Curtain Call – Farewell to Sweet Syringa

So y’all know how much I love lilacs. Well I’m sad to say they are nearing the end of their bloom period, so I wanted to give you a look at the closing act before the curtain is drawn on another season.  I know, enough with the lilacs already – I assure you though, today will be my last post on this loveliest of blossoms (at least for this year) and I promise to keep it short.

Syringa reticulata – Japanese Tree Lilac

These gorgeous, very late bloomers have been flowering for a week or so in our part of the world. They weren’t in bloom for my June lilac post but they are so utterly stunning this year, that I had to bring them to your attention. The Japanese tree lilac is the last of the lilacs to bloom and has some unique characteristics not shared by others in the genus:

  • They are a true tree, as opposed to a large shrub that gardeners prune into a tree ‘shape’ and labour to maintain.
  • The bark is a dark chocolate-brown with very noticeable lenticels.
  • The flowers are borne in panicles like all other Syringa species but have much finer texture, their feathery appearance in striking contrast to the large shiny leaves.
  • The scent isn’t recognizably lilac; it’s hard to describe, but if you get a whiff of something sweet and a bit spicy, like vanilla with a hint of anise, look around – there’s likely a tree lilac in the vicinity. Their bright white blooms make them easy to spot.
  • There is even a variegated cultivar which blooms later still (mine is just coming into bloom now) – ‘Golden Eclipse’ has large green and gold leaves.

Intense white blooms cover this compact tree. Photo: Pat Gaviller

Soft fluffy blooms, dark green foliage and richly textured, chocolate-coloured bark make the Japanese tree lilac a must-have in the urban landscape. Photo: Pat Gaviller

Full feathery plumes light up a sapphire sky. Photo: Sue Gaviller

Syringa reticulata, with its honey-sweet scent is a favourite of bees and butterflies. Photo: Cathy Gaviller

Syringa reticulata 'Golden Eclipse' is a very hardy variegated cultivar - leaves on new growth emerge dark green splashed with lime and older growth has bright green and gold variegation. Photo: Sue Gaviller

Syringa reticulata ‘Golden Eclipse’ is a very hardy variegated cultivar – leaves on new growth emerge dark green splashed with lime and older growth has bright green and gold variegation. Photo: Sue Gaviller

Sum it all up and you have a great specimen tree – a tree with four season interest. The Japanese tree lilac has real design value and in my opinion is greatly underutilized in the landscape. It’s perfect for use as a dominant feature – for its elegant form (particularly if multistem), its colour (especially Golden Eclipse) and its coarse texture.

Syringa reticulata is a worthy closing act to a truly fine show that began 6 weeks ago – the lilac show.

So say goodbye to sweet Syringa – may their scent be with you.

Sue
© Sue Gaviller and Not Another Gardening Blog 2012.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sue Gaviller and Not Another Gardening Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

2 comments on “Curtain Call – Farewell to Sweet Syringa

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