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Growing on the High Plains: Lilac Time

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Blink and you’ll miss the brief, springtime bloom of these purple-hued beauties. But not to worry—they’ll be back again this time next year…and the next…and the next. Because believe it or not, these sweet-smelling shrubs can have a lifespan of more than 300 years.

On today’s Growing on the High Plains, we’re talking about lilacs. Revered worldwide for their intoxicating fragrance and graceful cascading flowers, it’s actually their resilience to travel and transplantation that placed them on American shores early in our history.

Here on the High Plains, lilacs thrive in our dry climate and alkaline soil—and their thick, woody branches provide excellent protection from the wind and snow. While these fleeting flirts have long been associated with love, some have had a more somber take on their symbolism. (Just ask poet Walt Whitman.)

Years ago Skip Mancini left the rocky coast of Northern California to return to her roots in the heartland. Her San Francisco friends, concerned over her decision to live in a desolate flatland best known for a Hollywood tornado, were afraid she would wither and die on the vine. With pioneer spirit, Skip planted a garden. She began to learn about growing not only flowers and vegetables, but hearts and minds. If you agree that the prairie is a special place, we think you'll enjoy her weekly sojourns into Growing on the High Plains.