May 20, 2012

Maine Gardener: Every year about this time, it hits me: lilac love


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The McLaughlin Garden in South Paris is holding its annual Lilac Festival next weekend.


MCLAUGHLIN GARDEN at 97 Main St. in South Paris will be holding its annual Lilac Festival next weekend, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 26-28.

GARDEN HORTICULTURIST Kristin Perry said the lilacs should be in good bloom. While the warm March and early April gave them a good jump, cooler temperatures since then have slowed the blooms down.

EVENTS WILL INCLUDE talks on the care and history of lilacs, as well as tours of the garden.

THE GARDEN will be holding a plant sale, and some food will be sold as well.

ADMISSION TO McLaughlin Garden is always free, but during the festival, volunteers will be at the gates to accept donations. The Lilac Festival is the garden's major fundraising event each year.

FOR DETAILS, call 743-8820 or go to

Some new lilacs that are becoming available to the general public that Welzel likes include "Declaration," a dark reddish purple from the U.S. National Arboretum; "Franks Fancy," a dark purple from noted rhododendron breeder Weston Nursery; "Mechta," a nice purple color from the same breeder as "Beauty of Moscow"; and "Lilac Sunday," from the Arnold Arboretum.

"I am working on getting the really dark-dark cultivar called 'Rajah' once again made available to the public," Welzel said. "It was another Weston Nurseries introduction that has lost its way and almost become a thing of the past. I'm working with Deb McCown from Knight Hollow Nursery in Wisconsin to help get this lost cultivar back."

Welzel does not much like "Bloomerang," the new lilac sold as a rebloomer. He said that while it does have some late-season blooms, there aren't that many of them.

Fox Hill sells almost all of its lilacs bare root by mail order. Most are sold in the spring before the leaves come out on the plants, so it is too late to get them now. He also ships some in the fall after there has been a frost.

Welzel does sell a few potted or balled plants at the nursery, at 347 Lunt Road in Freeport, but the nursery is not always staffed, so call ahead at 529-1511. The website is

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth, and can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:


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