Manzanita are quintessentially western shrubs. There are over 60 species and countless hybrids occurring from Canada into Mexico, from the beach up into the mountains. My childhood secret garden hideaways were under the canopy of A. viscida groves in the Siskiyou foothills and I adore that it’s the same for my kids, only under manzanita we planted in our urban garden. Of course there is an endless array of sturdy shrubs that kids can disappear under, slip into their imaginative realm and make a place of their own. Manzanita are special in that not only do they have a bit of a mythical quality in their form, they also have so much to offer. From the tiny bell flowers that rain down like confetti to be served as cups at fairy tea parties to the “little apples” I’ve witnessed be gathered as ammo, macerated into fermented mush, floated in mud stew and magic potions and collected as treasured currency. They are a wonderful backdrop to free, independent open-ended play.