February 8
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Plant Genus of the family Rhamnaceae

Genus Description Cultivation
Ceanothus This genus of about 50 species of mostly evergreen, ornamental, flowering shrubs is in the Rhamnaceae (buckthorn) family. Mainly native to California, where they form part of the dense vegetation of the chaparral, some are also found in eastern USA and from Mexico as far south as Guatemala. They are often seen growing on hot, dry and stony slopes where they tolerate drought, heat and cold provided the soil is free draining. In habit they range from low, spreading, ground-cover plants to tall shrubs up to 10 ft (3 m). Most are quick growing but may also be short lived. Flowers range from powder blue to deep purple with some having white or cream flowers; some hybrid cultivars have pink flowers. The peak flowering season is early summer and most species flower reliably every year. CULTIVATION: Ceanothus will grow in most soils and prefer a position in sun with protection from strong winds and with evenly distributed rainfall. Tip pruning during the formative stages is beneficial but thereafter little pruning is required apart from removal of spent flowerheads and wayward shoots. Species can be propagated from seed although there may be some variability; soft tip or firm hardwood cuttings can be taken between spring and early autumn. Ceanothus resent disturbance and cutting back into old wood.
Rhamnus There are more than 125 species within this genus in the family Rhamnaceae. Mostly prickly evergreen or deciduous shrubs or trees, they are found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, with a few species in Brazil, eastern Africa and South Africa, in woodland and heathland areas. Some species will grow on alkaline soil and tolerate the salt-laden air of coastal sites. Green, blue-green and yellow dyes are made from some species, while others such as Rhamnus purshiana, the source of cascara sagrada, are used medicinally as purgatives. The wood is used commercially for turning. This genus is mainly cultivated for its ornamental foliage and decorative berries. The flowers are insignificant, but are attractive to bees; some are fragrant. CULTIVATION: Depending on the species, they prefer moist to very dry conditions in full sun or partial shade, in moderately fertile soil. Propagate by sowing seed in autumn, as soon as it is ripe, with protection from winter frosts, or from softwood cuttings of deciduous species in early summer. Half-hardened cuttings can be taken from evergreen species in summer and layering can be done in autumn or spring.

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