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Ceanothus: A Love Letter to a Native
March 2008 | Mary Friestedt


picture courtesy of Betty Wheeler


Some people call this exquisite plant "California Lilac." But I love the sound of the word Ceanothus -- see uh NO thus. And the thrill I feel when looking at one in bloom is indescribable. My Ceanothus 'Ray Hartman' has already been in bloom for a couple months, but many more of the genus are about to burst into clouds of blue, indigo, and white this month. Ceanothus, mostly native to California, thrive in Del Mar. They are fairly fire resistant, drought tolerant evergreen shrubs and ground covers that have a long bloom season.

But let's talk more about why I love you.

Ceanothus 'Ray Hartman,' I put you in the ground (with no added soil amendments) eight years ago and watered you once a week for just a year. Now I give you no irrigation or fertilizer and yet year after year you bloom twice a year for me with medium blue clusters of tear-inducing beauty. You are about 15 feet tall and wide, so you give me privacy and joy all year long with your shiny dark green leaves. I love how quickly you grew to your mature size.

Ceanothus 'Carmel Creeper,' I put you on my steep hillside eight years ago and watched you latch into the ground, asking for nothing but a little water once a week. Now my bank on Seaview is erosion proof and covered with a wave of dark green with pale blue flowers off and on throughout the year. You can grow to 2 ½ feet tall by 15 feet wide.

Ceanothus 'Concha,' you are a 6 by 6 foot beauty with one-inch clusters of cobalt blue flowers and are a favorite of many gardeners.

Ceanothus 'Dark Star,' you are as tall as 'Concha,' but can grow to 10 feet wide. Your flowers are also cobalt blue, but your leaves are tiny-- just ¼ inch long.

Ceanothus 'Skylark,' you can be 3-6 feet tall and 5 feet wide with glossy medium green leaves. Your beautiful cerulean blue flower clusters bloom profusely a bit later than other species.

If you want to see many Ceanothus in bloom this month, take a drive east along Gopher Canyon Road, where you can see them growing in their native habitat, or visit my favorite haunt, Quail Botanical Gardens. The California Gardenscapes area there will enchant you with Ceanothus clouds of blue and white that you will not soon forget.



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