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Gardening Shrubs

Lilacs for the Garden

by (author) Jennifer Bennett

Firefly Books
Initial publish date
May 2002
Shrubs, Trees
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    May 2002
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2002
    List Price

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Out of print

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Jennifer Bennett has lived "lilac country" for more than 20 years, and is well placed to appreciate the lilac, which not only flourishes in cultivated gardens but roams wild across the countryside. Tracing the journey of a plant that will "grow well everywhere, in every soil," from its origins in Asia through Europe and the United Kingdom to North America some 250 years ago, Bennett brings this most familiar and glorious of flowers to vibrant life.

The lilac's bloom is a sign of spring everywhere, but a lesser-known fact is that its emerging flowers are also used as indicators by farmers planning pest control and crop plantings and by scientists engaged in charting global warming. Filled with uncommon information about this common plant, Bennett's book features chapters on its history; planning, planting and pruning; the lilac's place in the landscape, whether alone, in groupings or with perennials; a species list of usual and unusual plants, with names that range from 'Charles Lindbergh' and 'Martha Stewart' to 'Charm' and 'Glory'; exotic lilacs for the adventurous connoisseur; and lilac aid, which addresses one of gardening's most vexing questions: "Why won't it bloom?"

Lilacs for the Garden is a compendium of essential information for all who cherish this most resonant of garden companions. Whether you seek detail on plant requirements, mulching, grafting, fertilizing, multiplication, bloom time, fragrance, abiotic and biotic stresses, renovating neglected lilacs or a list of recommended species and where to find them, Bennett's latest book is an essential resource.


About the author

Jennifer Bennett and Turid Forsyth

Jennifer Bennett's profile page

Excerpt: Lilacs for the Garden (by (author) Jennifer Bennett)

Considering the Lilacs From Old World to New with a French connection

"These are well-known hardy shrubs which grow well everywhere, in every soil and all exposures."
-- D.W. Beadle, Canadian Fruit Flower and Kitchen Gardener (1872)

Everywhere. Every soil. All exposures. Consider the lilacs of the field, how they grow. They are not fertilized, nor are they pruned, yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Come May, the Bible is paraphrased in abandoned farm fields and along country roads in eastern Ontario, where I live. This is lilac country, where for two weeks in spring, the abundance of flower and perfume has to be experienced to be believed. And like sleek pets looking over the fence at their wilder kin, there are lilacs in almost every garden showing off bigger blooms and brighter colors before, during and after the roadside show.

The lilac was once called the poor man's flower. The reason was that common lilacs were the chain letters of horticulture: You simply pried a rooted shoot from the base of a shrub and planted it somewhere else -- just about anywhere else. Even mature lilacs could be moved. More than two centuries ago, George Washington wrote in his journal, "Removed two pretty large and full grown Lilacs to the No. Garden gate, one on each side, taking up as much dirt with the roots as cd. be well obtained." Lilacs tolerate drought, cold winters, dry, hot summers and almost any soil. They are undemanding and generous, the perfect guests. Thanks to lilac tenacity, they grow splendidly and abundantly -- sometimes too abundantly -- from northern Canada to Colorado, as tough as the settlers who brought them. The lilac is the state flower of New Hampshire because, according to historian Leon Anderson, it is "symbolic of that hardy character of the men and women of the Granite State."

Lilacs flourish as though they've always been here, but their time on this continent has been brief. As Ernest H. Wilson of the Arnold Arboretum in Massachusetts said about lilacs, "None are indigenous in America, but notwithstanding this, all the species introduced have proved hardy in the arboretum. A singular and most interesting fact." Lilacs simply happen to like it here, all 20-odd species of them.


Editorial Reviews

In simple plain language, you will learn how (and where and when) to plant lilacs, care for lilacs, be as much a friend to lilacs as they are to all of us.

Salem Statesman Journal

Total details on buying, planting, pruning, diseases and propagating from cuttings; for mail-order sources and public gardens with fine displays.

Vancouver Province

A lucid, beautifully illustrated (with over 90 stunning color photographs) tribute to this much-loved shrub... Well researched and written, Bennett's book is an invaluable resource for lilac amateurs and enthusiasts alike. It is highly recommended for any library's collection.

American Reference Books Annual, Volume 35

A great resource book.

The Rural Voice (Blyth ON)

An excellent book for the beginner or the veteran gardener.

The Edmonton Journal

Plain language -- combined with Bennett's seemingly limitless lilac enthusiasm -- makes caring for these hearty plants sound doable, even for readers with only a green-ish thumb.


Perhaps every gardener's library should include a book dedicated to this fragrant shrub.

Spokane Spokesman

Covers everything... easy to read and understand -- even as she delves into hybrids and cultivars.

Edmonton Sun

An excellent guide.

Southam Newspapers

Detailed portraits... expert growing advice... prompted me to make room for four more of these beauties in my already crowded garden.

Canadian Gardening

Beautifully illustrated ... likely to become a classic -- one of those you just can't bear to do without.

Kingston This Week

Combines practical advice, personal observations, literary quotes and full-color photographs in an irresistible mix.

Canadian Living

Practical, thorough and informative ... a must-have for anyone interested in growing this gloriously hardy, sweet-smelling shrub.

Kitchener-Waterloo Record

After flipping through page after page of gorgeous photographs, I'm hooked.

Kitchener-Waterloo Record

Recommended ... The information is all there: what lilacs to select; how to plant, prune, maintain and propagate them; and what to observe when diagnosing pests.

Chicago Botanical Garden

Full of gorgeous pictures, lilac facts ... and advice for selecting, planting, pruning and tending lilacs.

Chicago Tribune

Well-researched and -written, and lavishly illustrated, Bennett's book is an invaluable resource for the lilac lover.

Gardening Life

Other titles by Jennifer Bennett