Caryopteris incana "Jason" versus ceonothus

Discussion in 'Woody Plants' started by janetdoyle, Jun 9, 2008.

  1. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    Is this or another Caryopteris a good shrub to purchase for a sunny [all afternoon after 1 pm or so, whenever we will get it] area in a prominent spot in a townhouse front garden with a few small well-mulched conifers doing well as close companions, and some Dickson's Gold campanula developing? My next door neighbour wants me to plant something there for her and wants "some colour" with midsummer or late summer bloom, deer resistance, not too huge-growing. Should be hardy but necessarily evergreen. The soil is quite light and soft in this spot, has been long-cultivated and enriched with peat and mulches; this area is not clay-ey underneath for some reason although other nearby areas are. A deer-nibbled mock orange stands in conjunction with the spot to plant it in, which has now been draped with deer netting until it develops some new low branches, and I think it will flower at above-deer height at the top. I am looking at several options and saw a Caryopteris shrub in a local nursery in its early-summer [I mean early spring, here in chilly June BC!] form, a smallish rounded yellow-foliaged variety which reminds me of some spireas. I just don't want to plant something that will in fact turn out to be scrubby, scratchy, sparse and not that pretty as it will stand alone to some degree. I am growing a new-last-Fall bridalwreath spirea and a weigela in my front patch, and both are doing well in mixed sun and shade with rich green foliage and new bloom coming -- I think she wants a little bit of a splash as she is past the gardening stage.

    There aren't many, or any, blue items in our front gardens although I am developing a "Victoria" ceonothus in mine. How long does ceonothus bloom for? It is just barely beginning to think about blooming in the mixed shade and sun spot I have, although I see it blooming in established sunny areas in other gardens. Plenty are available.

    Any thoughts?
     
  2. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Sunny spot with light soil is what these like, heavy soil seems to be the main problem. Suspect however deer may go for it, haven't seen damage myself but behavior from one time and place to the next does vary widely - the only complete assurance that can be provided is that given by an effective fence.

    Being a deciduous shrub native to scrublands it does look mostly like a tuft of sticks in winter. Not as bad in this respect as potentillas, which often look nearly as though they had died. But if summer appearance is all you are concerned about then this won't matter. Otherwise hebes come with nearly blue flowers and often have a prim appearance, as well as being evergreen. As long as this spot is not subject to the full blast of Arctic winds or in a depression that collects cold stale air it could be suitable. Deer have not been interested in these in Camano Island garden but as I said above this may not pertain to your location at all - it really is one of those things like disease resistance in roses, different people in different places having different experiences.
     
  3. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    Thanks, Ron, your advice I know comes from much knowledge. There are older potentillas near the back of the planting spot in question, to one side of my driveway, which do, as you say, look awful a lot of the year and were not cut back far enough last winter therefore still look a bit horrid with some bloom now showing [is it too late now to cut back severely and get some bloom this summer?] This winter I am going to shear them right back.

    I see many hebes around in nurseries, and a prim appearance would please this lady [nothing much else does]! That's why I was doubtful about Caryopteris as it reminds me of "Japanese spireas" in their early spring form, which can look sort of straggly, although this Caryopteris was in its nursery form quite compact and rounded and well-leafed out, and very yellow, while still having that finely spikey twiggy look. I want something full and bright most of the summer or at lease mid-summer on. The one I saw in the nursery had yellow foliage.

    I had one bad experience with a hebe and have not tried them in-ground since [bought a sick one, I think, and it also was planted in a gummy spot], but maybe they'd like this well-drained, dryer, sunnier, peaty-mulchy spot... However, it is exposed to a broad open residents' turning area which all our garages and driveways open onto; there is installed irrigation -- it has a sunny northwestern exposure, in relatively high Broadmead in Saanich, and I find it often colder here than Victoria but on hot sunny afternoons the sun is intense out there [not this week].

    I don't mind experimenting in my own patch but don't want to spoil hers. If I went for a hebe what type would you recommend? I also planted Hebe Cottage Purple [purple foliage, apparently purple flowers] in a big pot I have along with some other things, and it seems to be happy but not yet ready to be near bloom-time.
     
  4. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    I wouldn't cut the potentilla until winter and am not sure it would work to do this every year, maybe you are finding the re-growth from annual hard pruning adequate with the specimens you have. Otherwise this treatment would ordinarily be given at multi-year intervals. If the winter appearance is unacceptable then another shrub should probably be used instead.

