Lilacs

Posted on: June 2nd, 2020 No Comments

Greetings everyone, Oscar the Grotesque here, joining you for another week to look more closely at Adirondack architecture, historic buildings, and preservation opportunities.

This week with the danger of frost (fingers crossed) behind us and Spring bursting out around us in luscious shades of greens and a brilliant burst of color, our thoughts have turned to gardening. From the simple farmstead to grand estates, gardens and planned landscapes have long been part of our history. Historically, our fascination with gardening and landscaping for both practical and aesthetic reasons is deeply rooted. There is so much you can learn from exploring the Adirondacks’ varied landscapes .  Studying our landscapes can tell us as much about who lived in a particular place, what may have took place there, and a lot  about its natural and man-made features, and the lives of the occupants as well.  As you explore the fields and forest, rural roads, cityscapes, and your back yard, I encourage you to discover clues to the past that shaped the landscape. You might spot a stone wall, bits of pottery, bricks, and random plants such as burdocks, and wonder what does that tell me? Are those old-growth trees? How old? Native or non-native? There is so much to discover. Below you will find fabulous resources to get you started on this journey, but today I’d like to talk about Lilacs.

Have you ever come across a Lilac bush seemingly growing wild? Lilac bushes, that glorious sight with such a delicate, yet heady scent. That unmistakable fragrance just screams Spring.

The common lilac (Syringa vulgaris), originated in Eastern Europe from the mountains of what is today Serbia and Bosnia. The shrub or small tree has been a familiar garden staple for nearly a thousand years, although the western world has only grown them since the 15th Century.  By the 17th Century, the small, fragrant blossoms became garden favorites long before plants from around the world were available. Lilacs were among the first shipments of plants sent to America to satisfy the new settlers’ need for some memory of home. Both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were known to have planted lilacs.

Lilacs were and still remain a popular shrub in gardens and around the house. Cultivation has resulted in a wide array of varieties in appearance, scent, and form. From deep purple to French blue, pink, dusty pink, lavender, white, and yellow, cultivars come in a breathtaking palette of colors.  They are also perfect if you are looking for a period appropriate shrub.

Did you know that lilacs can last for hundreds of years?!! They like cold winters, are very hardy, easy to grow and best of all, Deer don’t like the lilac. Lilac shrubs can grow to 15 to 20 feet tall. So if you happen to see a lilac seemingly growing in the middle of nowhere, take a closer look. There is a good chance an old home once stood there since a property owner no doubt planted them.

“In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash’d palings,

Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,

With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love,

With every leaf a miracle—and from this bush in the dooryard,

With delicate-color’d blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,

A sprig with its flower I break.” Walt Whitman When Lilacs Last in the Doorway Bloom

 

RESOURCES:

Forest Forensics: A Field Guide to Reading the Forested Landscape 1st Edition

by Tom Wessels, 2010

 

Reading Rural Landscapes: A Field Guide to New England’s Past 1st Edition

by Robert M. Sanford  (Author), Michael Shaughnessy (Illustrator), 2015

 

Trees of New York Field Guide (Tree Identification Guides)

by Stan Tekiela, 2006

 

Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees: Eastern Region Imitation Leather – May 12, 1980

by National Audubon Society

 

Lilacs: A Gardener’s Encyclopedia 2nd Edition

by John L. Fiala, 2008

 

 

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