Lilacs – Syringa vulgaris
Sense memory in the springtime garden can be strongly influenced by the nostalgic perfume of lilac. Does the scent of lilac in the air take you back to your study abroad in Paris? Whitman’s elegy When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed, mourning the death of President Lincoln may come to an English major’s mind. I think of the corsage made of lilacs Tress Parke wore to the high school graduation of her granddaughter, Louise, and smile at the memory of a more innocent time.
Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) are a reliable spring-flowering shrub for cold winter landscapes. Excellent as a specimen/accent or in small groups as shrub borders, hedges or screens. They also make a good cut flower. A member of the olive family (Oleaceae), Syringa vulgaris can reach a height of 8-15 feet and spread 6-12 feet. Glossy, heart-shaped leaves frame panicles of tubular, fragrant flowers. Numerous cultivars have been introduced over time in both single and double-flowered forms. Cultivars extend the range of available flower colors to include shades of white, cream, rose, magenta, pinkish-purple, lavender and purple. Grow in full sun.
Numerous lilacs are currently blooming throughout the Idaho Botanical Garden. One particular favorite is ‘President Lincoln,’ which can be found in a mixed border of the English garden.
For ease of maintenance, increase spring bloom by removing spent flowers before seed pods form. Select a hybrid resistant to powdery mildew. Lilacs tend to form suckers; an annual post bloom pruning and periodic renewals will be required.
- Misouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder: Syringa vulgaris
- Psychology Today: Smells Ring Bells – How Smell Triggers Memories and Emotions
Written by IBG gardener, Paul Rodgers.