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Native plant profile: Woolly Blue Curls


Last updated 8/14/2008 at Noon

Woolly Blue Curls will knock your woolen socks off!

This amazing shrub likes it dry, in nasty granitic soils, and blooms with an amazing fragrance in mid-summer.

Along with Flat-top Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum fasciculatum), Woolly Blue Curls (Trichostema lanatum) is one of the few showy blooms in hot dry spots this time of year.

And, boy, does it bloom! It looks like hyper-drought-tolerant lavender, only better, and the scent is practically biblical, like a sweet Cedar of Lebanon.

While this easily ranks among the most popular drought-tolerant California natives, it can be a frustrating plant for many gardeners because it needs perfect drainage to thrive. Especially in summer it must be left high and dry.

If your soil contains clay, forget it. If your soil is beautiful, rich garden loam, maybe. If you have a nasty slope of decomposed granite where nothing pretty will grow, jackpot!

Butterflies, hummingbirds and bees will love this shrub as much as you will. The pollen is blue instead of the usual yellow and it is great fun to watch the bees, drunk with pollen ecstasy, bump around the blooms with blue sacks on their legs. I’ve been waiting for an enterprising beekeeper to develop a Woolly Blue Curls honey!

This one is for all you gardeners who have despaired of ever having a summer garden party in your hot and dry back forty. Woolly Blue Curls, paired with the intensely white blooms of buckwheat, will transform your dusty plot into a summer paradise.

Clayton Tschudy is an ecological landscape designer and the assistant manager of Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery in Escondido. .

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