Wednesday, March 21, 2012

IT'S A MIRACLE! After Nixing the Nitrogen, My Lilac Tree is FINALLY Blooming!!!

Four-Year-Old Lilac Blooming for the Very First Time!
In one of my very first blog posts here, I lamented the complete lack of blooms on my lackluster lilac tree.  Four years ago, soon after moving into this house, I ordered two lilacs of the exact same Syringa "Lavendar Lady" variety from Wayside Gardens, a variety that was supposed to be especially well adapted to Southern gardens because it does not require a cold winter in order to bloom.    I gave one of the two lilacs to my mother, who also lives in Charlotte, and Bernie planted the other one in our back yard.

Here is the photo of Syringa "Lavendar Lady" that Wayside Gardens uses on their web site and in their catalog:
Syringa "Lavendar Lady," photo courtesy of Wayside Gardens

Gorgeous, right?  What's not to love?  I can almost smell the lilacs through the computer monitor.  So, we planted the twig with roots that came in the mail, watched it leaf out and grow throughout the summer, and looked forward eagerly to lilacs in the Spring.  But when Spring came, it brought no lilac blooms to my garden, only pale green leaves and longer branches.  Okay, so maybe it doesn't bloom until the second year, once it's more established and mature, right?  Except that my MOTHER'S lilac was already blooming, looking like this:
Mom's Syringa "Lavendar Lady," Spring 2011
It was a far cry from the stunner in the Wayside Gardens photo, but hey -- it had blooms!  Same plant, same source, same climate zone -- what was different?  Well, most obviously, my mother's lilac was getting a lot more sun than ours was, at the back side of the house where it was shaded until afternoon.  I read that lilacs need full sun, and I began begging my husband to relocate the plant so that we, too, could enjoy blooms some day. 

By the way, if you do not live in the Carolinas, where rock-hard orange clay masquerades as "soil," I forgive you for wondering why I didn't dig the plant up and move it myself.  We have actually bent shovels in the orange clay, and I have nowhere near the upper body strength required to dig up a shrubbery here.  Imagine trying to break up a concrete patio with a garden shovel instead of a jack hammer, and you get the idea.  Welcome to gardening in the South!

Just because someone is physically strong enough to dig up a lilac and relocate it in a sunnier spot, does not mean that he necessarily has the will to do so.  Bernie used all his creative cunning to concoct reasons to leave the pitiful lilac where it was.  The first year, he said "If it doesn't bloom next year, I'll move it for you then."  The next year, when it still didn't bloom (and my mother's bloomed again), he came up with a bizarre explanation of how my mother's lilac was actually on the verge of death, and was marshalling the last of its meager energy resources to produce its blooms in a desperate attempt to pass on its genes before shriveling up dead.  My mother, who has been rather smug about her blooming lilac these last few years, was not pleased to hear Bernie's theory.  My lilac was much taller than hers, and covered in leaves, but still no blooms.  Of course, my husband's willingness to dig up the lilac and move it decreased severely as the lilac grew bigger and bigger.

Finally, last year, I read here that fertilizers containing too much nitrogen (like what my Lover dumps all over the lawn, the azaleas, and all over the acid-loving hollies -- can't have too much of a good thing!) can cause lilacs to grow lush green foliage, but no blooms!  Eureka!  Sure enough, Bernie had been plying my lilac with Holly Tone fertilizer in hopes that he could force-feed it into blooming (and avoid digging it up).  He discontinued the fertilizer last summer.

My 4-yr. old Syringa "Lavendar Lady," just like the Wayside Gardens Picture!
I forgot all about our little fertilizer experiment until I looked out the kitchen window the other day and saw two little clusters of flower buds on my lilac.  My specimen is still far from healthy, and Lulu's helpful attempts to prune the lower branches are probably not doing much good, either.  I still believe that the lilac would do better in a sunnier location, but hey -- flowers are appearing where I had given up hope of ever seeing them.  Would I have ordered this tree if I had known ahead of time what it was going to look like in my yard?  Well...

I would still love to dig this up.  It would be so much better if it was at the front corner of the front yard, near the street light and the ugly cable box.  It would have more sun there, Lulu the Terrible wouldn't be snacking on its branches, and then we could enjoy the fragrant blooms every time we walked down the sidewalk.  It would just need to be far enough back from the street that it didn't get peed on by all the neighborhood dogs (canine pee being high in nitrogen).

What do you think my chances are of getting Bernie to dig up this tree, now that it's 10' tall and has sported some meager blooms?  Should I hire a landscaper to move it when he's out of town?  Sometimes, in gardening and in marriage, it is easier to get forgiveness than permission.

1 comment:

Susanne said...

Saw your lilacs on The Paris Apartment blog. Stunning bush - lilacs are my favorites. My bushes seem to die off or look undernourished - I'll have to follow up on that. Again, lovely snap.