Tag Archives: David R. Godine

TOP LILACS FOR FRAGRANCE

Fragrant lilacs copyright Kim Smith

Lilacs from our garden blooming in shades of pink, purple, blue, white and lavender

With our lilacs in full glorious bloom, and nearly knocking me out with their wonderfully delicious fragrance when walking down our garden path, I thought I’d post this excerpt from my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities ~ Notes from a Gloucester GardenNot all lilacs are fragrant and some not at all. Based on my years of planting lilacs for client’s gardens, and my own garden, with any one of the lilac cultivars listed here, you will not be disappointed. For information on how to grow lilacs, the chapter devoted to lilacs in Oh Garden! goes into greater detail.

Lilacs

False blue
White
Purple
Colour of lilac
Heart-leaves of lilac all over
New England,
Roots of lilac under all the soil
of New England,
Lilacs in me because I am
New England,
Because my roots are in it,
Because my leaves are in it,
Because my flowers are for it,
Because it is my country
And I speak to it of itself
And sing of it with my own voice.
Since certainly it is mine.

—from Lilacs by Amy Lowell (1874–1925)

Surely at the top of the list of shrubs to grow for creating the framework of an intimate garden or garden room are lilacs, in particular Syringa vulgaris and their French hybrids. Syringa vulgaris are grown for their exquisite beauty in both form and color of blossoms, although it is their fragrance flung far and throughout gardens and neighborhoods that make them so unforgettable.

Not all species of Syringa and cultivars of Syringa vulgaris are scented. The early French hybrids and hybrids of Leonid Kolesnikov have retained their fragrance. Syringa oblata has a similar fragrance, though is not nearly as potent. Several of the Chinese species have a spicy cinnamon scent, while many of the Asian species and their hybrids have very little, if any, fragrance. To find your personal preference, I suggest a visit to a local arboretum, or take your nose to the nursery during the extended period of time (six to eight weeks, or so) in which the different cultivars of S. vulgaris are in bloom.

Nearly everywhere lilacs are grown (and here I am only referring to S. vulgaris), they are called by some variety of the word lilac. Perhaps the word lilac stems from the Persian word Lilak or Lilaf meaning bluish. The French say Lilas, the Spanish say Lila, and the Portuguese Lilaz. In old English lilacs were called Laylock, Lilack, and Lilock.

Lilacs are native to and found growing among the limestone rocks on the hillsides and mountainsides throughout southeastern Europe, in the Balkans, Moldavia, Serbia, Macedonia, and Yugoslavia. Cultivated by local mountain herdsmen, they were taken from the peasant villages of central Europe to the garden courts of Istanbul. In 1563, the Flemish scholar and traveler Ogier Ghiselin, Count de Busbecq, Ambassador of Ferdinand I of Austria to the court of Suleiman the Magnificent, brought back to Vienna gifts from the sultan’s garden. Attracting much attention was the lilac. Seven years later, in 1570, Ogier Ghiselin, Count de Busbecq, and then Curator of the Imperial Court Library, accompanied the Archduchess Elizabeth from Vienna to Paris where she was betrothed to King Charles IX of France. Count de Busbecq journeyed to France with a shoot of Syringa vulgaris, where it soon began to fill the gardens of Paris.

Two color variants sprang up in European gardens beside the wild blue- flowered lilac, a nearly white flowered variant with lighter foliage and a taller- growing variant with deeper purple flowers. Hybridizers quickly set about to create different forms and color versions from these two variants.

Blue Lilac President Grevy copyright Kim Smith

Blue lilac – ‘President Grevy’

Victor Lemoine of the famed nursery Victor Lemoine et Fils at Nancy in Lorraine Province continued the work of hybridizing lilacs. From 1878 to 1950, Victor and his wife, their son Emile, and their grandson, Henri, created 214 lilac cultivars. The cornerstone of the Lemoine’s lilac hybridizing program was a nat- ural sport that bore two corollas, one inside the other, making it the first dou- ble. This double was subsequently named ‘Azurea Plena.’ Because of the Lemoine family’s success in turning ordinary lilacs into fancy double-flowered lilacs in nearly every hue imaginable, they became known as the “French lilacs.” Spreading throughout Europe, the French lilacs were brought to the Russian court by French travelers. Well suited to the soil and climate of Russia, they soon spread far and wide. Several decades later, the Russian hybridist Leonid Kolesnikov continued the successful work of the Lemoines with his own exquisite variants.

