Lilac Time

Our old white farmhouse was surrounded by lilac bushes, which were often out in time for Mother’s Day, an occasion we always celebrated on the farm with a big family meal which my mother prepared.   Looking back, it seems strange we made her cook on Mother’s Day, but then my grandmother always came over, so she probably considered it her daughterly duty, and was happy having all her kids home, even if it did mean we ended up doing two hours of dishes by hand in the days before the dishwasher.   Out would come the lace tablecloth and the good china, and the long farm table, dating from 1870, would be extended to its maximum length, with later another set up in the kitchen for the ever-growing collection of grandchildren.   Of course, this was in the days before going out for brunch became popular, which we tried occasionally but which was often a disappointment, restaurants always being so busy that day, and the kids not being able to play outside, where the lawn and orchard would be sunny with dandelions.    

Those old farm lilacs were common in the countryside, with almost every farmhouse (which back then only came in two types, white clapboard or yellow brick), sporting a bush or two.   But ours were special, as they surrounded the house on three sides.   If it was a nice day with a south breeze and the windows open, the smell was heavenly.    The fragrance would waft in through the kitchen and living room windows, and also the upstairs bedrooms, as the bushes were quite tall.      

lilacs 1 (3)

We also picked some to bring inside and put in vases, something I still do to this day.   Even when I was older, I would always take a bouquet or two home, wrapped up in tinfoil, to put on the kitchen counter.  

lilacs

After my father passed away and my mother moved into town, my sister brought her two lilac bushes as a house warming present.   They lasted about fifteen years and then had to be cut down.   I planted two lilac bushes in the corner of my yard ten years ago, and they are now starting to look spindly.  One bush smells like what I remember, the other does not.    Of course, they are late this year, like everything else, so these are pictures from last year.

Lilacs

There are over 2000 varieties of lilacs, according to the International Lilac Society, in a wide range of colors, sizes and blooms.    Common lilacs generally prefer cold winters, well drained soil and full sun.   They are low maintenance and require little watering, once established – my kind of plant! 

lilacs

My neighbor has the darker purple kind, which does not smell nearly as nice, but then maybe I’m just being nostalgic.

lilacs

All lilacs are lovely, (except those four foot Korean Dwarfs, my Miss Kim never bloomed once), but it is the old-fashioned kind I love the most.   While the nursery sold me the variety known as “common lilac” they certainly don’t seem as hardy as those old farm lilacs, which must have been heirloom stock, as they were still going strong at eighty years plus.   (Some varieties only last 10 to 15 years.)   The “common lilac” has the largest and longest blooms and the most fragrant flowers and can grow up to twenty feet.   Ours would be pruned back once in awhile when they got too tall, (only prune immediately after the spring bloom), but they were always leafy and full, and the branches made excellent spears for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over a backyard bonfire.  

Lilacs

I was told my grandmother planted them sometime in the 1920’s when she was newly married, after the house was raised, a basement put under it and a veranda added.   She also planted a row of white spirea bushes beside them, so it formed a little alcove.  lilacs 2 revised I would sometimes take a book or magazine there and sit and read, sheltered from the wind, stopping once in awhile just to breathe in the scent.   Here’s the view, looking out. 

lilacs on the farm 1 (2)

Someone needs to cut the grass!

After my mother moved, the house and the lilacs were bulldozed down to make room for  more acreage – a sad fate after so many years of providing beauty.   I wish I had thought to take a cutting or two, but I was busy with life and not much interested in gardening then.       

Last fall, I bought two Bloomerang Lilacs on sale, a variety new to me, but then I’m always behind on the latest gardening trends.   (Here’s a link to more info.)   They are similar to the popular Bloom Again Hydrangeas, and will rebloom in the summer and fall after a short rest.  They will only grow to 5 feet, making them more like a shrub than a tree.   Mine seem to have survived the winter nicely and even have buds on them.   I like the idea of having lilacs for three seasons, as a week or two in May seems much too short.   

Lilac Bloomerang

This would make a nice Mother’s Day gift!

If you’re ever in northern Michigan in early June, check out the famous Mackinac Island Lilac Festival (link added to bucket list).   No cars are allowed on the island, but you can cross on the ferry and stay at the Grand Hotel (where Somewhere in Time was filmed) and tour via bike or horse drawn carriage – now that really is going back in time.   Visiting this lilac paradise is a nice way to welcome summer after a cold and snowy winter.  Here are a few pictures from Victoria Magazine, May 2000 issue. 

