By Melanie Mathieson
The Gardening Guru
The traditional lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is known for its wonderfully-fragrant flowers. A lovely bouquet of this variety easily will fill a room with fragrance.
Unfortunately, that’s their only real ornamental attribute as they tend to look gangly and unkempt most of the year. Throw in a little powdery mildew on the leaves and lilac shrubs leave much to be desired.
On the bright side, a recent estimate has determined there are now more than 2,000 cultivars of the common lilac. Most are in the pink, purple, blue, or white range of flower colours, with even a few with creamy yellows.
Some of the newer varieties are listed as powdery mildew resistant such as “Charles Joly” (magenta), “Madame Lemoine” (pure white), “President Lincoln” (true blue), “Primrose” (creamy yellow) and “Sensation” (purple and white bicolor).
Here are some other suggestions of newer hybrids to try. Do your research and check with our local nurseries to see what is available and you will be able to choose some spectacular shrubs to enhance your yard or garden.
Just remember the list below is just a sampling of what is available and I tried to list varieties I have recalled seeing in local nurseries over the last few years.
•Avalanche (Syringa vulgaris) is showy and freely produces large panicles of single white fragrant florets on a rounded to upright plant of up to 9 feet. It blooms in late spring to early summer.
•Charles Joly (Syringa vulgaris) is a French Hybrid lilac with shiny purple buds opening into double, vivid coloration of the deep, wine-red flowers that are very fragrant and excellent for cutting. Grows 10-12 feet tall and 8-10 feet wide. This is a hardy, disease and deer resistant lilac.
•Dappled Dawn Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) has deep red-purple buds that open to fragrant, magenta blossoms. The leaves have an irregular yellow variegation, as if they were splashed with yellow. This variegated foliage is the unique feature of this lilac and adds summer color to the shrub border. It grows 8-10 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide. I had this one in Fort Frances but moved it with me to Thunder Bay.
•Donald Wyman (Syringa x prestoniae) has purple buds that open to single, red-purple fragrant flowers in early to mid-June. This hardy, upright growing Canadian Lilac blooms two weeks later than Common Lilacs. The flowers on the panicles tend to be finer and more delicate than those on other lilacs and its fragrance is spicy. This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds and makes an excellent specimen or hedge planting. Grows 8-10 feet tall and 4-10 feet wide.
•Dwarf Korean Lilac (Syringa meyeri or palibin) is known as a compact but spreading, small-foliaged lilac with showy late May lavender-purple flowers that are spread over the entire shrub canopy. This deciduous shrub is especially urban tolerant. It is the most common cultivar of the species, valued for its even more compact habit (to 4-6”). It is widely used as a foundation, group planting, informal or formal hedge, or specimen shrub. I have these planted on my property in Thunder Bay.
•The James Macfarlanes Lilac (Syringa presoniae) is an elegant, hardy shrub which will makes a colourful informal hedge or can be grown as a specimen shrub or small tree. The large clusters of true pink single flowers are deliciously scented and bloom in May and June. Butterflies find this shrub very attractive.
•Littleleaf Lilac (Syringa microphylla or Superba) is an attractive shrub that is covered with single, deep pink flowers in May-June. The clean, small leaves are mildew resistant and this broad spreading shrub grows twice as wide as tall. It is resistant to the common lilac diseases, especially powdery mildew.
•The Miss Kim Lilac is a nice rounded shrub, with blue lavender flowers, that grows up to six feet. It flowers a little later than common lilac. The flowers are small but prolific. ‘Miss Kim’ usually develops a nice burgundy fall color, which is non-existent in common lilac.
•The Palibin Lilac is a neat, tidy shrub at five feet tall. The dark green leaves are smaller than the common lilac. It may flower when quite young with pink lavender fragrant flowers.
•The Pocahontas Canadian Lilac (Syringa X Hyacinthiflora) is an earlier blooming variety approximately 2 weeks before the common lilac. Deep maroon-purple buds open to fragrant single deep violet blooms. Moderate-growing to 10 feet high and wide.
•President Grevy Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is an upright, vigorously growing French Hybrid Lilac with double, lilac-blue, fragrant flowers that are produced in May, on large panicles. It is a good bloomer, deciduous and a fast grower, reaching 10-12 feet tall and spreading to 8 feet wide. Being very showy and extremely fragrant, it makes a wonderful screen or border specimen.
•Villosa Lilac (Syringa villosa) is highly-perfumed, non-suckering and fast growing lilac with pink flowers. It blooms in early July. It is hearty and adapts well to dry, exposed sites. It thrives in well-drained clay or loam soils but does not perform well in sandy soil or poorly drained areas.
•Wedgewood Blue Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is a unique lilac that has lilac-pink buds opening into very large, single true-blue blossoms in May. These flowers have a fine fragrance and are excellent for cutting. This medium sized, compact plant has dark green, disease resistant foliage. It grows 6 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide. Wedgewood Blue Lilac can be used in many situations, including shrub borders, informal hedges and perennial borders.