Lilacs may have originated in Eastern Europe and Asia, but they've found their forever home in Minnesota. As one of the first blooms to herald spring, they have a special place in our hearts — and landscapes.
While its blossoming season is fleeting (blooms last only 10 to 14 days), the state's cold winters and hot, dry summers make an ideal climate for these perennials. The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum's Lilac Collection, planted in 1960, is the arb's oldest, showcasing 12 species and 140 varieties that do well in the state.
Lilacs' longevity makes it a popular shrub in home settings, too. It pays to do a little research before planting. The experts at the arboretum say knowing how big the variety gets can help determine placement. Larger varieties are great for screening or as the backdrop of a large garden, and smaller varieties may be more at home in perennial gardens or as hedges. Don't worry if you don't see blooms right away — it can take a few years for the shrubs to settle in.
They aren't just for looks, either. These shrubs provide shelter and a place to nest for birds, especially the brown thrasher, and are an excellent source of nectar for many insects, including tiger swallowtails.
But that smell! The arb recommends planting lilacs near walkways to make the most of their fragrance. They're also perfect for bringing indoors; don't be discouraged by the blooms' reputation of being short-lived. Plunge them into a bucket of water immediately after cutting, cut any leaves that will be submerged in water, make sure the vase is clean and use floral preservatives.
And attention, snowbirds: If you want to take this slice of Minnesota with you, you're out of luck. Lilacs don't grow in Florida, Arizona or Southern California. We need to keep some things for ourselves.
From left: Honore Common Lilac, Primrose Common Lilac, Saugeana Chinese Lilac, Andenken An Ludwig Spath Common Lilac, Lucie Baltet Common Lilac, Katherine Havemeyer Common Lilac, Madame Lemoine Common Lilac, Lustrous Common Lilac, Lamartine Hyacinth Lilac, Syringa Vulgaris Common Lilac, Pocahontas Hyacinth Lilac, Lavender Lady Hyacinth Lilac, and Macrostachya Common Lilac .