Victoria Lilacs 1 (2)

Victoria Lilacs 4 (2)

Happy Mother’s Day!

Lilacs - AMc

Farm Lilacs

 

 

 

 

   

48 thoughts on “Lilac Time

  1. Ally Bean says:

    Lilacs remind me of my grandpa’s house. The bushes there were huge and overgrown. As a child we had one lilac bush at our house, but my mother always trimmed it way back so it didn’t bloom too much. When we moved into this house I put a lilac bush on either side of the front door, but they didn’t do well– eventually died. I’ve read about the Boomerang Lilacs and will be interested in learning how they grow for you. They seem like they’d be a good thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Everyone seems to have memories of their grandparents bushes, they were so popular then. Were your bushes in the sun Ally? Also if you prune them any other time than just after the spring bloom, they won’t bloom the following year. I know my new one won’t grow that tall, but wonder if they will be as fragrant. I was surprised to see buds on them the first year…..we shall see!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ally Bean says:

        We built this house and landscaped it from scratch. The bushes didn’t get enough sun because the nearby birch trees grew large, quickly. Once the trees were large, the lilacs suffered. Didn’t plan ahead quite right.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        Oh I love birch trees. I have one in the front of my house, about ten years old, but still not that big. I wanted one for the back yard too, but they were $300 each, and it was hard to justify that price, when I had so many other renos to do.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Dave says:

    Mackinac is already on the bucket list; thank you for one more reason to go. Also, loved the Mother’s Day meal memories. Like our own Thanksgivings back in the day, it seemed the table could never be big enough, and a “kids’ table” was an inevitable addition as the family grew. Restaurants can’t hold a candle to a big home-hosted family gathering.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      If you ever go to Mackinac please blog about it sometime!. Last summer the Grand Hotel hosted a Titanic weekend. It think they have it every year, it might be on their website. They assigned fictional names to the passengers and recreated the menu/meals and entertainment on the Titanic and everyone was supposed to come in costume. It sounded like so much fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. lindasschaub says:

    The Mackinac Lilac Festival is supposed to be very beautiful. I’ve been up there to the Island, but not that time of year. It is quaint with no cars and the clip clop of horses’ hooves. My lilacs still are not out – I looked this morning and I hope they did not bite the dust as well as the other plants/roses from the Polar Vortex. They have been back there since we moved here in 1966 – my father planted them that very same year. I planted a Miss Kim Lilac Bush in the back garden in the 90s and that bush has never bloomed once!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Wonderful! I have not met anyone who has been to Mackinac. Did you stay at the Grand Hotel or maybe a B&B? My lilacs are not out either, but the leaves and buds are there – maybe another week if it’s warm enough. They were the first to bud out. My maple tree and birch tree is hardly started with leaves…..way behind considering it’s May 9. You must have the hardy stock type of lilacs. I was googling and some of the other varieties only last 10-15 years. Thanks for reminding me about the Korean Dwarf – I couldn’t remember the name of what I planted, it was Miss Kim, but mine never bloomed once either, in fact I had my gardener guy pull it out, I was so annoyed with it. It was mostly dead anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        Yes, they must be hardy – all these years and they are still going strong (at least I hope they are going strong after this brutal Winter). They are the pale variety.
        My Miss Kim must have been a “dud” – it just gets green leaves and is about 20 years old at least, so it’s had many years to bloom. I didn’t look to see if it has leaves yet. I just left it there to fill the space.

        Like

      • lindasschaub says:

