Lilacs — Sweet Scent, Sweet Memories

Lilacs — Sweet Scent, Sweet Memories

Syringa josikaea, Source: Sten Porse

“A lilac tree, I said. It bloomed every May around the time of Mama’s birthday. Papa was a romantic, he would stand under the tree and sing songs of lilacs and love to her. The memory is so vivid in my mind. I can almost smell the lilacs now.”     

                                                        —Laura Hillman, i will plant you a lilac tree

May is a marvelous month.  Not just because Charles’ birthday is on the 11th, but because lilacs are in bloom all over the world! The name “lilac” comes from the Persian word meaning bluish.

The dark green and shiny leaves, pale violet/blue blooms and fragrant scent are forever in my memory and always bring me good cheer.

The first spring Charles and I travelled to his home region in Slovakia (formerly part of Austria-Hungary), we inhaled the aroma of lilacs as we drove through the countryside.

Charles told me how his mother Maria was an admirer of a much-loved lilac species native to the Carpathian Mountains in Hungary, Romania, and western Ukraine.

She told him shepherds carried the lilacs with them along the silk route to Istanbul.

Syringa josikaea

Charles recalled his mother said this lilac was named after a member of the aristocracy, but didn’t give a name. In my research I discovered the species Syringa josikaea. It was named around 1830, for Rosalia, Baroness von Josika, a botanist who had found the plant growing in Transylvania and brought it to the attention of the scientific community.  It is known as the Hungarian lilac and has bluish-purple fragrant flowers. I believe this may be the species Maria liked.

I have many favorite lilacs, but don’t know their origin or species. Many of the lilacs are not even alive. They are song titles, book covers and titles, subjects of paintings and perfume fragrances, postage stamps, colors of paint or in wallpaper and even the last name of a male classmate in high school:

AERIN Beauty “Lilac Path” Eau de Parfum

“Green Grow the Lilacs”- a play about homosexuality on the frontier and a folk song of Irish origin recorded by such people as Fess Parker/Disney’s Davy Crockett, Johnny Cash and June Carter, Tex Ritter, The Originals (recorded for Motown) and Harry Belafonte.

House on Prague Street by Hana Demetz – An autobiographical novel based on the author’s wartime girlhood in WW II Czechoslovakia. The book cover is a house surrounded by  lilac trees.

i will plant you a lilac tree: a memoir of a Schindler’s list survivor by Laura Hillman – A lilac in every garden. . . the world over!

“Lilacs in a Window,” a painting by Mary Cassatt (1880)

mysteryatlilacinnThe Mystery at Lilac Inn by Carolyn Keene – Nancy Drew mystery #4

Rochester, New York – Lilac Capital of the World


What are your memories of lilacs? Please share them!

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