The name ‘lilac’ comes from the Persian word meaning bluish. The common lilac, Syringa vulgaris, has opposite leaves, often described as heart-shaped. Its flowers have four petals and they grow in clusters called panicles. The intense scent of lilacs is one that lingers in the memory and, as a result, has been used in perfume and many other scented products. This much-loved plant, a native of the European Balkan countries, has been admired for its beauty, fragrance and dependability. Plants were carried along the silk route to Istanbul, centre of the Ottoman Empire. In 1563, lilacs were taken to the court of Austria in Vienna and a few years later to Paris and from there were soon passing from garden to garden throughout Europe.
Think Lilac and think England– The Edwardians adored lilacs, thinking no garden complete without one and, in houses built at least a hundred years ago, the chances are that there will be one and it doesn’t have to be purple.
Lilacs flower on old wood but even very old trees can be rejuvenated by pruning. Although almost indestructible, they will not produce their best show of flowers unless they are looked after and pruned correctly which entails a partial pruning after flowering over a three year period. After five years there will once again be an amazing display of blooms. Lilacs are not a particularly attractive plant except in the Spring so it is a good idea to place them in the background of the garden or, where the climate allows, Clematis climbing through the Lilac branches almost takes the breath away. The common lilac planted in my PAST Garden was grown from a cutting. How exciting when a cutting flourishes after being nurtured and, even more exciting, when the blossoms appear.