        I just remembered I only mentioned the lilacs, not Mackinac Island. I went there when I was young with my parents. I think it was 1968. My parents rented a cottage for two weeks up at Rush Lake near Alpena, Michigan. They took a friend of mine up with us for company for me. We made a day trip to Mackinac but it was in August, and not during the lilac festival. It is very quaint as no automobiles are allowed, That is a very nice and stately hotel. I think very expensive as well but they have specials sometimes, like in the middle of the week and in the off-season, so you can still sit on the longest porch in the world and stay at that hotel and save a little money as well.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        That does sound fun – I remember when the Titanic exhibit was at Greenfield Village (now called “The Henry Ford”) I decided I would treat myself as I’ve always been interested in the Titanic. They wanted an arm and a leg to get into the grounds and extra to see the exhibit. A radio host I used to listen to on Saturday mornings went to the exhibit and I was listening to this show and he said he had posted photos of all the exhibits on his Facebook page – so I enjoyed it there. The Titanic weekend does sound interesting –
        given all the recent air disasters, the idea of traveling a long distance by air or anywhere by air does not sound too fun does it?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        That is the beauty of the internet, you can stay in the comfort of your own home and view the same exhibit for free! I love reading about the Titanic, and read quite a few books in 2012.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        Yes, that was wonderful – he mentioned it on his program to I went over to his Facebook site. I stopped listening as he was getting overly corny about a lot of things and talked a lot about sports since he was a U of M fan. And every holiday he’d repeat the same stories and same guests … the first time around they were interesting though. But I’m sure the Museum, since they charge an arm and a leg to get in, would not appreciate he did that. I’ve never seen the recent “Titanic” but saw the B&W version “A Night to Remember.”

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        The 1997 movie Titanic was excellent, but the acting wasn’t the best, although the story was riveting and it was wonderfully filmed. I seldom go to the movie theatre, but my mom and I went on SuperBowl weekend that year, and we both remarked on how much my dad, (who had died the year before), would have enjoyed it. It’s really a movie for everyone. I think I might have seen the B&W version when I was a kid.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        I think I’m probably the only person who never saw this newest version of Titanic. The B&W version was on TV years and years ago and I recall how eerie it looked with the very dark night and the remaining lights with the ship going down and I think the ship was nearly vertical by then. I have not been to the show since 1992 and I can’t remember the last movie I rented. Blockbuster Video was about 5 blocks from here, so used to rent videos for the holidays or long weekends, but they have been out of business for years – Netflix contributed to them going out of business. I Googled the Grand Hotel and read about the Titanic event – looks fun. I’ve never heard they do that before you mentioned it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        I still rent DVD’s from the corner store, and sometimes order them from the library, as I bought a blueray DVD player with my new tv four years ago. But I never connected the SmartTV to the computer so I can watch Netflix. The one good thing about going with Cogeco cable is I can now access Netflix, as my neighbour hooked the Cogeco wireless router right up to the TV, so all I have to do is sign up with Netflix. Maybe next winter….I have enough to do lately with the kitchen project decisions and next gardening. I don’t watch many movies because most of them are not worth watching, all they seem to have are those sci-fi films, so you are not missing anything Linda. We watched Greenbook, lately and enjoyed it, the only one of the Oscar nominated ones I have seen this year. But I will for sure be going to the theatre to see Downton Abbey in the fall! My mother gets all those movie channels on her cable package and it’s just a waste of money, as she never finds anything she likes.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        I’ve heard that about having all the cable channels. When I had it, I only had basic cable and “Lifetime” used to be on there, lots of made-for-TV movies of books my mom and I had read and then they moved “Lifetime” off so you had to get a special box for it. You do have a lot of projects, so best to wait for Winter when you’re hunkered down in the house.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        I made a list of questions for when the kitchen design lady comes on Thurs for her final measurements. Hope to finalize the design next week and put the down payment down, then six weeks til installation, sometime in mid-July-Aug. hopefully. Then I have to shop for a new sink, fume hood and dishwasher, as well as paint samples and I am not good at picking out paint. Then find a painter, and a plumber, and maybe an electrician, in case something goes wrong, which it always does. You’re right Netflix is a winter activity.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        That is a big undertaking Joni – how long for the installation to take place? Hopefully not a long time – I don’t envy you though it will look good in the end. My parents had a lot of things done in the kitchen and always should have had a fume hood because there was none and food smells would travel all over the house – my mom would shut the doors to the other rooms as the kitchen did not have a door, just the one leading to the basement. They had a new floor put in and the biggest mess was having the cupboards faced, then a butcher block and double sink put in and they made such a mess – we’d have to clean up every evening after they left.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        Sales lady said installation would only take two days, but it’s the coordination of things, like painter, plumber etc that I’m worried about, plus finding one! Things never go smoothly for me with reno projects, so I am anticipating issues of some kind or another!

