Master Gardener News Blog
Dwarf Butterfly Bush
By Leslie E. Stevens UCCE Master Gardener
PLANTING ZONE: USDA Zones 6, 7, 8, 9
SIZE: 3-5 ft. tall; 3-4 ft. wide
BLOOM SEASON: Dense, spike like, lavender flowers,early summer to late fall
EXPOSURE: Full sun to partial shade
PRUNING NEEDS: Remove spent flowers to prolong bloom. Cut back canes in late winter to promote fuller new spring growth.
WATER NEEDS: Medium to low; drought tolerant once established.
NARRATIVE: As its name indicates, the dwarf butterfly bush is a miniature version of its much larger 10-12 foot cousins. And like its counterpart, this compact perennial not only fits beautifully into small suburban landscapes, it's a magnet for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds that are attracted to its sweet nectar and colorful blossoms.
NOTE: Although commonly called “butterfly bush,” buddleia varieties should not be confused with Milkweed and Butterfly Weed, which are both members of the Asclepias family. Milkweeds are the only plants Monarch larvae can eat, and therefore are critical to the Monarchs' survival.
By Jackie Woods UCCE Master Gardener
Planting Areas:widely distributed from coastal scrub lands to dry, sunny hillsides
Size: up to 6' H x 8' W
Bloom season: Spring
Exposure: Full sun
Pruning needs: None
Water needs: first year only to establish the plant, then drought-tolerant.
Narrative: Ceanothus, also known as California lilac, is the envy of every garden for many different reasons: they are fast growing, evergreen, require very little water once established, produce stunningly beautiful blooms ranging from cobalt blue to violet in color (some even come in white or pink), have a sweet fragrance, attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other beneficial insects and are easy to grow and care for. These shrubs are very versatile in that varieties can be sprawling or low-growing or grow tall and hedge-like. Ceanothus will grow in a range of different soil types – although they do prefer well-drained soil - and most varieties are alkaline tolerant. With Ceanothus, gardeners can expect a lifespan of 20-25 years or longer, as long as they refrain from putting them on drip irrigation, avoid frequent summer watering and do not use soil amendments or fertilizer. Ceanothus prefer to fend for themselves as they do when growing in the wild. A good time to plant Ceanothus here on the Central Coast is in late fall to early winter.
By Linda Lewis Griffith UCCE Master Gardener
What's the best way to stake a tree? Dave R. Atascadaero
Staking trees is a controversial topic.
Current research encourages home gardeners to avoid staking new trees whenever possible. Trunk movement signals the lower trunk and roots to produce growth and results in stronger trees.
On the other hand, staked trees are frequently damaged by rubbing and girdling. Vertical growth and root development are slowed. Trunks may become stressed at the point of stake attachment and be more susceptible to breaking.
Trees that can stand by themselves or don't need protection from excessive wind do not need to be staked. Most conifers, trees with upright growth habits and bare-root trees do not need additional staking.
Supportive staking may be required if a tree is not strong enough to stand upright or to return to an upright position after being deflected. Staking should be done at the time of planting.
To properly stake a tree, follow these steps:
1) Place two stakes in the ground outside of the root ball on opposite sides of the tree, allowing the prevailing wind to blow through the stakes. Remove the nursery stake.
2) Determine the height of the support tie by putting two fingers on the trunk 3 feet about the ground. Move fingers upward until the tree is supported enough to stand upright. Place ties 6 inches apart at this point.
3) Select flexible, elastic ties, such as rubber tubing, for straps. Wrap them loosely around the trunk, securing them firmly to the posts and ensuring the trunk doesn't rub against the stakes.
4) Cut wooden stakes off 2-3 inches above the ties to avoid injuring lateral branches. Injured branches can become infested by insects or infected with pathogens.
5) Regularly check the ties for girdling or restriction of the trunk. Make sure stakes are still upright and not damaging the trunk or branches.
6) Remove the stakes and ties when the tree is able to stand upright on its own, in about one year.
For more information on staking trees, visit these websites:
Right Plant Right Place
by Leonard Cicerello UCCE Master Gardener
How do I know what to plant and where to plant it? Henry, Cayucos
The satisfaction and rewards of proper plant placement is like getting an A in a difficult subject.
Before shopping for plants, browse through a garden book and look at neighboring yards. Visit local nurseries and read the labels on the plants that interest you. If it does not have one, ask a nursery employee about the plant.
Find out how tall and how wide the plant can grow, if it requires full sun, or shade, or morning sun and afternoon shade. If it blooms, what time of year does it bloom? Usually, your local nursery sells only plants that do well in its surrounding area. In SLO County, it can be confusing because you may buy a plant in Cambria to be planted in Paso Robles. However, obviously, those two regions have very different climates.
Avoid planting a tree next to or too close to your home and use caution if planting a tree next to a common fence to avoid future conflicts with neighbors. Provide sufficient space for plants and allow them to grow into their natural shape to minimize pruning.
If you are shopping for a fruit or nut tree, the label should tell you how many chill hours the tree requires to bear fruit or nuts. Every bearing tree has a minimum chill hour requirement which allows the tree to go into dormancy when fruit buds form. Also, fruit and nut trees can be grafted onto three different root stocks---dwarf, semi-dwarf, and standard. Determine the potential size of the one you want.
Another problem is so-called “weed trees”, like Albizia, Ailanthus, and Privet. Their seeds propagate profusely, especially after very wet seasons. Many are allowed to grow and become a nuisance. Acorns, from oaks, and pecans also propagate easily, and can grow into large trees that require a lot of space.
Be judicious when you plant. Plant the right plant in the right place.
Succulents - Great Companions!
By Lee Oliphant
I want to add succulents to my Mediterranean garden. What should I know about succulents and their environmental requirement? Carol D., Cambria
"Succulent” refers to plants that have a unique ability to store moisture in fleshy stems, leaves, or roots. They are not a family in themselves, but are represented in many plant families. Like cacti and succulents, many plants found in dry regions of the world have adapted to dry climates by storing moisture in their tissues. While cacti are succulents, not all succulents are cacti.
Succulents need little care other than removing withered blossoms. They can be fed in early spring using low nitrogen, slow-acting fertilizer like fish emulsion or kelp, or by using a balanced fertilizer like 10-10-10. Fertilizer for succulents should be diluted at a rate of ¼ of that recommended.
Both Mediterranean plants and succulents have similar growing requirements- sun to semi-shade and little water. They can be planted in “zones” (areas where plants with similar needs are planted). Both succulents and Mediterranean plants survive in soil that lacks an abundance of humus and is well draining. They do not thrive in wet clay soil, and need protection in climates that fall below 30º for any length of time.
Succulents can be planted in pots and placed around the garden or indoors in a sunny window. Pots need to have a hole in the bottom for drainage. Use a fast draining soil mixture with pumice, perlite or decomposed granite or a commercial soil mixture made specifically for succulents.
Succulents and Mediterranean plants require little, after initial establishment, other than sun or semi-shade and good drainage. It is no wonder they play a major role in Central Coast gardens.