Lovely Lilac Memories

Lilacs are some of my favorite flowers. Their heady fragrance is heavenly in the fresh spring air that still has a cool bite in the morning. Growing up outside of Rochester, New York, lilacs were among the first flowers I was able to identify and appreciate. There has been an annual Lilac Festival in Rochester for as long as I can remember. I recall going to it once or twice, and there were so many different lilacs, all in bloom in Highland Park, near downtown, that it was hard not become addicted to this spring flower.

Lilacs are plentiful and can be found blooming most places in the north during the month of May. One source I recently read said Lilacs are the Northerners equivalent of azaleas in the South. They are THE flower that signals spring. Every yard we have owned has had lilac trees. Either they were “old shrubs” we inherited or a new variety of a Korean Lilac called “Miss Kim.” I so loved the Miss Kim variety that when we moved from one side of our town in Wisconsin to the other,  I had to have another. Both “Kims” faced east and are still a favorite ornamental of mine and the finches.

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Miss Kim not quite ready to bloom this week. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2019

Lilacs remind me of my grandma who would cut bunches of them during the spring and bring them into her home. We’d stay on Saturday nights to be given back to my parents on Sunday mornings at church. In the spring, lilacs would scent her home and ours. For our house, the one I grew up in from birth to age 12, had lilacs growing as a border along the side of the yard. Lilacs are a plant I grew up with and one that I fondly remember.

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Are Lilacs old fashioned? Perhaps. They have been around a very long time and have historical ties to Greek Mythology. I really don’t care about any of that, just the great smell and beautiful variations of purple and pink.

When lilacs are plentiful, I have been known to follow my grandmother’s example and cut some to bring them into the house. As a woody perennial, they last quite a while and make the house smell so nice.

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A lilac bush was the center of a school garden that I used to manage. It made working in the garden bed with students in the spring so pleasant. I was also able to point out that it provided shelter for wildlife such as butterflies and birds during spring and summer rain storms – essentially a place to hide and wait out the storm.  Not only are lilacs beautiful but they’re useful too!

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                               Lilac in Monarch WayStation at School,                          © Carol Labuzzetta, 2005

Lilacs are resilient. You can transplant or severely cut one back, and in a year or two it will be growing as fast and blooming as profusely as ever! Here is one in our front yard that is almost ready to burst! We transplanted it two years ago and it seems to be doing fine!

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Transplanted Lilac, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2019

Lilacs bring me warm fuzzy feelings of spring, memories of my grandma, and time spent with students. All good memories from being exposed to a plant at a young age; memories that have stuck with me for life and grow fonder with time.

What spring flowers do you like? I’d be interested to know! You can tell me in the comments.

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