Sensation Lilac does what it says on the tin...... cause a sensation. No other lilac has the jazzy, dual combination flowers that Sensation sports. The main colour of each individual flower is a deep, reddish purple which would be stunning enough but each of the four petals is outlined in white to give a spectacular dual coloured effect. It is the only multicoloured syringa in our range of lilac hedge plants. The Americans call such a white edging picotee and Sensation is the only lilac possessing this unusual and pretty trait.The flowers are single and will appear in early May and should last about a month. With lilac it is always best to dead head spent flowers to encourage other flowers to develop and to prune it to shape immediately after flowering. Lilacs flower on the previous year's wood so prompt pruning gives your tree masses of time to gird its loins for next year's display. The leaves are a mid-green and veer towards a heart shape. Reasonably fast growing, a healthy lilac will reach 5m in about ten years. Lilac's preference is for neutral to alkaline soils and a sunny position but light shade will be enough to ensure abundant flowers.
Lilacs are always associated nostalgically with Edwardian and Victorian gardens but they should be rehabilitated into our gardens for their cascades of flowers and utterly heavenly smell. Treat them as an ornamental specimen tree that acts as a focal point in your garden, or grow an informal and outrageously floral hedge that you cut back after flowering each year. Alternatively view your Sensation lilac as a shrub and coppice it every 4 to 5 years so that you keep it as a multi-stemmed shrub which produces amazing cutting flowers. Either way, lilacs are easy to combine with other interesting flora. Instead of the ubiquitous white garden, think Deep Purple....Alliums - maybe even Purple Sensation - would work well and you could continue the theme with Clematis Polish Spirit , a viticella that would clothe your lilac tree afresh with deep violet flowers from summer through to autumn. Or riff on the dual colours - pre-empt Sensation with Blueberry Ripple tulips and follow that on with the showy pink and white striped rose, Ferdinand Pichard. Whatever you do, the Sensation lilac will add an enormous sense of fun to the planting in your garden. A more restrained choice might be the plain purple but exuberantly double Charles Joly. Whichever lilac you plump for, butterflies and insects will be enormously grateful.
Lilacs came here first from Turkey in about the 15th Century. Serious breeding was undertaken by the Lemoine family in Nancy in France who bred some of the most famous and beautiful cultivars like Madame Lemoine and Charles Joly. They made the lilac the must-have plant of the Victorian and Edwardian times but since then there have been serious hybridisation programmes in America, Russia and Canada so that there are now thousands of hybrids and cultivars. Kew Gardens has its own special lilac garden that has over 105 specimens. Now that would be worth a trip in the spring!