Top Plants For Sonoma County
Good screen or hedge. Compact version available.
Several ornamental species make excellent large shrubs, withstand poor soil, little water, hedging, and training as small trees. (Prunus stone fruits and their flowering counterparts are not considered here.) All have handsome, somewhat glossy, often toothed foliage and soft, white, bristly flowers. Growth is moderate to fast; all are suited to container culture.
Two similar species become densely branched large shrubs that may be pruned to form small trees. Both produce fruits relished by birds and have shiny, leathery foliage; however, P. ilicifolia (hollyleaf cherry) has more rounded leaves with spiny edges similar to holly while its subspecies, Catalina Island cherry (P. lyonii) bears more smooth-edged foliage and become much larger with age.
Carolina laurel (Prunus caroliniana) is similar in overall appearance although fruits are slightly smaller, leaf edges are smooth, and it is often seen with multiple trunks and interior branches removed for a more airy outline.
Portugal laurel (Prunus lusitanica) bears leaves to 5 inches long and blooms in pendulous, 5- to 10-inch spikes that produce heavy clusters of bluish purple fruits attractive to birds. Use this very large shrub as a background or screen where it will withstand poor conditions and neglect.
English laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) is a more formal-looking shrub with large leaves that requires shade in hot microclimates but tolerates generally poor conditions. Stems and leaves must be cut with hand pruners; shearing destroys the appearance; untrimmed plants are superior.