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The Allure of Lilacs

The spring season is a splendorous one that sings of new birth, from baby birds chirping in the nest to sweet-scented blooms abound. The crowning glory can be found in the garden in the form of the fragrant lilac shrub, showcasing rich and colorful blooms that peak from mid-to-late spring. Not only are lilacs a desirable addition to any garden space, but they beneficially attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators. Lilacs come in thousands of varieties and range in sizes, allowing gardeners to choose the ideal plantings. As a bonus, the blooms can be cut and placed in a vase to create the most delightful flower arrangement, ideal for a kitchen tablescape or an outdoor dining space beneath a shady tree.

In addition to valuing their beauty, gardeners love the plant’s ease of care. Most people can enjoy growing them. Lilacs are mainly hardy from Zones 3-8, but some varieties are cold hardy to zone 2. Additionally, specialty plants are heat tolerant to Zone 9. In general, however, lilacs will fail to bloom where they don’t get a big chill. Though typical blooms are various shades of purple, hybrid breeds can be white, blue, or yellow. Plant heights also vary, most ranging anywhere from 3 to 15 feet tall. Container-grown lilacs can be planted in early spring, in a hole dug twice as wide as the container and just as deep. New plantings thrive when soil is mixed with compost. Initially, lilacs require sufficient and regular watering at soil level to form a deep root system. Once established, they generally do well, requiring minimal weekly watering in dry conditions. Lilacs like well-drained soil and benefit from air circulation to prevent powdery mildew. They are also sun-loving plants that require a minimum of six hours sun to achieve optimal flowering. Maintenance of mature lilacs is necessary, with pruning recommended each year after bloom time to ensure vibrant new blossoms for the following year.

This long-living plant has been around for a long time and can survive one hundred years plus. Lilacs originated in Eastern Europe and Asia. They were brought to America in the 17th century by colonists. The plants have been adored by generations of people, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who added the magnificent shrubbery to their gardens. John Custis, the father of Martha Washington’s first husband, was an avid gardener and had a spectacular collection to include two varieties that are found in the area today: the common lilac and Persian lilac. Lilacs were also grown in America’s first botanical garden. Many folks are surprised to learn that lilac blossoms, part of the olive family, are edible. Thus, they can be used in cooking and baking. These gorgeous early bloomers are also known for their pleasantly intoxicating and sweet heady scent. Because the taste is generally strong, the flowers are often infused into a simple syrup to make cocktails or flavor baked goods. The pretty little flowers may also be frozen in ice cube trays (with or without fresh raspberries) to flavor teas and lemonades.

Lilacs are delightful outdoor shrubs that can transform any landscape by adding seasonal brilliant color, intense cheerfulness, and warmth. For about two weeks come springtime, they explode with color. Not only are the blooms stunning, but they add brilliant fragrance to garden spaces. Plus, these easy-to-care-for and hardy plants pair well with other perennials. Lilacs are greatly valued for their symbolic meaning, representing the season of birth and renewal demonstrated through its yearly blooms, pleasantly bringing spring gardens to life.

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Diana Erbio
2 months ago

I love lilacs! The lilac that blooms in my yard today, once bloomed at my grandfather’s aunt’s home. My grandpa gave me a cutting from that plant when I moved into my home decades ago now!

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