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I would like to prune this bush in my garden. It wasn't me who planted it, which is why I don't know what it is and before doing any mistakes I'm asking here for help.

With this one I'm especially unsure because it has flowered right into December (down to 0-5 C) and I think the leaves only got brown when it became really cold. Now in spring there are new sprouts and flowers. It could well be that it is an evergreen when conditions aren't to rough. Right now the dimensions are 3m large, 2m wide and 1m high.

(Click on the picture for a larger image).

The whole bush from the side:

The leaves and flowers

A zoom on the flower we can see below the meter in the picture with the meter

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If it weren't for the "flowered into December" part, I'd say it's a deciduous Ceanothus, but all Ceanothus I know of flower Spring through Summer or Summer through Autumn, depending on variety. Did you have an unusually mild Autumn last year? –  Niall C. Jun 3 '12 at 14:16
    
@NiallC. You can make your comment an answer, I will accept it. We had a super-dry spring (before I moved into this house/garden) and then (as usual) a very mild autumn. I realize that in my garden everything seems 2-4 weeks behind (even compared to my neighbors, due to tall trees around I guess. Now what about pruning? I saw on French Wikipedia only after flowering... –  Patrick B. Jun 3 '12 at 17:46

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

It's a deciduous Ceanothus, and since it flowered into December probably an Autumn-flowering variety.

I'm more familiar with evergreen Ceanothus, which don't respond well to heavy pruning. However, some research indicates that deciduous varieties respond better to it. For example, the UK's Royal Horticultural Society says to prune in early to mid-spring and on established plants, to cut flowered stems back by about a half. It also says that thinning out the center of the bush is OK, though in your case, since the bush seems so overgrown, I would do it over the course of two or three years, giving the plant time to recover between prunings.

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I think this is Ceanothus 'Autumnal Blue' - its evergreen, but will drop its leaves, like many other plants, in severe winter weather. If you're in the UK, the sudden descent into arctic conditions in February, following on what wasn't really a winter at all, but more an extended autumn, may have caused the leaves to drop. Pruning of this variety should be carried out in spring, as growth begins.

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Ceanothus in my experience isn't a very long-lived plant. They say 5-10 years but I've never seen a good-looking plant over 5 years in cultivation. This plant looks like it is on its last leg. Ceanothus doesn't do as well in cultivation versus native habitats because they get too much water. Being next to the lawn that gets watered regularly might have shortened its life. Sometimes when plants know it is their last season they will bloom at odd times and profusely... –  stormy Jun 16 at 22:43
    
@Stormy - in the UK, the average for Ceanothus is between 10-12 years, sometimes longer, sometimes less. –  Bamboo Jun 17 at 11:10
    
Were they in gardens that got lots of water? I am sure that Ceanothus must last longer that what I've seen but I don't think they do well in the Seattle area because of all the rain and clay soils. –  stormy Jun 17 at 18:37
    
@stormy I live in the UK, what do you think;-)) I know people in the States think it's always raining here... it isn't, of course, and we do have a helluva lot of clay soil here in London, but they still last longer than yours. Maybe your winters are colder - in a cold winter, they can get killed here. –  Bamboo Jun 17 at 18:42
    
What is the rainfall in London? In the movies, London is always raining. What is your zone there, USDA? Sunset? Gees, I like Sunset's zones better and I am constantly confused between the two. Oh well. And I MISS MY CLAY SOILS...hear that world!? Sand/pumice is very annoying. I really have to add fertilizer an awful lot and trying to not water everyday but that is how fast this soil dries out. The fortune I've spent on horrid compost. I am about to start using sludge on this soil as heavy metals are already abundant in our soil and water. Grin. –  stormy Jun 17 at 20:34

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