Superstar Lilac Foliage has Stage Presence in Design

20140422-CS_IMG_8219While at the Denver Botanic Garden recently as a speaker for the prestigious Bonfils-Stanton
lecture series, I took that extra time to stroll the gardens to take in the spring foliage, fragrance and yes even the blooms. 😉 As TEAM FINE FOLIAGE likes to remind you, we are not against the flowers, just the use of them as the furniture in the room rather than the art and accents.

This view struck me greatly not only for the magnificent fragrance that of course you SHOULD be required to enjoy when passing by Lilac’s at their bloom time, but for this amazingly beautiful gold foliage! May I introduce you to a super star? Please welcome Syringa vulgaris ‘Dappled Dawn’ to the stage. (See the link for details)

I am frequently deferring to many other plant choices that audition for parts in the garden other than Lilac unless I have a client who has a very strong emotional need for a Lilac in a design. Once it’s done blooming, it gets no real fall color and can have somewhat boring foliage compared to so many other great choices. Thus it makes for a very one-dimensional character, a one hit wonder if you will and that simply won’t cut it for this rather tough critic.

So, when I saw this option, it was as if a thunderbolt struck me and gave me the answer! Just look at how lovely THIS lilac is as a standout against the other basic green foliage, which is precisely the idea. When we are looking at casting ALL of the various parts in the scene, it’s important that not ALL of the foliage is a superstar, but you have to give a superstar a quality ensemble cast and the basic green of the other lilac’s do just that. 20140422-CS_IMG_8220The gold-splashed-over-green variegation brings a light and showy contrast to the pale lavender to light mauve purple blossoms. This is one Lilac that I wish we would all see more in Independent Garden Centers across the country. It may not be the Meryl Streep of plants to you, however I can easily see it as a “One Lilac Show” on Broadway but, that’s just me.

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7 thoughts on “Superstar Lilac Foliage has Stage Presence in Design

  1. Stephen Lamphear

    I purchased ‘Dabbled Dawn’ at the Hulda Klager Lilac Garden in Woodland WA about 10 years ago.

    The variegation is awesome, without some of the ‘sick looking’ quality of some variegation. After 10 years, it’s about 10 feet tall. The blooms are uninteresting, but they do have the typical fragrance so I keep them

    1. personalgardencoach Post author

      Very good info, thanks Stephen! Yes, I agree, the flowers were average, fragrance was nice, but not remarkable. But, that foliage won me over for certain!

  2. Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening

    I have an old farmhouse in the Northeast, and lilacs are very much part of the spirit of the place. They used to be planted by the outhouse in the “good old days” and it would be strange to see an old country home without at least one lilac. It has never bothered me that their foliage is unremarkable because it always remains healthy and a good backdrop for other plants, and I can count on it living through the winter. As you say, not every plant has to be the star; some are just the supporting cast once they’ve had a chance to do their number. I guess I am one of those with an “emotional attachment” because I can’t conceive of a spring without the fragrance of lilacs.

  3. Pingback: Superstar Lilac Foliage has Stage Presence in Design | Tinseltown Times

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