Lilacs Don’t Need to be Territorial
Lilacs have always been a favourite shrub of mine and despite the battles I’ve had trying to control the four I have in my garden I still love the fragrant blooms. A bouquet of them always finds its way onto the dining room table on Mother’s Day in our house.
The common Syringa vulgaris and its hundreds of cultivars were standards in landscapes for many decades. Every community has overgrown and unkept lilac “thickets” growing in alleys, empty lots and along creek banks. They’re survivors from a time when lot sizes were larger and homeowners planted whatever their friends and neighbours dug up and gave away.
Lot sizes are somewhat smaller now and a lilac that grows three metres tall and wide isn’t perhaps the best choice when space is limited. Thankfully you can still enjoy the scent of the lilac on a much smaller model that will fit into a more compact garden. Granted the blooms are smaller as well, but the fragrance is still there.
Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’ grows to about 1.5 metres tall, with reddish purple buds that open to a whitish pink. They are one of the most floriferous of the dwarf lilacs; the entire plant is covered with blooms in late May and early June.
We grew a couple of Syringa patula ‘Miss Kim’ specimens in the display gardens at our garden centre. They matured at about 2 metres, with purple buds opening to nicely fragrant icy blue flowers. ‘Miss Kim’ is unusual in that it has decent fall colour in its foliage as the leaves turn a pleasant maroon colour.
Bailey’s Nursery in Minnesota introduced the hybrid lilac Syringa ‘Tinkerbelle’ several years ago and it continues to be popular. It grows to two metres tall and wide with blooms that are a showy pink.
Proven Winners caused quite a stir among lilac lovers when it introduced Syringa ‘Bloomerang’ a few years back. This variety blooms strongly in June, then takes a rest and produces a second set of blooms in late summer and into the fall. Gardeners like the fact that it blooms on old and new wood, and with a mature size of 1.5 metres it fits nicely into the small (for lilacs) category.
All of these varieties want a sunny location with good soil. Their small size means they can be planted in all sort of situations and combined with perennials and other shrubs. Pruning is simple; they all share a somewhat rounded, compact habit that only requires occasional shaping.
If you’ve got space plant Syringa vulgaris and let it roam. If you love lilacs but need them to be smaller you’ve still got choices.