Monday, April 1, 2013

Planting Lilacs

When we lived on Rainbow Drive, my friend Jeanne would show up every spring with a huge bouquet of lilacs. They filled my kitchen with the undeniable sweet scent of spring. I knew that when we moved to Farm Dover, I wanted lilac bushes surrounding our home.

I've come to learn that lilacs are often planted near a farmhouse door for good luck, and because they offered beauty in the midst of challenge and hard work. Yep.

I've also read that many families planted lilacs in the late 1860s in memory of Abraham Lincoln, as eulogized in Walt Whitman's When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd. And because they are long-lived plants, you occasionally see a large bush near where a 19th-century farmhouse once stood.

Last spring, we planted four lilac bushes. Only two survived the deer and drought. But yesterday, my neighbor, Sandy, brought me a lilac shoot to transplant. I'll plant my gift near the two surviving bushes and hope that 100 years from now whomever is living in our old farmhouse will smell the blossoms and think of those who have gone before. (I'm also hoping that they grow and flower while I'm still around to enjoy them!)


In the door-yard fronting an old farm-house, near the white-wash’d palings, 

Stands the lilac bush, tall-growing, with heart-shaped leaves of rich green, 

With many a pointed blossom, rising, delicate, with the perfume strong I love,  

With every leaf a miracle......and from this bush in the door-yard,  

With delicate-color’d blossoms, and heart-shaped leaves of rich green, 

 A sprig, with its flower, I break.

-- excerpt from When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd by Walt Whitman, 1865,

1 comment:

  1. Lilac was the only foundation planting my mom allowed when she and dad moved to the farm. She didn't want to give the snakes a place to hide, unless the fragrance outweighed the fear ... These 2 lilacs are probably 9' tall today. Nice to read your post and your poem.