Fragrant Showy Lilacs

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Prepare for planting season! Turn in cover crops and do a soil test if your garden had trouble last year.
    • Summer flower bulbs can be planted now. Choose from gladiolus, dahlias, begonias, lilies and more.
    • Plant sunflowers now from seed or plants. Choose either the multi-stemmed kinds for cut flowers or the giants for edible seeds.
    • Plant artichokes now. Fill a hole with one part humus and two parts soil and set out plants in full or part sun.
    • Spring feeding of trees and shrubs can begin now. Mulch with manure or apply fish emulsion or commercial fertilizers.

Fragrant Showy Lilacs

One of the joys of spring is the appearance of fragrant sprays of lilacs all over town. This old-fashioned favorite is always a welcome sight and a sign that spring has arrived.

Lilacs are known and loved for their beautiful blossoms, legendary fragrance, and heart-shaped leaves They prefer a climate with plenty of winter chill and they do very well here, blooming in April in Willits. Full-grown shrubs can reach 12-15 feet.

Lilacs require at least 4 to 6 hours of sun daily for good flower production and good drainage. Space plants 5-8 feet apart for hedges, and farther apart for specimen plants. Once they are established, they need minimal watering in the summer. They are heavy feeders and need a good 10-10-10 garden fertilizer in early spring and after flowering. Failure to bloom can be caused by a lack of fertilizer.

Since lilacs bloom on old wood, prune immediately after blooming to shape plants and remove spent flower clusters. Remove a few of the oldest stems each year by cutting them back to the ground. This will keep the plant growing vigorously.

A mass planting of lilacs will produce a very showy effect. The colors are complementary, so mix and match as you desire. They make excellent screens, background plants and tall hedges.

There are many wonderful varieties on the market, from the common lilac to the French hybrids in all shades of pink, purple and white. The common lilac with its single lavender flowers is the most fragrant purple lilac of all.

The French Hybrid Lilacs are most noted for their bloom size and fragrance. They were the work of Victor Lemoine, a French hybridizer, who bred about 200 different lilacs in the 1870’s. Following are descriptions of some of the nicest hybrids.

Katherine Havemeyer — Large, lavender-purple, double buds open to soft lilac pink. The florets have wide petals that are twisted and irregular, giving a slight double effect to the fragrant flowers.

Krasavitsa Moskvy (Beauty of Moscow) — The unusually large double flowers resemble pink pearls in bud, and open to pure white. Delightfully fragrant, the clusters are excellent for cutting. Extremely hardy and weather resistant, this lilac has a long blooming period.

Ludwig Spaeth — This very old variety is still one of the best of the reddish-purple flowering lilacs. The deep flower color is irresistible, and the very large trusses of fragrant single blossoms come late in the season.

Sensation — One of the most spectacular of all the lilacs, its single blossoms are wine red, edged with white. Borne in tall trusses that have a silvery luster, this fragrant beauty will be a show piece in any garden.

When Jack Frost is nipping the morning air, remember that he’s the reason we can grow beautiful lilacs in Willits.

Fragrance in the Garden

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Roses bloom all summer with their abundant flowers in so many different colors. Choose some now when you can see their lovely flowers.
    • Attract hummingbirds to your patio this summer with hummingbird feeders, so you can enjoy their iridescent beauty and charm.
    • Azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons can be pruned now without sacrificing next years bloom. Ask at your nursery if you need help.
    • Feed rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias with an acid plant food to encourage lush growth. Pinch or prune to promote full, dense growth.
    • Paint trunks of young fruit trees with Tree Trunk White. This will keep the soft bark from sun-burning which leaves cracks for borer insects, the most common cause of death of young apple trees.

Fragrance in the Garden

Nothing conjures up memories of the past the way a familiar scent can. Orange blossoms, jasmine, lavender, fragrant stock, gardenia – even the words seem to perfume the air. To bring back pleasant memories and create some new ones, choose a few plants to place near the door or by the walkway, or fill your garden with wonderful fragrances all season long.

The first plants that wake up our noses in the spring are narcissus, hyacinth and lily-of-the-valley. Not far behind is the sweet-scented daphne, followed by the intensely fragrant flowers of the lilacs.

Chinese wisteria blooms with a profusion of fragrant lavender flowers in long clusters. The evergreen clematis vine, with its powerfully fragrant white flowers, adds its sweet scent to the springtime air.

The white snowball bush is another sweet scent in the spring garden and so are the tiny flowers of Sarcococca. Mock orange (Philadelphus) is an old-fashioned favorite with its strongly scented showy white flowers in early summer. The large pompom flowers of peonies bloom in late spring. Place one in a vase in a room, and it will fill the room with its delicate fragrance.

The spring flower bed can be filled with the lovely scents of stock and sweet peas. A carpet of sweet alyssum in purple, rose and white will perfume the air from spring to fall.

Summer brings us lovely lavenders, butterfly bush, star jasmine, lilies, honeysuckle and, of course, roses. Varieties like ‘Falling in Love’, ‘Rock ‘n Roll’, ‘Midnight Blue’, and ‘Strike it Rich’ have all been developed for their strong fragrances. Gardenias bloom in early summer with their legendary sweet fragrance so loved for corsages.

Heliotrope has large violet flower heads with a strong vanilla fragrance in warm weather. It’s hard to find a more sugary fragrance than purple petunias, especially the variety ‘Sugar Daddy’.

The large, beautiful, white flowers of the Southern Magnolia tree bloom in the summer and their heavy fragrance and welcome shade make the perfect place to relax on a hot summer’s day.

Late summer bloomers with strong fragrance include the exotic and heady fragrance of tuberoses. Sweet Autumn Clematis blooms profusely with wonderfully scented tiny white flowers. The pink flowers of Naked Lady Amaryllis have a strong fragrance that wafts on the air.

Don’t overlook the herbs for their fragrant foliage. Rosemary can be grown as a shrub or a ground cover. Thyme has many varieties with scents ranging from lemon and lime to caraway. The mint family has a long list of fragrant varieties as do the basils: lemon, cinnamon, spicy globe and Thai basil. Many Salvias, or sages, have beautiful flowers and fragrant foliage. There are lots of other herbs that can help create an edible, fragrant garden.

Fragrance plays an important role in our enjoyment of the garden. Plant some memories in your garden with fragrant plants you’ll enjoy all season.