Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Plants I Know and Love No. 8: Lilacs

Good morning. Gold Country Sis Tina here. Today I am going to talk a bit about the Lilac. It is a very common shrub throughout North America. You would think it has always been here. But it is not native, although there is a wild lilac that grows in the Sierra Foothills. The lilac came to the United States in the 1750s.
This is a shot of our tallest lilac bush. It is rather straggly, because it is partially in the shade, but it was the first to bloom this year in spite of all that. I am going to try to prune it a little vigorously this year and see if I can't get it to bush out a bit more next year.
Here is a picture of a very large and bushy lilac shrub. This one is what I think of when I read "Under the Lilacs" by Louisa May Alcott. This is a lilac you could play under, take a nap under, do about anything under. I hope someday that our little bushes here in Kelsey will grow as big.
White is one of my favorite colors for lilacs. When we lived in Diamond Springs I had several white shrubs. One outside our bedroom window was approaching the roof of the house. I started all of these from little tiny shoots that were given to me by a good friend, who had been growing lilacs in her yard for years. She lives on Sacramento Hill in Placerville, and they really like it there! Lots of sun, closer to heaven, I don't know the reason, but they grow like weeds. We had a lot of luck with them in Diamond Springs also. Here in Kelsey they are very slow growing, and the deer like to prune them too, so it takes a long time for them to get over 3 feet tall. I don't think they are too fond of our heavy clay soil, either.
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew lilacs. Lilac shrubs can live for hundreds of years, and like daffodils, they are another indication that once an old farmhouse may have stood were they still grow.
When I was young, one of my favorite songs was "Green Grow the Lilacs". Green grow the lilacs, all sparkling with dew, I'm lonely my darlin' since parting with you...
In this vintage postcard, a real photo, the lilacs tower over the carriage. I bet the scent is lovely. I enjoy smelling lilacs. However, they make me sneeze, and set my nose to running. I discovered that problem when I would take large bouquets to work and set them on my desk. I tried to suffer through though.
This lovely vintage artists depiction on this postcard is very realistic.
What a lucky person to receive a birthday bouquet in a wheelbarrow!
The lilac has graced many vintage postcards. Here is another real photo.
Another shot of my tallest lilac. As soon as these blooms are faded, it will be time to prune. Never prune lilacs at any other time except right after blooming, if you want optimum flowering the next year.
This is a closeup of one of the two shrubs in our front yard, overlooking the river. They were the first two we planted, dug from starts in Diamond Springs. They are still growing slowly, but bloom nicely each year now, after 11 years in the ground. Notice the wire... they are both fenced off from the deer. There is a small herd of seven does who like to graze in this area every morning.
This is the other, larger lilac growing in the front yard. I believe the soil in this area is less clay and has a bit more leaf mold in it.
One last shot of the two oldest lilacs. Like my daffodils, I like to imagine they will someday indicate to visitors that the people who lived here loved to garden.


Heidi Ann said...

Your yards and gardens are always so wonderful to see. I love the scent of lilacs, too - I'm glad I'm not allergic or whatever. I just brought some in and put them in a little vase on the table the other day, and smelling them made me smile every time I walked into the room! I would forget they were there, walk in, smell them and think... Mmmmmm.....lilacs...

Julie said...

So beautiful, Tina! I LOVE lilacs--they make me so happy! Mine started to bloom this last week--oh, joy!

And a friend of mine, knowing how much I love them, handing me a beautiful sprig of it as soon as I walked in the door of our church this last Sunday...I held it and breathed in the scent throughout the day...lovely!

Thanks for sharing the images & a bit of it's fragrant history--hope you have a beautiful day!

yosemite faith said...

my gram had lilacs large enough to play under and even hide from folks! that particular one i know is over 100 Yrs old now - before we moved back - one of the large trees - felled by a storm knocked into it and broke a lot of it off. some of the pieces were as large around as my upper arm. another fact for you - lilac wood burns really really hot. we have some from when it was broken by that tree and we ration it for when it is really really cold and we want our wood stove to give off some real good heat. mackinac island - a fave of heidi's - has a lilac festival every spring. my gram & gramps planted many on the land here - strategically - near where the outhouse was, around the area where my gramps would scale fish he caught, where my gram would chop the head off chickens, near the chicken coop area - protected the farm house from all those nasty smells. i have always loved lilacs because of that huge fortress of lilacs i would play and hide under as a very little girl.

farmlady said...

What a beautiful post Tina. I live near the Mokelumne River in Amador Co. I have a lilac that struggles. It has never bloomed. The deer prune it for me every year because it's outside of our garden fencing. You have inspired me to move it into the garden and nurture it this year.
Thanks for the advice.

Jennifer D said...

Beautiful... I wish I could smell them.

Tina Dawn said...

I just wanted to thank everyone for their great comments on lilacs, I enjoyed reading them all. I love the thought of Julie in church breathing in the lovely scent as they sing, perhaps, "I Come to the Garden Alone", which was one of my Mom's favorite hymns. I wish I had been a little girl with Faith we are the same age) and played under Grandma's lilacs on her farm, and I think she is the luckiest girl in the world to live there now. Didn't know about lilac wood burning hot, interesting! Farmlady, I am willing your lilac to bloom for you well in 2011. Darn those deer anyway! Jennifer, I am trying to figure out how to do scratch and sniff blogs but haven't yet. And Heidi... I wish I was there to smell your lilacs and smile and sniff and sneeze. Love them. Thanks everyone. Love T