By Margaret A. Swenson

Gardening through Osmosis


Last updated 6/2/2022 at 8:50am

This is Lilac Loving time. We have been waiting a year for it and it is finally here. The hardy varieties that came with the pioneers have adapted especially well in Spokane County. Many cultivars are also showcased in gardens in our area. I have a white one called Pocahontas. It is an adorable double-flowered variety that looks like a cloud when it is flowering.

There is also a variety introduced by the Spokane Lilac Society in 2005 called Spokane. It is a large shrub with dark purple flowers that fade to pale lilac. Lilacs are not just lavender and purple anymore, there are also light blue, creamy white, pristine white, magenta, pink and even yellow.

I have a charming petite Korean lilac, named Miss Kim. Her light blue fragrant flowers adorn the shrub after the traditional French and other lilac varieties have finished showing off.

Lilacs alert all senses. Fragrances vary from delicate to intoxicatingly spicy to long lasting. What could be more beautiful than yellow and black swallowtail butterflies resting on the opened blossoms of the purple lilac, and a metallic green throated Rufus hummingbird sipping nectar from the lilac's flowers? Temptation to touch the lovely pinnacle blossoms and taste the sweet nectar of the tiny throat of the flowers is not only allowed it is encouraged.

I could stay in the garden forever admiring its beauty. But forever is not how the lilac oper-ates. All too soon the faded flowers ripen and turn brown. It is difficult to think of removing the spent blooms but removing them before new growth at the base occurs ensures a display even more glorious next year. So, please be very careful when pruning your lilacs. You don't want to damage the little buds that will be next year's flowers.

Lilacs have very few problems and deer don't seem to be the least bit interested in them. Planting lilacs in well drained soil in full sun helps eliminate mildew and a lilac blight that can occur in compromised plants.

Occasionally regular patterns may appear that someone decorated the edges of your lilac leaves. Please don't accuse your neighbors of using their new pinking shears. It is most likely the work of earwigs or other chewing insects. These culprits usually hang out under debris close to the plant and feed at night.

Pruning old growth to the ground helps encourage new strong stems. If you suspect diseases or see signs of leaf distortion you may bring a sample of the damaged and healthy plant to the WSU Extension office or contract the WSU Master Gardeners at the information listed below.

There are many advantages to planting lilacs besides their beauty. The compact bushes offer shelter for birds and wildlife and pollinator friendly insects are attracted to their flowers. As mentioned afore, lilacs are deer resistant and drought tolerant after they are established. Lilacs also share border space well with other plants such as mock orange, spiraea, dogwood and

flowering crabapple trees.

An established hedge of lilacs makes a stunning statement in the spring and its green foliage lasts late into the fall season.

There is much ado about lilacs in Spokane County, and rightly so. Contact the WSU Spokane County Master Gardeners@ or call 509-477-2128 for more information.

Master Gardeners are also available at the Cheney Library the first and third Friday of the month from April to October.


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