humboldt Botanical Garden’s Lost Coast Brewery Native Plant Garden and discover Arctostaphylos pajaroensis, the pajaro manzanita. From late fall through winter, this uncommon manzanita puts on bright red new growth that makes a poinsettia look pale.
This California native hales from the Monterey coast region and is named after the Pajaro River in that area. It is a sturdy, evergreen shrub that does well in Humboldt County.
Pajaro manzanita is not only showy in winter, but it also shines other times of the year. In spring, it puts on delightful clusters of urn-shaped pink flowers that hummingbirds love. Early flowers are also a good source of food for cold hardy bumblebees as well. During the summer, red berries feed local songbirds. Stiff foliage is a bluish green and contrasts nicely with the peeling cinnamon hued bark.
Like all manzanitas, pajaro prefers full sun and well-drained soil here on the coast. Light shade will be tolerated in warmer, inland areas. The shrub will grow up to 6-feet tall and about as wide with a loose, rangy habit. Yearly tip pruning beginning when plants are young will create a dense shrub with plenty of new red growth this time of year. A bit of thinning here and there will expose the beautiful red bark.
Pajaro manzanita is a low maintenance shrub for sunny, drought tolerant gardens. Mix it with native poppies, ceanothus and salvias. It will look best with occasional summer water. Fertilizer is not necessary with established plants. Just prune it a bit to encourage new, red growth.
Terry Kramer is the site manager for the Humboldt Botanical Garden and a trained horticulturist and journalist. She has been writing a garden column for the Times-Standard since 1982. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.