‘Elizabeth’ bush anemone (Carpenteria californica ‘Elizabeth’)
USDA Hardiness Zones: 7 to 10
Size: Up to 8 feet high and 5 feet wide
Conditions: Full sun; moist, well-drained soil
‘Elizabeth’ bush anemone makes quite the focal point. Shiny evergreen leaves set a perfect backdrop for clusters of frilly white flowers centered with large gold anthers. Keep it a compact 3 to 4 feet tall by pinching after flowering, or “lift” it into a 6– to 8–foot-tall miniature tree to show off its flaking golden bark. Add an extra watering or two during cool spells to encourage more growth and flowering.
Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri)
Zones: 8 to 10
Size: 3 to 6 feet tall and wide
Conditions: Full sun; fertile, well-drained soil
Matilija poppy is the perfect complement to the ‘Elizabeth’ bush anemone. Its yellow center is like that of bush anemone but much larger. Clumps of stems topped with 5-inch-diameter (or larger) flowers make for a long show. The petals look as if they are made of fine white linen and fall to the ground after a few days, maintaining a clean look. Cut it to the ground in early February for a fresh start every year. It’s tolerant of—or even insistent on—tough conditions.
Western spice bush (Calycanthus occidentalis)
Zones: 6 to 9
Size: Up to 10 feet tall and 12 feet wide
Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist to dry soil
The little-known western spice bush presents catsup-colored flowers in late spring, then sporadically through midautumn. Its flowers give off an interesting scent: like good red wine early in the day and, later on, a little like Elmer’s Glue. Yellow fall color and interesting seedpods keep western spice bush interesting year-round. The brick red flowers stand out against the clean white of the anemone.
Western wild ginger (Asarum caudatum)
Zones: 4 to 10
Size: 6 inches tall and 1 foot wide
Conditions: Full shade; moist to dry soil
Don’t let ‘Elizabeth’ bush anemone embarrass itself with bare ankles: Plant spreading western wild ginger around its base. Western wild ginger adds visual depth to any planting and accentuates this bush anemone’s beautiful bark while providing rich colors at ground level. It even fights off weeds and emits a ginger fragrance on warm days.
Photos: Joshua McCullough/www.phytophoto.com; courtesy of Sean Hogan; www.millettephotomedia.com. Illustration: Elara Tanguy