Springtime Blues

Blue blossom

The Ceanothus is more commonly known as California Lilac or Blue Blossom. With its dense clusters of blue flowers it is one of the very few blue flowering spring shrubs. While there are also summer flowering deciduous varieties, it is the evergreen spring flowering types that make such a wonderful spectacle early in our growing year.  Although hardy, the Ceanothus requires the right conditions to settle in and survive. This includes planting it when the weather begins to turn milder.

In its native land of California there are over 60 available species. These range from  ground hugging varieties to ones that will grow into small trees. All in shades of blue from the palest hue to a almost deep violet.  Choose your variety carefully and bear in mind the size of your garden as once happily established they grow rather rapidly. This is particularly important as Ceanothus do not care to be pruned back hard and will only tolerate a light snipping. For ground cover select Ceanothus thyrsiflorus repens and for a medium shrub ‘Concha’ or ‘Puget Blue’. Ceanothus ‘Cascade’ will grow into a small tree after about 10 years.

Also, be mindful of where you plant Ceanothus as they will not survive in an exposed site and really need a southerly aspect. If you can plant against a sunny wall they will thrive very happily in rather dry arid conditions. In the first year of planting you will need to ensure the roots do not dry out too much. Afterwards you are advised to leave your Ceanothus well alone. In fact once established they seem to thrive better if you seriously neglect them!