Elisabeth C. Miller Library

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Search Results for: Ceanothus | Search the catalog for: Ceanothus

Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Vinca, Lamium, Lavandula, Ground cover plants, Ceanothus

Our house is on a corner lot. The side yard has a very small slope with big rocks along the edge. Presently it has a variety of flowers such as lavender that bloomed last summer. However, my question is what kind of ground cover can I put there, other than grass, that would look good and be evergreen.

Secondly, there are two big pine trees at the corner. What are my options for plantings beneath these trees that would give it a pulled-together look?


I am guessing that the spot receives a good amount of sun, since you have lavender Lavandula that flowered there in the summer. Were you looking for a groundcover that will tolerate people walking on it, or did you want somewhat taller plants that will blend well with the lavender?

If you plan to walk on the area, you might want to consider chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) or creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum).

There are many great choices for plants not intended to be walked on, and I recommend that you take a look at some of the resources we have in the Miller Library so you can find the plants that most appeal to you. I recommend the books Gardening with Groundcovers and Vines by Allen Lacy (HarperCollins, 1993), and Perennial Groundcovers by David MacKenzie (Timber Press, 1997) as starting points.

Plants that are evergreen (or 'ever-grey') and might go well with lavender are Santolina, Helianthemum (sun rose), Teucrium chamaedrys (germander), and Ceanothus thyrsiflorus (creeping blue blossom ceanothus).

For the spot under your pine trees, you will need plants that tolerate shade and do not have large root systems. I would try Lamium (dead nettle), which comes in several foliage and flower colors, and I would avoid Lamium galeobdolon, a species which is considered a noxious weed in King County. Vinca (periwinkle) might also work. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has information on planting beneath pine trees.

Date 2018-06-14
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Myrtus, Rhus, Osmanthus, Screens, Arbutus, Ceanothus

We are looking for a good screening tree/shrub that is evergreen and interesting. The plant cannot grow over 6 feet high. We have very sandy soil, western exposure, and live in the Magnolia neighborhood. We would like it to be drought tolerant as well. I found Myrtus communis (Myrtle) and Rhus (Sumac)--I am not sure which variety of sumac would be best. I found the information on these plants in the Sunset Pacific Northwest Garden Book. I would love to get your advice on these, and if you have any other ideas as well.


Because of the height limitation of your site, I suggest primarily shrubs (rather than trees) that are evergreen and drought-tolerant.

Most of the Rhus I have seen growing in Seattle is of the deciduous type, but there are several evergreen varieties, such as Rhus virens and Rhus lancea. They are natives of Texas and Baja California. They will not be as hardy as the deciduous varieties.

Myrtus communis does well in seaside gardens although it can exceed your 6 foot height limit, reaching 10 feet or more (according to W. J. Bean, Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles, 8th ed., John Murray, 1973 and Top-Rated Evergreen Shrubs, Golden Press, 1983). The dwarf variety Myrtus communis 'Compacta,' would be too low-growing to act as a screen.

I would suggest Osmanthus delavayi, which has small, glossy dark green leaves, and very fragrant white flowers in March. It can eventually grow to 8 feet, but is easily maintained as a hedge or screen (see the website Great Plant Picks for pictures and information).
Other ideas would be Arbutus unedo 'Compacta' (Strawberry Tree). Or you could try Ceanothus concha, which has small dark green leaves and blue flowers. The California nursery Las Pilitas has information about this and other varieties of Ceanothus.

You may also wish to come to the Miller Library and browse the many illustrated books on shrubs and trees.

Date 2017-09-27
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Screens, Thuja, Juniperus, Viburnum, Hedges, Ceanothus

I will be having a very overgrown, rarely pruned laurel removed from my back garden. It has been, if a monstrosity, an effective visual screen. The bare area that it leaves is appproximately 40' in length, is atop a rockery, approximately 3' high, and will look up into the neighbor's back hillside, while they peer down at us in dismay. Can you suggest one or several fast growing, shrubby plants or suitable trees that will act as an attractive visual screen? I do not want bamboo.


Here are a few ideas:

Morella californica

Thuja occidentalis 'Smaragd'

Osmanthus delavayi is also a good choice, but it doesn't get quite tall enough--my own hedge, which is pruned at least twice a year, is about 8 feet tall, so if I really let it go, maybe it would be 10-12 feet.

Juniperus scopulorum 'Wichita Blue'

Juniperus virginiana 'Manhattan Blue'

Viburnum tinus

Ceanothus would also be striking, with blue flowers, but you'd need to find the tallest possible species, and they tend to be short lived.

You could plant a mixed hedgerow, which would allow you to include some of the flowering plants you prefer. King Conservation District has more information on hedgerows.

Date 2018-06-22
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Pittosporum, Wind-tolerant plants, Morella californica, Arbutus unedo, Osmanthus, Pyracantha, Chamaecyparis, Arctostaphylos, Pinus, Cotoneaster, Ceanothus

I am looking for evergreen hedges that will tolerate a windy site. Do you have any suggestions?


Sunset Western Garden Book (2007 edition) has a list of wind-resistant plants. From that list, there were a few plants which meet some of your site's needs (evergreen, fast-growing, about 7-10 feet tall). They are:

  • Arbutus unedo (Strawberry tree)
  • Arctostaphylos (Manzanita)
  • Ceanothus
  • Chamaecyparis
  • Cotoneaster
  • Escallonia
  • Morella californica
  • Pinus species (you would need a dwarf pine for your size limits)
  • Pittosporum (many of these grow taller than 10 feet over time, but P. tobira might work)
  • Pyracantha

I don't know if it is tolerant of winter winds, but Osmanthus delavayi makes a nice, dense evergreen hedge with flowers, and reaches about 8 feet. It grows fairly quickly also.

Two good resources for finding more information on the plants above are Oregon State University's Landscape Plants and Great Plant Picks.

Also, I found an article (no longer available) on wind tolerance from Colorado State University Extension which may be of interest. Here is an excerpt about the physical characteristics of wind tolerant plants:

"When considering which trees and shrubs do well in windy conditions, examine the shape and thickness of the leaves, stems and branches. Wind-resistant trees usually have flexible, wide spreading, strong branches and low centers of gravity. Wind tolerant shrubs often have small, thick or waxy leaves or very narrow leaves (or needles), to help control moisture loss. Plant species that have large, flat leaves "catch" wind. These plants have a tendency for branch breakage when strong gusts blow, or if laden with heavy, wet snow. Evergreen (conifer) trees are an excellent choice, having needles and being flexible in high winds."

Date 2018-07-19
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Pruning shrubs, Transplanting, Ceanothus

I have a mature Ceanothus 'Victoria' that I'd like to prune and transplant. When is a good time to do this? It seems as if it has a deep root system.


Ceanothus 'Victoria' can be a bit difficult to transplant because the root systems are extensive, as you noted, but it is worth a try. I have transplanted this cultivar both successfully and unsuccessfully.

I would recommend either that you do not prune them or that you wait until August. You do not want them to grow much before you transplant them, and pruning during the growing season will encourage growth. If you prune them in August, they will grow very little.

Extensive pruning before transplanting sets up competition between the root system and the upper plant (responding to the pruning), as far as the plant's resources are concerned. After transplanting, you want energy directed toward the roots so that they might take hold and also so that growth above ground slows. If you choose to prune the shrubs, I recommend that you prune as little as possible. Prune from the inside, thinning and taking out dead branches, and removing a few lower limbs. You can also cut back some of the longer limbs, as this shrub can handle 'heading back,' as this type of pruning is called. Please note that this shrub is genetically programmed to get quite large, and pruning will not prevent this. Be sure the new spot can handle a shrub that wants to grow 8 to 10 feet up and out (possibly more!).

With this in mind, you can consider transplanting the shrub in the fall. I recommend October or later so that you can avoid a hot spell (which may promote upper growth and/or place the plant under stress). When you dig up the root system, retain as many of the roots and their native soil (surrounding them and holding them together) as you can. You will have to cut the deep taproot(s); that is unavoidable. The tiny, thread-like roots are more important to retain.

When you dig the hole, make it big enough to accommodate the soil around the roots as well as a bit of filler. You don't need to add new soil; simply backfill with the soil you dug out. You may have to water a bit, even in the fall, until our rainy season begins. You don't need to saturate the roots, but don't allow them to dry out.

Date 2018-06-27
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Pruning shrubs, Ceanothus

How do I go about pruning Ceanothus?


My impression is that in general, Ceanothus should be pruned with a light touch. Portland gardening expert Ketzel Levine has some opinions on this topic:

"You can certainly prune Ceanothus but there is a bit of a trick. First of all never prune any stems that are larger than 1/4" wide. Instead prune the very tips of each branch back to where you want it to be. And, since ceanothus bloom on 'new' wood, this should provide you with an even more spectacular show next year. Prune after the plants are through flowering; at that time you can also remove the spent flower spikes which will also help it look less wild."

Ceanothus by David Fross and Dieter Wilken (Timber Press, 2006) says that "an annual trimming of the new growth will maintain a more compact form and improve the appearance of most species. The removal of spent flowers and fruit improves the vigor of many cultivars and will produce a tidier form. Taller species can be trained into small trees with early pruning, and the removal of interior dead wood as plants age produces a cleaner appearance. Once the arborescent character is achieved it is easily maintained and requires minimal effort. Shearing for hedges and formal effect is tolerated by most species if cutting into woody tissue is avoided. Prune immediately after flowering, and only back to the new year's flush of growth." The authors mention that although it requires a lot of work, there are some species which can also be trained as small hedges or as trellis plants.

Here is the Royal Horticultural Society's guidance on pruning evergreen Ceanothus species: "Routine pruning is not essential and in fact are best not pruned. If grown as a bush, promote branching by pinch-pruning the soft tips on young plants in spring. Use secateurs to shorten over-long branches by up to a half in midsummer after flowering. Do not cut into older wood as the stumps may not regrow."

Date 2018-09-08
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Garden Tip

Keywords: Sarcococca, Plant cuttings, Salvia, Lavandula, Propagation, Rhododendron, Gaultheria shallon, Penstemon, Holly, Cistus, Ceanothus

Make new plants by taking softwood cuttings. Cuttings Through the Year, a booklet published by the Arboretum Foundation(available for sale at the Washington Park Arboretum gift shop) suggests which plants to propagate month by month and how to do it. A few September plants include: Rock Rose, Salal, Lavender, Holly, Penstemon, evergreen azaleas, Sweet box, Salvia, California Lilac and many others.

For a tutorial on taking softwood cuttings go online to a Fine Gardening article complete with clear color photos: www.finegardening.com/propagate-your-shrubs-softwood-cuttings

Date: 2006-10-23
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Garden Tip

Keywords: Garden design, Passiflora, Phygelius, Salix, Ceanothus

Do you want that "mature garden" look, but don't want to wait a decade to achieve it? Check out Fast Plants by Sue Fisher (Fireside, $16.00) to learn about trees, shrubs, vines and perennials that will grow up in a hurry. A few suggested plants for a near instant effect include:

  • California Lilac (Ceanothus)
  • Cape Fuchsia (Phygelius)
  • Bluecrown Passionflower vine (Passiflora)
  • Willow (Salix).
The author insightfully includes information on controlling growth because there is a fine line between fast and overly vigorous!

Date: 2007-09-18
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