Lilacs are such a familiar part of our rural landscape in North America and often out-live the humble homesteads they were planted on decades before. I can remember road trips with my family as a young girl driving through Saskatchewan and seeing bushes covered with beautiful lavender blooms growing in the middle of ‘nowhere’…a fragrant reminder marking a home that had long ago fallen away with time.
Beloved for their aromatic presence each spring, most of us can easily call to mind that intoxicating scent which is absolutely unique to a lilac. It becomes embedded in our memories for a lifetime!
We were fortunate to inherit such a lilac bush when we found our place in the country – nestled at the corner of our tiny blue house…
The variety of lilac shrub we found growing next to our house is s.vulgaris which is the common one most of us are familiar with here in North America. In fact, this was the ONLY blooming flower in our yard that first spring and it has become quite dear to my heart!
During those first few years, we had great fun exploring our 5 acre property and we discovered that there were lilac bushes growing at the edge of some naturally wooded areas that were blanketed in shade for most of the day.
Lush green lilac shrubs growing amongst native aspens, chokecherries and highbush cranberries and I often wondered…will these ever bloom?!
It was about 5 years after we’d been settled on our property that the sunshine finally worked it’s magic on these shrubs. Older trees had come down during that time and we had done some pruning of branches that kept the light away from these lilacs…FINALLY…one spring I did a happy dance – THEY BLOOMED!
Even bigger surprise…they were WHITE ❤️
Knowing our land had been occupied well before the turn of the century, I decided to do some research on heirloom varieties and find out what this sweet double white lilac may be.
My best guess, is probably a ‘Mont Blanc’ lilac which was available from 1910 onward and was just one of the 153 cultivars developed at the Lemoine nursery in northern France between 1876 and 1927.
Some fun facts about growing Lilacs in zone 3
- They are native to the Balkan Peninsula where they grow in rocky soil (hint – drainage!)
- Historically, lilacs were often planted strategically next to outhouses because of their lovely strong scent – a brief spring reprieve I would imagine! 😳
- Did you know that lilacs are part of the olive family? (Oleaceae)
- Lilacs are hardy in zones 2 to 7 (apologies to my friends in Brazil!)
- Colonists in the US and settlers in Canada brought lilac shrubs with them in the 17th century, and many modern-day historians actually use the presence of lilac bushes across the country to understand and track the migration of settlers.
- LILAC BUSHES CAN LIVE FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS!
I have to be honest – I have never ‘purchased’ a lilac bush and planted a potted plant from the nursery.
However, our wonderful ‘inherited’ lilac shrub has SPREAD THE JOY to friend’s properties as well as our own over the years simply by transplanting the shoots that grow from its base.
Let me introduce you to the lilac hedge we planted along the eastern border of our vegetable garden!
It is still a work in progress…but let me share with you how we created this hedge from the shoots:
- Ray, my Dad and I worked together to dig a narrow bed along the outside edge of the vegetable garden
- I added a wheelbarrow full of compost and raked it into the surface
- Ray started at the edge of the existing Lilac shrub at the corner of our house and dug out individual shoots that were about one to two feet high
- Dad and I took those shoots…put a shovel in the new bed and tucked them into the ground at the same depth they were originally growing.
- We spaced them every 3 feet along the length of the bed
- Gave them a drink of transplant fertilizer and a GOOD soaking of water…and Bob’s your Uncle! (I really do have an Uncle Bob 😊)
Here’s the good news…you don’t really have to prune your lilac until it is at least 6 feet tall. Just let her grow as she is.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING – as soon as the blooms have finished their show – that is the PERFECT time to prune. If you wait too late in the summer you’ll just be cutting off the developing buds for next spring.
Now, I’ve been getting quite intimate with my growing hedge (that sounds funny🤔)…once it finally hit that magical height of 5 or 6 feet I began removing spent blossoms and pruning back the height each spring.
Why am I doing that?
It helps to create a dense thick bush…and so far – knock on lilac wood – it seems to be working!
LILACS AND MEMORIES GO HAND IN HAND…
Ray and I were married on our property on a lovely spring day 15 years ago – Lilacs made a fragrant and beautiful home-made wedding bouquet 💜
Lilacs in bloom made for a beautiful backdrop to many spring planting visits over the years with my Mom and sister…I can’t tell you how many of these ‘gather by the lilac’ photographs we have to mark those occasions!
I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of all the incredible lilac varieties that exist out there…I’m sure you have your own fond memories and success stories of growing these truly gorgeous shrubs in your own yard…please feel free to share in the comments below, as I ALWAYS love hearing from you!
Until next time…💕
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