    Sounds like hebes would be too much of a gamble. Maybe Ceratostigma willmottianum would be OK. Another one not as tough as potentillas and other shrubs native to severe climates but it is a nice small shrub with blue flowers in summer.

    Otherwise there is of course lavender - another dryland tuft like bluebeard that wants it hot and well-drained. Unlike Caryopteris it is evergreen. Some cultivars like 'Hidcote' are tight-growing and have nice dark flowers. As with upright-growing Calluna vulgaris cultivars annual shearing at end of winter is usual with lavender and even then replacement may become necessary at some point.

    Speaking of heather this is the classic companion plant for conifers. Myriad heights and leaf colors, flowering times. The common requirement between the many different types is a site with full sun and good drainage - these also like a cool root run, as do rhododendrons and azaleas.

    'Victoria' ( = 'Skylark'?) is a comparatively late blooming ceanothus but does not cover itself with flowers all summer. As with most other cultivars there is a concentration of flowering during a particular season. Like many others it also rapidly develops into a fairly sizable specimen. If you have a small plot you may be able to redeem the space it takes by training some small climbers onto it, like less-vigorous summer-blooming kinds of clematis to extend the season.
     
  5. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    Thanks -- aside from the small conifers, most of her plantings in this area are heather, a large swath of a lovely winter blooming one, the usual pinkish-lavender, and I have added a few differently-coloured winter heathers also. It doesn't have to be blue, was just a thought -- I have never seen the shrub you suggested for sale, and I don't want to go too far afield. There are lots of lavenders planted around, I don't think that's what she has in mind. There are the Cistus varieties, I suppose. I don't care for them much but it might work, unless they grow too big [don't really want any more than 2-3 ft either way]. I think Abelia would not care for the dry location, possibly, although I love it, and it's not exactly a blaze of colour but is a more subtle bloomer -- mine is in mixed shade and sun. So I'm thinking of Cistus, Caryopteris, Spirea [I suppose, but I personally only like the white ones -- maybe one of the pink or red ones, if they are a bit later]. I like Beauty Bush [Kolkwitzia] and have seen it for sale here... but it may be too transient in bloom, deer food, and grow too large [more than 6 feet...? did on my former property in Nova Scotia]...

    final comments, Ron?
     
  6. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    If you make some inquiries you may find shrubs you have not noticed on your own are being offered somewhere locally. Rock roses like it hot and dry, as do bluebeard and lavender - the aromatic gray foliages of these are a hint - so there is a conflict of naturalistic character between these and something like Spiraea japonica which likes it moist, as do most Spiraea sp. (the native S. douglasii actually forms thickets in standing water). Most Cistus are also not very hardy. Since the winter-blooming heathers and probably most of the conifers and other plants there already are examples of those liking average conditions of moderate moisture and not excessively hot exposure this indicates the Spiraea would probably be the best bet. Abelia also like these conditions and since you like them would be a good choice for that reason also. Small hummocky cultivars with variegated foliages are on the market.

    The new yellow-leaved Kolkwitzia from Proven Winners is probably less large-growing than typical but even cutting that size potential in half you are still talking about a pretty big shrub for a small area.
     
  7. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    ok, good, I will ask around for the Ceratostigma willmottianum and your comments have focussed me a bit...
     
  8. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    Update: took out the Japanese spirea [was to be pink bloom] mentioned above as was constantly nibbled on top by deer just where the blooms were forming. In this sunny spot planted some jewel-bright summer-blooming heather to add colour [magenta and red-purple] and decided to move a ceonothus from a large pot on the back patio where it was too shaded I believe as it looks healthily green but didn't bloom all that much in 2008 spring [Ceonothus 'Joyce Coulter' -- prostrate ground cover type, tag says, "broadleaf evergreen light blue flowers in Spring, max. 2 ft. high, 2 m. spread]...was beautifully in bloom in a shade of "baby blue" when purchased it in spring of 2007. Will see how that does next spring. The deer won't eat it, I don't believe -- the leaves are like any other ceonothus if a little larger and lighter green perhaps than the Ceonothus 'Victoria' I have, which bloomed ok in dappled sun elsewhere... did not have time to locate the other items discussed.
     
  9. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    That one is low-growing, often less than 3' high but with a huge spread to sometimes as much as 25'. It is reliable under ordinary garden watering conditions (some others fail if not grown under dry conditions after establishment) but unfortunately not extra hardy, only to about 15F (-9C).
     
  10. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    Oh, too bad. However, let's hope we don't get that cold here. We could, though. I could mulch it heavily with something, I suppose...
     

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