When you choose a lilac you are planting a shrub that is part of our American heritage - some have even called the lilac the "apple pie of shrubs." Thomas Jefferson planted lilacs at Monticello and lilacs greeted guests as they entered George Washington's flower garden at Mount Vernon. Poet Walt Whitman's elegy to Abraham Lincoln, "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" evokes an image of a lilac bush that may be familiar to many:
In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash'd palings, Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green, With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love, With every leaf a miracle - and from this bush in the dooryard, With delicate-color'd blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green, A sprig with its flower I break.
They were carried across the Atlantic by colonists. Lilacs soon found themselves all over North America, arriving by saddlebags and coach. Driving through the countryside you will often see the remains of an old homestead...a broken foundation is all that stands. Around the foundation, still remaining, is the lilac bush. Standing there to remind us of the life years back, when the farmer's wife would come out of the back door, with her apron on...to pick a bouquet for her table.Today there are over 2,000 named varieties of lilacs thanks to many industrious and passionate breeders all over the world. They are easy to grow...I can't imagine a Spring without them. We have two in our yard. I like them to grow naturally...branching out in a free and easy way. I really don't like them to be cut into boxy shapes. Sometimes the blossoms are spoiled by vigorous pruning. Lilacs and forsythia are meant to grow free.