When The Lilacs Bloom !

“But remembering those moments, I stand still in ecstasy, inhaling through the noise of falling rain, the smell of invisible, enduring lilacs.” ~ Marcel Proust

With the promise of spring soon to arrive to the hills of West Virginia, one of the things we will see and enjoy, are lilacs. Lilacs are one of the many fabulous beauties of the garden world, but they are not happy in all parts of the country.  So, today I thought I would share some of what I have learned with regard to growing these beauties.

Like many things that grow easily and are abundant, lilacs can often be taken for granted.  They are common in this part of the country, and thrive in our climate.  However, because I always adored them, when we moved to Virginia, I was determined to have them at our home.  My decision to grow them went completely against the advice of a grand and experienced gardener, my mom.  I can’t tell you the many years I struggled to grow them, with zero success.  I watched too many, that I nurtured and prayed over, only make it through one or perhaps two growing seasons, then wilt under the boiling sun and die.  I ordered specific cultivars, special food, amended the soil, purchased books about their care ~ you name it, I tried it.  I desperately wanted lilacs by our back gate. After all, what could possibly be more inviting than lilacs greeting everyone who entered?

“Lilacs are May in essence.” ~ Jean Hersey

But, I finally learned one gigantic lesson in gardening.  Not all plants thrive in all parts of the country.  And no amount of wishing, hoping and praying will make it happen.  Lilacs are not happy in coastal Virginia.  They are not fond of sandy soil, torrential rain, brutal heat and humidity.  They like rocky soil, something their little roots can wrap themselves around, cold winters and moderate summers.  

When we returned to West Virginia, one of the first things that went into our garden was a lilac.  We now have three, and one of my favorites is a dark violet lilac, Ludwig Spaeth.  He is a beauty and was given to me by my friend, Cathy.  A snip from an old one in her garden.

Lilacs are easily started from a start of  an old shrub.  Usually, if you look at the base of a mature plant you will see young sprouts.  Select one about 3 or 4 inches tall and give a quick, firm jerk.  You should see some roots.  I usually pot this in a medium size pot, with garden soil.  Place it where you can easily water, and check its progress.  Give it a little morning sun and shade in the afternoon.  It may wilt a little, but it should soon perk up and take off.  After it looks strong and is beginning to grow, you can plant it in the desired location. Try to plant on a cloud-covered day, with the possibility of rain in the forecast.  And, if possible, it is better to wait until early fall to plant.

We have another, quite special lilac, which came from my husbands family farm in Pennsylvania.  The home, barn, and outbuildings are all gone now, but the lilac continues to grow and bloom.  Visiting the home-place several years ago, we were able to obtain a piece of it ~ now a joy every spring.  I believe it to be a cultivar named President Lincoln, an heirloom variety.

Lilacs grow rapidly and can quickly get out of hand.  They are at their best and can be enjoyed the most, when they are kept at a height you can easily reach to cut their blooms.  After all, lilacs are all about enjoying their fragrance ~ something you can’t do when the blooms are high above your head.  Lilacs should be pruned immediately after the blooms are finished.  If you have an old lilac in need of having the height reduced, you can prune the height by one-third each year until it reaches the desired height.  Be sure to check the shrub well each year, removing any branches that are crossing or rubbing each other.  This can cause a break on the skin of the shrub.  Therefore, inviting insects and disease.  Also, keep the inside thinned to allow for good circulation.

“A faint smell of lilac filled the air.  There was always lilac in this part of town.  Where there were grandmothers, there was always lilac.” ~ Laura Miller

So now you know, I have garden loves other than peonies.  I hope you have enjoyed “When The Lilacs Bloom,” and that you live where you can enjoy them, too.  However, if you do not, at the end of this post I have listed a few lilac festivals you might enjoy visiting this spring.  And most importantly, do remember:  “You will know it is here, or getting near, when the LILACS Bloom !” ~ Unknown   (The words on a vintage sampler, gifted to me from my husband for my birthday many years ago.)

Did you know?   “When a man gives a woman a lilac, he’s asking her a question:  do you still love me? ~ Colleen Houck



Thanks so much for visiting.  Wishing you and yours a most beautiful day ! 

Au Revoir,




Lilac Festivals

Lilac Time at Lilacia Park

Lombard, Illinois

May 4 through 20, 2018


Rochester, New York Lilac Festival

May 11 through 20, 2018


The Mackinac Island, Michigan Lilac Festival

June 8 through 17, 2018



Photos:  Pinterest and facebook









22 thoughts on “When The Lilacs Bloom !

  1. Sandra, what gorgeous photographs! I can almost smell the wonderful fragrance of the lilacs. I had a lilac at my previous home, and I so enjoyed the bouquets they provided. Take care and enjoy your weekend!!!

