Lilacs are one of the most cherished and adored of all flowering shrubs. They are noted for their beautiful blossoms and fragrance. Lilacs are available in a wide range of colors. There are seven color classifications for lilacs: white, pink, violet, blue, magenta (reddish-purple), lilac, and purple. Flowers are also available in single and double forms.
Several species are notable garden additions. For early blooms, try one of the Syringa hyacinthflora cultivars listed below.
*VF = Very Fragrant
The Common Lilacs or French Hybrid Lilacs are most noted for their bloom size and fragrance. There are thousands of cultivars available, some dating back to the late 1800's. These became known as French Hybrids due to the work of Victor Lemoine, a French hybridizer, who bred about 200 different lilacs in the 1870's.
|Adelaide Dunbar||Purple||D||10-12||VF||Fairly resistant to mildew|
|Avalanche||White||S||9||F||Father Fiala hybrid|
|Agincourt Beauty||Violet||S||10-12||F||Late midseason bloomer|
|Albert Holden||Violet||S||7||F||Silvery undertones|
|Charles Joly||Magenta||D||10||VF||Fairly resistant to mildew|
|Charm||Pink||S||8-10||VF||Large blue-pink florets|
|Edmond Boissier||Purple||S||12-15||F||One of the darkest|
|Krasavitsa Moskvy||White||D||12||MF||Four sets of petals|
|Leon Gambetta||Pink||D||12||F||Profuse bloomer|
|Ludwig Spaeth||Purple||S||12-15||F||Large, narrow panicles|
|Miss Ellen Willmott||White||D||12-15||VF|
|President Lincoln||Blue||S||15-20||VF||Truest of the blues|
|Sensation||Bi-color||S||10||F||Purple with white edges|
*MF = Mildly Fragrant; F = Fragrant; VF = Very Fragrant
For later blossoms, try one of the Preston Lilacs. Preston lilacs have elongated leaves that are more resistant to powdery mildew. Their flowers have a spicier fragrance that is milder than many of the French hybrids.
Two lilacs commonly used as foundation plantings are Dwarf Korean Lilac (Sryinga meyeri) and Miss Kim Lilac (Syringa patula). These lilacs produce smaller flower clusters than most lilacs, but make up for their lack of size with shear number of blooms. The lilac to violet blossoms have a spicy fragrance. They normally bloom as the French hybrids are finishing. These are great foundation plants because of their compact size (6 feet at maturity) and freedom from disease.
Plant lilacs in a sunny location. Lilacs require at least 4 to 6 hours of sun daily for good flower production. Lilacs prefer a well-drained soil. Space plants 10-15 feet apart for specimen plants and 5-8 feet apart for hedges. Since lilacs bloom on old wood, prune them immediately after flowering. An easy way to remember this is to prune lilacs before July 4th. Pruning lilacs in late winter or early spring will reduce flower numbers. Avoid using high nitrogen fertilizers close to lilacs since this can prevent blooms from forming.
This article originally appeared in the April 16, 1999 issue, pp. 42-43.
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