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Episode 88 – A Celebration of Lilacs

Ground Breaking Banter - Rick

Old-fashioned, memorable, deeply nostalgic: lilacs are one of the most beloved of all plants for nearly everyone who has grown up or lived in a cold climate. Though their bloom time is often short, it is so intensely colorful and fragrant, and comes at such a welcome time, that they cement their place in our hearts. That’s why we dedicate this episode to the genus Syringa, aka, lilacs. Watch us at the YouTube link above or join us on your favorite podcast platform to hear our whole conversation.

It’s hard to believe that we haven’t yet talked about the Bloomerang series of reblooming lilacs on the show before, and while they may have been mentioned here or there, they’ve never been a plant on trial. That changes now! The trick is which Bloomerang lilac do we cover when there are currently three in the line: Bloomerang Dark Purple, Bloomerang Purpink, and Bloomerang Ballet, which will be available at garden centers in 2025. And I am going to go with Bloomerang Purpink, because it’s a great representation of how this series of reblooming lilacs has evolved.

The Bloomerang series started with the original Bloomerang Purple back in 2010. Other lilacs, notably an old variety known as ‘Josée’, had some ability to rebloom, but it was more like a smattering of flowers in summer. So what Tim Wood, the new plant development manager here at Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs did, was to take that plant and work with it to get more reblooming. It took a lot of time and effort to amplify that feature, but he did with the original intro. But as is so typical in the plant breeding world, once you’ve done the work to bring about one unique feature in a substantial way, the floodgates are open. We have continued work on the Bloomerang series unceasingly, and it, along with our Let’s Dance series of reblooming hydrangeas, really represent how far the breeding has come. In both of these series, you can count on the newest additions to do what they do even better than previous ones. In this way, Bloomerang Purpink lilac is our strongest rebloomer.

Bloomerang lilacs are not Syringa vulgaris, the common lilac. They are hybrid, and look and smell quite a bit different than common lilacs. Their flowers and foliage are small and while the flowers are still beautifully fragrant, they are more just a general honey sweetness than the classic lilac scent. But they are also extremely disease resistant, especially compared to common lilacs, and of course, they give you way, way more flowers.

You may also be wondering about the funny name, Purpink. It’s because we could never decide if the flowers are purple or if they are pink. That’s part of the charm, and you’ll see if you grow this plant that sometimes it does resemble both colors. It’s kind of like the viral dress that no one could tell which color it actually was.

The key to success with Bloomerang is the same as with any lilac: full sun, at least six hours a day, and well-drained soil. I can’t stress this enough. Too little sun and you’ll have very few flowers, and if your soil stays wet for any prolonged period, well, there’s just no faster way to kill a lilac. So please take it to heart when I say when you plant a lilac, do NOT amend the soil. Do not add anything to the hole, thinking you’re making the perfect home for it. It will only slow drainage and keep the roots wet.

There is another key to success with Bloomerang lilacs that’s not the same as other lilacs, and that’s the rebloom. So the way that reblooming shrubs work is that they flower on old wood, which is true of all lilacs, and they can flower on new wood too. So they have their spring flower buds all set to go over winter, and that’s what you’re seeing now. But once that winds down and the plant enters vegetative growth (i.e., growing stems and foliage), any of that growth has the ability to set new wood flower buds which will open in a matter of weeks. The more new growth it puts on, the more it will rebloom. So the key to a good rebloom is not deadheading necessarily (though I do personally recommend it, that’s up to you) but keeping the plant growing vigorously enough that it has the resources to create more flower buds. That means making sure it doesn’t get drought stressed during those hot early days of summer, and it is also a case where I recommend fertilizing your plant monthly from early spring through late July, just to give it that extra boost for new growth and flower bud development.

