Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Lilac time

Aside from Roses, there is no flower as beautiful and aromatic as Lilacs. Well maybe Hyacinths. Of the three, Lilacs have a stronger scent that carries quite a distance. Unfortunately, Lilacs bloom for only a very brief couple weeks in the spring. 
To prolong their presence in your yard, grow a variety of Lilacs, including, early, mid and late varieties. With variety and luck, you may be able to see Lilacs in bloom in your yard for up to six weeks. Weather will have a lot to do with how long your blooms last. Once the buds begin to open, pray for a cool dry spell. Once the blooms are over, you still have a nice shade bush, but you have to wait for up to fifty more weeks to see them again.

Lilacs do not like to get their feet (the roots) wet for a prolonged period of time. They do best on hillsides, slightly elevated areas, or level ground where there is good drainage. Their roots run deep. If you have an extended dry period or drought, water infrequently but thoroughly. Lilacs do not grow well in lowlands where water tends to collect for prolonged periods of time.

Lilacs will tolerate almost any kind of soil, from clay to sand, with a pH of 6 to 7. Like any plants, your Lilacs will benefit from compost and humus worked into the soil to help retain some water during dry spells, and to provide additional nutrients.

You do not need to provide frequent fertilizer or organic feeding for your lilacs. Use a general purpose fertilizer in early spring or one high in Phosphorous to promote blooming. Too much nitrogen in the soil will result in poor blooms. Repeat the use of a general purpose fertilizer after the flowers have died off.

Tip: Spread your fireplace ash around the drip line of your bush for bigger and better blooms.

There are right and wrong ways to prune a lilac bush. There is also a right and a wrong time. Most importantly, prune or trim back your bush immediately after they are done blooming. Make sure to remove the spent bloom with your clippers. This will keep the plant from growing seeds and encourage creation of next year's buds. Next year's flower bud develops early, even though you may not see it. So waiting too long to prune will cause you to cut off next year's flowers.

Trim larger stems from the center of the bush to increase ventilation. It will also afford more room for newer shoots on the outside of the plant to develop.

Pruning should be done immediately after the flowers have died off. Cut small suckers and shoots at or near ground level, or where it comes out of the main trunk. Leave a few strong and healthy new stalks each year, especially if you are planning to trim back old wood.

Trim back any branch that sticks out from the main bush, and is not appealing to you.

A lilac shoot takes about three years before it produces a flower.

2008 Lilac Festival Sites:

Mackinac Island Lilac Festival - June 6-15, 2008, held on Mackinac Island, Michigan. Josh and I enjoyed this one when we were on the island for our first anniversary. 

Lilac Festival Summary Rochester, N.Y. Info site for their Annual Festival. The festival will be held May 9-18, 2008.

Royal Botanical Gardens Hamilton/Burlington, Ontario, Canada Home of the world's largest collection of varieties of French hybrid lilacs.

City of Lilacs Cornwall, Ontario, Canada

Lombard Lilac Festival in Lombard, Illinois. 200 varieties of Lilacs are on display at their two week festival in mid-May


Elizabeth said...

My neighbor and I were just discussing why we each have one lilac that won't bloom. The starts I planted3 years ago bloomed for the first time this year! I've been too lazy to get my book out, thanks for the detailed lesson on the beautiful blooms!

ubermom said...

Makes me want to go outside and have a long chat with our three lilac bushes. I don't think they are aware of this information.

Thanks for doing the research, my pet!

pammavery said...

The Lilac Festival in Lombard, IL is part of the area where I was born! It is where my parents grew up. When they moved to Indiana, my Grandma gave them a lilac bush from there. I have a start from that bush in my yard. I can see it from my kitchen window- it has 2 blooms/blossoms this year.

jeny said...

It is so hard to wait for the blooms! My lilacs are blooming for the first time in the front yard and this is the best showing yet for the bush in the back yard.