Hedonistic Garden Pleasures: Lilac Lust
Lilacs, Lily of the Valley,Viburnum, Daphne and Woodland Phlox; the fragrance of springtime swirls about me throughout the day as I tend to my work. One of my newer projects is a garden restoration and renovation. Oh how I love this detail. Ancient lilacs tower above me —dripping like gigantic grapes from branches— and in order to bring them down to nose level, I must prune! Oh, delightful rewards of my labor: fresh lilacs fill the kitchen sink. I’ve loaded a vase on the dining room table and gathered an armful to place beside my bed. Bliss…
Native to Southern Europe and Persia, the common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is hardy in USDA zones 3-7. This old fashioned shrub prefers neutral soil enriched with good organic compost and full sunlight. The blossoms should be removed and the shrub should be pruned in late spring; while flowering or just after the blossoms have faded. Never prune lilacs later than the first week in July or you will forfeit next season’s flowers! For notes on how to prune this old time favorite, click here to visit my previous post on the subject. The Syringa vulgaris pictured above is an unknown cultivar (the house and garden I’m working in is more than 200 years old). I love lavender, blue, deep violet and white lilacs. My favorite white is S. vulgaris ‘Madame Lemoine’ (pictured just below) and Zeke Goodband just introduced me to an intensely fragrant, lavender colored cultivar called S. x hyacinthiflora ‘Pocahontas’ (image at the bottom of this post).
Lilacs often stir childhood memories for gardeners. As children, my sister and I would raid the shrubs across the street from our home, where an enormous stand of fragrant blossoms stood screening a dilapidated outhouse in back of an old, ramshackle hunting cabin. Lilacs will always bring me back to my sister and our days of wild, horticultural plunder. Do you have a special memory associated with this lovely fragrance?
If you love lilacs, you will adore Father John Fiala’s classic Lilacs: A Gardener’s Encyclopedia; recently revised and updated by Freek Vrugtman for Timber Press.
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