Toyon in the Pac NW?

OregonGrapeMarch 6, 2013

I was wondering if anybody in Western OR or WA has had success with toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia). I tried one in a partial sun area on well-draining clay back in mid-September, and it had leaf spot issues within a couple of weeks. (Outside of an initial deep watering upon planting, it didn't get any water before the leaf issues appeared.) The previous owner of our house amended this soil with perlite and probably some organic material (possibly as recent as two years before I planted here), so it's conceivable that some of this stuff was still present in the soil at the time.

I've read one success story up near Portland when a toyon was planted under the canopy of a mature conifer (that presumably sheltered it from a lot of winter moisture). But nothing outside of that. Most of the regional nurseries that supply plants for xeriscaping don't sell toyon, so I'm wondering if it's just not a very doable shrub for this region.

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

One several feet tall has been near a west-facing wall in Seattle garden for years, it leaned over and has to be propped up - but this is liable to be due to it having become rootbound in a container prior to purchase, as is so often the case - rather than an inherent flaw of the kind of plant.

It's spotty, I have not visited it for some time and seen how spotty it is now - the friend who owns the property moved to California. It is certainly possible that it has gone down hill in recent years, along with Photinia x fraseri and P. glabra plantings in this area. (So far I have not noticed a big problem with P. davidiana and P. serratifolia. Time will tell, P. glabra seemed resistant at first but now I am seeing gauntness).

I am not sure the friend's toyon has ever fruited, in which case there would have never been a time when it was particularly colorful. Bolder P. serratifolia or, if similarly sized leaves are desired Arbutus unedo would probably be a better bet for most people.

This post was edited by bboy on Wed, Mar 6, 13 at 13:47

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 1:25PM
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Thanks, bboy. I've read that toyon tend to have fungal and bacterial issues in coastal CA as well, so I'd imagine that humidity and air circulation also play a role (though probably not in the case of the one that I planted in September).

I hear you about the general photinia leaf spot issues. We had two taken out of our backyard after we bought our house and my neighbor has one that looks terrible. I also had to pull out a Sorbus sitchensis that came down with a really nasty case of blight last spring. The rose family can be a real pain sometimes.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 5:16PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

I've never seen true Sorbus sitchensis established in cultivation here, maybe that's why. Lots of them in the wild, but none down here - other native species get sold and planted in its place.

Today I saw a Photinia serratifolia that had been heavily defoliated, presumably by leaf spot (the remaining leaves were not obviously spotty, at least when viewed from a moving car).

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 8:14PM
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Had a Toyon I purchased in Sacramento in 1991. Hard freeze in November of the same year killed it off. The plant was obviously not well-established, also, the literature said it would be tender for this location. Italian buckthorn purchased at the same time/place didn't do much better.

Holly-leaf Osmanthus and Portugal laurel replaced those, and thrived. Osmanthus is still there, but the laurel did too much thriving.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 10:55PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Up here the 30 year winter was 1990. Before I knew what Italian buckthorn was there were a few around I would see, these died to the ground. Subsequent plantings are currently making interesting, attractive screens at Good Shepherd Center and at Greenlake PCC in Seattle. The variegated form can also be seen here and there, I had one by the front door for some years but eventually took it out.

Hollyleaf osmanthus stood out in this area during 1991 as being a non-heath family broad-leaved evergreen that didn't burn the previous winter. Since it has been around awhile and its progress is not interrupted by damage (or death) due to cold winters, some large examples are present here. The Seattle Arboretum had one determined to be over 22' tall when measured about 8 years ago; a private property elsewhere in town had a tree-shaped one, with a single trunk and elevated crown 20' high during the same period.

A seemingly preposterous age is claimed for an example of the white-variegated form moved from an old property some years ago and re-located near the entrance to the Portland classical Chinese garden. Unfortunately this specimen now appears to be fading away.

Portugal laurel is a weed in this ecosystem, seeding into undeveloped wooded lands near habitations and other sources of infestation.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 12:15PM
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A big weed, yes, but they sure do keep their tidy good looks all winter.

Actually have two Osmanthus. The first, horribly root-bound, did little the first two years. Planted another one 3 feet away and then they both grew quickly. Glad I didn't give up on the first one.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 11:26PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

One of the best broad-leaved evergreen trees for this and similar climates - if you ignore the fact that it pops up on its own. Not as much as English laurel, but still too much. Some urban parks in particular are awash in ivy, holly, laurels etc.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 11:43PM
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I did some serious investigation of the native range for Toyon in advance of a plant hunting expedition last fall with Mike and Vor. It is found in the wild as far north as the Smith River drainage in extreme Southwest Oregon (although we didn't go there). A reputable Oregon nurseryman says that it occurs in the Lost Creek Lake area northeast of Medford, but I cannot verify that. Anyway, there is at least hope that a collection from the northern/wettest part of its range, may do better in the Northwest than an average nursery-bought specimen. I intend to find out.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 12:54AM
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Thanks, Ian. It would be great if you or another nursery owner could introduce a more humidity-tolerant variant.

I'm currently trying a 'Margarita's Joy' manzanita (from Las Pilitas) in a sloped, full-sun area at the bottom of my deck. Like toyon, it's a gamble. But these grow naturally on the Central CA coast, so it may do OK up here. It has some minor leaf spot, but seems semi-happy for now. The real test will probably be a wet May or June.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 6:07PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Today I'm thinking the Sorbus might have been S. aucuparia. This gets mistaken for the native species because it grows weedily here. Some specimens are quite scabby.

The native species are always shrubby, branching freely in multiple trunks just above the ground, and never have apical dominance. They are also confined to the mountains in nature.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 6:10PM
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The Sorbus was purchased from ForestFarm, and I would hope that they sold me the correct species.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 7:48PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

They in turn depend on their suppliers to send them the true item, which doesn't always happen. If it was a Sitka mountain ash it should have had non-glossy leaves and a low habit.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 12:27AM
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No way that it was a Rowan. It was multi-stemmed, relatively low, and the greatest amount of growth was not on the main stem. (See attached pic.) I've seen numerous S. aucuparia and have a young S. americana in my backyard. These are small trees with upright form.

Too bad that ForestFarm stopped carrying S. sitchensis, as they're really difficult to find.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 1:38AM
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George Three LLC

PS: I emailed the Chinese Garden to see what was up with the osmanthus by the front entrance, answer below from the horticulture manager:

"In 2009, we discovered Armillaria (fungal pathogen) in the soil/root
system of the large Osmanthus tree by the front gate. There is no known
"cure" for this. Since then, we have taken an integrated approach to the
management of the disease and are encouraged by the positive response
the tree has shown in the past few years."

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 11:30PM
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