Lilacs bring back great memories

  • Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Returning from a mid-May trip to Virginia, I was happy to bring back a bouquet of lilacs cut from my sister’s yard.
Growing up, we both loved an old lilac that stood at our home’s backdoor, and would often take flowering branches, stems wrapped in damp paper towels, to our teachers. The scent of lilacs still transports me back to those schoolgirl days.
Although I have tried without success to grow lilacs on our South Carolina farm, I do have something that is now filling the warm air with a nearly identical fragrance. A double trunked Chinaberry tree stands enveloped in a white cloud of star shaped flowers with an aroma so close to lilacs I am not sure I could tell the difference if blindfolded. Chinaberry trees have some annoying characteristics, but I forgive them all in gratitude for this sweet gift.
Another source of heady perfume is a flowering vine, my beloved Confederate jasmine. Two spindly sticks planted years ago have gradually climbed to cover the trellised wall of our potting shed and form a beautiful canopy over its door.
When my daughter was small and we would walk near the blossoming jasmine, I would ask, “Ellie what do you smell?”
She would always reply, “I know Mom, that is the smell of Cedarleaf in spring.”
Years and miles away from those days, I hope she will get an occasional wind-blown whiff of jasmine and for a moment return to her childhood.
While Confederate jasmine is my very favorite vine, another that I would enthusiastically recommend is the Major Wheeler red honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), a native plant. Although it is not nearly as deliciously fragrant as the wild yellow and white honeysuckle that cascades over our fences, it is a true showstopper.
Its profusion of bright red tubular blooms with golden throats is a favorite feeding station for hummingbirds and honeybees. Consider ordering one to plant in November, keeping in mind the old saying that most vines take “a year to sleep, a year to creep and a year to leap.”
Joanna Angle is a Master Tree Farmer and 2012 South Carolina Tree Farmer of the Year. Her Cedarleaf Farm in Chester County is a Certified Stewardship Forest and part of the American Tree Farm System.


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