I lived on a country road, with no sidewalks, no street lamps and no businesses.
Yet every year in late spring a “pop up” shop appeared.
The shop had no employees that you ever saw. Only a card table, cigar box and jars, buckets & cans filled with woody stems. And a handwritten sign,”Lilacs $5 a bunch ~ make your own change”.
The lilacs smelled divine and were so fresh they would last & last.
Spring through summer I would fill my house with the romantic scent of the purple, lavender & white blossoms.
I miss those east coast lilacs.
So I am going to try lilacs here in my mild Southern California climate. I know you are so sad for me that I don’t endure the cold snap that the lilacs need to go dormant & then bloom. (Cry me a bucket full, right? ) Just letting you know, while they are few, there are drawbacks to it being warm most of the year.
For example, I have to get my Peony fix on Pinterest. (I know, get another bucket! )
To get lilacs here like the ones pictured below, grown by my friend Barb Rosen of Our Fairfield Home & Garden, you have to trick them!
Here is how:
- First choose a lilac that has been breed to bloom in a mild climate. (at the end of the post I list 7)
- To force lilacs into the dormancy they need to flower, and which would come naturally in cold climates, you must cut off their water supply. (that sounds drastic & mean, doesn’t it? But they will be fine!)
- In the 3rd season of growth stop watering in late September
- Resume watering in February at about one inch per week
A little time, a little less water and you have have lilacs the butterflies can’t resist, like my friend Jacki of Drought Smart Plants.
Because we mild climate gardeners need to control the lilac’s water supply don’t plant near a lawn or other garden areas that will get automatic year round watering. Yikes! Loss of control and no lilacs!
Other than choosing a variety suited to a mild climate and the “trickery” with the water supply, all lilacs will benefit from the same conditions:
- Full sun
- one inch of water per week – no soggy roots
- organic fertilizer when planting, in early spring & after bloom
- pruning right after bloom – cutting back to the next set of leaves
Near MSH is the Descanso Botantical Gardens. Remember, I took you along on our field trip there?
Years & years ago, Descano was the site a wholesale nursery. It was there that Walter Lammerts bred the first mild climate lilacs. Descanso has a beautiful area dedicated to these lilacs.
Here is a list of 7 lilacs that will bloom in mild climates:
• ‘Angel White‘: Mildly fragrant white flowers develop on the upper branches of a thick, bushy shrub that grows 8 to 10 feet tall.
• ‘California Rose‘: Mildly fragrant medium pink flowers appear in profusion on a vigorous shrub that grows 8 to 10 feet tall.
• ‘Lavender Lady‘: Lavender flowers with good fragrance develop on a shrub about 8 to 10 feet tall.
• ‘Esther Staley‘: Very showy, pure pink flowers with good fragrance develop on rounded shrubs that grow to about 8 feet tall.
• ‘Excel‘: Light lavender flowers with good fragrance appear on rounded shrubs 8 feet or taller. Massive early bloomer.
For those of you who live in colder climates see there are advantages! To those of us in mild climates, let me know if you have success with lilacs. And for any of you near Barker’s Island Road in Southampton New York, I hope the shop is open for business!
** Kelly **