Ceanothus Maritimus, ‘Frosty Dawn’
I decided to write about our own San Luis Obispo County native Ceanothus this week, just in time for it to burst into bloom with a sweet honey scent. I’ve been watching the tiny orbed buds grow larger and larger over the past few weeks, and could hardly capture a shot of it without the presence of a bee sipping the fragrant flower nectar. ‘Frosty Dawn’ can now be seen, along with other Ceanothus species, painting our beloved Central coast hillsides blue with its dark lavender/blue flowers. It is a good plant for hillsides, holding the soil together with its roots, and preventing erosion during our rainy season.
Ceanothus Maritimus is a part of the 40 million year old Ramnacea (Buckthorn) family, containing 55 genera and 950 species, of which 50-60 are Ceanothus species. These native wild lilacs thrive in well drained soil in full sun in coastal climates, needing some shade and a bit more water in inland conditions. They have nodes on their roots that manufacture nitrogen for the nutrition of the plant, eliminating the need for fertilizers. In fact, too much water and any amount of fertilizer have been known to shorten the life of Ceanothus plants.
‘Frosty Dawn’ is a low growing shrub 2’tall and 3-5’wide that grows slowly, but lives longer than other
Ceanothus species. It has slightly reddish arching stems from which small grey- green leaves emerge, covered in a fine white hair underneath. Their fruit is a hard small capsule, which is able to remain dormant for hundreds of years, and is dependent on fire to germinate. They are deer resistant, and attract all kinds of pollinators for nectar and shelter. They are great as a small scale ground cover, in rock gardens, and dry borders.
Native Americans used some Ceanothus leaves for tea, and if you take some blossoms and rub them between your palms, you will see how the nickname ‘soap bush’ came to be used for it. We are currently growing Ceanothus Maritimus ‘Frosty Dawn’, in one gallon containers. Give us a call, ‘Like’ us on Facebook, or visit our website www.clearwatercolor.com to see photos and get information on these and other beautiful plants we grow.