Ceanothus and Hebes at Chickadee Gardens

I am not a plant hoarder, I swear. But sometimes while falling asleep I count, in my mind, any number of one genus I have in the garden as a kind of mental memory game. I shock myself. I have a great many things I never dreamed I would *ahem* acquire. Hydrangeas, for example. I mean I like them, but at last count I have 34. How did that happen? There are several such collections in my garden for it seems I am drawn to certain genera. I had the idea that sharing what I have on the blog might be helpful not only as a reference for myself but maybe for others, too. I thought I'd start with two of my favorite, Ceanothus and Hebes. Both are evergreen, hardy shrubs for us in the Pacific Northwest. Ceanothus in general hail from the West Coast while Hebes come from New Zealand. Here's a look at both at Chickadee Gardens.

First up is Ceanothus gloriosus 'Point Reyes', on the left of the bench and also to the right farther down on the right berm. I have about 20 of these planted as a kind of ground cover, this is the first year they have bloomed. I receive a lot of interest in these when people visit the garden. I must note that both Ceanothus and Hebes I grow for foliage, although both do bloom. Ceanothus in general have blue flowers and Hebes have generally white, pink or purple flowers.

Detail of flowers of Ceanothus g. 'Point Reyes'. The leaves are small, leathery and prickly but it is a very attractive plant, especially to bees this year. 

One more detail shot. It's just so fabulous this year! They've really grown since planting them in 2017.

Here it is at the point of one of my dry garden beds. I also have several planted under the Oregon white oak and they are now thriving. It grows to be about 1 - 2' tall by 8' or so wide and demands little to no summer water.

 Next up is Ceanothus 'Blue Jeans' from Xera Plants. It is a more upright shrub at about 7' x 5'. It too has small leathery green leaves and this, too, is the first year it has bloomed.

Here it is from a slightly wider shot. Please excuse the old leaves around the base. It is an open shrub now, maybe it will become denser in time. From Xera's website:

One of the cold hardiest blue flowered cultivars and one of the earliest to bloom as well. An open spreading shrub with prickly deep green leaves. In March/April the whole shrub is obscured in violet blue clouds of flowers. Upon first viewing in bloom most people are shocked at how showy this evergreen shrub is.  To 7′ x 5′ in five years in any well drained soil with little to no summer water. Very adaptable to clay soils, especially on slopes- as with all Ceanothus avoid boggy sites. One of the toughest cultivars that also takes very well to pruning which should be done after blooming to increase density if needed. Blooms on wood from the previous year and the button shaped flower clusters are so profuse that they obscure the foliage.  Tolerates blasting reflected heat and is great in hot urban situations. And makes a wonderful informal hedge for wild areas. Full sun. Moderately deer resistant- unusual for a Ceanothus. Cold hardy to 0ºF. The cultivar name might obliquely refer to the flower color but its an apt comparison to this tough , tough, shrub as well. No summer water.

 Ceanothus cuneatus 'Blue Sierra' also from Xera Plants. It is native to the Willamette Valley, on down into California. It reaches 7' x 7'.

Here it is from a wider shot. I planted this in 2016 and have given it no supplemental water. It hasn't grown as quickly as other varieties, but it's put on a lot of new growth in the last several months.

 Ceanothus cuneatus 'Adair Villiage', also from Xera Plants. This is also a Willamette Valley native and it stands out for its white flowers instead of the more usual blue flowers. From the Xera website:

This is a Willamette Valley  native form of Buckbrush found in the SW part of the Valley. This species is found historically from the Portland/Oregon City area in the Willamette Valley and  throughout the southern half of the state well into California. It has lost large areas of its northernmost natural range to development. Thats a pity because this is a fantastic native shrub for hot dry sites. It is now employed by ODOT for freeway plantings and we are happy to see that. A large, angular evergreen shrub with small deep green paddle shaped leaves. In April the whole shrub is swarmed with pure white flowers.This is a beacon to all pollinators and the sweetly fragrant flowers will literally be buzzing in bloom.  Fast growing incredibly tough shrub for areas of intense drought and reflected heat. To 8′ x 8′ very quickly in any soil that does not become boggy. Excellent performance in tough urban situations. Irresistible to bees and butterflies. Extremely cold hardy to below 0ºF. No summer water. Moderate deer resistance. Oregon native plant.

Ceanothus 'Italian Skies', of which I have three, have grown significantly. Seen here at the base of the deck, it is preparing to bloom.  

Here is what it looks like in bloom (photo from May 2018).  

Finally, a petite ground-cover Ceanothus, C. griseus var. horizontalis 'Diamond Heights' which is not entirely hardy in zone 7 but it has been great for me for 2 years. It suffered a tiny bit of winter damage this year but has fully recovered. I have it in part shade where most other Ceanothus thrive in full sun. Not pictured is Ceanothus x pallidus 'Marie Simon', a semi-deciduous cross at about 4 - 6' tall and wide with pink fluffy flowers.

It is good to note that Ceanothus generally don't like summer water but they do like good air circulation and full sun.

