Lilacs

Lilacs

Aside from Roses, there is no flower as beautiful and aromatic as Lilacs. Of the two, Lilacs have a stronger scent that carries quite a distance. Unfortunately, Lilacs bloom for only a very brief couple of weeks in the spring. To prolong their presence in your yard, grow a variety of Lilacs, including, early, mid and late varieties. With variety and luck, you may be able to see Lilacs in bloom in your yard for up to six weeks. Weather will have a lot to do with how long your blooms last. Once the buds begin to open, pray for a cool dry spell. Once the blooms are over, you still have a nice shade bush, but you have to wait for up to fifty more weeks to see them again.
The story of lilac, according to Greek mythology, begins with a beautiful nymph named Syringa (lilac’s botanical name).  Captivated by her beauty, Pan, the god of the forests and fields, chased Syringa through the forest.  Frightened by Pan’s affections, Syringa escaped him by turning herself into an aromatic bush – the flower we now refer to as lilac.
The 8th wedding anniversary flower and the state flower of New Hampshire (symbolizing the hardy character of the Granite State’s citizens), lilacs are frequently considered a harbinger of spring, with the time of their bloom signaling whether spring will be early or late.  In the language of flowers, purple lilacs symbolize the first emotions of love, while white lilacs represent youthful innocence.
Some lilacs are more fragrant than others. For example, many white lilacs are only faintly scented. Other lilacs range from slightly sweet to highly pungent. I can detect the pleasantries of scent, but my olfactories seem to become quickly used to a smell. This makes it hard to distinguish the scents of different flowers. Still, when I smell lilacs, I smile.
Some years ago, I undertook a project to record which lilacs were—and were not—fragrant. I had to recruit volunteer sniffers. Now, based on the noses of others, I can confidently recommend fragrant lilacs.
Planting lilacs
Select plants grown on their own roots, not grafted, to prevent future problems. Lilacs need room to
grow, so allow a distance of 10 - 15 feet between plants. For hedges, allow six feet.

Growing Lilacs

It is best to plant container-grown lilacs in early spring or fall and field-dug plants in the spring at time
of bud break. The soil should be well-drained and adjusted to a desired pH range of 6.5 - 7.0 with
ground limestone. Only superphosphate fertilizer and limestone are acceptable in the planting hole.
Good loam is important, with little, if any, amendment. Four weeks after planting, surface-apply a slowrelease
fertilizer, such as 18-6-12, at the rate of two ounces per four sq. ft.

Care of lilacs
Lilacs are hardy and long-lived, requiring only a minimum of care, Once established they seldom need
watering, except in periods of drought. A two or three inch layer of organic mulch around lilacs helps
control weeds, conserve moisture and stabilize root temperature, preventing heaving during winter and
protecting plants from the lawn mower. Pine bark is a good choice because of its availability and attractiveness.
Removing dead flowers soon after they shrivel will improve the appearance of lilacs.
Once lilacs are well established, annual pruning immediately after bloom will improve their vigor and
appearance. The goal of pruning is to maintain a clump of seven to 10 stems of different ages. How
many to remove will depend on the variety and plant vigor. Common lilacs grow much more slowly and
produce many more shoots than the hybrid varieties. In addition, thin out vigorous top growth to increase
flower bud formation by allowing sunlight to reach the center of the plant.
As long as they are growing vigorously, lilacs require no fertilization. To promote more vigorous shoot
growth, fertilize in early spring or in mid-to-late October using ½ lb. of 5-10-10 fertilizer per 25 sq. ft.
Test soil every three or four years to determine lime requirements.

Diseases and Pests
Powdery mildew is the most common disease of lilacs. It appears as a dusty-white color on the
leaves in late summer. The disease is unsightly but rarely causes serious harm. Spray with potassium
bicarbonate, available at most garden centers, to prevent mildew.
Oystershell scale looks like small oyster shells stuck on the branches, twigs and trunk. Underneath
the "shell" is a small sucking insect. Prune out heavily affected branches or spray plants
with horticultural oil during the summer months.
Lilac borers burrow into the wood of the plant and can cause the death of some stems. Look for
entry holes and prune out affected stems. Removing the oldest stems while pruning helps minimize
borer damage, as these insects seem to prefer the most mature wood.
Leaf miners feed on the tissue inside the leaves, leaving blotch-like markings.

Reluctant Bloomers
Some lilacs never flower. One or more of these conditions may be the problem:
Inadequate light Transplant to a sunny location or limb up overhanging tree branches to allow more
light.
Too young Many lilacs do not flower for five to seven years!
Overly rich soil or too much nitrogen fertilizer Soil rich in nitrogen will promote leafy growth at
the expense of flowers. Light root pruning may help.
Ill-timed pruning Summer, fall or winter pruning sacrifices flowers for next year. Prune lilacs
immediately after flowering in the spring.
 When Lilacs Won't Bloom.
Lilacs are usually fairly reliable bloomers, but sometimes they fail to flower. Here are some tips to make sure yours bloom:
    * Usually, insufficient sunlight is the problem. A minimum of six hours of sun is needed each day.
    * Too much nitrogen can be a problem. Often lilacs are planted in the lawn and fertilizers used to green up lawns are high in nitrogen. For the lilac, this causes beautiful green foliage but little bloom. Avoid using fertilizers high in nitrogen.
    * Make sure you prune at the right time. In early spring, remove any dead or damaged wood. But don't do any major pruning because you can easily remove the dormant flower buds. After the flowers fade, it's OK to do more major pruning, such as reshaping or rejuvenation of an old bush. You can also remove the faded flowers. Just be sure to complete pruning before midsummer. If you wait too long, you risk removing some of the next season's blooms. 


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