Will we gather these lilacs in the late summer?

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Some years are good for certain plants; they thrive while others hang on in there.

When spring arrived this year, no-one was daft enough to bet on what would be the successes – and the failures – of 2015. Would the weather smile fondly on those plants that love the sun or would it open the heavens and bring a smile to those that produce their best when there’s water water everywhere?

There is still time for many late-summer plants to succeed or fail, but one which seems to have enjoyed June and July is a plant many people cling to no matter how well or badly it fares – Ceanothus. Yes, Nature, has finally allowed us to see just how lovely is the Californian lilac.

In a perfect world, a Californian lilac prefers shelter from strong, cold winds. That’s why the evergreen varieties are best planted against a south-facing wall. Surprisingly, the deciduous species tend to be tougher – they can tolerate more exposed situations.

Both appreciate a hefty mulch of well-rotted manure in late winter or spring, and a general fertiliser after pruning – again, in spring – although cutting back evergreen Ceanothus isn’t essential.

With the late summer-flowering deciduous shrubs, however, trim the previous season’s growth by one-third to a half in spring. Late-spring and early-summer flowering shrubs should be pruned after flowering.

Deciduous Ceanothus (such as C x delileanus ‘Gloire de Versailles’) can be hard pruned, but an overgrown evergreen Ceanothus will not respond well to being hacked back. Once it’s in need of radical pruning, it’s best to dig it up and buy a new specimen.