Over the winter I root cuttings of several species in heated beds, and we will be potting them up in the next week or so.  One the main ones is Paxistima myrsinites, commonly known as mountain boxwood, Oregon boxwood or mountain lover.  It’s a charming and often overlooked low, evergreen shrub.  On the east side of the Cascades it grows from the pine forest up through Doug fir habitats and above; to the west, it’s found at all elevations.  It typically grows 1.5′-3′ tall with a similar spread, and has a dense form of shiny green leaves.  The flowers are tiny and inconspicuous, but actually a quite pretty red-brown, clustered along the stems in May.  Paxistima is one of only four species from the Celastraceae (bittersweet family) found in Washington; interestingly, one of the others is the distinctive and white-flowered grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia sp.), a lovely wildflower found in moist areas in the mountains.

Paxistima can be a great plant for the landscape if you’re looking for a low shrub that looks good year-round, growing well in shade and especially valuable in dry shade.  It can take sun, but prefers a well-drained soil with good amounts of organic matter.  It is one of the species that I have yet to grow too much of!

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