There’s nothing quite like the scent of a lilac (Syringa vulgaris). Walking through the grove of lilacs at Descanso Gardens is truly a springtime treat. The grove is in full bloom now and smells spectacular. If only we could capture the scent with our photographs – I do hope someone is working on that!
For those who think lilacs grow only on the east coast or in much cooler climates, think again! Thanks to the genius of plant breeding known as hybridizing, the horticulturalists at Descanso Gardens have developed species for our Mediterranean climate. Visitors like us were in awe of these amazing delicate plants with their heavenly scents developed for our climate.
According to Descanso’s website. Descanso founder E. Manchester Boddy employed horticulturalist Howard Asper to help him develop his camellia collection on the 165 acre property he purchased in the 1930s. Between 1945 and 1965, Descanso employees Walter E. Lammerts and John Sobeck each worked to create lilacs that could thrive in hot and sunny Southern California. The fruits of their labor can be found here in the gardens and also at numerous nurseries. These plants have collectively come to be known in the trade as “Descanso Hybrid Lilacs.”
If you’re thinking you’d like a lilac in your garden, you can find them at local nurseries. Just ask for a variety of lilac (Syringa vulgaris) for mild climates, often called a low-chill variety. Monrovia Nursery sells a variety of plants. Staff at Descanso told told us they are planning an expansion with a nursery so they will soon be able to sell their own varieties.
Windsor Square gardener Bebe Johnson has several lilacs she acquired from John Schoustra at Greenwood Daylily Gardens several years ago. Johnson told us she is enjoying an abundance of blooms from her potted lilacs, while her planted one is looking a bit leggy. The planted one doesn’t get as much as sun, so perhaps that’s the reason.
Lilacs can be tricky to site in your yard. We have one that’s never quite established itself. So every spring we make sure to get to Descanso Gardens for the lilac bloom.
Members can enter the garden for free and without reservation. Click here for more information about visiting the garden.
This laceleaf lilac featured an abundance of tiny flowers and small leaves, distinct from the cone shaped blooms of the other varieties.
About Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the co-editor and publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.
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