Friday, March 29, 2013

The Color Purple x 2

As we wrap up the month of March, one color leaps out at me as I look around the garden: purple. In the backyard it’s from our lilac, which is in full bloom:

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Blue Skies lilac (Syringa vulgaris ‘Blue Skies’)

Our climate isn’t lilac-friendly, but thanks to the work of intrepid breeders like Ralph Moore of Visalia there are lilac cultivars that do well here in spite of our mild winters. Ours is called ‘Blue Skies’. If you live in a mild-winter climate and want to grow lilacs, here is a list of eight suitable cultivars.

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In the two photos above, taken in the evening, the flowers look more bluish than they really are. The next three photos were taken this morning and are more accurate. (For some reason, I find it very difficult to photograph the color purple accurately. Either my eyes are playing tricks or my camera doesn’t “see” purple the way my brain does.)

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In the front yard, the color purple comes from a Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas ‘Otto Quast’) blooming its head off. You can take that literally because the bracts sticking into the air look like unruly tufts of hair.

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Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas ‘Otto Quast’)

The flowers are particularly beautiful when backlit.

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Our plant is a cultivar called ‘Otto Quast’. It’s a little bit smaller than the species and the bracts are a darker purple. Speaking of colors, there are many cultivars in a range of hues—from the classic purple to pink, red, greenish yellow and white.

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There are even bi-color cultivars where the cone is one color (typically purple) and the bracts on top are white or light pink. Check out this one called ‘Madrid Blue’ at High Country Gardens.

The one downside about Spanish lavender is that is bloom season is so short: just a few weeks in the spring. Experts recommend cutting it back by a third right after flowering to encourage it to bush out. If you’re lucky your Spanish lavender may bloom a second time in the fall, albeit on a smaller scale, but that isn’t always the case in our climate.

12 comments:

  1. I can almost smell the lilacs through the computer; they won't be blooming here for another month or two. Hooray for the color purple!

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    1. There's no smell quite like lilac. I look forward to it all year.

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  2. The color on 'Otto Quast' is beautiful. My spanish lavender only puts up an additional bloom or two in the late summer and I keep thinking I should take it out but it is so pretty in the spring.

    Beautiful lilacs, I did not know they would grow in warm climates.

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    1. A lot of people around here don't know that they can grow lilacs. Nurseries don't exactly feature them either. But quite a few mild-winter cultivars now exist.

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  3. Our lilacs aren't anywhere near leafing out yet, let alone flower so its nice to see yours in full bloom. I can just imagine the lovely scent!

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    1. The scent is particularly intense in the evening. We often have the family room slider open, and the scent wafting in is intoxicating.

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  4. Our lilacs are just beginning to leaf out, but out violets in the lawn are springing forth and look and smell lovely!

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    1. Our violets are done blooming but they, too, were wonderful. Unfortunately, you have to get down on your hands and knees to smell them!

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  5. It's so rare that someone appreciates lilacs, I'm used to them being trashed. So glad you're enjoying them!

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    1. I must admit I never appreciated lilacs quite like this until I moved to a warm-winter climate where the traditional variets are hard, if not impossible, to grow. Fortunately, 'Blue Skies' had just been introduced when we bought this house. I planted it in 1998, so it's 15 years old.

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  6. Lilacs and violets are my two favorite flowers!

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    1. Mine, too, as far as the scent goes. For me, there's only floral scent I like even better: plumeria, or frangipani. But they don't grow here, unfortunately.

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