French garden diary: Lilac love has roots in Lorraine

‘The world’s love affair with lilacs has it roots firmly in the soil of Lorraine’

Cathy Thompson has some serious horticultural heritage right on her doorstep

In North America they still call them ‘French’ lilacs and they are adored.

There was a tradition on the frontier for settlers to plant lilacs around the entrance to the house they had just thrown up in the middle of nowhere, to bring scent, beauty (and perhaps luck) as they stood on the threshold of a new life.

Apparently there are many places out west where the only sign that someone used to live and farm there is an unruly old lilac – proof that this is a shrub built to last anything nature throws at it – from extreme cold to scorching drought.

But why ‘French’ lilacs? The answer lies in my own corner of France, Lorraine.

During the 19th century, Nancy throve on the textile industry and was wealthy enough to support at least three ...

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