70322What ever happened to Point Reyes ceanothus? It is such a nice low growing shrub, with small holly-like leaves, and cheery blue flowers in very early spring. It was quite popular when it initially became available, but now seems to be rare. Maritime ceanothus, Ceanothus maritimus, from San Luis Obispo County, is a similar species that presently seems to be getting more attention.

‘Frosty Dawn’ is the standard cultivar of maritime ceanothus, although there may be at least three cultivars with the same name. The ‘correct’ cultivar gets about two feet tall and five feet wide, with rigid but arching stems, grayish half inch long leaves, and dense trusses of minute blue flowers as winter ends. Another cultivar gets taller with more open growth. Another has lighter blue flowers.

Once established, maritime ceanothus can probably survive without any watering, but it might be happier with occasional watering through summer. New plants will need to be watered until they disperse their roots. Compared to other ceanothus, maritime ceanothus grows relatively slowly, but lives longer. (Many ceanothus can be short-lived.) Also, it is a bit more tolerant of partial shade.

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30 thoughts on “Maritime Ceanothus

    1. Yes, but this one is most popular as a ground cover. The shrub forms are very pretty in bloom, but are not easy to work with in small gardens, and do not live very long. They do not take to pruning well. The tree forms are nice in the wild, but are too open and sparse to work as real trees. There are some white blooming ones near where I live that are not very attractive at all, but they are nicely fragrant. I do not even know how many specie there are in this area.

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  1. This is a pretty flower in a nice mauve shade. I have Ceonothus ‘ blue pacific’ in my garden and it looks beautiful for a short time in Spring. I’ve lost a couple of them when the weather has been too wet.

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    1. That is another one of the problems with ceanothus. Although it should be an asset in dry climates, it is a problem in many landscapes that get watered. Even ‘average’ water can be too much.

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    1. It is a different personality though. It is very rigid and unpleasant to prune, and really does not like to be pruned. It works nicely were it has space to grow as big as it wants to, and then die when it gets old. It does not like to be fussed over.

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  2. It does look a bit like butterfly bush. Will ceanothus stand freezing temps, Tony? Your climate may be a bit like mine – dry and warm, but we can get down to -20C in winter. Snd those pesky cultivar names! This is a historical issue – when researching heritage varieties it becomes clear that different nurseries renamed one cultivar many times. Makes it hard to be accurate when looking for something from a specific time period.

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    1. The specie that we grow here were killed in the Big Chill of 1990, which was not as cold as your normal winters. I do not know of any ceanothus in California that will tolerate such cold. (There are no ceanothus in the colder parts of California.) However, there are other specie of ceanothus in other parts of North America that have no problem with colder temperatures. I just do not know what those specie are.

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    1. Better? Well, for us it is. It would not be better in colder climates. I happen to like them because they are what I know, and they really are excellent for blue color. They are not for every situation though. I think that New Jersey tea lives longer, but I really do not know.

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    1. There are more microclimates than anyone could count. There are more climate zones just in the San Francisco Bay Area than there are in most states. There are more climate zones in Santa Cruz County than some of the Midwestern States. It makes working here very interesting.
      I doubt that Virginia gets drier than the chaparral regions that most of the Californian ceanothus are endemic to. Some live in deserts. We have a few here in the Santa Cruz Mountains and on the coast, but even they are very tolerant to drought.
      I would think that the humidity during warm weather could be a problem. Fog is not a problem because it happens when the weather is cool. Heat is not a problem because it happens when the air is dry. Both heat and humidity might be a bad combination for them though.

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      1. Ah, cool damp and hot damp being different. I had not thought about that. I will do some more research locally as I have the perfect place for drought-resistant plants, edging close to a sidewalk….

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      2. Oh, ceanothus does not respond well to pruning. It works nicely in large medians, and needs not watering once established, but eventually looks shabby around the edges. This would be a concern near a sidewalk because it would need to be pruned when it reaches the pavement. It would need the offending stems cut back a foot or so, leaving side branches to lay down over the cut stems. It is possible, but takes a bit of work. If you do not mind replacing them in five to ten years, they might be nice. They do not live long anyway. I grew them in my parkstrip when I lived in town, and by the time they needed to be removed, I had other plants spreading into their area.

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      3. I am sorry about that. These short articles about individual specie are excerpts from my weekly gardening article in which I have limited space to write about them. So much important information gets omitted.

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      1. That is cool; but now I am wondering what they are. There is a bit Ceanothus cuneatus here that is quite fragrant because there is so much of it, but it is not very pretty.

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  3. I’d forgotten about this shrub I grew it in NZ and I think it could be just the thing for my front area to fill a gap. Normally that area doesn’t get too wet it is my “native” area.

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      1. Well yes, but I call it native as it is predominately natives, Grevillia, banksia, bottlebrush etc but, of course I can’t resist adding other things too. It is the area where the Poinciana rules and of course lots of broms…

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      2. Actually, I am a proponent of some types of eucalyptus as street trees in Los Angeles because some types are so ideal for that particular application. Many are from similar climates, so are just as happy here as the natives are.

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