Zipperer Land Management

Tips & Trends

Topic: The Garden

Lilac Tide

The season of lilacs was long ago given its own name--"lilac tide."  These lovely flowers are practically synonymous with spring.  No one uses the old expression these days, but gardeners everywhere still look forward to those few weeks in May when lilacs are in full bloom.

Today, experts estimate there are about 2,000 named varieties of lilacs.  The one I plant for clients is the Buddleja or more commonly known as the Butterfly Shrub or Summer Lilac.  No matter which variety  you choose, lilacs are easy to grow.  Plant them in early spring or in the fall in well-drained soil, where they will receive at least four hours of direct sun a day.  To encourage bigger flowers and strong growth, prune lilac shrubs lightly every year after flowering;  if you prune too late in the summer, you will be removing the next year's buds.

When cutting the flowers for bouquets, cut lilacs early in the morning or late in the evening when they're not stressed by the sun.  Use sharp pruning shears, avoiding the nodes, from which new growth will emerge.  Use a hammer to crush the ends of the stems so they can drink in more water.  Plunge stems immediately into lukewarm water, then add cool water.  But don't cut all the flowers for bouquets.  Lilacs are at their moment of perfection, when a breeze sets them to swaying gently.  As Louise Beebe Willder wrote in the 1932 book The Fragrant Path, "To drive along country ways during lilac time is to enjoy a continual bath of fragrance."

Cleve Zipperer