Updated: 14th February 2021
Ceanothus - or 'California lilac' as it is also known, is a wonderful, evergreen flowering shrub. It's a popular shrub in gardens in North America and Europe. It can be grown as a low-growing creeper, a shrub or bush - check the growing habit of the variety.
Depending on the cultivar, this shrub can bloom from early spring through to summer. I tend to favour those which flower early, because food for bees is still scarce early in the year. You could try:
Other cultivars bloom later in the season - i.e. from late summer until the early autumn. You could try:
Below, a beekeeper tells of his experience, and how he recommends Carmel Ceanothus (C. thyrsiflorus).
Ceanothus is a striking ornamental shrub with long blooming flowers that honey bees love. There are dozens of varieties that grow in a very wide range of geographies and climates, primarily in North America. It's a drought resistance species that requires very little maintenance and can be trained into a small tree.
I planted two different varieties in my backyard 12 years ago, and the bees take to them for many months out of the year. The bright blue-indigo flowers of the Carmel Ceanothus are covered with many different types of bee species on sunny days from late February through June most years in Northern California.
The honey I get from these bees, which most certainly consists of a lot of ceanothus nectar, is a favorite of honey connoisseurs. For tips on planting see: http://www.easybloom.com/plantlibrary/plant/carmel-ceanothus
I can't recommend Ceanothus strongly enough for the beekeeper looking to beautify their yard with a fast growing shrub.
See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceanothus