Friday, October 1, 2021

I haven't missed the Ceanothus 'Dark Star' at all...

By the time I act on the decision a plant needs to go I've usually thought it over long enough that I'm confident it's the right choice. When it came to getting rid of the Ceanothus 'Dark Star' last winter, I was a bit concerned I'd miss it come spring, when it really made a garden statement with it's big pink-purple buds. Thankfully I did not, getting rid of it was the right thing to do....

Above is a photo from October 18th of last year, 2020—just before I started to chop off pieces and add them to the yard waste bin. Such a dark and dreary photo! Below is an image of nearly the same space, taken in late August, 2021. The Nolina 'La Siberica' is definitely enjoying the increased light.

Again, Oct of 2020...

Early March, 2011. Even before I started to plant the space looked better without the ceanothus. Sometimes less is more.

And now late August, 2021...

Ha, sorry. I didn't realize I uploaded so many process shots. This one is also from March of this year.

And late August...again...

Things were looking really lush in June (pre heat-dome) when this photo was taken...

Above from left to right: the orange flowers belong to Alstroemeria 'Indian Summer' (in a container), the big leaves belong to Telanthophora grandifolia, an annual in my climate that never really got the water it needed to thrive, but I enjoyed anyway. The bright spikes are Yucca aloifolia 'Variegata' and then you can see some lazy leaves that are Acanthus syriacus, sadly those dried up shortly after our heat dome at the end of June. I think they'll return next year—and hopefully be more successful.

Pointing the camera up, just because. The Paulownia tomentosa didn't miss a beat this summer (photo late August). Its happiness (leafy canopy) is part of why some of the after photos above are darker than others. It takes it awhile to get going in the spring, since we pollard it.

From here on out these are all ground-level close-ups from late August, the Nolina 'La Siberica' has been a consistent star...

With last spring's "super bloom" of several Echium wildpretii in the garden, this is currently the oldest, largest, most gorgeous echium I've got. When it sends up it's bloom-spike next spring (winter-willing) it won't have to battle with the ceanothus for air-space.

This patch of Ajuga reptans 'Black Scallop' looks better than it ever has. The increased light is helping I'm sure.

More of the ajuga along with my oldest Cephalotaxus harringtonia 'prostrata', aka spreading Japanese plum yew.

And here's the little itty bitty new guy I planted out this spring, from Secret Garden Growers.

A close-up of the previously mentioned Yucca aloifolia 'Variegata'

Astelia 'Red Devil'

And Comptonia peregrina, aka sweetfern. This poor plant did not like the 116-degree heat in June. Parts of it got a little crispy.

Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’—the red always goes green in the heat of the summer—was a random addition to this area a few years ago. It looks great in the spring, but then kinda gets rangy as the summer progresses. It needs a serious chop to keep it managable.

Seeing more of this beauty—Daphniphyllum himalaense ssp. macropodum 'Variegated'—is THE main benefit to getting rid of the ceanothus. Those leaves still make me weak in the knees.

Unfortunately there was one extremely sad plant death in this area during the heat dome/ ankle break. That trio of Cyrtomium falcatum (aka Japanese holly fern), are hiding the carnage and will be planted in this area once the ground is workable again (with the return of the rain, which has already started).

Here's the sad, sad, death. It's the Rhododendron forrestii ssp. forrestii Tumescens that Roger Gossler gave me last spring. So sad! Was it the heat? Did it not get enough water while I was unable to get around the garden? Both? Ugh.

But here's a plant that managed to withstand it all, the heat, the extremely dry conditions. I should be scared. Instead I bought two more. Pachysandra axillaris 'Windcliff Fragrant'. You'll feel free to remind me I should have known better once it takes over this corner of my garden.

The very back edge of the garden, beyond the former ceanothus-land, got a few aspidistra and black mondo plugs this spring while I was planting. In case you're wondering, the plan is to eventually see no bare ground... crampscaping!

All material © 2009-2021 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. That was so the right call, if only to see the nolina and daphniphyllum shine like they do now. And I can't believe you wrote "sometimes less is more" -- but I'm coming around to that belief too, in some circumstances ;). Those plant losses hurt but I'm still amazed anything survived that heat dome! I love ceanothus too but keep walking by it at the nurseries, for many of your reasons...

    1. Oh definitely only in some circumstances! And of course I went and filled up that space where I removed only one plant with many many more, so really I contradicted myself right away...

  2. Your post is very timely: I'm considering (STRONGLY considering) removing my Ceanothus 'Julia Phelps' because it's just a dark blob 11 months out of the year. Is the one month of beautiful flowers really worth it? I don't think so.

    1. We do what we must. I loved it for years, and then, not anymore.

  3. Aaah, less is more. So true and something I say every day around here. Your area looks much brighter and easier to read and nice plant choices, by the way. Too bad about the rhodie from Roger, so sad. I'm seeing delayed damage on many plants around here from heat dome. Interesting about your Persicaria 'Red Dragon' - the one at work stays purple all season. It does get good sun, it's in high overhead shade part of the day. Maybe that's why? Anyhow, every garden is different and that makes it interesting.

  4. I like your Nolina 'La Siberica' more every time I see it and will have to look for it as I get ready to replant the large area in the back garden I recently tore apart. According to my records, I planted a Nolina nelsonii in 2016 elsewhere but, having just taken another look at that plant online, I'm not sure what I thought was the Nolina actually is such. In any case, it's not as attractive as your 'La Siberica'. I'm also pondering what to do about a noID Ceanothus I inherited with the garden. For unknown reasons, it was merged with the Xylosma hedge that lines our backyard border and I don't think I can take it out without creating an ugly gap but it definitely needs at least a hard pruning.

    1. That 'La Siberica' is tragically difficult to find. Cistus and Far Reaches Farm are the two places I've seen it offered.

  5. Sad about the rhododendron. That heat just withered so many around town. Agree about the ceanothus - good while it lasted, but now you have much more light. Hope you’ve healed up well, it’s been a while since I’ve commented. - Jim North Tabor

    1. Hope you're doing well, good to hear from you! (and yes... the ankle is healing nicely)

  6. I can see why you get weak in the knees over the Daphniphyllum - what a beauty!

  7. Although I only have what I have christened a "Concrete Jungle" I have been quite pleased with it's progress. This year I purchased a TON of plants but did my research and bought ones that would do well in the patio. All are in pots which is nice because I can move 'em around as necessary.

  8. For the a queen of crampscaping to say "sometimes less is more" is astonishing, though I heartily agree. Variegated Daphniphyllum is magnificent, so good it can shine and thrive now.


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