Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
August, 2005
Regional Report

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Beautiful blooming shrubs and trees, like this fringe tree, will add interest to your garden.

Blooming Shrubs

If walkways and walls are the backbone of your garden, then the shrubs and trees are the muscles. Why have just plain green bushes when you can plan your garden so there is something blooming throughout the entire year?

Here in northern California we are blessed with a climate that allows us to enjoy our gardens year-round, and with the fall planting season right around the corner, you might want to consider replacing some of the old boxwoods or junipers with something a trifle more colorful. Here are some of my favorite blooming shrubs that do very well along the coast.

Winter Bloomers
Winter-blooming shrubs include: daphne, forsythia, osmanthus, coreopsis, Camellia japonica, Camellia reticulata, heather, and hebe. Daphne is the only plant on this list that is fussy. Plant it high in the soil with the top inch of the root ball just above the surface and you shouldn't have any problems.

The osmanthus is very easy to grow, and the small, sweet-scented flowers are a blessing during the dreary winter months. Plant it near the front door so the magnificent fragrance will welcome you home. Camellia japonica and C. reticulata both have glossy green leaves and showy flowers in the winter months. C. reticulata has flowers that are almost absurd in size, reaching over 12 inches in some varieties. The plant isn't quite as hardy as C. japonica, but with flowers like that, who cares?

Spring Bloomers
Spring-blooming shrubs include; loropetalum, weigela, flowering quince, fremontodendron, cistus (rock rose), and ceonothus (California lilac). Proven Winners has a new variety of weigela -- 'Wine and Roses' -- with burgundy foliage and pink flowers.

Both fremontodendron and ceonothus are hardy native plants that will thrive on neglect and put out a showy bloom. Flowering quince is considered good luck if it blooms on Chinese New Year.

I have included the loropetalum because I love the lime green foliage that stands out against darker colors. It blooms in early spring with white flowers.

Summer Bloomers
Summer-blooming shrubs include; hydrangea, hibiscus, buddleia, oleander, bottle brush (Callistemon), Pittosporum tobira, pomegranate (Pumica granatum), princess flowers (Tibouchina), fuchsia, and potentilla.

Buddleia has a reputation for becoming leggy. You can prevent this from happening by cutting the plant to the ground in early spring. Bottle brush flowers look just like the name implies, plus hummingbirds love it!

The pomegranate will amaze you with its brilliant red flowers that resemble camellias. The foliage also has beautiful fall color, not to mention fabulous fruits that ripen around October. Of this group the Pittosporum tobira is the least showy, but I recommend it because of the sweet-scented flowers and because the plant is very hardy.

Poor old oleander has gotten a bad rap for being poisonous. Give it a chance if you have a hot, dry area that needs some color.

Fall Bloomers
Fall-blooming shrubs include: angel's trumpet (Brugmansia), escallonia, New Zealand tea tree (Leptospermum), smoke tree (Cotinus), plumbago, and camellia sasanqua.

The Brugmansia is a showy plant with large bell-shaped flowers. It freezes in cold weather but is very easy to grow from cuttings.
Escallonia is a garden workhorse, perfect for hedges or along fence lines. It blooms with small, pink flowers in late summer and through the fall.

Leptospermum is available in several shades of pink ranging from light to deep rose. The plant is hardy, well shaped, and responds well to pruning, although it really requires none at all. These are the flame-colored plants you see along the freeway in south San Francisco and Daly City.

My mom always tried to grow the beautiful smoke tree, but our cows ate the flowers before they had a chance to become "smoke." Try it if you don't have cows (or deer) in your neighborhood.

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