The French and Dutch colonists transported lilacs to North America. These cherished cuttings, wrapped in burlap and wet straw tucked into suitcases for the long journey across the Atlantic, traveled well and were soon growing throughout the colonies. By 1753 the Quaker botanist John Bartram of Philadelphia was complaining that lilacs were already too numerous. One of two of the oldest col- lections of lilacs in North America are at the Governor Wentworth home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, planted by the governor in 1750. The second collection, perhaps one hundred years older, is at Mackinac Island in Michigan, where French Jesuit missionaries living in the area are thought to have planted them as early as 1650.

Maiden's Blush Lilac copyright Kim Smith

Pink lilac – ‘Maiden’s Blush’

With their traveling fragrance, versatility in the landscape, and their ability to live tens, perhaps even hundreds of years, lilacs are garden heirlooms. When selecting lilacs to grow for creating the framework of the garden, take the time to choose wisely. Some lilacs grow readily into a tree shape (‘Beauty of Moscow’), while others are somewhat relatively lower growing cultivars; ‘Wedgwood Blue’ comes to mind, and still others, the common white lilac (Syringa vulgaris var. alba), sucker more freely. And bear in mind that different lilacs bloom over an extended period of time. If you wish to have a blue lilac blooming simultaneously with a white lilac, then it is worthwhile to determine whether a specific cultivar is an early, mid, or late season bloomer. The following is a selection of lilacs growing in our garden, arranged in their sequential progression of flowering, with considerable overlapping. They are all highly scented or we wouldn’t grow them. The last photo below shows the different colors in lilac blossoms of white, pink, blue, lavender, magenta.

Beauty of Moscow Lilac copyright Kim SmithSyringa x hyacinthiflora ‘Maiden’s Blush’

S. x hyacinthiflora ‘Maiden’s Blush’ (1966) Skinner ~ Single, pale rose pink; shows different colors of pink under different soil conditions. In a warmer climate and lighter soils it is a paler shade of pink, in heavier soils ‘Maiden’s Blush’ has more lavender undertones.

‘Krasavitsa Moskvy’ translated to ‘Beauty of Moscow.’ Leonid Alexseevitch Kolesnikov (1974) ~ Double, lavender-rose tinted buds opening to white-tinted pink. Grown throughout Russia. Vigorous upright habit, useful for growing into a tree-shape. Very extended blooming period.

Syringa vulgaris var. purpurea. Common purple lilac ~ Lavender, the wild species seen growing throughout its native land. The common purple is the most widely distributed form of lilac. The lilac of old gardens.

‘Wedgwood Blue’ John Fiala (1981) ~ Hanging panicles of beautiful true blue florets. Lilac-pink hued buds. Somewhat lower growing.

‘Madame Florent Stepman’ (1908) ~ Satiny ivory white florets from rose- washed buds. Pure white when fully opened. Tall and upright growing. One of the most extensively cultivated for the florist trade.

‘President Grevy’ Lemoine (1886) ~ Pure blue, immense panicles of sweet starry florets.

‘Marie Legraye’ (1840) ~ Single, diminutive florets, radiant white, lighter green foliage.

‘Monge’ Lemoine (1913) ~ Vivid, intense plum wine fading to deepest rose.

‘Andenken an Ludwig Spaeth’ Nursery of Ludwig Spaeth (1883) ~ Single, rich purple-violet with a smaller pointed-head panicle.

Fragrant Lilacs -2 copyright Kim Smith copyClockwise from upper right: Pale pink ‘Maiden’s Blush,’ common white, double-flowered ‘Beauty of Moscow,’ ‘Monge,’ common white, ‘President Grevy’ (blue), and common purple.

Above excerpt from Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden (David R. Godine, Publisher), written and illustrated by Kim Smith.

