Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Japanese tree lilac , Syringa reticulata

Trees at the townhouse complex.

Our leggy, shrub-like, Japanese tree lilac and photo of the flower buds.

In the townhouse complex where we lived 5 years ago there are three trees covered with white bunches of flowers blooming at this time of the year which I only noticed when I was walking the dog three years ago. The trees have dark reddish brown bark with light small lateral scars like some ornamental cherry trees. I had never seen these trees before and I wondered what they were. I had a gestalten and went to several nurseries to look for trees blooming in early June and there it was, a Japanese tree lilac.

But they wanted quite a bit of money for the mature tree so I thought I would never be able to afford one. About a month later, there were two trees for sale in a big box store, shoved in with the rest of the lilacs and priced like the lilacs too at $17.99. I bought them both even if the leaves of one looked differently than the other - both were labeled Japanese tree lilac. One turned out to be a regular dark purple lilac which is ok since we didn't have a lilac in the yard at the time. But most importantly the other one did turn out to be the Japanese tree lilac.

The tree shot up like regular lilacs and has kept growing at a fast pace of about 4 feet per year. When I bought the tree it was only about two feet tall and now it's over 12 feet tall and still growing. It bloomed last year with about 2-3 bunches of flowers. This year it produced about 6 bunches but nothing like the trees in the townhouse complex. The trees there are also more tree-like than ours which seems like a large shrub. I guess I'll have to prune it to a more tree-like form if that's what I want. Hopefully when it decides it's grown enough, it will produce more flowers and look like the ones at the townhouses.

I went to the townhouse complex to take photos of the trees and discovered that this was not a particularly great year for these trees. The flower heads were sparse compared to last year when the tree was literally covered with white blossoms. I also noticed that our tree is even taller than the ones at the townhouses but they have a much larger caliper diameter of trunk and a far more shapely form. The skinny one at the townhouse complex is deformed because a large branch broke off the tree.

Many have described the flowers as fragrant but I find the smell to be overly sweet and cloying - actually just plain stinky.


Blogger Gotta Garden said...

You have the best luck nursery shopping!! I want to go shopping with you! This was interesting as I don't know if I have seen a tree lilac...I will have to check them out! But, I will just have to admire them... I think that's really nice that you went back to see how the others were doing.

Hey, the black background is very dramatic! I like it! Forgive me, if you've had a it a while...I'm not always the most observant!

8:04 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Gotta Garden,
Indeed, I do have good luck finding interesting plants. We wanted a Golden chain tree and voila, just the next week I find it in big box store. The Magnolia sieboldii, 4 service berry trees, Magnolia butterflies, Magnolia stellatas, many different cultivars of Japanese maples, tree peonies, Forest pansy redbud, etc. were all finds. I missed a Cercidyphyllum, Katsura tree because I didn't know if I wanted such a tree. I could kick myself now for showing uncharacteristic restraint as I've seen beautiful examples of this tree.

The townhouse where we lived before is literally a stone's throw from our current home. It's down the block and across the street. We take shortcuts through the complex to get to a park on the other side. So taking the pictures of the lilac tree was no big deal. The only problem is that we had a small garden in front of the unit and a small backyard. It's excruciating to see what the new owners have done to the landscaping. Chopped or dug out most of the plantings and got rid of huge rocks we hauled from somewhere. If I had known they didn't like rocks, I would have taken them.

I think the black background sets the pictures off nicely. I first did it as a concession to my environmental sensibilities because I read that it takes more energy to display a white page than a black one. It's a little harder to read the text but it's a good trade off. I did cheat a little and grayed the black slightly so the few white elements wouldn't be so bright.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Digital Flower Pictures said...

I have a couple of Tree Lilacs that I care for and they seem to really have off and on years for flowering. The older one is about 40 feet by 40 feet and still growing. Too bad about the Katsura as that is a nice tree but also a fast/tall grower. I prefer the Weeping Katsura for looks and being a bit smaller. They have wonderful fall color.

4:34 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Chris,
I wasn't aware that they could grow to be that big! Most books that I read classify it as a small tree. I guess I'll have to prune a lot. And I wasn't aware that the Katsura tree was also a fast grower and a tall tree. All the more reason for kicking myself for not buying the tree. We could have used it as a screen in the back of our home to block out an ugly new home they built there. I did read about the great fall color but have not seen a single tree planted anywhere so have not experienced the display first hand.

6:20 AM  

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