For a bright show of color in spring few plants can beat these California natives – with the electric blues of Ceanothus or California lilac; or the bright orange of the state’s flower: Eschscholzia californica or California poppy.
There are so many varieties of Ceanothus, differing in forms from ground covers to trees.
Some are electric blue flowers others are medium blue. One white flowering Ceanothus is featured in this post – Ceanothus ‘Snow Flurry.’
1. Heuchera maxima – Island Alum Root – Long bloomer from spring to summer! forming a dense mound 14″ h x 30″ w. Flower spikes (pink and cream) rise high above the foliage, growing up to 20″ tall. (This is the giant amoung Heucheras.) This perennial is drought tolerant, though looks better with some summer water. According to Nevin Smith of Suncrest Nurseries in Watsonville, California: “It’s one of the best native perennials for dry shade.” It’s also deer resistant and a nice plant to grow beneath oak trees. Hardy: 10 – 15 degrees F. Exposure: Sun to bright shade. Uses: containers, under oaks and dry shade. Oh, and Hummingbirds love the flowers!
2. Ceanothus ‘Joyce Coulter’ – Joyce Coulter Ceanothus (Rhamnaceae) Size: 3 – 6′ H x up to 15′ w. Despite the fact that most Ceanothus do best and might live longer in lean, well drained soil, this one, Joyce Coulter Ceanothus, is pretty tolerant of heavy soils -it can even appreciate summer water in hot areas. Best uses in the garden: Let it cover a large space, either flat ground or a slope. Flowers – Large medium-blue flower clusters (doesn’t cover the entire shrub at once, but it’s still stunning) in bloom for several weeks in spring. Hardy: 10 – 15 degrees F.
3. Tellima grandiflora – Fringe Cups – A native perennial with flower stalks with many small, urn-shaped flowers with tiny fringed petals opening green and aging to pink.
The stalks and flowers rise above mounds of soft foliage – 18″ to 2′ ft high. Tolerates dry shade and is deer resistant. Seeds freely in a nice way!
Fringe flower is a clump-forming, spreading perennial native to moist woods and slopes from Alaska to Idaho and central California. In the garden, best to grow this plant in somewhat moisture retentive, humusy soils .Exposure: Part shade.
4. Ceanothus thyrsiflorus ‘Snow Flurry’ – Snow Flurry Ceanothus – Size: 8′-10′ h x 8′ -10′ w. Large glossy green leaves provide a nice backdrop for the white flower show in spring. I wouldn’t recommend this plant as a clipped hedge as it suffers quite a bit from die back. Better to use this plant located in the right place and enjoy its’ natural beauty. In other words, light pruning only. Exposure: Full Sun. Also, this plant does well in coastal areas, if planted inland provide shelter and a little supplemental water. Uses: Small tree, tall screen. Hardy: 10 – 15 degrees F.
5. Salvia sonomensis – Sonoma Sage – This herbaceous perennial with aromatic foliage, spreads by stolons and makes an excellent bank cover. Size: 3″H x 2′ W. Sonoma Sage is a slow grower with a low spreading habit. It tolerates drought and poor soil; and is a great plant choice for a low maintenance ground cover, border plant or even wall cascade and bulb cover. Flower color ranges from violet to blue – and are borne on 2 -3 inch spikes. Water: Does well with no irrigation once established, and low irrigation. Exposure: sun is best, tolerates part shade. Plant color: gray to gray-green.
6. Ribes sanguineum glutinosum – Pink Flowering Current. Doing well in part and full shade, this round headed deciduous shrub with aromatic foliage and edible fruit has pink flowers, blooming in February and March; sometimes intermittently in April.
Water: Does best with high to moderate amounts, but once established is more drought tolerant.
Pruning: Blooms on old wood, so prune after spring flowers. Size: 5’H x 5’W. Uses: specimen, filler, bank cover, group planting, background planting and edible fruit. Fruit: Bluish black or black berry – 1/4 to 3/8 inch across.