Sunday, May 8, 2011

It’s Lilac Time!

I am thinking of the lilac-trees,
That shook their purple plumes,
And when the sash was open,
Shed fragrance through the room.
~ Anna S. Stephens

A lilac-themed corner in Cassandra's farmhouse parlor

I recently learned, via a gardening article in our local newspaper, why lilac blossoms are not as profuse in our Nation’s Capital region as at our upstate New York farm. Lilacs do not flower well in the Agriculture Department’s Zone 7 and in warmer hardiness zones. These zones also provide perfect conditions for powdery mildew to develop due to the oppressive heat of the summer months.

When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d,

And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d—and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
~ Walt Whitman—When Lilacs Last in the Door-Yard Bloom’d. I. Leaves of Grass. 5

Lilacs must be planted to receive full sun, cold winter weather, and mild weather with good air circulation in spring and summer.  No wonder our New York lilacs are so beautiful – they were planted years ago in the perfect conditions!  How I love gathering huge bouquets of the sweetly fragrant blossoms...

Lilacs characteristically develop a mass of roots.  Lilac cuttings easily root if taken in mid-June.  The cuttings should be 8 to 10 inches long, dipped in a rooting hormone, and placed in a sand medium under mist.  Since lilac blooms occur on stems that formed last year, branches should only be pruned in late spring as flowers fade from these stems.  I don’t believe our New York lilacs have been pruned for years, but I look forward to wielding my pruning shears next month!

With every leaf a miracle … and from this bush in the door-yard,
With delicate-colour’d blossoms, and heart-shaped leaves of rich green
A sprig, with its flower, I break.
Walt Whitman—When Lilacs Last in the Door-Yard Bloom’d. III. Leaves of Grass.

Two of Cassandra's Lilac-themed Decorative Bookcovers:

The lilac spread
Odorous essence.
~ Jean Ingelow—Laurance. Pt. III.

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