    1. Shannon, thanks so much for visiting and your comments. Yes, lilacs are wonderful. And, if you have ever had the pleasure of having them growing around your home, it is an experience you don’t forget.

  2. Oh, this is so lovely Sandra! I love lilacs, sadly, they are not happy in our coastal garden. But when they are available as cut flowers, I relish each stem. That color and fragrance, just divine! Thank you for this beautiful post, friend. xo Lidy

    1. Lidy, so happy to see you here . I well understand about the disappointment of not living where lilacs thrive. But, how wonderful that you can purchase them as cut flowers. So happy that you enjoyed the post and thanks again for visiting me !

  3. Such a great post, Sandra! Lilacs remind me of my mother, who grew up in Rochester before her family moved to WV. She loved them, and I do too. I have a gardener neighbor who has one on the edge of her drive, as if planted just for passersby. It’s greening up and has buds. I check on it almost daily, and can’t wait to walk by and smell its glorious perfume. I’d love to get a snip from hers. I have a newer variety, a reblooming dwarf boomerang, and its taken several years for it to get happy (situated in a less than ideal spot for a few years before I moved it). A dusting of snow here today, hope yours is not much more. Have a good weekend and hope you’re feeling 100% again.

    1. Good Morning Rita: Thanks so much for your kind words, my friend. My former neighbor and dear friend who gave me the dark violet lilac (Ludwig Spaeth) was from Rochester. She was so used to lilacs being at every turn that she never could understand my love of them. She thought them to be quite ordinary. It is a treat for those who walk by to enjoy beauty and fragrance and I have one planted by our front walk. I enjoy seeing walkers rub their hands on it and stop for a drink of the fragrance. Have a great weekend and yes we woke up to a dusting of snow here also. Glad it wasn’t more.

  4. Sandra, the lilacs are beautiful and I can almost catch their fragrance through my iPad this morning. Oh how I wish they would grow in hot and humid Alabama. I might be a bit envious of your lilacs. Coming to the realization that not every plant will grow or thrive in NE AL was freeing. I kept trying and failing. So I will enjoy yours virtually! I hope you didn’t receive snow. Have a wonderful weekend!

    1. Dear Pam, we woke up to a dusting of snow, I so hope the beauties of your gorgeous garden did not suffer damage from the cold. It is hard to come to the realization that not all plants grow in all parts of the country. Especially, when there are certain ones we dearly love. I so miss my Camellias we had in VA, but too cold for them here. I tell myself, I traded them for lilacs. I really think gardeners suffer from – “I want it all.” I know I do. Pam, thanks so much for visiting and your kind comments. Have a lovely weekend!

  5. I love lilacs. I have tried to grow them here in the mountains of NC, but they never really took off. We will try them one more time at our new house.

    1. Hi Penny ! I would think the soil and cold winters would be right in your area – but it may be too hot in the summer. If possible, try to place them where they get a little shade from the afternoon sun and see how that works. And, try to purchase a small plant, often they take off better than a larger one.
      Thanks for visiting and keep me posted about the lilacs.

    1. Susanne, welcome to Maison De Jardin! Thank you for your kind comments. Take heart, spring will arrive. Wishes for a lovely weekend to you also!

  6. I love lilacs but realize I will never have one unless I move to a colder climate. When we lived in Alaska and were stationed in Fort Wainwright which is in Fairbanks I did have a lilac tree close by. We lived on post and government offices were in our back yard. One of them had a lilac that I picked a lovely bouquet from. I must try to find the picture. I arranged them in two blue and white ginger jars for a luncheon.
    Thank you for the beautiful quotes and pictures. Your posts are like reading Victoria magazine.

    1. Dear Bonnie, thank you so very much for your most kind comments and for visiting.
      I can just picture your lovely lilacs in the beautiful blue and white ginger jars, what a table that must have been. Wishing you and yours a lovely weekend!

  7. I love lilacs and they are in early leaf now in our Western Coastal region of Canada, with tightly formed small buds that will soon expand into heavenly colour and fragrance.

    1. Lorrie, thanks so much for visiting today. I imagine you have gorgeous lilacs in your region. Depending on the weather, we will be seeing them soon also! They are one of the many joys of spring.

  8. I grew up in the eastern part of Virginia and we had lilacs. Love the photos. The best I can do here is crepe myrtles.

    1. Myrna, thanks so much for visiting. Isn’t gardening a trade off when it comes to the things we love? And, I do believe gardeners tend to want it all, at least I do. However, how wonderful that you can grow and enjoy crepe myrtles. I think of them every summer, and remember them from our years in Va. Beach. It is way too cold for them here in West Virginia, but I can have lilacs.

    1. Laura, yes I have thought the very thing about a “scratch and sniff button.” Would be wonderful, wouldn’t it? It is still very cold here, but we are promised spring weather toward the end of the week.
      Thanks so much for your visit and wishing you a beautiful week as well!

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