Farm Girl mentioned that she loved lilacs and wanted to hear other people’s lilac stories. So, here’s mine.
I have always loved lilacs, since I was a little girl. One of my favorite books was (and is) “Under the Lilacs” by Louisa May Alcott. In this story, in case you don’t know it, two little girls make a playhouse under a large lilac bush.
I remember my uncle’s house, in Seattle, that had a very large lilac bush next to the house with a fence separating the bush from the back yard and another one separating it from the next door neighbor’s. It made a great hidey-hole and playhouse for a little girl. I thought I was hidden from the world but the family always knew where I was because it was my favorite place to go.
When I was a bit older, I remember a huge lilac bush in my aunt’s backyard. Auntie Pete, in North Dakota, owned a hotel and this large lilac bush was next to the garage. It was big enough to hide in and play in. The garage, if I remember right, had a window that opened into the bush so that a little (bigger, but still little) girl could crawl through the window and have two ways into a secret hidey-hole.
We always had at least a small bush of lilacs in any house that we owned as I was growing up. Our home is in South Dakota – my grandmother lived in North Dakota. Each spring my mother would package up some nearly open lilacs and send them up to Nana, as ours would bloom sooner than hers would. Nana’s favorite scent, by the way, was lilac!
Lilacs respond to severe grooming if you are careful not to cut too close to the ground. If you cut the bush to about 6 to 12 inches from the ground, it will grow back bushier and thicker. This can be done in the spring, when the blooms are gone, in the fall, when the leaves are falling or in the winter, when the sap is not running.
When Norm and I were first married, our first house was on a small lot of land that had a strip of lilacs in the front and a row of them along the driveway. They were pretty scraggly, so I spent a long spring down on the ground cutting off all the stems to about 6” high. My neighbor told me that I was ruining good lilacs, but the next spring they were growing back just fine. I drove by the house about 10 years later and they were totally awesome in their tightness and neatness! And they were very tall, too!
In 1971 my parents purchased a piece of land in the Black Hills; the land had a cabin / house that had been built in the 1880s. There was a humungous old lilac that we figured was about 90 years old, at least! We decided not to cut it down, but to let it grow wild in all its glory. The springtime out at the cabin was luxuriously fragrant with all the blooms the bush had.
We now have, at Ash Lane Farm, a large bush out our back door. It is scraggly and leggy; there are very few blooms each spring. This year is THE year! I have convinced Norm to cut down the tall scraggly limbs and start the bush over. We are going to trim them this spring before the blooms come. I will miss a year of blooms but expect the bush to look totally awesome by next spring and be rewarded by more blooms than I can possibly pick and bring into the house.
I have always picked lilac blooms and brought them into the house; some people think the scent is too strong but I can take that strong smell – it’s a scent of spring. You can be rich or you can be poor but you can always have the sight and scent of lilacs in the spring! I may be too old and stiff to crawl through a tunnel of lilacs but I will never be too old to love lilacs.