Lilac is a very familiar, popular flowering shrub or small tree which has been naturalised in parts of western Europe and North America, where it is the state flower of New Hampshire symbolising the hardy character of the people of The Granite State, although it originates from and is native to the rocky hills of the Balkan Peninsula.
A member of the olive family Oleaceae, it is said that Lilac represents the joy of youth and although these days there are several different coloured varieties or cultivars available the most familiar one is the Syringa vulgaris or Lilac common, which is the one giving the plant its name and thus the colour, this being introduced to Europe at the end of the 16th century. Having referenced the connection to youth the colour lilac was also linked to the last stages of mourning in Britain and Europe.
Lilac or Syringa is hardy and easy to grow in any well-drained reasonable soil but prefers full sun if possible as in a shady site, or indeed if over fertilised, the flowering ability may be compromised, however this can be improved by deadheading after the flowers have faded. This multi-stemmed deciduous shrub with its very pretty heart-shaped foliage is frequently seen in public parks and gardens as its early flowering habit in late spring and early summer brings colour and intense fragrance before a lot of other shrubs are in bloom. Occasionally planted as a very informal hedge Lilac will reach heights of 3-4 metres in a favourable position giving spring colour and fragrance attracting bees and other insects.
Many gardeners now will plant to a colour scheme and there will be a variety of Lilac to fit in with that scheme especially if growing for cut flowers which Lilac is perfect for. For example, Beauty of Moscow, Lebioduszka and Znamya Lenina will go perfectly in a pink or red theme respectively or as a contrast with white flowering plants, whereas Miss Ellen Willmott would fit admirably in a white themed garden which is quite a popular one. Primrose as the name suggests is a very pretty, pale yellow, Carpe Diem has beautiful flower spikes of light blue/mauve and Lila Wonder is a lilac shade but with an attractive white margin, so there is a colour to fit most eventualities. Many of the modern cultivars of Syringa vulgaris, over 150 in number are credited to Victor Lemoine of Nancy in France during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.