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.

Edible Flowers

Monday, April 12th, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Tomatoes can be set out with protection. “Season Starter” will protect them down to 20°F and will give them a warm environment during the day.
    • Plant sunflowers now from seed or plants. Choose either the multi-stemmed kinds for cut flowers or the giants for edible seeds.
    • Dahlias come in a wide variety of colors and shapes. Plant the roots now for flowers this summer.
    • Put up hummingbird feeders this month and enjoy these colorful and entertaining birds.
    • Last chance to plant asparagus roots this year. This delicious vegetable will keep producing for up to 20 years.

A Feast of Flowers

Many of the plants we grow for their flowers were once grown for their flavors as well. Today, cooking and garnishing with flowers is back in vogue. Many restaurant chefs and creative home cooks garnish their entrees with flower blossoms for a touch of elegance.

Common edible flowers include nasturtiums, Johnny-Jump-Ups, borage and chive blossoms, calendulas, bachelor buttons and carnations. Lavender, daylilies and lilacs have edible flowers as well.

Nasturtiums are among the most delicious edible flowers, with a mildly spicy flavor. Stuff whole flowers with savory mousse and use leaves to add a peppery tang to salads. Johnny-Jump-Ups make lovely garnishes and decorations and have a faint wintergreen taste that can be used in salads, drinks and soups.

The dainty star-shaped, sky-blue flowers of borage add a cool cucumbery flavor to the salad. Use in punches, lemonade, and sorbets. Chive blossoms, in lavender-pink, have a subtle onion flavor that goes well with salads, eggs and potatoes.

The bright yellow and orange flowers of calendulas, which prefer the cooler days of spring and fall, have a spicy, tangy, peppery flavor and add a golden hue to foods. Pull out the flower petals and add them to salads, rice dishes, eggs and cheese.

Bachelor’s buttons have a sweet to spicy, clove-like flavor and are used as a garnish. Carnations have a spicy, peppery, clove-like flavor. Use the surprisingly sweet petals in desserts.

English lavender has a sweet, floral flavor. Flowers look beautiful and are tasty with chocolate cake or as a garnish for sorbets or ice creams. The flavor of lilacs varies from plant to plant. They are very fragrant, but slightly bitter, with a distinct lemony taste. Use the newly opened blooms to add their sweet fragrance to cookies, cakes and salads.

Daylilies bloom in yellow, orange, red and many shades in between. Each blossom lasts only a day, but the plants bloom so profusely that they are attractive for a long time.

They are valued for their delicate flavor that is sweet and crunchy, like a crisp lettuce leaf. Pick daylily flowers in the afternoon. Wash them in cool water and pat them dry to use in soups and stir fries or tossed in a salad.

Do be cautious about eating flowers. Allergic reactions are always possible with any new food, so sample sparingly the first time you try any edible flower. It is possible that people who suffer from hay fever will have a bad reaction from the pollen, so it may be best to skip the edible flowers.

For best flavor, use flowers at their peak. Flowers that are faded or wilted will taste bitter. Perk up your summer salads and hot dishes with some of these edible flowers.

If you choose seeds or starts of these plants this spring, you will be harvesting their tasty flowers later this spring and summer.