Lilacs: The Power Of Fragrance
Good news: the season of Monday to Friday business travel is over for me, at least for this year. Free at last! After working late Friday night, I drove home Saturday morning. Once home, the first thing I did was inspect the garden.
Overall, things looked pretty good. One thing I was sorry to see, though, was that the blooms on our new lilac (a plain old common lilac, Syringa vulgaris) were pretty much done. I had planted this young lilac last year, right outside the window on the east side of the house.
I regretted that I had been around for only a small fraction of our lilac’s brief period of bloom.
This got me thinking about lilacs in general. Why do people (including me) love them? They tend to take up a lot of room, they get leggy, and they have little to offer for the 50 weeks or so per year when they are not blooming. What’s more, they are not native to North America and have limited wildlife value.
These criticisms apply equally to lilacs and forsythia. Yet I think it is far more common for people to scorn forsythia. The difference is obvious: for that brief period, lilacs have an intoxicating fragrance. If forsythia were fragrant, it would not provoke nearly as much grimacing or eye rolling among certain persons.
Fragrance is powerful. It can stir memories and emotions. For me, the smell of lilac is a confirmation that it is indeed springtime, that life is renewing, and that life can be sweet. It brings on a sense of well-being and optimism.
It should also be said that lilacs are fairly low maintenance. Tomorrow I will cut off the flower panicles to prevent seed production, which should result in more bloom next year. That’s about all I have to do. Since it’s only 4′ tall, it doesn’t need much if any pruning.
Do you have lilacs in your garden? What is your favorite fragrant plant?