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Lovely Lilacs in the Lilac City

Lovely Lilacs in the Lilac City

When my husband and I were looking to move, Goulburn came onto our radar because it had attractions for car enthusiasts and attractions for flowers lovers. So it suited us just fine.

As well as being Australia’s first inland city, Goulburn is the Lilac City. And the Lilac City Festival is Australia’s longest continuously run community-led festival. This year marked the 70th anniversary of the Lilac City Festival, which is just amazing! As you can imagine, a town that is so committed to such a pretty flower got a few ticks in my book.

This year I decided to put myself out there and entered the Lilac City Festival Garden Competition for Best Business Garden…and I won! I was so pleased, and it was such a pleasure putting my green thumb to work getting “Lilac Lane” ready.

Funnily enough, not many people really know much about the lilac. So I thought it would be great to bring together all the tips and tricks I have learnt growing and caring for my lilacs over the past few years to share with others who might want to celebrate this gem of a bloom in their own garden.

The Lilac Bush

Lilacs are a bush, typically growing to 2-4m tall, but they can grow up to 9m tall. They are best known for their divine scent and clusters of small star-shaped flowers that can come in all shades of purple and pink. White and yellow varieties are available too. The lilac flower is thought to symbolize the joy of youth, which I think ties in well with spring. They only bloom for about 2-3 weeks, so when they arrive you need to really breathe them in!

Because of their hardiness, size and dense foliage, they make great hedges and screens. Or you can prune regularly to keep them smaller depending on the space you have.

Another great benefit of lilacs – the butterflies love them!

Butterfly Lilac in my garden

Growing and Caring for Your Lilacs

Unfortunately, lilacs do not make for a great cut flower, the blooms just don’t last very long. So the best way to enjoy lilacs is to plant them in your garden and enjoy them on the plant.

Here are my tips for growing and caring for your lilacs:

  • They need well drained soil, so plant them in elevated spots if you can
  • Plant them approx 1.5m apart becasue they will get big, even if it takes a few years
  • They like afternoon sun and need a good dose of full sun for them to bloom
  • Water well after planting. Once established they like to be well watered, but not too often. So a good soak less frequently is best, because they don’t like having wet roots. Once a week over spring andL summer would be ok, more often in the extrme heat of Jan/Feb
  • Mulch helps them to retain moisture. They don’t really need fertiliser, but you can give them a little feed just before they blossom. Too much fertiliser and they won’t flower
  • Lilacs need to be pruned. This helps promote new growth in spring but also helps prevent mildew by letting more air circulate through the branches. 
  • The best time to prune is in spring, just after they have finished flowering.

Lilacs grow little offshoots from the roots, some people call them suckers. You can use these offshoots to propagate new lilac bushes – just dig down to the main root and cut away the sucker from the mother plant. Make sure you include plenty of new roots with the sucker to help it take hold in the new spot. Remember to water the new plant regularly until it is established, then you can give it a good soaking less frequently.

Lilac’s in Lilac Lane

Cooking With Lilacs

Not many people realise that lilac blooms are edible. Yes, they are! And they taste so lovely.

There are lots of recipes that incorporate lilacs – lilac ice cream, lilac scones, lilac jelly, lilac lemonade, lilac infused honey, lilac syrup for gin cocktails…so many ideas.

I have experimented with quite a few myself. This is my favourite lilac recipe that I make in my Thermomix.

Lilac and Blueberry Lilac Swirl Cheesecake

Ingredients

Crust

  • 85g unsalted butter, cubed (1 in.), plus extra to grease
  • 230 grams graham crackers, broken into pieces ( I also substitute with Arnott’s Gaiety for a chocolate biscuit base)
  • ⅛ tsp salt 

Blueberry Swirl

  • 55g sugar 
  • 1 lemon, thin peel only, no pith, plus 2 tbsp juice, divided
  • 170g fresh blueberries, plus extra to garnish
  • 1 tsp unflavored gelatin powder, unsweetened 
  • 1 tablespoon lilac essence.

Cheesecake Filling

  • 55g sugar 
  • 1 lemon, thin peel only, no pith, plus 2 tbsp juice, divided, plus extra zest, to garnish
  • 140g heavy whipping cream 
  • 1 tsp unflavoured gelatine powder, unsweetened 
  • 230g cream cheese, room temperature, cubed (1 in.)
  • 115g plain yogurt 
  • ⅛ tsp salt 

Preparation

Crust

  1. Lightly grease a springform pan (8 in.) and set aside.
  2. Place butter into mixing bowl and melt 3 min/75°C/speed .
  3. Add graham crackers and salt and crush 15 sec/speed 8. Spread crumb mixture into base of prepared springform pan. Press firmly into a compact layer with your hands or bottom of a flat glass and refrigerate while making filling. Clean mixing bowl.

Blueberry Swirl

  1. Place sugar and lemon peel into mixing bowl and grind 10 sec/speed 10. Scrape down sides of mixing bowl with spatula.
  2. Add blueberries, gelatin and 2 tbsp lemon juice, place simmering basket instead of measuring cup onto mixing bowl lid and cook 5 min/100°C/speed 1. Transfer to a bowl, cover with cling wrap and freeze for 15 minutes to cool. Clean mixing bowl.

Cheesecake Filling

  1. Place sugar and lemon peel into mixing bowl, insert measuring cup and grind 10 sec/speed 10. Scrape down sides of mixing bowl with spatula.
  2. Add whipping cream and gelatine and heat 6 min/90°C/speed 2.
  3. Add cream cheese, yogurt, 2 tbsp lemon juice and salt and mix 20 sec/speed 4.
  4. Pour cheesecake filling over crust. Drop spoonfuls of reserved blueberry mixture over cheesecake and drag a skewer through to create swirls. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate until set (approx. 8 hr.).
  5. Just before serving, garnish with lemon peel and blueberries and fresh Lilac florets.

*Recipe for Lilac Essence

Place wilted lilac blossoms in a jar, and cover with the oil of your choice. Make sure the flowers are completely covered with oil; push down with spoon or chopstick if necessary. Cover and label jar with contents and date. Allow the oil to infuse in a warm place for four to six weeks.

So, if you would like to add some gorgeous scented blooms to your garden for next spring, then I definitely recommend the lilac. Not only are the flowers so pretty, and the scent so divine, but they attract butterflies and other beneficial insects and you can use the flowers in some tasty recipes. Talk about a multitasker!

Also, if you would like a thermomix demonstration, please get in contact. I love to show off my new kitchen assistant 🙂

Until the lilacs bloom again, if you are after some beautiful flowers to brighten up your home, or office, or someone else’s day then have a browse through my flower bar or get in touch for custom requests. I love making your dreams blossom into reality!

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