The Sweet Aroma of Lilacs

colourful lilacs

Syringa (lilac) is a part of the olive family (Oleaceae. A woody flowering plant which is found in woodland and scrubland from South East Europe to Eastern Asia.

It’s a garden classic that flowers in late spring and has very fragrant, pale purple, pink or white flowers.  

red lilacs

Lilac varieties 

There are 12 known genus in the lilac family.  When well cared for they make a beautiful display in any garden. Lilacs can be grown as a shrub or tree and if cared for will keep producing fragrant flowers each year. 

De heading spent flowers through the summer will help to produce more blooms. Here are some varieties to look out for when browsing the garden centre.

close up of lilacs

The common lilac, Syringa vulgaris

Producing light purple blooms and are also hardy and easy to grow, mostly low maintenance.

They can grow from 5 to 15 feet tall, depending on the variety. The fragrant flowers are good for cutting and attractive to butterflies. They thrive in well drained soil with a neutral to alkaline soil.

Enrich your soil with extra compost and mulch. They like full sun if at all possible. 

Syringa emodi ‘Aureovariegata’ 

This is a Himalayan lilac,  and  is a large deciduous shrub growing to 5m tall, with fragrant, tubular white flowers appearing from June onwards. Himalayan lilac has variegated leaves in fresh green with a darker green central splash. 

Syringa ‘Red Pixie’ 

A quite compact lilac compared to others, with masses of fragrant pink flowers that open from red buds. These are perfect for a small garden, and it will also grow successfully in a large pot,  so could be just right on a patio too.

Syringa vulgaris ‘Lois Amee Utley’ 

This is a large lilac with very fragrant pink, double flowers. It is perfect in a mixed herbaceous border or can be used on its own as a special feature in the garden. A beautiful addition to the garden adding a little elegance and fragrant blooms. 

Syringa vulgaris ‘Primrose’ 

This variety has pretty white flowers that mature to a cream-yellow colour and have an exceptional lilac scent. One of the larger lilacs, it’s most suitable for growing at the back of a mixed herbaceous border and adds a nice aroma to the flower beds too. 

Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’ 

This is a Korean lilac that bears masses of panicles of fragrant, purple-pink flowers from late spring through to early summer, this variety has beautifully contrasting, oval, dark green leaves. It’s ideal for growing in a sunny ornamental border. It is compact and slow growing, making it suitable for smaller gardens or growing in pots for a position on a patio or small yard. 

Planting lilacs 

pink lilacs

The best results are when planted in the Spring or Autumn. Plant your bush with a deep wide hole to enable the roots to have enough spread. If planting more than one, always give then plenty of room in-between them.

Give them at least 5ft (1.5 metres) apart. This will avoid over crowding. Try to choose a position with well drained soil and with good afternoon sun. 

After planting,  give plenty of water and add mulch to the top layer of soil as a loose layer.  Lilacs will do well in the loose soil and fertilising the bush in the early spring before they bloom will help their blossoms.

A light pruning once the blooms have finished for the year will encourage the next year’s success,  a heavy prune back may sometimes be necessary,  but may entail less flowers the following year as the bush recovers. 

delicate lilacs

Lilacs and Greek mythology 

Lilacs were an integral part of the story of Pan, the god of forests and fields in Greek mythology. In the Greek tale, Pan was in love with a nymph named Syringa.

One day while he was chasing Syringa through the forest, she turned herself into a lilac to disguise herself in nature, because was afraid of Pan so the Greek mythology tale tells us.

When Pan found the beautifully fragranced shrub, he took a piece of it and made a panpipe, the very first panpipe. Syringa’s name comes from the Greek word for pipe, “syrinks,” and that’s where the lilac’s scientific name, Syringa, came from.

Different cultures 

Lilacs have in many cultures come to symbolize spring and renewal due to them being early bloomers. These fragrant bushes have also held many different meanings in different cultures throughout the centuries and around the globe.

The Celtics thought of  lilacs as being magical because of their sweet scent. During the Victorian age, lilacs became a symbol of an old love, and widows would  often wear lilacs during this time.

In Russia, holding a sprig of lilac over a newborn baby was thought to bring wisdom. 

In my home town, one of my favourite streets to take an evening stroll down during early summer is Union Street. At that time of the year, its sidewalks are encroached with lilac trees in full bloom. A sea of purple washes over the trees as the warm evening sun releases their aroma.

The sweet alluring elixir draws me in as a smile appears on my face as I begin to escape into a purple paradise. My senses of sight and scent are full engulfed by the beauty.

white lilacs

… and I had to show a white one. … Although not as fragrant, just as pretty.

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8 Comments

  1. In today`s busy urban life, people rarely find time to feel the miracles of nature.Many thanks to Tina for such beautiful photos.

    1. Tina Dean says:

      Thank you for the comment.
      Photography has forced me to slow down and enjoy the things around me.

  2. Lovely photo’s of the lilacs, lucky you to enjoy their fragrance. I’ve had occasion to enjoy their fragrance and beauty when I visit family in Melbourne. So many fragrant flowers enjoy a cold climate. I live in the tropics flowers are beautiful but quite different here.Enjoyed your post.

    1. Tina Dean says:

      Thank you Lyn. Living in Newfoundland allows me to enjoy a variety of things. The season is short, so I try to emerse myself as much as possible! Love looking at the tropic flowers. They are very beautiful.

  3. Great Photos! I love lilacs. They do not grow in Phoenix,AZ but they grew in Pittsburgh, PA where I used to live 🙂

    1. Tina Dean says:

      I moved last summer and a crave being back in my hometown to smell those lilacs.

  4. Love your photo blog. Looking to those flowers gives me a wonderful and refreshing morning!

    1. Tina Dean says:

      So glad you enjoyed them!

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