Friday, April 29, 2011

Lilac Weeks

Lilac 'Annabel'
It has been lilac time for about 3 weeks total around the place, with the 7 lilacs that surround my garage pad scenting the air now through the entire garden and other more peripheral lilacs in the garden starting to add  their fragrance.  I take full advantage of the lilac tolerance for the alkaline Flint Hills soil and the blistering Kansas winds.  My lilac year really began a few weeks back with soft-pink Annabel, a S. hyacinthiflora hybrid right next to the steps leading out to the back.  'Annabel' is very lady-like in form and never suckers. 

 Lilac 'Maiden's Blush'

The main flush of lilacs then follows, with my S. hyacinthiflora that isn't, 'Maiden's Blush' next. 'Maiden's Blush' should be a blush pink lilac, but looks closer to blue to my eyes, so I'm not sure that my bush was labeled correctly.  It has to be a hybrid of some sort, though, because it flowers much more delicately and prolifically than the species S. vulgaris next to it.

Lilac 'Sensation'
The Syringa vulgaris cultivars are next in line to bloom, with 'Nadezhda', picotee-form 'Sensation', 'Wonderblue', and, of course, 'Yankee Doodle' piping up in the mix.   The S. vulgaris types are all grouped into the "French" lilac category, and it for some reason tickles me that "French" and the species name vulgaris are tied together.  S. vulgaris is native to the Balkans, but the species became connected to the French by the breeder Victor Lemoine, whose over 100 cultivars from the late 1800's and early 1900's are known as  "French Lilacs".

Lilac 'Nadzehda'

Nadezhda' is a soft lilac-blue S. vulgaris bred in Russia. The name means "Hope," presumably in Russian or some dialect.  He was bred by Leonid Alekseevitch Kolesnikov, a WWII veteran in the years after the war, supposedly the best of the seedlings from this man who only wanted Moscow to be a peaceful city with streets decorated by lilacs.  'Nadezhda' is very hardy and disease resistant.

Lilac 'Wonderblue'
Soft powder-blue 'Wonderblue', also known as 'Little Boy Blue' is reputed to be the bluest of the lilacs and it certainly is in my garden.  Although it is hard for me to rate the intensity of scent of lilacs, since most of them overwhelm my nose, I'd have to say that 'Wonderblue' is also the strongest and sweetest scented of all my lilacs. I believe 'Wonderblue' has become my favorite.


Syringa vulgaris 'Yankee Doodle' is one of the darkest purples of all Lilacs and he shares the royal lineage of lilacs bred by Father John Fiala.  Fiala was an eminent scholar and plant breeder who produced a number of lilacs and crabapples and who literally wrote the encyclopedia on both species (Lilacs: The Genus Syringa and Flowering Crabapples: The Genus Malus were both authored by Fiala).  Unfortunately, be forewarned, if you google "Father John Fiala," you have to get past the news stories of a recent Catholic priest of that name who has been accused of rape and other indecencies.  'Yankee Doodle' has single florets of strong substance that persist a long time in the garden, particularly in the Kansas winds.

Lilac 'Josee'
Although I have a couple yet to bloom at all, including hybrid lilac 'Tinkerbelle', bringing up the rear right now is the first repeat-blooming lilac 'Josee', a three-way dwarf hybrid of S. meyeri, S. patula, and S. microphylla.  Unfortunately, pale-pink 'Josee', while beautiful, does not really rebloom in my garden.  Yes, you will see a few smaller florets pop up here and there throughout the summer, but they are sporadic and incidental in terms of garden impact, only good to allow the wistful gardener a chance to occasionally sample the scent of April in August.  I suppose that should be reward enough for growing her, but the gardener is ever demanding of his plants.

1 comment:

  1. What a scentful post. Nice history lesson, you should be a professor. ;)


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