In Greek Mythology, Pan, the god connected to fields, fertility and spring, was smitten by the beauty of Syringa. To escape his advances, Syringa turned herself into the flower we have come to know as the lilac.
Lilacs are often available around Mothers’ Day. You may love their pungent aroma or send them to a far corner of the house after a day, but their lush and majestic totality in a vase cannot be denied.
Rochester, New York is the lilac capital of the world hosting a two-week long Lilac Festival each spring. Highland Park in Rochester contains over 500 varieties in 1200 lilac bushes over 155 acres. Spokane, Washington also calls itself a lilac city. It hosts a lilac parade and festival.
If you want to smell or bathe in the fragrance of this flower, Pacific sells French Lilac deodorants, soaps, and perfumes, and many will be familiar with Avon’s French Lilac bubble bath. Many handcrafted olive oil soaps also mix lilac into their base.
The Syringa (the Lilac’s botanical name) is a hardy deciduous needing sun and well-drained, preferably alkaline soil. They are easy to grow and easily thrive. Remove flower heads from newly planted lilacs and deadhead them for the first few years. The plants are upright when young, spreading into a bushy shrub. Plan your lilac bushes for edging, privacy, and fragrance.
Lilac leaves are heart shaped and green with flowers that can be white, pink, or deep purple. Their time of blooming is said to indicate an early or late spring. I think this is an early spring on the West Coast.
Purple lilacs symbolize first love, while white lilacs are said to represent youthful innocence. The Lilac is also the flower of wedding anniversary number eight.
The following books contain Lilac in the title:
Under the Lilac by Louisa May Alcott, White Lilacs by Carolyn Meyer, The Lilac Tree by Helen Dunmore, The Lilac Lady by Ruth Alberta Brown, and Lilac Moon by Sharon Butala.
Lilac Time– 1928 and The Lilac Domino-1937
Famous lilac paintings:
Marc Chagall’s Lovers in the Lilacs and Lilac Bush by van Gogh
In One Rainy Wish, Jimi Hendrix wrote about a dream being “misty blue and lilac too.”
The lilac is related to a class of anti-diabetic drugs, Martha Stewart has a lilac named after her, there is a Lilac Street in London, and on a recent episode of House lilacs attracting bees were related to a patient’s complicated diagnosis.
There is some superstition surrounding the lilac. The idea that lilacs bring bad luck may have originated in the belief that fairies were once associated with the lilac tree, and if brought inside, fairies could disrupt the household. The way to keep fairies away, though, is to hang a wind chime, so they say.
The white/pink lilac I planted many years ago under the shade of a Japanese maple is now over eight feet tall, and one of the purple shrubs did not bloom last year, so I think these can be fussy as well.
A version of the above first appeared in Suite101.