Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Lilacs in Los Angeles

Lilacs in full bloom in the Windsor Square garden of Oona Kanner.

It takes a very special place to grow lilacs in Los Angeles. Even though there are varieties that have been hybridized for our climate, they are still quite tricky to grow. But not for Oona Kanner, a local resident who has cracked the lilac code with four stunning lilac plants in pots in her Windsor Square garden.

Purchased several years ago from John Schoustra at Greenwood Daylily Gardens, a small local-ish grower, Kanner’s lilacs form a lovely setting around a family dinner table not far from an outdoor kitchen. This was not their first home, but being a canny gardener, Kanner moved the plants around a bit until she found the right spot. The result is an excellent example of the old adage, “right plant, right place.” The four plants are a delightfully scented wall during their blooming season which is short but spectacular.

Most of our local lilacs come from the work of horticulturalists at Descanso Gardens who developed species for our Mediterranean climate. According to their website, Descanso Gardens 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 known in the trade as “Descanso Hybrid Lilacs.”

For those of us who don’t have Kanner’s green thumb, we can enjoy them at Descanso Gardens as we often do. They traditionally bloom in April but there still might be some left.

And, once the lilacs finish, Kanner’s roses begin. Crocus Rose (Ausquest), an English shrub rose bred by David Austin surrounds the backyard seating area reliably blooming for weeks.

Crocus hedge rose (photo from Oona Kanner)

The famed climbing rose, “Sally Holmes” adorns the entry to the Porte cohere. Sally Homes is one of those amazing roses that seems to bloom all the time.

Did we mention there’s also a stunning wisteria on the pergola?

Wisteria (photo from Oona Kanner)

We are fortunate to have our mild Mediterranean climate where gardeners like Kanner make it look easy to enjoy these spectacular floral displays.

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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the 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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