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        They never went smoothly when we had them either – maybe that is the norm. I remember we had ordered wallpaper for all the rooms – only the hall is not papered, and ordered on a hot and steamy Summer day … I can remember they said to take the books home with us as we were so indecisive. Ordered the wallpaper the next day – had been given the measurements, etc. She was ready to start painting and papering, one room at a time and they forgot to place the wallpaper order. So everything was done backwards. The woman we got came recommended – terrible and she never said what her hours were. The male painter we had two different times, arrived at 8:00 a.m., broke for lunch from noon to 1:00 (went home) and closed up shop at 5:00 p.m. She dragged herself in at 10:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., took smoke breaks outside, took hot flash breaks outside (not same time as the smoke breaks) and knocked off at 3:00-ish to pick her granddaughter up from school. Not only that, she was about a week into the job, when it was 9/11. So she left to go watch it on TV (she had the radio playing all day long … did not go well with my mom – very high volume). So, then she brought a TV to watch while she painted. I thought we would never be done – it is a small house. I was getting a new bedroom suite – we had gotten rid of mine in anticipation of my room being done first – had to reschedule delivery umpteen times. We lived out of boxes for a month at least as we got a neighbor to help move the furniture together and at night where she wanted it – she did not move anything.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        That sounds like a nightmare. I hired a lady to paint my basement paneling a light beige, and she took all summer, plus she charged by the hour. She was meticulous therefore very slow. I should have got a quote for the whole job instead. She waitressed, so her hours worked around her job, including callins, and my job. She did an excellent job, but it took forever. I think this time I’ll stick with a professional painter, someone with a crew who can be in and out quickly. I am not looking forward to that part, plus picking out the paint. I know wallpaper isn’t in anymore, but I still like some of mine.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        I didn’t know you could paint paneling – that is interesting and good to know. The paneling in my basement is dark, the laundry room and pantry room is just painted, not paneled so much lighter in there. I like wallpaper as well and I don’t know why it is not trendy anymore. I can see if you have kids as they may not be careful and it might get torn or if they put handprints or mess it up somehow – you can’t wash it down. I hope mine lasts a long time – a few years ago, I got the wallpaper seam glue and had to do almost every seam over. I waited until I got the insulation job done – I figured it would not get cold on the outside walls anymore, but I was mistaken about that. I was always having to repair the seams for the wallpaper, so I don’t know if she used a cheaper type of paste (it never happened with the former painter/wallpaperer and we used him twice through the years). I thought of you today Joni. I went up to Heritage Park where all the mallards are at the manmade lake and the historical village. There is an old farm up there and in back was a huge lilac bush. Smelled heavenly. This is an area behind the petting farm and no one was back there so I went up and smelled them, took a few pictures … they looked lovely against the old white fence. In fact I’m going to write in my post (likely this weekend … we have storms tonight and a bad one on Sunday) that an artist would love to paint that scene. It is an old rickety faded red barn, dilapidated white fence … picture perfect. Looked at my lilacs when I came home – a few leaves, not totally leafed out and no blooms yet and still no green on my roses bushes.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        My painter lady put a coat of primer on the paneling first, then two coats of Benjamin Moore in Sonnet color. It really lightened up the dark basement. I put a beige burber rug down and had her paint the built in bookshelves a pretty blue colour, so it is kind of a beach theme. Of course I don’t use the basement at all, but I had a flood down there when the hot water heater leaked all over, so I had to do something to repair it. It does still smell a bit musty, (even though she cleaned the walls), but it’s pretty, almost like beadboard. I only go down there to do the laundry, but did put my old living room furniture down there when I bought new, as I still liked it and it was comfy, but it was 25years old! My wallpaper in the kitchen is the water resistant kind so it will probably be hard to take off. The kitchen design lady was here today to take her final measurements, so I still have a few decisions to make before next week – can’t decide between plain glass with beadboard backing or mullions/dividers in glass – same price. I’ve carried this idea around in my head for years, I’m reluctant to change it, but she thinks the glass dividers will make it look to busy. It’s weird those lilacs were out at the park already! Mine have flower buds and leaves but probably won’t be out for another week. No green on your rose bushes??? Luckily, most of mine have come back, except for the two on each side of the house? They keep changing the forecast so often, I don’t know what it is now!

