- Category: Steinbach and Area Garden Club
- Published: Friday, 27 March 2015 10:49
- Written by Karen Loewen
It's interesting. Ask anyone, gardener or not, to describe a lilac flower and they will tell you 'it's purple and smells nice'. Most people recognize the scent of lilacs, and it's perfume can awaken fond memories of springtimes past.
The common mauve lilac shrub or hedge is familiar to most of us, however there are many other types of lilacs available and suitable for every area of your garden. Depending on the varieties planted, you could have continuous lilac blooms for up to two months. Looking to help our pollinators? Bees and butterflies love lilacs!
'Lilacs & Forsythias 'was the subject of the evening when Erna Wiebe, of Oakridge Garden Centre in Steinbach, gave a comprehensive talk to the garden club, describing the attributes of the types of lilacs, their growing requirements, and recommended varieties. Lilacs are such easy shrubs to grow and no doubt most of us will now be inspired to find room for another lilac or two in our gardens.
How to Grow - Lilacs appreciate being situated in good soil and full sun. Our Manitoba clay soil suits them very well, but remember to plant them in a well drained area as lilacs do not like wet feet.
Fertilizer is generally not necessary, in fact too much nitrogen from an overspray of lawn fertilizer could well cause an overabundance of new green growth at the expense of flowers.
Lilacs are mostly untroubled by insects, however, if powdery mildew shows up on lower leaves in late summer, copper spray will take care of the problem. Mildew is usually the result of cool, wet weather. Take care when watering at the base of these shrubs as mildew spores in the soil could be splashed onto the leaves.
Your lilac didn't bloom for you? Lilacs are spring blooming shrubs, and begin setting next year's flower buds very soon after blooming. It's important to remember that any pruning should be done as soon as the flowers fade to avoid pruning out next year's blooms. These are attractive shrubs in or out of bloom, but they will occasionally need a tidying and shaping. Older lilacs can be rejuvenated by removing some of the oldest stems at the base of the plant.
Types of lilacs and recommended varieties – Flower colour, bloom time, leaf shape and other characteristics differentiate the types of lilacs. Shrub lilacs range in height from 3 – 15 feet, and tree lilacs grow to 20 feet tall.
Preston lilacs – bloom in June and July, a little later than the common lilac, have more elongated leaves, upright stems and are non suckering. They are often used as hedges and make a lovely, dense privacy screen. Generally around 8 feet tall, their scent is spicy. 'Charisma' is more compact at 4 feet.
French lilacs – A variety of perfumes can be found within this group, and the leaves are rounder, dark green and smooth. 'Prairie Petite' and 'Wonderblue' are smaller flowered dwarfs at 4 feet.
Outstanding varieties are 'Beauty of Moscow' (double flowers delicate pink, turning to white), 'President Grevy' (blue double flowers), 'Charles Joly' (dark purple to magenta, double) and 'Sensation' (purple edged white bi color) is an outstanding lilac, although perhaps not as vigorous. All are 8 – 10 feet tall.
American lilacs – It is significant that these varieties were bred in Manitoba by the late Frank Skinner, who gained fame as a lilac hybridizer. They are hardy, perfumed, bloom 2 weeks earlier and even show fall colour! Examples of his cultivars which are still popular today are 'Mount Baker' (white), 'Pocahontas' (deep violet) and 'Maiden's Blush' (mid pink).
Others – There are also several varieties which, because of their dwarfed size, beautifully fit into smaller, urban gardens. Displaying smaller leaves and scented, lavender flowers, they are compact and dense.
'Miss Kim' has burgundy fall leaves, unusual for lilacs, 'Bloomerang' reblooms all summer on old and new wood, and 'Dwarf Korean' lilac is often found as a small, topgrafted tree.
Now, about those tree lilacs. Proving to be a very popular urban tree, Japanese Tree Lilacs attract attention in June or early July due to their huge, creamy flower panicles. They are virtually pest and disease free and their gorgeous cherry brown bark provides winter interest.
'Ivory Silk' and 'Ivory Pillar' have glossy, green foliage while 'Golden Eclipse' displays variagated gold edged green leaves.
What about the Forsythias mentioned earlier? Well, like lilacs, forsythias are also spring blooming shrubs. In early spring, before their leaves appear, spectacular bright golden- yellow flowers cover the branches – or one hopes they will. These shrubs are essentially hardy in our climate, however the flower buds do not always survive our winters. Still, when they do, they are a treat for spring colour-starved gardeners! Plant these otherwise unassuming shrubs in the rear of the border, allowing others to shine after they bloom.
At 2 ½ feet, 'Sugar Baby' is a shorter variety, so a nice blanket of snow may protect the buds. A new variety, 'Fiesta', also shorter, and with interesting variegated leaves and red stems is on my shopping list.
There you are – a lilac for every corner of your garden – and, oh yes. They smell nice!