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Lilacs, sweetly scented and bred for left coast landscapes

November 04, 2012
  • In the 2010 photo, lilac curator Rudy Schaffer strolls through lilacs in bloom at Descanso Gardens.
In the 2010 photo, lilac curator Rudy Schaffer strolls through lilacs in… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)

Is there a lilac that can flourish in Southern California and still have the scent of East Coast lilacs? That was the question that came into our Garden Clinic from reader John A. Zaia of Arcadia.

For an answer, we turned to someone well-versed in hot inland locales: Alan Uchida, third-generation nurseryman at Bellefontaine Nursery, which his family has run in Pasadena since 1939.

Uchida's answer:

Lilacs are wonderful performers in the Southland and can deliver fragrant blooms, even without an East Coast chill. Start with any number of “Descanso hybrids,” developed by Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge — perhaps Lavender Lady, California Rose or Angel White. Our favorites are the more unusual President Poincare, which has large double purple flowers, and Paul Thirion, which is a double in magenta.

Descanso Gardens sells lilacs in the spring, when the plants are blooming. But a good nursery can special-order lilacs for you if it doesn't have the plant in stock.

The Garden Clinic welcome questions and comments at Please include "Garden Clinic" in the subject line. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can respond only to select questions.

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