Prepare for the heady scent and lavish blooms of this spring garden staple
Lilacs scarcely need to be introduced to Canadians. Their heady scent and lavish blooms assure us that summer is just around the corner. Most lilac species are native to mountainous regions from Afghanistan to Japan, but 500 years ago the ancestors of our common garden lilac (Syringa vulgaris) began making their way west along trade routes to France from their home in the Balkans. Once on French soil, new selections and crosses were quickly introduced. By the time John Parkinson wrote his herbal in 1629, lilacs had crossed the Channel to England, and from there to the New World.
It’s best to plant lilacs in the spring. Choose a sunny site (at least six hours of direct sunlight) with good air circulation. Dig a hole 50 percent wider and deeper than the root-ball of the lilac, and amend the soil with compost, plus a couple of handfuls of bone meal. Acidic soil with a pH of 6.5 or lower should be amended with horticultural lime. Once the lilac is positioned, firm the soil around the roots with your foot and water in well. Transplanting fertilizer isn’t necessary, but an organic mulch of shredded leaves or wood/bark chips 10 centimetres deep will retain moisture and keep the root zone cool