"To be overcome by the fragrance of flowers is a delectable form of defeat.
~Beverley Nichols (1898-1983)
I’ve not met anyone who doesn’t appreciate the fragrance of lilacs. Usually it brings a smile to one’s face and memories of Grandma’s garden. Lilacs have been in gardens forever, it seems.
Lilacs (Syringa) reportedly prefer alkaline soil but here in the Pacific Northwest we are known for our acidic soil, and my lilacs don’t give the impression they mind. Their zonal preferences seem to be all over the northern hemisphere, found in Middle Eastern, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, North American and European locals. In the hottest areas they apparently prefer some shade from the hottest sun and reportedly bloom best after a pronounced winter chill, with some blooming just fine with only a light chilling.
Lilacs bloom on old wood, meaning this year’s flowers were formed last year, and next years flowers will form in the months following current bloom. So if you cut off the spent flower clusters, as I do, you want to do it right away after blooming so as not to damage flower production for next year.
I was looking to add height and structure to my sunny, side garden and decided more fragrant lilacs would be wonderful. As I looked into it, no one could promise a variety that doesn’t sucker. Having a small garden and not wanting to give up any space to suckering plants, only a tree shape would allow more garden space for planting underneath. Then I found out about the Hulda Klager lilac farm in Woodland Washington. What a gem! If you love lilacs, and find yourself anywhere in western Washington (or Oregon for that matter) you must treat yourself to an April/May visit of Hulda’s treasure trove. Do plan on the whole day if you live more than an hour away and do bring a picnic lunch to enjoy under the lilacs or wisteria on the grounds of this historic farm.
The Hulda Klager Lilac Garden is a national landmark and was saved from destruction by local resident gardeners who didn’t want to see her work of hybridizing lilacs vanish. She had an interesting life and a passion for lilacs which you can read about on the website link…just click on her name to learn more. Better yet…go visit. Her 1880’s homestead has been restored and some of her personal belongings remain on display. The Hulda Klager Lilac Society has been set up to maintain the grounds and farmhouse, has garden meetings, lilac sales and a gift shop. All proceeds fund the operation, maintenance and continuance of her homestead and her legacy.
I planned my trip to coincide with their annual lilac festival. After enjoying the entire garden, I asked one of the volunteers if there was a non-suckering variety. She thought a minute and said yes, named 2 or 3 possible choices but said for sure Adelaide Dunbar (top picture) does not sucker. We walked over to where several Adelaides stood proudly in their pots and let me tell you, she’s gorgeous! Her new spring leaves are medium green with a tint of deep burgundy that turns all green with age. If that’s not enough, her flower buds are a rich, deep magenta/violet that lighten as they open and more so as they age, so the whole cluster has at least 3 differing tones within. That coupled with the two-tone leaves…well, I just had to make two of them mine right there and then, no dithering about it.
They are currently planted on both sides of the sidewalk near the front porch steps. My idea was that they would arch across toward each other…time will tell if that indeed happens. Even if not, my twin Adelaides are a beauty to behold every spring, both to the eye and nose.
In bloom in my garden today: Syringa ‘Adelaide Dunbar’,Blueberry 'Sunshine Blue, Mtn Ash, Lily of the Valley, Chives, Iris, Huckleberry, Geum ‘Lady Stratheden’, Viburnum davidii, Saxifrage, Bergenia ‘Winter Glow’, old fashioned Coral Bells (Heuchera), Tellima (Fringe Cups), Ajuga (Bugleweed), Solomon’s Seal, Wisteria, creeping phlox, Oxalis oregana ‘Wintergreen’, Dodecatheon (Shooting Star), Alpine strawberry, Heather, Daphne caucasica ‘Eternal Fragrance’ and ‘Summer Ice’, Wood Hyacinth (Hyacinthoides hispanica)