Photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden
Little Miss Lilac
The common lilac is a big shrub, too big for small yards and spaces, but it has kin that smell as sweet, flower as fully and squeeze into tight spots easily. One that’s sold far and wide is ‘Miss Kim.’ I have one that has stayed in bounds next to the deck for ten years. On still evenings in spring, when the last tulips are blooming, we eat dinner in a cloud of fragrance.
The parent of ‘Miss Kim’ is the Manchurian lilac, a shrubby species, often with several stems that branch and re-branch to make a dense, rounded canopy and flowers by the hundreds. The flowers of ‘Miss Kim’ are small, tube-shaped, and gathered in clusters at the tips of the twigs. At full bloom they almost cover the plant. Their color is a pale bluish-pink. The stems lose their leaves at the bottom, where they are shaded by the canopy of leaves above them.
Though this is a small shrub, the profusion of flowers guarantees far-reaching fragrance. You can prune ‘Miss Kim’ for shape or size without losing a season of flowering. One system is to remove one or two of the oldest stems (cut them at the ground or below) every year or two to lower the height and narrow the width of the shrub.
New stems rise from the center of the plant most years (and especially after you prune old stems). They keep the shrub young and give you material to change the shape of your plant.
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