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:
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.
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.)
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.
Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas ‘Otto Quast’)
The flowers are particularly beautiful when backlit.
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.
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.