Lilacs were used to a great extent as screens, too, and planted behind walls along the roads and lanes where they were allowed to grow into high, untrimmed hedges. A few stately specimens were to be found shading the well kerb; and there were clumps before the front windows of the dwellings where the fragrant clusters often swung in at the second story casements. Varieties of the common Lilac (Syringa vulgaris are the ones usually seen and they are the best Lilacs to use to-day for a good, substantial Lilac effect. Many of the new French varieties produce beautiful flowers but they look less like Lilacs, the tendency being to improve a flower out of all likeness to its old form. Hybridizing has played havoc with sentiment and tradition. The new varieties are less sturdy and vigorous than the old; and are of less use in a real garden. When purchasing Lilacs from the nursery be sure to get those grown on their own roots, for most of the new stock both here and in Europe is budded on Privet and is worthless, as it only lives a few years.
This is done to gain time and save money, and is a good example of the modern way of doing things in a hurry.
Lilacs behind an Old Wall.
Old Syringa in a Cottage Yard.
White Lilacs grow into large trees and are extremely picturesque with their fascinating clusters of highly scented flowers. Although at an advanced age these trees present a somewhat gaunt and scraggly appearance, they are perhaps more suggestive of antiquity than anything else that we can put in the yard, always excepting Box. Hardly a house was built in New England, or in Westchester County up to the middle of the nineteenth century, or even later, that did not have a clump of Lilacs planted within sight of the windows. When driving through the country one often comes upon isolated bushes or groups of Lilacs far from any habitation; but a little exploration will always reveal the ruins of a house, the old well or the cellar, perhaps only a retaining wall with Lilacs growing cheerfully from its top or out of its joints.
Large Lilac bushes are easily transplanted, for they are shallow rooted. When nurserymen wish to force them they dig up good specimens from the nursery and place them in some out-of-the-way corner of the greenhouse, throwing any old rubbish that is handy over their roots, sphagnum or a shovel or two of compost. I have seen them blooming luxuriantly standing practically uncovered on the floor of the potting shed. When their flowers are all gathered they are put back in the nursery, but do not bloom again for two years. When looking for old Lilacs care should be taken to select sound specimens, and even a certain amount of size may be well sacrificed to this end.