- Author: Tammy Majcherek
Have you ever taken a walk through your garden and all of the sudden just been taken aback by the unexpected beauty of a certain plant, or collection of plants? Recently I had that very experience.
Working in the landscape on a continual basis you have a tendency to be a little more critical of a plant's vigor and it's beauty. Growing in one our demonstration landscapes here at the South Coast REC are a couple of Ceanothus x pallidus 'Marie Simon', a hybrid of early 19th century French origin related to some of our California Native Lilacs such as Ceanothus 'Concha'.
Planted as part of a research project two years ago, the scrawny 1-gallon plants would not have been my first choice. During the first year they were nibbled on by rabbits, infested by aphids, the foliage seemed to continually wilt and appear somewhat anemic, and lest we not forget the few very unassuming, washed-out pink blooms. Yet somehow these dainty plants continued to bounce back ever so slightly. The one thing that was growing on me was the color of the bark - a nice reddish-burgundy color that blended well with the medium green foliage.
After reading that this species responds well to being cut back after it flowers, in the early fall we did just that removing approximately 1/3 of the growth.
During the second year, we noticed fewer aphids and less yellowing and tip-burn on the foliage. Still, the blooms were just not that impressive. I could not wait until the end of the evaluation period to perform a little shovel pruning. As done the previous year, we pruned in the fall, however just enough to clean up the shape and any dead branches.
This last March was the end of the evaluation period for this plant. Every time I walked out to the landscapes, I would look at these plants thinking "your days are numbered, I just need to find something to replace you with". Now it could have been my idol threats being sent telepathically, the above average rainfall this last season, or the more realistic explanation that these three plants have matured and are now established after two years, but returning today from the three-day weekend, I was pleasantly greeted by the beautiful plumes of pink flowers balanced on their burgundy perches engulfing these delicate plants as you can see by the picture below.
Needless to say, these landscape beauties have earned a reprieve from the henchmen. This is definitely a plant to be grown in the Irvine area, you just need a little bit of patience.