Lottah Nursery Tasmania, Australia

'Review' of Russian Lilacs by T. Polyakova - Русский

Image of Kolesnikov book

We heard late in 2009 that Publishing House the "Penta" had won a Moscow Government open competition and received a grant for publication of a book on Leonid Kolesnikov's life and his lilacs. This book was written by our Russian friend T. Polyakova. Having received an earlier book on lilacs by the author (who was awarded the 'Golden Pen' Award in 2008 by an independent public expert committee of the journal 'Vestnik Tsvetovoda') we looked forward to the new book with much anticipation even though it was going to be in Russian.

Those who know their lilacs would recognize Kolesnikov as the pre-eminent Russian lilac breeder whose 'Krasavitsa Moskvy' (introduced in 1947) has immortalized him in the lilac world.

Holding a significant collection of Russian lilacs at this Nursery, including 33 of Kolesnikov's, we were nevertheless flattered to be invited to contribute an article on our experience of the Kolesnikov lilacs in Australia for inclusion in the book.

We received a copy in mid-2010, and are happy to report the book is a worthy tribute to Kolesnikov and his lilacs. The book is lavishly illustrated with photographs of lilacs as well many on the man's life over 200 pages. Despite our unfamiliarity with the language we proceed with providing our opinion of the book.

The first part of the book (pp. 19-67) is devoted to Kolesnikov's life including a stint in the army. We are familiar with some aspects of that through a video obtained some years ago. Amongst other notable recognitions he was awarded the International Lilac Society Directors Award in 1973 for his contributions to lilac culture.

52 of the more popular cultivars have a page devoted to each, with a photo and detailed description as depicted in the image below. The close-ups of flower clusters are some of the best we have seen, with color rendition close to what we have observed locally. This is probably the most useful section to those of us who not understand the Russian language - lilac names are provided in English as well in this section.

Pages 126-133 consists of descriptions and photographs of 36 named Kolesnikov lilacs that are now deemed lost to cultivation. These older sephia toned photos necessarily fail to depict their full glory. However it forms part of Kolesnikov's legacy to the world and we are grateful for the record. There is also the hope that some of them may still be growing in obscurity, and publication of this book might bring some into the light.

Since the publication of Fiala's book there has been wide-spread but regrettably limited interest in Russian lilacs. Not surprisingly there is an international section in the book with observations of the Kolesnikov lilacs from Australia, Canada (2), China, Russia, UK, and USA. We are certain it is only a matter of time before these exotics become household names around the world.

Two decades ago Fiala seduced a generation of gardeners to a love affair with lilacs with the publication of his Lilacs: The Genus Syringa. Polyakova's book promises to achieve the same for Russian lilacs. We can only hope an English translation may become available someday.

T. Polyakova, Russian Lilacs (ISBN 978-5-91104-020-8) as well as the earlier Lilac Time (ISBN 978-5-98303-016-9) are available from the publishers Penta-Photo

Leonid Kolesnikov
L. Kolesnikov
the lilac breeder
page from Kolesnikov book
cultivar description
page 115
Lilac Time
earlier publication
Lilac Time*
T. Polyakova
T. Polyakova
the author

*Lilac Time is a richly illustrated 230 page book devoted to the major lilac breeders world-wide and their creations.

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100930/101003-4369 (3, 6, 26, 590)