Our Dr. Hurd manzanita has been in decline for three years, after growing vigorously from a small five gallon plant to a four foot tall shrub.
Leaves in some stems began to look thin and dry. I started a bit of water in summer, just hand watering on cooler days. This seemed to help, for a while. Leaves began to blecken, entire branches died. This year, we found major cracks at the base of the trunk. The remaining green leaves faded to black, and it doesn’t look like our big manzanita is ever coming back.
Why did it die after flourishing so long? Wetter weather? Soil problems? Disease? Whatever it was, once the plant started to decline, there was no bringing it back.
At this point, we’re not recommending this plant as a major focal point, beautiful as it may be when alive. Focal point shrubs need to be reliable and live long enough to grow to their full size.
The question now is what to do with a hole in a deck designed for a twisting, sculptural manzanita? We could stick a sculpture in there, but that’s not really the same effect. We certainly won’t try another Dr. Hurd manzanita! Maybe we should give up, hold our noses and plant one of the fifteen favorite gas station plants. Maybe a pindo palm, at least we’d get some edible fruit out of the deal – but a palm would not fit in that well with the garden’s design. We could probably use a cousin of the manzanita, a strawberry tree. It would only take 15 years to get large enough to be interesting…