When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed

Yes, I know that’s a quote and rip-off from Walt Whitman’s elegy on the death of Abraham Lincoln, but it also expresses my feelings about the lilacs in my front yard. I confess that I love the scent of lilacs, and I look forward every year to their blooming… and four out of five years I’m disappointed. This year is no exception. After two months of spring in winter, yesterday, just as the lilac blooms began to open, the temperature dropped to twenty degrees and it began to blow and snow, and it wasn’t just a few flurries, but a good half foot. Most years where we live, it’s like that. No matter when the poor lilacs attempt to bloom, it snows, and I don’t get to enjoy their fragrance.

Last year, I planted more lilacs, a slightly different variety, and put some of them in more sheltered locations. It didn’t matter. When you have temperatures in the twenties and winds over fifty miles an hour, and snow coming down hard, the lilac blooms don’t stand much of a chance. Now, of course, in two days, the temperatures are forecast to be back in the sixties, but that’s a bit late for the lilacs.

Houseman had it right, except his cherries seemed to bloom without fail every spring; my lilacs face much longer odds.

Still… there’s always next year,

But the lilacs remind me that those rare times of beauty, whether floral or otherwise, are to be cherished, because no matter how things are planned, especially where beauty is concerned, you can’t count on anything except what’s there at the moment to enjoy.

5 thoughts on “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed”

  1. Thom says:

    Well, you could try what the previous owners of our house did: plant a lilac bush right up against the south side of the house. The up-side of this is that the heat from the house keeps the lilacs warmer, and we have lilacs blooming right outside our second-story bedroom window even when it snows (the storm wasn’t quite as bad up here, but still nasty). The down side is that every time the wind blows the lilac branches scratch on the window like a hundred fingernails.

    The other down side is that the branches themselves are inordinately scratchy, and getting up through the bush to clean the outsides of our bedroom window is the “death of a thousand scratches.”

    But on those sunnier days when we can open the window and get that lovely lilac scent in our room–there’s nothing like it!

    1. I can’t plant them against the south side for physical reasons, but I did plant the newer ones against the partly sheltered west side. That might help once they’ve grown a bit.

  2. Jeff says:

    We had lilacs in Cedar City. I remember them because my wife was allergic and complained about them every year and those close to the house had to be removed. Enjoy spring as winter keeps popping up. Thanks for your “phone” updates.

  3. R. Hamilton. says:

    No way to post a fragrance on the web, but here are some pictures from where I took my mom (still quite active at almost 90!) on Saturday:
    http://plantexplorer.longwoodgardens.org/weboi/oecgi2.exe/INET_ECM_DispPl?NAMENUM=20607&DETAIL=1

    One could probably spend a couple days straight there seeing an incredible variety of plants from all around the world; they also have substantial horticultural education programs.

    OT, my mom reminded me that some houses in Cologne still have the ancient Roman sewers running under them (long unused and probably somewhat passable since the Rhine has shifted over the centuries), and aware owners usually have the area over them well blocked as a precaution (or at any rate, the honest ones do). Having recently re-read “The White Order”, I was wondering if your idea of a smuggler’s route was based on some similar real-world location.

    1. JakeB says:

      That’s a pretty amazing place. I went there last year and we had the pleasure of standing in the greenhouse during a summer thunderstorm. Humidity more or less the same inside and outside!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.