If you’d like to add Bloomerang Purpink lilac – or any of the 320+ Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs – to your garden or landscape, you’ll find a list of local retailers here

Gardening Mail Bag - Stacey

Many thanks for your kind words, Kathy! You can absolutely keep your plants in their containers all summer, as that’s exactly how they’d spend the next several months if you hadn’t, or no one else, purchased them. The key, however, is that they are going to need frequent watering, probably at least once a day. That’s no problem when the plants are in a garden center or nursery setting, but in a home garden situation, it may not be quite so easy. It will help to keep them in a more shaded location, but do plan to water pretty much daily and possibly twice daily during the hottest part of summer. 

While keeping them in their containers til fall isn’t an issue, planting Perfecto Mundo azaleas in fall in USDA zone 6b might be. When you are planting something that’s right at the bottom edge of its cold tolerance like this, it’s usually best to plant in spring so the plants have the longest possible time to get established before they’re forced to confront the challenges of winter. It’s still worth attempting since it sounds like your plans don’t allow for anything else, but definitely try to get them in as early as possible in fall and put in a good 2-3″ layer of shredded bark mulch to prolong the window of optimal root growth conditions. 

 

I have to confess, I was shocked when I saw the extent to which these roots have surfaced – that’s not common at all, especially on roots that size. I couldn’t begin to say what might have happened. My first thought was soil erosion, but that seems like it would leave the base of the plant more exposed than it is. So, all that’s left is to deal with them for now, and for that, we recommend keeping a good 2-3″ mulch over the roots all year-round.

As for the pale foliage, roses of Sharon have a higher nutrient need than most flowering shrubs. This isn’t to say that they won’t flower and grow well if they aren’t fertilized (or grown in rich soil), but that the foliage will remain pale through the season. The easiest solution would be to fertilize with an all-purpose fertilizer like Espoma Rose Tone monthly from early spring through late July.

A dormant rose of Sharon grows next to a brown metal fence. A long, snake-like root from a rose of Sharon shrub sprawls over the bare ground.

This is definitely strange – heptacodium, aka seven-son flower, is not known to be susceptible to any diseases, or even any pests. This does look very much like cold damage: very tender new foliage emerged and then cold air fried it. It may seem inexplicable that such damage would be contained to just part of the tree, but this isn’t uncommon. There are many external factors that could have caused some part of the plant to get cold damage while other parts remained fine. 

That said, it is also worth considering two planting concerns: one, it does seem as though it is planted a bit too shallow. I don’t know if that would have impacted this, but it is something to be aware of as the plant matures. Similarly, being planted in turf can cause water issues – either making it difficult for water to amply penetrate to the roots, or making it difficult for water to evaporate if the soil is wet. These are just things to keep an eye on, especially if you find that the plant doesn’t recover from this apparent cold damage. Keep us posted!

A small tree planted in the middle of brown zoysia grass. Bare branches of a small tree against a dying lawn.

Do you have a question for us? We’re happy to help! E-mail us or use the contact tab above. Due to high volume, we may not get to your question, so if you need an answer quickly, please reach out via the Proven Winners website.

Branching News - Rick

Rick kicks it off with this week’s Lim-A -Rick, dedicated to the pronunciation of today’s topic:

Get it right, you should say Li-Lack

spare me your cultural feedback

Clip some for Mom

She’ll think they’re the bomb

And think you’re a brainiac 

Get it right, you should say Li-Luck,

It’s grammar gone amuck.

So everyone just relax,

are there rules of syntax?

I guess I’m simply dumbstruck. 

Get it right, you should say Li-Lock 

disagree, retort and squawk 

the results are the same

fragrance that’s insane

regardless of how you talk.

The Rochester Red Wings have found a way to bring the flowers to the field.
From May 14 to May 19, the Red Wings will wear uniforms featuring Rochester’s iconic lilacs front and center

Speaking of that fresh spring Lilac scent, forty-three percent of Americans say one of the best home compliments they can receive is “your home smells so good!” according to this survey

A new study has found how Americans are expressing their creative taste buds when it comes to their salads, along with what the ‘perfect’ salad looks like.

The rumors are true: Vegetables aren’t real — at least from a botanical standpoint. 

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