Monday, February 1, 2010

Under the Lilacs and other Romantic Favorites

When I read Louisa May Alcott's Under the Lilacs as a child, I wondered how they played under the lilacs because our lilacs were huge towering bushes, cut to the ground and allowed to grow again so many times that the whole clump was three feet across. If we played under something, it was under the back side of the English boxwoods that grew across the front of the house, where lack of sunlight left bare limbs that formed cave-like places where a child might hide.

The prior generation of children who lived in the house where I was born. Pink rose in foreground. My nephew titled this ancient family pic, "Sisters and Brudder with a bowl of Fleurs."

Daddy Mack's favorite flower was the lilac, hence the line of lilacs behind the house, blessed by the rising sun in the morning. As an adult, I took lilac suckers south to Atlanta, where they bloomed sporadically according to whether the winter had enough cold days. I would search for the tiny clusters of bead-like buds, hopeful of a fragrant cluster of tiny florets enough for a good whiff of lilac nectar. I was not surprised that lilacs were considered by several who took part in the poll to be the most romantic of flowers.

Lilies are also romantic faves. Lily bulbs are available by mail and in garden centers now.

Not listed in the poll, but named in comments, were Lily of the Valley, Plumeria and Peonies. Autumn Belle mentioned peonies as an auspicious flower in a recent post and disclosed that she uses artificial peonies. Silk Peonies, which I find a wonderful idea, will be what I buy when next I see them on display.

Wisteria, Iris, Yellow Rose, Red Rose and Orchids each got 2 votes. White Roses and Camellias got 3 votes. I've already written about Pink Roses, the most favorite.

Blooming in June, Gardenias were the second most favorite.

Only 3 people chose Camellia as the most romantic. What is romantic about Camellias is the time of bloom, midwinter for many, when nothing else has blossoms. Cold took out many of my early blossoms. I missed the opening of first blossom on a seedling. I found the fallen bloom on the ground, and the dog ate it when I picked it up. Palest pink, with pink streaks, and bright yellow stamens, it isn't a prize winner, but it's my own. What makes Camellias less romantic is that they have no fragrance, unless your name is Camille and fragrance makes you cough because you are dying of consumption, as related in the book, play and movie, Camille and the opera La Traviata. More about that later.

Camellia 'Mathotiana' blooms were all ruined by the cold. Subsequent blooms have had ugly edges. The tightest buds will open soon and should be good.

Camellias are winter flowers here. Mathotiana before the freeze.

It was a fun poll. I consider all of them romantic. Lowe's had Primroses last Monday and I'd have bought some to line a path, but we were expecting freezing temps again.

How could I have forgotten to include Magnolias? They smell of lemons. Hurry, Spring!

23 comments:

  1. I do like the fragrance of lilacs, but I don't like the shrubs... Beautiful when blooming, but so boring the rest of the year.
    The flower that's most romantic to me, isn't in the list... I'm most moved by wild, native flowers, and among them, I think that lady's smock (Cardamine pratensis) can be called the most romantic.

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  2. I love your photograph of old. I need to scan some of the old ones I have.
    Lilacs are such a fond memory of living in New York, I try to get them to grow here in Virginia. Some years were better than others, then the voles ate the roots. Nuts!

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  3. What lovely pictures.I have a fondness for lilacs because they are one of the plants I had gotten from my grandma's garden that she grew. I love the fragrance that sweeps across the yard on the breeze. Some years the buds get frozen and we only get a few here but on a good spring the two old bushes I have are loaded. I love all of the blooms that were in the survey. Not too many flowers I do not like, that is the problem. LOL!

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  4. Hi Nell Jean, hard to beat a lilac for fragrance, but I loved the photos of your camellias and the spring magnolia. "The dog ate it." Hysterical. Please stop by my green world blog. My hens have finally arrived!I'm awaiting my first egg.

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  5. Thank you very much for linking me here. Your pictures lilies, gardenias, magnolias and camellia are beautiful. I can almost smell their fresh floral fragrance. Would you believe me if I said that I didn't know that lilacs are flowers? I thought lilac is a colour! My heart missed a beat when you mentioned Louisa M Alcott. It's been a long long time since I last read, felt and cried over Little Women. Such wonderful memories.

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  6. Autumn Belle, the link to Under the Lilacs takes you to the whole Louisa May Alcott book, online. Did you notice? I was an adult before I knew the March girls' father was away in WW II, not a much earlier war.

