The Hardy Lilac

Lilac shrubs, renowned for their beauty and fragrance, are blooming on our Littleton farm, a couple weeks ahead of schedule; two weeks of summer-like weather have triggered the early flowering.  Native to the Balkan Peninsula of Eastern Europe, these attractive shrubs have been planted across the globe and adapt well to the sunny, semiarid environment of the Colorado Front Range.

Indeed, our scattered lilac hedges require very little maintenance and no supplemental watering; cutting out dead limbs is the extent of our intervention.  Since they spread by suckering, lilacs form colonial clumps which favor full sun exposure and well drained soil; found on rocky hillsides in their native range, long-lived lilac stands often mark the past sites of abandoned homesteads in other regions of human habitation.  On the negative side, these hardy shrubs tend to crowd out other vegetation; on our property, two forsythia bushes have recently succumbed to aggressive lilac expansion.

While we humans are enamored with lilacs for their physical traits, they also attract a wide variety of butterflies.  Though they were not introduced to North America until the 18th Century, they have rapidly naturalized across this Continent and are surely here to stay, whether we tend to them or not.