Biblitz delivers advise

ASK Biblitz about Lilacs.

'there will come one May night / of every year that she's alive / when the whole world smells of lilacs'

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Why won't my lilac tree flower like billy-o in a profusion of fragrant white and purple cones?

More about peonies, especially the Biblitz Krinkle White peony, which blooms even before Jolly Chuck (right), the traditional harbinger of spring.

Biblitz replies:

Why indeed. Pull up a strengthener while I wax poetic.

The Collected Poems of Al Purdy

Edited by Russell Brown

May 23, 1980

I'd been driving all day
arrived home around 6 p.m.
got something to eat and slept an hour
then I went outside
and you know
- the whole world smells of lilacs
the whole damn world

I have grown old
making lists of things I wanted
to do and other lists
of words I wanted to say
and laughed because of the lists
and forgot most of them
- but there was a time
and there was this girl
this girl with violet eyes
and a lot of other people too
because it was some kind of a party
- but I couldn't think of a way
some immediate plan or method
to bathe in that violet glow
with a feeling of being there too
at the first morning of the world
So I jostled her elbow a little
spilled her drink all over
did it again a couple of times
and you know it worked
it got so she winced
every time she saw me coming
but I did get to talk to her
and she smiled reluctantly
a little cautious because
on the basis of observed behaviour
I might be mad
and then she smiled
- altho I've forgotten her name
it's on one of those lists

I have grown old
but these words remain
tell her for me
because it's very important
tell her for me
there will come one May night
of every year that she's alive
when the whole world smells of lilacs

(-- pgs. 276-277)


Charles Joly, SYRINGA vulgaris, smug centrepiece of the Biblitz west garden, smirks and shrugs after the annual pre-bloom orgy of bone meal, Miracle Gro and well-rotted compost.


Here, above, is our Jolly Chuck, as Biblitz refers to him, hogging the May spotlight as usual. Young Charles is the biggest and the eldest of three lilac bushes now gracing the Biblitz estate. He is flanked by pale Lemoine in the foreground next to a rather straggly Stanwell Hope shrub rose busily working up the first frenzy of pale pink flowers. Next to Stan is wine-dark Reine des Violettes, another old rose concentrating on the first bloom not expected until mid-May or even June. You know these old dowagers. They do take their ease about things. If the truth be told, Vi is complaining about the decided lack of Biblitz largesse with the compost this year, but limited quantity meant a strategy of application based on previous performance, and Vi was a bit of an under-achiever last summer, I'm afraid. Still, June will bring the usual application of steer manure forked gently into the soil at the base of her branches, which will no doubt awaken and strengthen the old girl, bless her.
Charles, ready for his close-up:

Charles's story is a tragic one, I'm afraid. Every wrong that could be done to a young lilac was done to our Charles. His first home was a shallow planter on the shady side of a typical Vancouver leaky condo. From there, he was crowded into a biggish clay pot, where he bravely summoned two flowers in response to a new posish facing south. Finally, when his pot cracked in a frost, a goodish hole was dug beside the dining room window and in he went. Unfortunately, however, he resents the intrusion so, to punish Biblitz, he only throws his flowers away from the house.

Charles has also been extremely testy about the capriciousness of March, which occasionally regales him with hurricane-force winds followed by great, grey sheets of icy rain that may briefly turn to sleet. When this occurs, blooms are sparse. Not good. To encourage the cowardly thing, Biblitz has planted both a younger brother Charles and little Lemoine, neither of whom waited the requisite two years (see below), preferring instead to gift father Biblitz with a profusion of perfect blooms their very first year! Charles was non- plussed, of course, but has grudgingly become a reliable performer himself ... if he is given some special nourishment in late February or early March.

Sunset Garden Book


SYRINGA. Oleaceae. LILAC. Deciduous shrubs, rarely small trees. Best known are common lilac (S. vulgaris and its many named varieties, but there are other species of great usefulness. Best where winter brings pronounced chill, but some bloom well with light chilling. Sun; light shade in hottest areas. All like alkaline soil; in areas where soils are strongly acid, add lime and cultivate in soil beneath drip line of plants. Average watering best, but can take some drought when established. Do not, however, limit water when plants are coming into bloom and making new growth. Control growth during early years by pinching and shaping. Flower buds for next year form in pairs where leaves join stems. After bloom, remove spent flower clusters just above points where buds are forming. Heavy pruning results in loss of much of next year's bloom. Thin out dead and weak wood at same time.

Renovate old, overgrown plants by cutting a few of oldest stems to the ground each year. Leaf miner, scale, and stem borer are the only important pests; bacterial blight, leaf spot, downy mildew are occasional problems. ...

S. vulgaris. COMMON LILAC. Zones 1-12. In Zones 14-16, 18-22, plants often bloom irregularly because of failure to break dormancy after mild winters. ...

Common lilacs can eventually reach 20 ft. tall, with nearly equal spread. Leaves roundish oval, pointed, dark green, to 5 in. long. Pinkish or bluish lavender flowers. ('Alba' has pure white flowers) in clusters to 10 in. long or more. Flowers in May; fragrance is legendary. Excellent cut flowers. Lilac fanciers swear these are more fragrant than newer varieties. Biblitz, a lilac fancier, agrees!

Varieties, often called Frencb hybrids, number in the hundreds. They generally flower a little later than other species and have larger clusters of single or double flowers in wide range of colors. Singles are often as showy as doubles, sometimes more so. All lilacs require 2-3 years to settle down and produce flowers of full size and true color. Here are just a few of the many choice varieties:

'Charles Joly' (double dark purplish red) ...(-- pgs. 539-540)