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Date:4/17/2014 6:22:07 AM
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More on Lilacs
Hal Borland wrote that the Crusader knights brought back lilac sprigs in the late Middle Ages. Later research found out that the lilac varieties native to the Balkan peninsula were acquired by an ambassador of the Holy Roman Empire from representatives of the Ottoman Empire. It is thought that these, in turn, had been introduced from India. Lilac sprigs and shoots were then passed on to various horticulturists throughout Europe and amazingly it was discovered that it thrived in climates that were cooler than its original habitat. Studies discovered that the various lilac strains were grown on hillsides in the Balkans. It stands to figure that life on the higher elevations of the Balkan mountains enabled lilacs to readily adapt to northern latitudes.

Lilacs were probably introduced to England by British herbalist John Gerard. They flourished in their new habitat and in turn, were introduced to the American colonies in the 1700's. John Custis, father-in-law to Martha Washington, was a collector and cultivator of all sorts of plant varieties. He was one of a number of colonial herbalists who introduced new flora to the North American continent. Lilacs are hardy, grew in all types of soil, and could stand up to cold winters. In a sense, it was the wonder flower of the Colonial era; a shrub that was easy to propagate, (one only had to obtain a shoot from a neighbor) required little attention, and grew to the size of a small tree, sending out shoots of its own for re-propagation.

As a result, all over the northeast United States and southern Canada, lilac shrubs grew next to the doorways of numerable farmhouses. As Hal Borland and Corey Ford attested to, and as I've seen myself here in Northeast Wisconsin, one of the last surviving relics of an abandoned farmstead is a wizened lilac tree still pushing forth blooms next to a depression in the ground. In what is perhaps Corey Ford's best work, "The Road to Tinkhamtown," he writes, "Beside the doorstep was a lilac bush, almost as tall as the cottonwoods. He thought of the wife who had set it out, a little shrub then, and the husband who had chided her for wasting time on such frivolous things with all the farm work to be done. But the work had come to nothing, and still the lilac bloomed each spring, the one thing that had survived."

As for La Ferme Sabloneuse, there's Ma's enormous shrub at the homestead, and we have literally countless lilac bushes all about our place originating from Ruthie's family home. Across the hay field to Eldest Brother David's house, Dear Susie has her own collection of shrubs that are just now coming into their own. So, for almost two weeks, La Ferme Sabloneuse smells deep sweet and deep purple, thanks to the lilac. --Gary
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