First up is one of the most handsome Hebes, in my opinion. Hebe pinguifolia 'Sutherlandii' has a lovely mounded form, always looks good and has a wonderful silvery green leaf color. Hardy to zone 7a, it reaches a couple feet tall and a little wider than it is tall.

From another angle.  

 Hebe 'Karo Golden Esk' is a bright, warm spot year round in my garden. I have several in the dry garden, although they likely receive some supplemental water when I occasionally water surrounding plants. I was inspired by Greg Shepherd, co-owner of Xera Plants, and his magnificent dry garden where he grows this to perfection. From Xera's website:

We try to restrict our Hebe selection to those that are totally hardy to cold, thrive with a minimum amount of water, and are disease resistant. This pretty whipcord type checks all those boxes. Wonderful golden green up-swept foliage on a rounded dense shrub. To 2′ x 2′ in time for full sun and well drained average to enriched soil. Alpine Hebe that is perfectly hardy to cold. In summer tiny white flowers appear at the branch tips. More of a temporary curiosity than a display. The great glory of this graceful shrub is its its year round excellent appearance. Light summer water.

 Hebe pimeleoides 'Quicksilver' is one of the hardiest of them all. In fact, in general the smaller the leaf the hardier they seem to be. Quicksilver has a spreading mounding habit and dark stems which contrast nicely with the silver blue leaves. It turns out to be about 12" x 3' for me.

 Hebe odora 'Purpurea Nana' has reddish new growth and darker older leaves. If you notice on all Hebes, the leaves are in pairs opposite of one another at 90 degrees. That's a good way to tell if you are looking at a Hebe. From above, you see a plus sign in the form of the leaves. From the Joy Creek website:

It has proven to be one of the hardiest hebes in our garden and we have come to enjoy its very colorful foliage and its upright habit. This evergreen shrub has small narrow leaves that are arranged in sets of four in an orderly fashion up the stems. The young leaves and stems are infused with purple giving the shrub its purple glow. We have found, and Lawrie Metcalf concurs, that it is important to prune this shrub regularly to keep it from getting leggy and to encourage the new purple growth. 

 I have three in the garden. From a distance, the light reflecting off of the leaves makes it sparkle. I have these in high overhead shade for part of the day and they have been pretty happy.

Hebe cupressoides has the best color. This guy will eventually reach 4 - 5'. From the Joy Creek Nursery website:

Hebe cupressoides is one of the whipcord hebes where the tiny leaflets are so tightly pressed to the branchlets that the shrub appears to be a dwarf conifer. The foliage is green with chartreuse tips. Early summer, 4 ft., Lilac Blue flowers, Sun, Zones 7, 8, 9, 10.

I am fairly certain this is Hebe recurva 'Broughton Silver'. From the Joy Creek Nursery website:

Is it the color of the blue green leaves or the plentiful white flower spikes that gives this small evergreen shrub its name? The lance-shaped leaves are just over an inch long and curve down at their tips. Inch-long flower spikes of pure white appear in pairs at the leaf axils throughout the upper third of the plant. Give this good drainage. Late summer to autumn.  30 in. x 30 in. White flowers, Sun, Zones 7, 8, 9

 Hebe diosmifolia

 This one is a bit of a mystery, it could Hebe 'Red Edge', although I don't have the name recorded. In any event, it is tucked in between two Ceanothus that have grown quite large and thus it gets little direct sun which could account for the less than bright red edges.

 Hebe buxifolia, a throw-away from a while ago has rebounded nicely.

 Hebe 'Wingletye', one recommended by Paul Bonine, co-owner of Xera Plants and author of Gardening in the Pacific Northwest, Timber Press:

One the best Hebes that we have grown that offers cold hardiness, showy flowers, and a useful low spreading habit. This ground cover Hebe with gray foliage and held on black stems spreads nearly prostrate to form a low dense shrub. In early summer the whole plant is smothered in deep violet purple flowers- among the showiest flowers of  any cold hardy Hebe. Stems arch up and then immediately down cruising along at a moderate clip.  To 6″ tall and 3′ wide in full sun and well drained soil. Light summer water when established. Excellent plant for slopes (the stems root where they touch the ground) as well as rock gardens. Placed near a wall or container edge and it will gracefully spill over the edge following closely the contour of any object. Plant density inhibits weeds effectively and it can make a useful ground cover placed on 2′ centers. Very tough little evergreen shrub and always good looking.

 Petite Hebe vernicosa is an emerald green color and very sweet. From the Joy Creek Nursery website:

The form of Hebe vernicosa that we grow in our gardens is compact and creates tight, radiant mounds with glossy, evergreen leaves. Although there are taller selections of this species that branch out laterally, our form is quite upright in habit. Its compact size makes it ideal for a smaller garden. According to Lawrie Metcalf in his book Hebes, the meaning of the species name is "polished" and that describes the sheen of the tiny foliage nicely. Clusters of small flowers appear near the terminals of the stems in late spring. Hebe vernicosa has proven hardy for us for the last three winters.

