Monday, October 12, 2009
Plant ceanothus and stand back!
I have always loved ceanothus. It's one of those easy, evergreen Northwest native plants that looks good in almost any garden. We had a lovely deep-blue flowered one at our previous home, and I was determined to have one at this house, too. Maybe more than one. After all, I had a lot of ugliness to cover, and ceanothus is a fast grower.
Above is a view of the butt-ugly CMU wall that retains the back garden from the sidewalk along our south property line. This shot was taken the first summer we were in the house - in 2007. We hadn't yet done any landscaping, so what you see is what was there when we moved in. Note the overgrown shrub barrier obscuring the windows of the house.
Nothing has changed in this shot from early spring 2008, except there's a small ceanothus thyrsiflorus 'Victoria' I planted the previous fall located dead center on the wall, and all the plastic vanes have been pulled out of the chain link fence.
About a month later: all the big overgrown shrubs have been removed around the house to reveal the brick chimney and narrow planter boxes. Landscape work hasn't begun yet, but will as soon as the fence is painted black. The ceanothus bides its time, but only briefly.
Late summer, 2008: all the basic backgarden landscaping is complete. Parthenocissis tricuspidata and a clematis armandii are helping the significantly bigger ceanothus begin to cover the wall. Harder to see in this picture is a second ceanothus planted in the back garden near the fence. The idea (and it does seem to be working) was to minimize the fence by letting the two ceanothus grow together through the fence.
Summer 2009: A new bed anchored by the much larger ceanothus has been carved out of the front lawn. The back garden ceanothus has also grown bigger and is blurring the fence further. Both have at least doubled in size from a year ago. Did I mention these shrubs are fast growers?
Ceanothus thyrsiflorus 'Victoria' is one of the larger ceanothus varieties and could easily reach 12 feet. I'm cheering it on! I understand that they don't have especially long lives, but I hope mine keep softening and disguising the fence for a good number of years. Not to mention attracting me and the bees with their frothy blue blossoms in spring. There's a reason they're called California lilacs.
"But wait a minute." I hear you saying, "where are all the pictures of those aforementioned frothy blossoms?" Well, believe it or not, I can't dredge up a single picture of my own ceanothus in bloom. Pretty sad for a garden blogger, right?
But here's a ceanothus from an early spring walk in Southeast Portland this year. This shrub was so covered with bees it practically vibrated. And next spring, I'll remember to take pictures of my own ceanothus when they're in bloom. It's the least I can do for one of my favorite natives.