Friday, May 31, 2013

In Praise of the Japanese Tree Lilac

Syringa reticulata 'Ivory Silk'... a highlight of the
mixed planting, in front of Corliss Bros. Garden Center

What's not to like? Hardy from Zones 3-7. So hardy, that it's often planted as a street tree, here in the Northeast. Available with a multi-stemmed base, or pruned to a single trunk. At 15-25' in height, by about 15' wide, it is grown as a large shrub or small tree. While variously described as oval to rounded, my particular specimen (not pictured) has developed a distinctly broad pyramidal shape.

The bark is reddish brown, reminiscent of a cherry tree - seen to best advantage in the winter landscape. The large, pyramidal flower trusses are creamy white, making a big impact, even from a distance. The sturdy, deep green foliage is not prone to mildew, as are many shrub lilacs (also resistant to the scale and borers that sometimes plague other syringas). Japanese Tree Lilac is quite tolerant of wind, as long as its requirement of a moist, well-drained soil is met. While striking as an individual specimen, this syringa is breathtaking when massed, in a large-scale planting.

A butterfly magnet ~ Notice the tiger swallowtail seeking 
nectar from one of the uppermost blossoms.  This one spent 
its larval phase on my Angelica and stayed after 
metamorphoses to enjoy my tree lilac.

And speaking of breathtaking, the fragrance is almost overwhelming during the three weeks that this syringa blooms. This June bloomer (sometimes into early July) is a baffling, somewhat musky combination of lilac, rose and hyacinth. Different times of the day, I pick up various predominant scents. Positioned near a bedroom window, the perfume fills my room and on a hot day, a window fan pulls in and distributes the scents throughout the house. A simple pleasure ~ being lulled to sleep, enfolded by fragrance, on a hot June evening.

I have always been, and remain, an unabashed fan of Syringa reticulata!

©Deb Lambert 2008
Photos: ©CBI/DJL


Shady Gardener said...

This must be an absolutely beautiful lilac. You paint a lovely picture. :-)

GardenAuthor said...

The flowers are starting to fade, but the pleasant fragrance is filling my house, courtesy of that window fan. I shall always be a tree lilac enthusiast!

Roses and Lilacs said...

A great ornamental tree. I have one outside my bedroom window and June nights are wonderfully perfumed.

I blogged about the tree a couple weeks ago. Outstanding, no pests or problems in my area.

GardenAuthor said...

Marnie ~ Same here - no particular pests or diseases, just an abundance of fragrance... and, oh that trunk in the winter... looking every bit like a well-lenticeled reddish brown cherry tree. During a prolonged hot, dry period, the foliage does wilt a bit, but it responds rapidly to irrigation.

GardenJoy4Me said...

Deb girl you have me wishing I had room for this one .. I would be in heaven with the scent you have described ! It seems to be one heck of a perfect tree indeed : )

GardenAuthor said...

Hi Joy!

Yes, it does needs lots of room... mine has been professionally pruned by an arborist several times to contain it in this suburban setting. It is well worth the maintenance... all my neighbors are enjoying the incredible fragrance, as well.

Thanks for dropping by!

tina said...

Had to say hello to an old blogging friend. I was recently in Maine when I saw these stunning trees that so looked like crepe myrtles I just had to find out what they were. No one knew. It was hard for me to figure out but my daughter assured me it was some kind of lilac. Not sure how I figured out Japanese tree lilac but I came to your blog and so here I am. These are lovely trees and I'm so glad I've seen them in person. It seems they do not grow in the south but that's okay, we have crepes:)

GardenAuthor said...

Tina ~ So nice to hear from you! The great thing about Syringa reticulata is the hardiness. Here on the North Shore, it's not unusual to see them used as street trees, where they fare quite well despite the exposure and road salt. The fragrance from mine is amazing and scents the whole house for several weeks. The next house-engulfing fragrance I'm anticipating will come from a stand of native Clethra alnifolia, positioned below my rear windows.

I do envy you the crepes, but we northerners just have to "make do." Well, back to the weekly newsletter deadline, book writing, website maintenance, full time work at the garden center and maybe just a bit of gardening. Finally planted my tomatoes and herbs yesterday... running about a half season behind.

Enjoy your summer gardening!