I'm sad writing this post because I'm saying goodbye to a Ceanothus I was rather fond of. I haven't had a lot of plant casualties and this one came as a surprise and a blow. Unfortunately I can't say exactly what species this poor guy was because I put him in way before I ever discovered native gardening. I've only been into native gardening as a concept for about two years, and as a practice for less, but I should have discovered it much earlier, because I've been in love with Ceanothus since the first time I laid eyes on it, during my first spring in San Francisco, 1995. I noticed a thicket of it blooming while I was running in Buena Vista Park and I asked everyone I knew what it was until I found someone who could tell me, and I've worshiped at the altar of California Lilac ever since.
So when we first moved into our house in the suburbs in 2002, I planted several along the slope above the driveway. I didn't know what kind because I was still too much of a rube to understand that there are different kinds; I just went to a nursery and bought a bunch of plants in gallons that said "Ceanothus" on them. They all got devoured by deer the very first night they were in the ground. I cried. What can I say, I was new to the suburbs, I was new to deer. But eventually, one of the plants miraculously recovered and grew back. The deer nipped it back for a while, but eventually seemed to leave it alone and it flourished. I couldn't have been more pleased with it because it ended up being a low growing kind that cascaded over the retaining wall beautifully.
Then we built a shed in front of it. I viewed this decision as utterly tragic, because I knew it would completely block off the sun from my one heroic Ceanothus survivor, but we really needed the storage space, because my sweetie happens to have a hobby that takes up the entire garage. So I braced myself for losing my old Ceanothus buddy then, but again it proved determined and miraculous, and simply grew toward the sun. Its crown was still certainly in full shade, but it ended up sending branches to the edge of the shed and then, again, cascaded them beautifully down the retaining wall. I was amazed and delighted, and the retaining wall really did benefit from those lush, shiny leaves.
But then a while ago, I'm gonna say it was six or eight weeks ago, I was planting some bulbs and grasses in the area and I noticed the Ceanothus' crown appeared to be a little buried from soil that was slipping down the hill. I figured that wasn't healthy, so sort of dug around the crown to uncover it. As far as I could tell, I wasn't causing any major disturbance to the plant, and I assumed I was helping it. Well, I guess I wasn't, because a few weeks later, I noticed it ailing terribly. I had noticed some whitish stuff in the soil when I was digging around the crown, so maybe some sort of fungus or mildew had already taken hold. Or maybe I did manage to traumatize the poor plant--whatever it was, I feeling guilty. When I saw the branches ailing I cut them back, hoping to allow the plant to focus its energy and rebound, but I'm afraid it kept going downhill. It's toast now and time to remove it, which will give me a heavy heart. It survived two known major assualts--being eaten and being denied sun--and then it died for essentially no known reason. Dang it! Gardening is hard!
Farewell, sweet Ceanothus. And I'm sorry I didn't even bother to take this cruddy looking old bucket out of the shot the last time I photographed you. *Sigh*