Shrub. An ugly word for a plant category that can provide such beauty, function, and strength, isn’t it? My dry-climate darlings are Pisonia umbellifera ‘Variegata,’ Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snow Queen,’ and Coprosma repens.
Pisonia umbellifera ‘Variegata’ – Map Plant
No words or photos can capture this plant’s distinctiveness. Our 7 in the entrance garden are magical specimens that do double duty to mask air conditioning compressors by the house.
This 8-12′ high and wide evergreen native of northern Australia and Polynesian islands thrives in cool sun or light shade. Its huge mottled leaves are eye-catching from afar and up close. Snails find them attractive too, so Sluggo comes to the rescue when needed.
Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snow Queen’ – Oakleaf Hydrangea
This plant is a chameleon. Large lobed green leaves emerge in spring, followed by white flower clusters that turn pinkish purple with age. Leaves bronze in fall, then fall off to expose stems exfoliated to rich brown. Flowers bloom on old wood, so do not prune like other hydrangeas. Classified full sun to part shade, I found shade is ideal and sun wilts.
This stunner gets a bum rap as medium water use. Each of mine is 6-10’ high and wide and uses just 1/2 gallon per 10 square feet weekly, far less than typical small low-water plants in that space. Water/square feet, not water/plant, should be the litmus test for waterwise.
Coprosma repens ‘Marble Queen’ & ‘Plum Hussey’ – Mirror Plants
I’m a sucker for Coprosma’s colorful, glossy leaves. ‘Marble Queen’ is 3-5’ high x 4-6’ wide with light and dark green dense foliage, and ‘Plum Hussey’ is 3’ x 3’ with plum red foliage and lime green new growth. Native to New Zealand, these cool sun/light shade evergreen plants are drought-tolerant once established.
These 2 varieties are winners, but my first picks, ‘Fireburst’ and ‘Inferno,’ languished or died. After 2 years of trying, I practiced what I preach: purge and move on.