If I had to rank my favorite smells – which would be a really hard thing for me to do – lilacs would definitely fall among the top three. Right up there with fresh baked bread and the smell of my favorite hiking trails, a delicious combination of earth, fir needles, and sunshine. But as far as flowers go, I don’t think anything can compare with the lovely lilac.
Lilacs, perhaps because of their scent, also hold a special place in my childhood memories. Along the property line of the house I grew up in, separating our backyard from that of our neighbors, were a few small shrubs. I remember playing “florist” here with my sister and making small bouquets of lilacs, bridals wreath, and (this really makes me chuckle now, given my current career in weed science) burdock leaves.
I also always associate lilacs with Memorial Day when my grandma would have us clip some of the best looking flowering stems to include with some peonies and the last of the tulips in little mason jar bouquets to take to the cemetery.
Here’s the low down on growing this lovely lady:
Scientific name: Syringa vulgaris
Size: considered a large shrub, or very small tree, it can reach heights of 15 feet with a spread of up to 12 feet
Hardiness: to zone 2
Flower color: besides the light purple (lilac, if you will) and white flowers you see pictured here, lilac flowers also come in blueish, pink, reddish purple, and deep purple. Some bi-colored varieties also exist.
Bloom period: late April through early June
Landscape placement: full sun to partial shade, well drained soil, good air circulation
When to prune: after bloom, but before the next season’s buds set; if removing some future blooms isn’t a problem, you can do some dormant pruning to remove older stems at ground level to rejuvenate the shrub
Cretti, J. 1998. Rocky Mountain Gardener’s Guide. “Lilac”, pp. 222
CSU. 2010. Denver County Extension Master Gardener.