I'm surprised when I discover that not every single person in this world likes Arctostaphylos. Some people even hate it, as I'm learning when I send my plant lists to clients. Now I'll be first to admit that there's some varieties that look a little too scrubby for my tastes, but on the other hand, there's ka-zillions to choose from.
The variety pictured above is 'St. Helena' and will eventually grow into a small tree. When I say eventually, I mean in close to forever. They grow real slow. But look how pretty she is! It's amazing what a little aesthetic pruning will do to accentuate the dramatic curves of the tree. Plus, the dark mahogany of the branches contrast so nicely with the blue-green leaves. White flowers appear in winter and will give the hummingbirds something to do when nectar is scarce. Flowers give way to berries, which will bring the birds. Isn't it nice how that all works out?
Soil: Light clay will do quite nicely. I've seen some varieties grow in absolute hardpan in the foothills.
Sun: Full, please!
Plant: Now, before the winter rains! Although I planted mine at the worst possible time, (beginning of summer) they seem pretty happy.
Buy it: The wholesalers seem to carry this variety (support your local nursery and ask them to order it for you), but there are so many to learn about, too! Yerba Buena Nursery carries this species and many more.
Good for: contrast in the garden, attracting wildlife, sculptural interest, winter flowers and spring berries