Lottah Nursery Tasmania, Australia

Some New Hybrid Lilacs

This is a republication of original article by Isabella Preston of Central Experimental Farm, Ottawa that appeared in Gardening Illustrated of December 1946

The late-blooming lilacs, originating at the Central Experimental Farm, Ottawa, are increasing in popularity as they become better known. Five years ago I wrote a short account of their origin for Gardening Illustrated and since that date several of the varieties have received awards.

Syringa x prestoniae had S. villosa and S. reflexa for parents and the seedlings were named after Shakespeare's heroines. Very few of the second generation seedlings of this cross were distributed as most of them were similar to the first crosses. 'Oberon', with quantities of very pale pinkish-lilac flowers, was used as an illustration for the earlier article. 'Romeo' has attractive phlox-pink flowers which are made more conspicuous by the reddish-brown flower stalks. These are the two varieties that have been propagated.

S. x josiflexa has S. josikaea and S. reflexa for parents. Only one seeding was obtained from this cross and it was named 'Guinevere'. It is a strong grower with large leaves and huge panicles of blooms which are borne in great profusion. The colour of the flowers is purplish-lilac with a paler tip to the petals, but in general appearance the bush is very similar to the prestoniae varieties Several seedlings have been grown from open pollinated seed of this plant and they showed great variation. Three from seeds sown in 1924 which had pink flowers were named.

Bellicent is the most ornamental in the garden. The bush is 7 to 8 feet tall and has a more graceful habit of growth than the others. At blooming time it has quantities of small panicles on long laterals branches as well as the large central truss of pink flowers. The blooming date is from late May to the first two weeks of June in Ottawa. This variety was given a First Class Certificate in London this spring.

Enid is a strong-growing shrub with large leaves and a cluster of pink flowers about the same colour as those of 'Bellicent', but its vigorous upright growth makes it less attractive than the other.

Lynette was the name given to the third sister of these seedlings. it is similar in habit to 'Enid' but is a deeper shade and not so true a pink.

Elaine is also an open pollinated seedling of 'Guinevere' but it is very unlike the three mentioned above. It is upright in habit and grows about 10 feet tall and the leaves are large and coarse. The individual flowers, too, are large and of heavy texture. They are faintly flushed with pale rose-purple on opening, but in normal seasons the colour rapidly fades to white. (I say normal seasons, because this year for the first time the colour did not change and the only reason that was suggested for this unusual occurrence was the cool weather that we had in early June.) It has a pleasing fragrance; the flower stems are reddish brown and add to the beauty of the inflorescence. It blooms in May and early June. This is a very unusual-looking lilac and whether it will prove valuable is difficult to say. It has not yet been tested in many places.

In 1930 a cross was made between S. reflexa and a plant that was sent out by Lemoine, of Nancy, France, under the name of S. wolfii, but in a late ctalogue the true S. wolfii was listed and a note said the former plant sent out under the name was not true, but no hint was given as to what the plant might be. We have not yet been able to identify it. The seedlings from the cross have attractive pink flowers and we are distributing one under the name of 'Ethel M. Webster'. It grows from 6-7 feet tall and makes a fairly compact bush which is well covered with large panicles of pink flowers, many of which show the drooping habit of reflexa. We think that this variety should be popular and useful for small gardens as it does not appear to be such a vigorous grower as the prestoniae group.

A cross between S. reflexa and S. sweginzowii was made successfully in 1928 and several seedlings were obtained. They inherited some of the pink colour of S. reflexa but the bushes are smaller and the foliage not so coarse as in many of the other hybrids. The bushes are not so hardy as those mentioned earlier which is not surprising as S. sweginzowii is often damaged in severe winters at Ottawa.

One of the hybrids was pollinated with S. reflexa in 1933 and several interesting seedlings were obtained. One we have named 'Fountain' and the name describes the appearance of the bush when it is in full bloom. The panicles resemble those of s. reflexa in their shape and drooping habit, but they are wider and the flowers last longer. Here the corollas of S. reflexa split and turn brown soon after opening so that in spite of their rich colour the bush is not very attractive. The habit and floriferousness of 'Fountain' can be seen from the illustrations which were made in 1945. This year the bush carries even more flowers. Their colour is purplish-lilac (Ridgway) in bud and much paler on opening with the deeper colour in the throat. It was in full bloom on June 8 this year, but the date varies according to the season. A sister seedling has redder flowers than 'Fountain', but it is not so floriferous so does not make such an attractive bush.

Further breeding work among the species of Syringa should give many interesting forms. The use of S. reflexa as a parent for hybrids has proved that it will transmit some of its rich rose colour and the drooping habit of the panicles to its progeny and further developments could be expected if the work were continued.

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