Reblooming lilacs: The hype and the reality
Josee and Bloomerang lilacs are sold as rebloomers, which will flower in late summer and fall as well as in spring. How do they really perform in the Midwest?
Treasured for their gorgeous, lush blooms and incredibly intoxicating fragrance, lilacs are a longtime garden favorite, dating back to the mid-1700s when both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington grew them in their gardens.Skip to next paragraph
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A sentimental spring garden favorite of mine, the modestly named common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) has been the one bush I couldn’t imagine not growing. Treasured for their big, flamboyant, oh-so-fragrant panicles of trumpet-shaped blossoms, lilacs are fairly carefree plants, often living for decades in the landscapes.
Some of my tried-and-true favorites, plants that enchanted generations of gardeners before me, include ‘Charles Joly’, a very prolific, very fragrant wine-red double flowered beauty; ‘Sensation’, dark red-purple blossoms edged in white; and ‘Beauty of Moscow’ (Syringa vulgaris ‘Krasavitsa Moskvy’), a stunning beauty with double white flowers.
A newcomer to my garden, primarily because yellow-colored blossoms are an oddity in the lilac family, is the only yellow-flowered lilac (actually more like a very pale almost creamy yellow), ‘Primrose’.
Finding a lilac blooming in fall
I admit that I fancy the oddities of the plant world. So I can’t help but notice when reading current gardening magazines, the numerous ads for the “new reblooming ‘Josee’ lilac”. A reblooming lilac! But as one of my garden club friends put it …“Is there such a thing as a reblooming lilac?”
From my personal experience, I can say: Reblooming? Yes. New? No …and yes!
I acquired my first ‘Josee’ lilac some 17 or 18 years ago, while visiting a childhood friend in Canada. Plant nuts that we were (and still are), we spent our days traipsing through nurseries, until that fateful day when, without any great expectations, we stopped at a nursery specializing in lilacs. Nosing around, we were instantly attracted by a familiar, heady sweet fragrance that could only be given off by a lilac bush in full bloom.
Yet it was September, so how was this possible? Laughing, we joked that it must be one of our beloved grandmothers, both staunch fans of lilac perfume, who surely had just passed this way.
Following our noses around a corner, we stood – amazed and dumb-founded – eyeball to lavender-pink blossoms with ‘Josee’ in full, magnificent bloom.
She was covered top to bottom in hundreds of short trusses of blowsy flowers, that not only delighted our senses but, obviously, those of the myriad of butterflies flitting about, as well. They were as smitten with the plant as we were.
We must have been a sight, standing there, mouths gapping, staring at what seemed to be, for lack of a better explanation, a horticultural miracle.
There is no other way to describe that encounter. It was lust at first sight!
I could hardly wait to get ‘Josee’ back home to the western suburbs of Chicago, envisioning drinking in the heady fragrance of the bush on hot summer days, and basking in the beauty of vases full of gorgeous lilac blooms in fall. Oh, wasn’t I going to be the envy of the neighborhood?