Hebe 'Red Edge' in full sun.

 Hebe salicornioides - from the Joy Creek Nursery website: 

Very upright branching stems are an assembly of apple green strands of whipcord in a somewhat feathered arrangement. The youngest scale-like leaves have yellow tips that give this evergreen shrub an overall glow. Because it is from higher altitudes in the South Island of New Zealand, Hebe salicornioides is winter hardy for us, 20 in. x 20 in, White flowers 

My favorite Hebe, Hebe 'Western Hills'. From Xera Plants' website:

Fantastic Hebe that has stood the test of time. Large growing to 3′ x 3′ an upright shrub with fine silver/gray foliage held on black tinted stems. In summer spikes of white flowers appear. Cold hardy, low water, long lived Hebe that is a stunning focal point or even informal hedge. Moderately fast growing- about 6″- 10″ per year. Regular summer water speeds growth- low water when established. Full sun to light shade. A really pretty silver shrub that is elegant and easy to grow.

Ceanothus, hailing mainly from the West Coast, like full sun, great drainage, un-amended soil and air circulation. They are great for those tough spots that you can't water in summer, for they really don't like nor need summer water. They are adapted to our wet winters and dry summers, as long as they have drainage in winter.

Hebes on the other hand are from the environmentally diverse country of New Zealand and their needs vary slightly. Some like more water than others and many are borderline hardy for us in Portland who fall into the zone 7 region. As I mentioned, we find at Joy Creek Nursery that the smaller leaved varieties are, in general, the hardiest. I have a few others not listed here, I just forgot to photograph them, but they are H. 'New Zealand Gold' and H. parviflora ssp. angustifolia. Both have been pretty hardy for me, although the latter had some late winter damage this year but has recovered. I have completely lost H. 'Mt. Stewart' which is unfortunate as it's quite handsome. It could have something to do with my placement of it.

Well, there you have it, a look at two genera I seem to have a lot of in my garden. These have all been in the ground for at least two years, most have been in over three and have survived all kinds of challenging winter weather, so I can safely recommend them to those of us in the Pacific Northwest. If you grow these tough evergreen beauties, what is your favorite? Do tell!

Thanks for reading and commenting and happy gardening, everyone!


  1. Those Hebes are wonderful, too bad they would not like my zone 5a mountain top garden!!

    1. That's a shame, but there are so many other wonderful plants that you can grow, right? I hope so!

  2. It will be fun to see what a plant collector has on 2 acres. I am afraid if I had that much property it would be jam packed.

    1. I feel jam packed! I have a lot of plants, to be sure...it's a little overwhelming sometimes...

  3. Ha! I've played the same kind of sleep-time memory game counting my Leucadendrons and Grevilleas. Your Ceanothus and Hebe collections are fantastic and make me think I need more of each. After the Ceanothus hedges I inherited with the garden started dying back en masse the first 2 years we were here, I backed away from the genus, although I still have one intact section of hedge plus 2 Ceanothus I planted on my back slope after moving in. I've had no problem with these in recent years so I think the fact that prior owners planted the Ceanothus adjacent to lawn areas that received a lot of water was perhaps the underlying problem. I no longer have any lawn so that's no longer an issue. As to Hebes, I have several but nowhere near the number you've collected. They're not as easy to find down this way as they seem to be in the PNW.

    1. It's good to know we are both a little plant-crazy, Kris. Aah, yes, getting too much lawn water might not be the best for a Ceanothus. Which Hebes do you have? Do you have a favorite?

  4. Anonymous1:09 PM PDT

    Having seen some of these when you first take them home with you, I can vouch for the magic you perform to have them looking this good in no time. I'm going to just trust your instincts from here on out and adopt some of these same plants, especially the 'Point Reyes'

    1. You are too kind, Rickii. Oh, Point Reyes would look amazing in your garden.

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  7. Both Ceanothus and Hebes seem so emblematic of your garden, at least to me. My Ceanothus gloriosus 'Point Reyes' was knocked back so badly by winter 2016/17 that it's finally blooming again now, for the first time since. Oh and oddly I lost my Ceanothus griseus var. horizontalis 'Diamond Heights' this winter! I'm pretty bummed about that as I loved that variegation.

    1. I think they are foundation plants in my garden for sure. Emblematic is a good word. Too bad about your 'Point Reyes' - I know Evan has said it's not so hardy for him (or did I make that up?) - but it's been so good for me, maybe because my soil is really well-drained. I am sorry about your 'Diamond Heights' too - I think the warm winter and then cold snap in March is what caused damage on mine. Probably what did yours in, too. I'll give you cuttings if you like!

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  9. Do some Ceanothus take more time than others to bloom? I have a groundcover one (from Joy Creek) that has grown quite a bit but has never bloomed. This is the third year it has been in the garden.

    1. Hi Phillip, yes they seem to take a few years. I've had several that are blooming this year for the first time....some have been in the ground three years. Also, they love full sun. Cheers!

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