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        Here we go again with our similarities. We also had a hot water tank burst … it was around 1992. I was doing laundry on a Saturday night, and went down to put the wash into the dryer and could not believe what I saw … it must have burst before the washer filled up (unfortunately) and water was everywhere. Had a plumber come in the next day to install a new one. The shut off valve for the water was too hard to turn – had to ask a neighbor to help shut it off. He brought over his big squegee that he used for ice rinks to help the water to go down the drain. Drain was not clear, water would not go down. We also had the area rug from the living room – it was not quite the entire room size and all the living room furniture is down there as well. It is old furniture too. The problem is it is very cluttered down there. Thanks for the info on the panel painting – I didn’t realize you could do that. No green on anything back there – just the Forget Me Nots – only color back there. The lilacs looked beautiful – a huge bush. I looked at the pics this morning and will put some lilacs into the post. I hope to do it this weekend and have more pics from Wednesday as well. We have rain tonight/tomorrow morning, a severe storm warning on Sunday afternoon … hopefully I’ll get at least one post done this weekend.

        Like

  4. brilliantviewpoint says:

    Well, you’ve touched a lot of us. My parents have lilacs in their yard too. Always a nice memory and THANKS for the tip on Mackinac Lilac Festival, I always watch the sail boat race from Chicago to Mackinac, but have never gone there… SOON, I will go visit.

    I hope YOUR lilacs do well!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Eilene Lyon says:

    I don’t recall anyone in the family having lilacs when I was growing up. We have a couple scraggly ones in our yard, no more than 4 or 5 feet tall, but they do bloom every year. Grandma had hydrangeas, which I love, too, but won’t grow here. I had no idea there were so many lilac varieties.

    I’d love to visit Mackinac, but haven’t had the opportunity. It seems so romantic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Eilene, the Grand Hotel on Mackinac has an annual summer Titanic weekend too, where guests are treated to a reenactment of the menus/entertainment of the voyage, assigned passenger names and expected to come in costume. That sound like fun too!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Jo Shafer says:

    What a beautiful story of childhood remembrance! Elizabeth von Arnim talks about her lilacs in A SOLITARY SUMMER and how the scent wafts from the garden into the house. Mine are white but exude that same perfume. They were sort of inherited from next door when then neighbor Susan planted hers right next to the fence bordering our gardens; she meant it to spread so that we could share. Took several years, but now the bush is quite, quite tall. I can no longer reach to cut branches unless I stand on a tall step ladder — which I am leery of doing now that I’m in my late 70s. (Golly, that sounds old!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      I never get up on ladders if I can help it, as I’ve seen too many people, of any age, fall. I did not know the white ones had the same scent. I read Solitary Summer last summer and enjoyed it.

      Like

  7. Kim of Red Dirt Farm says:

    Joni – I just felt right at home with this post, in all kinds of ways. Your family gathering for Mother’s day – and Mom doing the cooking – it seems to me it is always that way. We used to feel the same about my grandmother always cooking and occasionally after church we would go out to a restaurant, so she could get a break, but it just wasn’t the same. I think for exactly the same reason – we couldn’t go outside and play while the grownups had coffee and conversation. My farmhouse was built in the 1930s, and I believe the lilacs here are original to the house. Mr. Cottage just finished doing a pretty serious pruning, as we have neglected doing that for the past few years. The scent is the best, and yes we do have newer varieties that don’t perform as well or have the same scent. We have some old white ones, which I have no idea their name and they don’t bloom much, but they do have that great scent. I enjoyed seeing the old photos.
    Best,
    Kim

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Thanks Kim – I’m glad you enjoyed it and could relate to it. It certainly is/was a different, more relaxed lifestyle compared to the way most people life to day. In my research for the post, I realized that I planted that BloomAgain Lilac in the wrong spot last fall, as if it only grows to 4 ft it will never get any sunlight next to my shed, so that will have to be moved as soon as it blooms. It was so cold here today 7 C (not sure what that is in F degrees, maybe 40?) with a frost warning last night, that the lilacs are still only buds. I wonder if we’ll ever get spring.

      Like

  8. Chroma says:

    Lilacs are my favorite! When we first moved into our home, many years ago, we found we’d acquired a few rose bushes, a yard full of Bermuda grass, and one stubby little knob of wood coming up in a corner of our back yard – did not know what it could be but didn’t hope for much. Was thrilled when the following year it put on a growth spurt and bloomed and turned out to be a beautiful dark purple lilac, similar to the Boomerang type you posted above. We ended up having to move it to a different place in the yard some years later, but it was amazingly tough and really thrived in its new location. We still have it, long may it reign! Appreciate your post – very informative and a pleasure to read!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to Jo Shafer Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s