It’s Big! It’s Blue! It’s Buzzing!

Jun 6, 2014 | 0 comments

Ceanothus in Bloom

Ceanothus in Bloom

Our ceanothus has outdone itself this year. It is towering above the fence and overhanging the lane. More than one tourist has stopped to ask me about it. In fact, one woman followed me into the church as I went to check on the Oysterville Walking Tours. “That is the most beautiful tree I’ve ever seen,” she said. “What is it?”

Some people call it California Lilac and I understand there are other varieties known as New Jersey Tea, Coast Whitethorn, and Deerbrush. That last name probably gives a big clue about the flowerless lower branches and why it’s taken four or five years to get the glorious display we are now enjoying. The deer love ceanothus! Finally, ours has grown from shrub to tree size and is tall enough to be mostly out of reach of our roving four-legged marauders.

Apparently the plant is a good source of nutrition for deer – also for porcupine and quail, though neither is often seen here.  In early spring, especially, the leaves are a good source of protein and both stems and leaves contain a high amount of calcium. Native Americans and early pioneers often used the dried leaves as an herbal tea.

Bees at Work

Bees at Work

Not only people and deer are attracted to the ceanothus. So are the bees. Scores of them are busy gathering pollen from its fragrant blossoms. In fact, the entire tree was buzzing yesterday when I was out taking pictures and it was gloriously a-shimmer with teeny tiny beating wings.

Even our quintessential Oysterville master gardener, Neighbor Bradley, asked if he might take a cutting from the ceanothus later in the year (when it’s cutting time.) I was quite pleased – especially considering how he’s been chiding me that our garden is “under stress.” Of course, he’s right about that. But our beautiful ceanothus goes a long way toward evening up the balance of things, at least for now and in that particular garden corner!

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