Syringa Shrubs (Lilac)
Syringa are large vigorous, suckering shrubs with fragrantin late spring and early summer. They were great favourites in Victorian times, and after a period of decline they are now enjoying a well-deserved revival. The majority of lilacs grown today are cultivars originating from one species, the ( ).
There are single and double-flowered lilacs available, all of which are sweetly scented, Several popular varieties today date back to the Victorian period, including ‘Souvenir de Louis Spaeth’, or now more correctly ‘Andenken an Ludwig Spath’ (AGM), which made its debut in 1883, Widely available, it is grown for its splendid wine-red blooms in long slender panicles. Others to look for are the deep reddish-purple ‘Massena’ and pure white ‘Maud Notcutt’.
Those with double flowers are equally good, including ‘President Grevy’, lilac-blue, and ‘Madame Lemoine’ (AGM), an old favourite introduced in 1890 and without doubt one of the best whites. These lilacs all need space and are perhaps too large for most of today’s generally smaller gardens.
Syringa microphylla grows to around 2m (6ft), and is a native of China. Look for the free-flowering form ‘Superba’ (AGM), with fragrant rose-pink flowers in abundance from mid to late spring.
Soil type Most garden soils, especially alkaline.
Planting This can be done in autumn, in either a sunny or lightly shaded spot. Lilacs usually take one or two seasons to settle down.
Pruning They can become a tangled mass of shoots, so cut out thin or unproductive branches and suckers, immediately after flowering. Remove dead flower heads.
Propagation The usual commercial method of increasing lilacs is by grafting. However, semi-ripe cuttings with a heel can be taken in the summer and rooted in a cold frame.
Pests and diseases There are several fungal diseases that can attack lilacs, although most are unlikely to encounter problems.