You might think that as June becomes a distant memory, lilac season is over. It is true that most of the lilacs – the common lilac, the little-leaf varieties and lastly the villosa lilacs have all completed their bloom cycle for another year. There is, however, one magnificent lilac display left – and it usually begins around the beginning of July. That is the gossamer-like blooms of the Japanese tree lilac.
This small tree bursts into bloom after all other lilacs have finished blooming, releasing its magnificent sweet aroma throughout the garden. The blooms are ivory coloured, resulting from the individual white florets having protruding yellow anthers, which give the panicles of bloom a fuzzy, ivory-coloured appearance and no doubt explains the name of the most popular cultivar: “Ivory Silk.”
The Japanese tree lilac is a small tree, growing about eight metres tall. It has a rather upright growth habit, so the trunk, which is often multi-stemmed, will be bare. The foliage is not unlike that of the common lilac, the leaves being smooth and oval with sharp points. The tree has attractive red-brown bark which contributes to its value as a specimen tree, particularly in small landscapes where space does not allow the growing of a large tree.
The Japanese tree lilac is a low-maintenance tree that requires little care once established. It is not prone to insect or disease problems, is content with our heavy clay soils and is remarkably drought tolerant. Unlike the lilac shrubs, because it is grown as a tree, it does not need to be clipped or trimmed.
If you love lilac season and mourn its passing every year, you might like to extend that season by including a Japanese tree lilac in your landscape. Even if you are simply looking for a smaller-size tree to fit into a small yard, the Japanese tree lilac might be the one you are looking for. In either case, you will be pleased with the performance of your “Ivory Silk” tree should you choose to plant one.
– Albert Parsons writes from Minnedosa, Manitoba