I tried to get a decent photo of this particular shrub, Ceanothus ‘Dark Star’, but it proved to be a challenge. It sits in a neighbors front yard, in a bed smashed between the driveway and street parking. There is always a bright red sedan on one side and a silver hatchback on the other.
I crept up, feeling a bit like a paparazzi, in the attempt to get this closeup. All the while anxious that someone might appear unexpectedly, wondering unhappily what a camera wielding woman was doing on their property. So I quickly stole the photo and walked innocently back to my side of the street.
The eye catching brilliance of this C. ‘Dark Star’ is a regular distraction when coming and going from home, particularly on these grey days of late winter and early spring. It’s blue flowers pop as if their color is powered and lit from within, making the ordinary extraordinary. The deep green, rugose foliage probably adding to the visual experience.
It’s pruned into an artful Dr. Seuss meets large scale bonsai shape. The lower branches gone, exposing the trunk, and the remainder clipped in a controlled but organic form. I love it.
C. ‘Dark Star’ is a member of the buckthorn family and, while a hybrid, is derived from C. impressus, a native of south central California. It’s perfect for Mediterranean climate gardens, requiring well drained soils and no summer water. It’s also a nitrogen fixer and fits perfectly behind perennials, in a rock garden or chaparral garden. However, it doesn’t like the summer heat of interior regions but prefers coastal foothill areas. If you can’t find a source for Dark Star Ceanothus consider it’s alternative, C. ‘Julia Phelps’, or propagate it from hardwood stem cuttings with applied bottom heat or plant from stratified seed.