    I look forward to the first blooming wildflowers, AnneTanne.

    Janet, Lona and Lou, I miss lilacs and home. Time changs the gardens and the gardener.

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  7. Oh, you're right about magnolias! That evocative fragrance spilling out of a bloom as big as your head... and that pure, pristine white. I might need to change my vote. :)

    I don't have much experience with lilacs, being from the South. The one spring I was in a place where they bloomed, I thought they smelled almost sickeningly sweet. Guess it takes some olfactory training to know them properly...

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  8. Oh, dear, is something wrong with my nose? My two favorite camellias--C. japonica 'Kramer's Supreme' and C. x williamsii 'Blue Danube'--do have a heavenly scent to me. I have to catch each bloom at the right time, for the scent is fleeting, but it is quite sweet. There are as many varied forms in camellias as in roses. And I know a lot of scentless roses floating out there as well. Camellias are such a tough garden choice for us here in Florida, where roses are limited. Same ruffly, petaled form as a rose, but the flower is so much larger and in-your-face!

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  9. I remember playing under the azalea bushes at my grandmother's when I was little. Now I play under and around all kinds of plants:) Thanks for stopping by my blog. I visit a lot of blogs but often I don't comment. Sometimes its hard to come up with a comment that hasn't already been posted. I noticed that you are interested in genealogy and history. My daughter, who shares the blog, is too. She wrote "The History of Hamilton County" which was published by Arcadia Publishing in May of last year. What part of GA do you live in? We live in Hamilton County, FL, about 30 miles from Valdosta, GA.

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  10. There's no romantic 'fragrance of Camellias' for which they are noted. Florida Girl is correct that some have a fleeting scent but it isn't as easily identified as, say, roses or tea olive. Nor does it send asthmatics into coughing spells as lilies might.

    After a rain, my C.sasanqua has a definite scent of tea fragrance, but it isn't one that would evoke poetry.

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  11. My grandad had a hedge of lilacs about 20 feet long and about 6 feet wide - me and my brother would explore in there and pretend we were in some jungle amongst all those suckers........... except I would not do it when the lilacs were in flower as I was afraid of wasps and bees and they were full of them. Thanks Nell for bringing back that memory.

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  12. My fondness for Lilacs comes from childhood -- the never trimmed Lilacs at my childhood home were even with my 2nd story bedroom window. I could look out upon a see of pale purple and the fragrance was simply intoxicating.

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  13. I think magnolias are my all time favorite in smell and beauty. I like the way you placed your photos together in a collage. Pretty post!

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  14. wow, I love your romantic favorites.....awsome :)

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  15. It WAS a romantic flower, but the dog ate it. LOL

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  16. Lilacs are wonderful, Nell Jean. More so because they are little tricky in our climate. The S. vulgaris does well here, blooming every year that it gets pruned properly, not cutting off the two year old wood that will produce blooms. The fragrance is worth the non appeal it has when not in bloom. I don't think I have ever seen one that we could play under. That would have been the double planting of forsythia and mock orange where my secret hideout was. :-)
    Frances

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  17. EXCELLENT picture. I love old photographs. :)

    I miss lilacs so much. They don't grow very well in coastal NC. I tried one supposedly humidity hardy lilac 2 years ago, and it got leaf blight immediately. I had one growing right next to my house in Canada for 12 years, and I took it for granted...:(

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  18. I enjoyed your post very much as it included many of my favorite things....Louisa May Alcott, taking a cutting from an old plant and planting it elsewhere, pink camellias and the coming of Magnolias (which we can grow here in the desert).

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  19. Nell Jean, It's so hard for me to choose the most romantic flower. I love the ones that were favorites!! Lilacs and camellias, gardenias and magnolias. Thank you for your well wishes.

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  20. Ahh, lilacs. When I was growing up on a family farm, they were every where. When they flowered the smell just wafted everywhere. Gorgeous!

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  21. My grandfather grew huge lilacs in the limestone soil in southern Indiana, but it's not so easy to grow them here in NC. I wish it was -- I love the fragrance.

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  22. That Magnolia is just beautiful Nell Jean!
    Your post reminded me of something to add to the 'need to figure out' list. The lilacs in my neighbourhood all bloomed last year...except mine!

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  23. "Sisters and Brudder with a bowl of Fleurs".....that's about the sweetest thing I've read in a very long time.

    donna

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I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.



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