Its time to lux out with lilac!

Spring is feeling full on.

Like a prolonged display of floral fireworks.

At the moment, the  magnolias and cherries are giving way to the lush, ebullient, densely fragrant lilacs.


‘Come down to Kew in lilac time

lilac time

lilac time

come down to Kew in lilac time

it isn’t far from London’.

So the poem goes.

I always thought that a banal little ditty. Through the wonders of google I discover that it is from a turn of the century (19th to 20th  century that is) poem by Alfred Noyes. The poem is called The Barrel Organ. So the poet was bang on message with the banal tone, because barrel organs were exactly that – as banal as anything coming out of most ipods!

The same cannot be said of lilacs. When I was a child at Kew there were still two large borders filled with lilacs.

The sight and scent of thirty to forty lilacs in full flower en masse is memorable even now.

Lush, luscious, luxuriant even, it was like seeing a ballroom full of frilled, feathered and fragrant belles. Like a painting by James Tissot!

Tissot was practically costume painter by appointment to the so called Belle Epoque-an age of opulence and excess, in food, drink, clothes and all the associated pleasures enjoyed by upper classes!

‘Lilacs’ by James Tissot


Fitting then that a huge  variety of lilacs emerged from the nursery of the great French plant breeder Victor Lemoine in late 19thc.

3 of the best, all double flowered, from the Lemoine stable are:

Madame Lemoine-heavy racemes of flower, creamy yellow in bud, opening to pure white

Charles Joly-densely packed racemes of purplish red heavily scented flowers

Katherine Havermeyer-Very fragrant, purple-lavender flowers fading to lilac-pink

Coincidentally Parkers of mail order fame are selling precisely these three lilacs I used to sell when running a nursery-this is extremely kind of them because they are therefore all shown together in one photo, which I can use on the pretext of advertising them for Parkers. 

Buy them where you will!