Scottish Daily Mail

HEAVEN SCENT LILACS

Enjoy these lofty beauty queens until late spring

- NIGEL COLBORN

■ SKODA has unveiled its new fourth generation Fabia — claimed to be the most spacious super-mini on the market.

The car is set to go on sale in the UK early next year priced from about £13,500, with an estate version likely from 2023.

Larger both inside and out, it is 111mm longer and 48 mm wider than its predecesso­r, offering more interior space, with a larger boot expanding to 380 litres.

From launch there will be three trim levels; S, SE and SE L with a sporty Monte Carlo variant to follow.

Five petrol engines are available, including a frugal 1-litre 3-cylinder petrol up to a turbocharg­ed 1.5 litre 150hp version that accelerate­s from rest to 62mph in 7.9 seconds, averaging 50.4 mpg with CO2 emissions of 128g to 142g/km. It also has a new dashboard infotainme­nt system in many sizes and folding flexible storage in the boot.

THANK goodness for lilacs. Common as cabbages they may be, but among latespring shrubs they’re the beauty queens. Tall, with showy flowers in gentle colours, they’re impossible not to admire. In normal years, lilacs would be approachin­g their best by now. But pushed on by the March heat wave, some were whacked by April frosts. Luckily, most carried plenty of undamaged buds and are currently rushing into bloom.

Lilacs develop naturally as small, multi-trunked trees rather than bushes. That can be an advantage if you underplant them with lower-growing shrubs or herbaceous plants. Their size can be controlled by careful pruning. They can also be grown as informal hedging.

Flower colours range from white through soft mauve-blue or pale pink to deeper violet or purple-red. White varieties are cream as they open, maturing to pure white. All those colours harmonise sweetly, so a random lilac group becomes a natural work of art.

To flower well, lilacs need sun. Being tall, that is seldom a problem but in small gardens, mature plants take lots of space. There are compact varieties, but those lack the regal qualities of their tall, more spready relatives.

LITTLE AND LARGE

THE garden lilac’s wild forebear, Syringa vulgaris, is native to Eastern Europe.

Totally hardy and growing up to 7m high, it carries fragrant, lilac-mauve or white flower clusters. Another wild species, S. oblata, was crossed with common lilac to produce hybrids known as S. hyacinthif­lora.

Those gave rise to superb varieties, each with bolder, longer flower clusters in several colours. Pink flowered Esther Staley and mauve-lilac Clarke’s Giant are lovely examples.

With so many lilacs in cultivatio­n, choosing can be difficult. Their subtle colouring makes it hard to know how accurate printed or online pictures are.

That’s why it’s best to see lilacs ‘in the flesh’ before making your choices. Most good public parks have lilacs.

As for growing conditions, lilacs are easy to please. The ideal soil is humus-rich, fertile and well drained. But I’ve seen lilacs thriving on claggy London clay. And they’re hardy enough to survive a brutal winter.

PLENTY OF CHOICE

IF PLANTING several, I’d want to include one white variety. Double-flowered Madame Lemoine is the finest, looking lovely with dark purple Charles Joly or pale mauve-blue Katherine Havemeyer. There are lots more, most with subtle colour difference­s. Two I fancy are gentle lilac-pink Gloire de La Rochelle and Marechal Foch.

Among oddities, Primrose is optimistic­ally described as yellow, but the pale yellow buds open to milk-coloured flowers. There’s also a bi-colour called Sensation, whose purple-red petals have showy white margins.

For small spaces, there are dwarf varieties. The best known,

Syringa meyeri Palibin, has small leaves and clusters of tiny pink flowers. It’s not unattracti­ve, but pictures make it look prettier than in reality.

More beautiful, S. pubescens or Miss Kim has clusters of tiny blue-flushed pink flowers. You can find S. meyeri Flower festa White, which looks terrific on crocus.co.uk.

Whether planted now or in October, flowering will be exactly the same next May.

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 ??  ?? Mauve marvel: Plant Syringa vulgaris Marechal Foch in a sunny spot
Mauve marvel: Plant Syringa vulgaris Marechal Foch in a sunny spot
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