Book of the Week #25

Lilacs: A Gardener's Encyclopedia by John L. Fiala, revised and updated by Freek Vrugtman (Portland, OR: Timber Press, 2008)

"Lilacs have a fascinating history. They also display sufficient variation to make them desirable garden plants. Their natural distribution is restricted to regions with a temperate climate, with winter temperatures dropping below freezing. Although the new flower buds are initiated and developed within weeks following the end of the blooming season, a period of cold weather is prerequisite for satisfactory bloom in the following spring. Lilacs perform best in regions that satisfy these climatic requirements. All the wild lilacs have marvelous tales to tell of their native lands and the progress made in their development as garden shrubs. Some, such as the common lilac, Syringa Vulgaris, are well known to almost every gardener and loved for their beauty, fragrance, range of color, size of floret, and dependability. Others, beautiful in their own way, are far less known, and most would not be recognized by many people as belonging to the genus Syringa. By careful examination and consideration of each plant, we shall seek, as we unfold the unique history of lilacs, to appreciate the beauty they bring to gardens throughout the world." (p. 17)  

This is an update of a book that we featured as Book-of-the-Week #5 in 2009. According the the state website the purple lilac was first imported from England and planted at the Portsmouth home of Governor Benning Wentworth in 1750. It was adopted as our state’s flower in 1919. That year bills and amendments were introduced promoting the apple blossom, purple aster, wood lily, Mayflower, goldenrod, wild pasture rose, evening primrose and buttercup as the state flower. A long and lively debate followed regarding the relative merits of each flower. The purple lilac was ultimately chosen, according to Anderson in New Hampshire’s Flower -- Tree -- Bird because it "is symbolic of that hardy character of the men and women of the Granite State."

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