Carpenteria californica-California Bush Anemone

Golden West College Native Garden – Plant of the Month 2011 May

By Dan Songster


How restful is the color green? This woodsy green well rounded shrub which can reach as tall as 10 feet is normally about 5-8 feet tall. The elliptical leaves are 4-6 inches long and quite shiny and fresh looking. The white flowers are lightly fragrant (some say like nutmeg) and are sometimes likened to a single rose with its boss of golden stamens. I think it also resembles a small white camellia blossom. These bright flowers can really liven up a dark area.

What: Carpenteria californica-California Bush Anemone
Type: Evergreen shrub
Light: Likes light to medium shade but can accept full sun in cooler areas.
Soil: Good draining soil preferred but can take heavier soils too
Water: Occasional to moderate water needs

Blooms are between 2-3 inches wide and appear around mid-April, and blooming continues for about 8 weeks. After that plants in dry soils may look a little spent, but clip off the spent flowers (and some dried-up leaves), and provide a bit of water. It will look more than respectable for the rest of the year with those nice green leaves. (Note: Moderate summer water helps the plant remain fresh and vibrant.)

In our Garden here at GWC I have tried it in sun and shade. Those I planted in the sun did so poorly (even with extra water) that I moved them. Those planted in shade are the ones thriving and are covered in lovely blossoms right now.  After flowering, young plants should be pinched back to encourage a fuller form, while older plants can be more vigorously pruned by cutting back the old flowering stems by 1/3 of more. Again, this helps the plant be less upright and fuller with more leaf covered branches producing more flowers next year.

Mixed with coffeeberry, spicebush, coral bells, and oak trees it can form part of a woodland themed garden.  But with its evergreen nature it can also play a part in more formal garden designs, or as a single specimen thoughtfully placed in a corner of dappled shade it can provide a focal point. Would you like to use Carpenteria along a walkway near a lightly shaded wall? That would look wonderful, but be careful if pruning to keep it flat. Such attention must be timed to allow flowering points to develop for the spring. Espaliered? Hmmmm…interesting!


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