This Sunday, May 14, is Mother’s Day. Many moms receive bouquets of flowers or potted plants. This year, consider a personal twist on an old, and probably long forgotten, Rochester tradition – planting one of the hundreds of varieties of our beloved lilac in her honor.
Lilacs in Rochester dates back to 1898, but the first Lilac Festival wasn’t held until 1978. Before that, beginning in 1905, Lilac Sunday was popular. It was later expanded to Lilac Week and evolved into today’s Lilac Festival. Lilac Sunday often fell on Mother’s Day, and it didn’t take long for a tradition to emerge – taking mom to visit the Highland Park lilacs on her special day.
This year, I’m suggesting that you bring Lilac Sunday on Mother’s Day to your own landscape. It’s easy. Select a spot in your landscape that could be further beautified with a colorful, fragrant lilac shrub. Hundreds of cultivars of the common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) are sold in the nursery trade. Lilacs like full sun and well drained soil. As an added benefit, they attract butterflies and hummingbirds, classifying them as pollinators.
Be sure you have enough room for a lilac. Most grow 8-15 feet tall and 6-12 feet wide, although there are some medium and dwarf varieties that are smaller. As always, read the plant tag to know what you’re buying – the mature size, flower color, blooming information, maintenance needs and other pertinent information. Some lilacs, such as Korean lilacs (Syringa meyeri), bloom later than S. vulgaris cultivars and produce smaller flowers that aren’t in the familiar panicular clusters. If the tag doesn’t answer your questions, seek out one of the garden center’s or nursery’s horticulturists and get answers from them.
When you get your new plant home, plant it as soon as possible. Dig a hole that’s at least twice the diameter of the root ball but only as deep. Remove the nursery pot from the root ball. If it’s balled and burlap, cut the twine or remove the wire and pull the burlap away from the stem. Place the plant in the hole and get your assistant to hold it up straight while you backfill. Stop several times and tamp the soil lightly. It should be firm but not compacted. Finally, water the soil thoroughly.
One last thing, be patient. It may take several years for mom’s new lilac to bloom but it’s worth the wait.