Growing Californian Lilac.


Latest Update 25th September 2016.

Californian Lilac (Skylark).
 
  • A large evergreen flowering shrub or small tree, it has small leaves with glossy dark green tops and a light grey/green underside.  Its abundant flowering clusters are medium to light blue.
  • The powerful fragrance of the flowers bring large numbers of bees foraging for pollen and nectar in early spring.
  • I have to prune the foliage hard after flowering to contain growth so it does not outgrow the limited space I have available, but it is still grows to about 2m wide and 2m tall.
  • It is extremely hardy and tolerates our cool winter weather as well as our extreme summer heat.  It has not been tested in drought conditions.
Details.
  • Binomial Name:                                       Ceanothus Thyrsflorus (Skylark)
  • Family:                                                    Rhamnaceae
  • Garden bed type:                                      Drip line irrigated. 
  • Recommended soil pH:                             6.5 - 7.5.  
  • Plant Spacings (centres):                          1500mm. 
  • Climate:                                                   Warm Temperate.
  • Geography:                                              Southern Hemisphere. 
   
Growing Conditions:
  • My Californian Lilac needs plenty of sunlight to prosper, but will tolerate at least partial shade.
  • it is very drought and heat tolerant.
  • It survive in poor soil, but benefit greatly when fed with compost once a year, and is grown in moist soil.
  • Always minimise soil disturbances to maintain a natural soil structure.  
Soil Preparation.    
  • Prepare a new bed for a new plant in spring by removing old mulch, fallen leaves and other decaying organic material and disposing of them in the compost heap.
  • Apply a 60mm thick top dressing of home made compost, and add a handful of blood and bone fertiliser per square metre and cover with fresh straw mulch.
  • Do not dig the soil.
  • Leave for 4 weeks so worm and microbe activity can build up in the soil.
Propagation. 
  • Propagate by taking cuttings from new growth in spring as soon as the new shoots are big enough.
  • Using sharp disinfected secateurs, take a 100mm cutting from just below a node on a current years stem.
  • Remove the leaves from the stem leaving only 2 or 3 at the top.
  • Plant the cutting 50mm deep in a small Jiffy pot containing sieved compost.  Soak the pot in 10mm deep dilute seaweed extract for an hour. 
  • Transfer the pot to a propagator and bury to its rim in the compost wicking medium.
  • Transplant the new plant into the prepared bed without removing it from the Jiffy pot as soon as it is established and starts to put on new growth.
Growing Instructions.
  • Lightly prune the plant after flowering, and again in August to maintain the tree's shape and contain unwanted growth.
  • In winter clear the ground of waste organic material and spent straw mulch beneath the plant and dispose of it in the compost heap.
  • Feed the soil surrounding the plant in late winter by applying a dressing of about 60mm deep homemade compost and cover it with about 50mm of fresh straw mulch.
  • Spray the foliage of the plant with aerated compost tea every month at the same time as the rest of the ornamental plants are sprayed.
Organic Pest Control.  
  • General.
    • I have not been aware of any pest problems with my Californian Lilac since I bought it in 2010.  However sensible preventive measures like regularly spraying the plant with aerated compost tea boosts its natural defences by colonising the leaf surfaces with beneficial microbes.  These microbes defend plants against airborne pests and diseases.
    • Similarly, proper soil preparation including regular applications of home made compost boosts the community of beneficial microbes and defends roots against plant pathogens.

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