Link to David R. Godine website for more information Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities ~ Notes from a Gloucester Garden

Male Black Swallowtail Wedgwood Blue Lilac copyright Kim SmithNewly emerged male Black Swallowtail Butterfly and ‘Wedgwood’ blue lilac.

Lecture: Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden

On Thursday, March 6th, at 7:30pm I will be giving a slide presentation and lecture for the Holden Garden Club. The lecture is based on my book, Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!, which I both wrote and illustrated.

Now is the perfect time of year to read Oh Garden, as we dream of spring awakenings and all the garden’s possibilities!

See the Events page of my website for upcoming lectures and film screenings open to the public.

Addendum to the post ~

Brian M. O’Connor, “happy me” asks in the comment section, “what beach or dock is Holden near?”

My response:

Hi Brian,

How you you? How is your beautiful daughter Amelia?

I am so blessed that Oh Garden has sold all around the country, as well as in Canada and England, and continues to do so. It has legs for a reason. The information within its pages continues to have relevance and inform. My book is primarily about garden design, with a tremendous amount of information about habitat gardening; how to create a welcoming haven for people, butterflies, and songbirds; how to create a fragrant garden, and beautiful Gloucester gives it a sense of place. I wrote Oh Garden for my children, and primarily for young families just starting out with a garden, and for people who want a new look to their garden, to try something new and give them a fresh way of thinking about their existing garden.

One reason I chose my publisher, David R. Godine, is because he has a fabulous backlist catalogue; books don’t end up in the remand pile, which is the fate of most non-self published books today if they aren’t number one best sellers.

Thanks so much Brian for the question!

Best wishes to you and your family.

oh-garden-front-cover

Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! ~ Notes from a Gloucester Garden

At this time of year, with the holidays knocking at our doors and the scramble for gift ideas beginning, I try to remember to post excerpts and information about my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! ~ Notes from a Gloucester Garden (which I both wrote and illustrated), and “The Pollinator Garden” lecture that I gave last evening in Pepperel reminded me to do so again this year. My publisher, Mr. Godine, always thanks me for this endeavor!

We sold a good stack of books last night and I was so appreciative for the opportunity to present my program to an interested audience engaged in learning more about the connection between what we plant and the pollinators we invite to our gardens. Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! speaks to both the greater and smaller concepts in garden-making and is a how-to design tutorial that covers the gamut from creating the framework to what to plant to attract the tiniest of butterflies. The design concepts are universal, and although set in Gloucester, Oh Garden makes for a thoughtful gift for anyone on your holiday gift-giving list!

Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! sells for only $14.00 on Amazon, which is a $21.00 value off the publisher’s list price of $35.00.

Click here to purchase a copy of Oh Garden.

Front Door Cosmos Kitty ©Kim Smith 2009

From my book’s introduction ~

We all carry within us the image of a home to create and a garden to tend. Perhaps you dream, as I do, of a welcoming haven to foster family bonds and friendships and to rejoice in life’s journey. The garden and the home to which it belongs becomes a memory catcher to weave a life’s tapestry.

To imagine a garden paradise, one must live in one’s home and listen to its own particular music. Gradually, by degrees, the idea of the garden will grow. A home and a garden should look as though they had grown up together and will, when one takes the time and necessary thought. A garden cannot be hurriedly created. Delicious, blissful pleasure is derived from the garden’s use as a continuation of the home.

Our gardens provide a safe harbor from hectic lives, a place to celebrate life and an opportunity to express our creativity. The garden is an inviting sanctuary to guide one through the rhythms and harmonies of the natural world. Planted to nurture the imagination and hearten the soul, a “new” cottage garden is a whimsical, exuberant intermingling of scented flowers and foliage, fresh fruit, and savory herbs.

As a designer, I believe I am here to channel ideas for the benefit of many. This book is my communication of a profound desire to share with readers the immeasurable joy gleaned from creating a personal paradise of one’s own making.

The illustrations are of flowers, songbirds, and butterflies I love to draw and to paint, and selected because they only become more beautiful when intimately observed.

A poetic world lies waiting to be discovered. Let us open the garden gate and take a step within.