The manzanita is one of the most iconic of all West Coast native trees and shrubs, yet they are rarely ever seen in gardens. Like their famous relative, Arbutus menziesii (The Pacific Madrone), they’ve earned a reputation of being slow and difficult to establish. But with a strong emphasis in introducing more of our native flora into our gardens and the constant demand for drought tolerant plantings, the wide range of Manzanita species and hybrids have really started to come to the fore and gardeners are rediscovering their unique and stately presence in the landscape.
We have several specimens slowly getting established the Center for Urban Horticulture’s McVay Courtyard and one of the standouts is A. densiflora ‘Sentinel’. An upright grower discovered in Sonoma County, CA, it is one of the faster growing selections and it is also one of the most adaptable of the genus. The clusters of pink-to-white, urn-shaped flowers appear in later winter into spring like many in the genus, but the year round attraction is the evergreen foliage and the smooth and dramatic trunks with the often peeling, russet red bark. The older the specimen, the better they become.
Manzanitas require full open sun and very well drained soil that’s relatively lean. Avoid adding too much organic material to your soil and though they are drought tolerant, regular irrigation and fertilizer the first 2-3 years will get them going. They highly resent heavy root disturbance so take care when planting and avoid having to transplant it once its established in the ground. Staking of younger plants during planting is beneficial until they fully root in and settle.
Genus species ‘Cultivar’: Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Sentinel’
Common Name: Sentinel Manzanita
Location: McVay Courtyard – CUH
Origin: CA, USA
Height and Spread: 4-6′ height x 6′ wide
Bloom/Fruit Time: Late February-March