Great (and better) plant picks for the western garden: Bearberry vs Juniper rugs

I was honored and tickled to be asked to contribute to the venerable garden magazine: Fine Gardening. The topic: “instead of this overused plant, try this”. I was to suggest lesser known but excellent plant alternatives for the western garden. The magazine (March 2011) had only enough room to print part of the piece, so, over the next few days, I am going to share with you all five of the plants I recommend. Seek them out, please, you will love them in your garden.

Number 1:

Arctostaphys uva-ursi is a mouthful. Bearberry, or kinnikinnick isn’t much better, but you will admire this native evergreen ground cover for its four seasons of interest. Sturdy and drought tolerant once established, it tolerates poor, sandy soils, sunny dry slopes, or partly shady wooded areas. In late spring, expect small pink or white heather-like flowers followed by bright scarlet berries in the late summer and fall. ‘Manhattan’ is an outstanding cultivar for our region, and should be considered for fire wise plantings. It is recommended as a good alternative to high resin ground cover shrubs such as Juniperus ‘Blue Rug.’12 inches tall x 6 feet wide, z2-6.

Here’s the bearberry. Did I mention it has blossoms and berries?

or this:

Icky poo. No flowers, no berries, and not even really green. And a fire hazard.

Tomorrow:Number 2, or “What to plant instead of ornamental crab apples.” Yup, I know, it’s a tough call especially right now when the crabby appletons are about to burst. Ha! And if it ever warms up around here, we may get a real show.