Romantic lilacs

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

There’s something about lilacs that really appeals to a wide range of people. Maybe it’s their sweet scent. It could be the old-fashioned flowers. Often it’s an association with the past – we rarely forget those lilac bushes grown by Grandmother or a favorite aunt.

Many cities around the country celebrate the lilac when it blooms. Boston’s world-renowned Arnold Arboretum draws thousands to its Lilac Sunday, and has been for 100 years.

This, and similar opportunities at a public garden near you, provide wonderful opportunities, of course, to get some fresh air and enjoy beautiful flowers.

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But gardeners can also learn from such visits. Take a little notepad along and jot down names of plants that you really like. Maybe the flowers on one bush are a particularly lovely color or you like the size or scent of the blooms on another. Public gardens are great at labeling their plants, so write down the name.

Then you can research the plant later on the Internet, or ask about it at a garden center.

Lilacs grow and bloom best in cooler climates. They’re ideal for New England and the Midwest.

In the South – where the flowers last less than a week, typically, and mildew is a foregone conclusion in the hot, humid summers – common lilacs languish. But there is one lilac you can grow in warm-weather climates, in my experience: Miss Kim.

Even in the warmth that can characterize a Southern spring, the blooms are long-lasting. And I love their fragrance. A bonus is that their leaves change color in the fall.

For suggestions on some newer lilacs that will perform well in the North, see this article in Horticulture magazine.

If your lilac needs pruning do it as soon as the shrub has finished flowering. Any later and you’ll be cutting off next spring’s flower buds, which are formed over the summer.

If you’re a lazy gardener, don’t be concerned about removing the flowers after they fade. It’s just not true that the plant won’t bloom the next year if the flowers aren’t removed the year before.

The plant will look better, of course, if you do – but who’s going to climb up on a tall ladder to try to reach the top of a 10-foot lilac? Not me! So, relax and don’t worry about it.

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