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April's plant of the month: Ceanothus

A Californian beauty gives brilliant blue clouds of flowers – perfect in the April showers

Ceanothus x veitchianusClusters of soft, cornflower-blue flowers smother the branches of Californian lilacs in the spring. They bring a cooling, soothing mass of colour to the season that is punctuated by vivid tones of certain tulips, camellias and rhododendrons. This particular plant is Ceanothus × veitchianus and it has an enviable position on the Mediterranean Walk overlooking the Trials Field at the back of Battleston Hill.

Ceanothus, or California lilacs, are fantastic shrubs. This one is an evergreen, with small, glossy dark green leaves, but there are deciduous forms too. Most, like this one, flower mid to late spring, but some flower in the autumn, and it’s even possible to find white and pink Ceanothus too so it has colours just like regular lilac, but less fragrant.

Ceanothus × veitchianus is one of a couple of examples of this genus in the Mediterranean Walk, and it was chosen by Sabatino Urzo to follow on from the earlier flowering Ceanothus arboreus ‘Trewithen Blue’ AGM, that has larger, fluffier flowers and flowered beautifully in March. So for April, C. × veitchianus takes the focus of attention for visitors.  

It tumbles over the side of the path and down the sloping bed of the Californian-inspired terrace, surrounded by other plants from that part of the world including the yellow-flowered Fremontodendron ‘California Beauty’ AGM and Romneya coulteri AGM, the Californian tree poppy with fragrant white flowers. It’s a really interesting part of the garden to visit at all times of year.

You can find examples of Ceanothus trained against walls and as free-standing shrubs. They’re easy to grow and pretty adaptable. And this one is perfect for April.


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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.