Lilac shrubs have often been overlooked in the design of our landscapes over the last few decades. There were a number of good reasons that lilacs were a favorite landscape shrub as the pioneers spread out across the continent and we became a great nation. Reviewing some of the reasons lilacs were relied on so much may give us a fresh perspective on this old standard, and inspiration to use lilacs once again.
Lilacs are beautiful. Large flowers cover lilacs in early to mid-May and there are dozens of color variations, including white, pale yellow, pink, lavender, purple, magenta, blue and reddish pink. Some have a variegated white edge on the petals like the Sensation Lilac. For most, a deeper colored flower bud color precedes the opening of the petals, giving a changing color palette from blossom formation through full flowering.
Lilacs are fragrant. The sweet scent from a large mass of lilacs can fill a neighborhood on an almost calm day in spring. After a long Minnesota winter, the scent of a lush flower display can be a great pick me up.
Lilacs are tough. They tolerate harsh winds, intense sun, and brutal cold, which describes exactly the conditions pioneers faced as they homesteaded the northern half of the country. I remember a canoe trip to Dorothy Molter’s Isle of Pines on Knife Lake, a few yards from the Canadian border, where winter temperatures routinely dip to 40 degrees below zero and occasionally even 50 degrees below. There on the western tip of Knife Lake Dorothy’s main island was a healthy and happy group of lilacs that were still producing blossoms over twenty years after Dorothy had died. That’s tough!
Lilacs are versatile. The can tolerate many soil types. Almost any soils except chronically wet soils will support lilacs. Where alkaline soils cause many flowering shrubs to struggle, lilacs will usually do well, as long as there is good drainage.
Lilacs are useful. Few shrubs can produce as good of a windbreak as a member of the common lilac family. Stem density is excellent, which can really knock down those nasty winter winds, and might create a more welcoming outdoor space to enjoy and relax in our windy days in spring, summer and fall.
Lilacs are usually long lived. Forty to fifty years or more are common life spans for many lilac plantings. They usually do best when they are in a place where they continue to receive lots of sunlight. If their location becomes quite shaded, blossoms become more sparse, and the plants less vigorous. It’s amazing how well the lilacs respond and flower once a sun starved planting gets sunlight again, usually due to tree trimming or tree removal.
We carry many varieties of lilacs in different size containers and price points. Lilacs will be blooming in just a few short weeks. Stop in and pick a lilac out to grace your yard!