Two years ago, when Fruition was just beginning to set buds, we bought an old farm, located just outside the downtown area of the little quirky community of Newmarket. In the dead of winter, I neglected to notice the naked woody stems of the spindly hedge that wrapped around our new home. When they did leaf out, it was evident that I had struck gold: one hundred feet of mature lavender lilacs. Had I known, I might not have had such a shaky hand when signing for our first mortgage. I waited until almost June, but they never bloomed.
Lilacs and I had always had such a casual relationship which I admit now, I took them for granted. Maybe it's because I could seldom get them to last in a vase of water, or because they're so abundant on every roadside here, but I never really took them seriously.
Since that first bloom-less spring, I've come to appreciate how much these native beauties thrive on neglect, and put on an impressively aromatic display to reward you for just leaving them the heck alone. I figured out that our well-meaning neighbor had been helping to keep the hedges neat by hitting them with hedge trimmers each fall, which aborted every one of those beautiful blooms.
Lucky for me, our relationship has changed drastically since the days of the casual roadside encounter. I've begun to appreciate their fleeting beauty, learned to harvest and care for them, and most importantly, to embrace the cold climate where we both seem to thrive.
In the hopes that you too will have a long love affair with the New Hampshire state flower, I'll share a few tips on how I harvest and enjoy my lilacs on these late spring days.
- Harvest early in the day, heat and sunlight can stress these beauties out!
- Select the blooms that have opened, but still have some unopened buds at the top.
- Cut twice; once at an angle, then again to split the stem and create legs. This allows for maximum water absorption.
- Treat your water with a little food, something that smells this sweet needs a sugary diet!
By taking these extra steps, lilacs have rewarded me with a vase life of five days or more. I find that unless you're blessed by a house-hugging hedge of them, the best way to enjoy their wonderful fragrance is to bring them indoors and fill your home with their memory inducing aroma. Just last week, I brought a fist full to my grandmother that I learned lilacs were one of my great grandmother's favorite flowers. This is one of the things I love most about these old world blooms; almost everyone has a personal connection with them as they've outlived many generations, and even more floral trends, and still come out on top.