Where The Lone Star State Meets The Puget Sound
A Fine Mesh Of Two Great Styles

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I am thinking of the lilac trees
That shook their purple plumes,
And when the sash was open
Shed fragrance through the room.
Mrs. Anna S Stephens, The Old Apple-Tree

We returned from our trip south just in time to enjoy the lilacs which are in full bloom throughout the island. They are in tough competition with the rhododendrons which have also burst forth in full color. Rhododendrons, or rhodies as they are called here, thrive in Washington and Oregon. Just like azaleas, rhodies are acid loving plants (along with their sister, the camellia). It is not uncommon to find huge rhododendrons growing happily wild amidst giant evergreens. The reason for this is simple--they love acidic conditions. Evergreens, pine trees especially, create very acid soil by dropping their needles on the forest floor~ nature's perfect mulch.

One of the many things I love about the Pacific Northwest is the dense forests which push relentlessly toward the shore, halting only at sand's edge. To access almost any beach requires a hike through the woods on paths which have been forged over time through native ferns, salal and rhododendrons. I love walking through this thick overgrowth and then suddenly emerging at the beach. It's as if I've reached the light at the end of the tunnel and I never stop marveling at the experience.

But yet, my heart belongs to the lilac. To me they are a gift to the senses, more so than any other flowering bush. Lilacs in bloom not only look stunning but they are intoxicatingly fragrant. OK, so intoxicatingly is not truly a word but it works so well in this context.

Because I grew up in Southern California, I never saw a lilac bush until I moved to Missouri. But now there are lilac varieties that are bred especially for warm climates. Here of course it gets cold enough to grow the non-hybrids. I have three bushes which range in color intensity from deep purple to white. New to us this season is a volunteer bush which is unrelated to the other two. It must have wandered in from a nearby neighbor. I love volunteer plants--"rogues" as my cousin calls them. I have more volunteer foxglove, columbine and strawberries this year than ever but this new lilac is the best of all the newcomers. And it came up along our property line fence, as if its location were by perfect design.

Lilacs are very low maintenance. They only need to be fed with an all purpose fertilizer twice a year. They are not prone to disease or pests and pruning is optional. This is my kind of plant! I am sad to report that we lost a very old lilac bush last year. I read recently that moles will chew the roots causing the bush to die. Based on the number of sudden and unwanted mounds in my yard I have to think that the moles were indeed responsible.

As you can see, I cut lilacs and brought them inside this afternoon. I love the intense purple blossoms more than all the others but unfortunately that particular bush is not getting enough sunlight. It has been shaded by more aggressive trees and shrubs and now blooms only modestly. I am not sure what I am going to do but we have so many items on our "to do" list that I won't be addressing the lilac issue for some time. I am just happy to have lilac blossoms on the kitchen counter to beautifully scent the house. Lilac blooms are ephemeral you see, lasting only about 2 weeks if conditions are right. And then they take their bows, forcing us to wait 50 weeks for another show.

No comments:

Post a Comment