Monday, April 16, 2012

Lovely Lilacs

Lilac flowers are one of our favorite harbingers of Spring. Days spent this past week walking through our neighborhoods and driving around town, we are already seeing it beginning to blossom in backyards and it is arriving at our flower shops by the bundle. As soon as it’s processed and in water our designers descend on it like ravenous wolves, incorporating its delicate blooms into a bevy of arrangements. Lilac is fragrant, beautiful, and one of our preferred flowers of the season.

Lilac, botanical name Syringa, is the state flower of New Hampshire, said to symbolize the Granite State’s citizens’ hardy character. And hardy is a perfect way to describe to the plant; draped with a cloud of aromatic blooms, these long-lived shrubs reliably scent the Spring countryside year after year. The timing of their blooms is said to signal whether Spring will come early or late and the beginning of the Vernal planting season.

According to Greek mythology, the story of lilac originates from a beautiful nymph named Syringa. Her beauty captivated Pan, the God of the forests and fields, but Syringa was frightened by his affections. When Pan chased her through the forest she escaped him by turning herself into a sweet-smelling bush, the flower we now refer to has lilac.

In the language of flowers purple lilacs signify the first emotions of love, perfect for the 8th wedding anniversary flower, while white lilacs symbolize youthful innocence. They have a vase life (life as a cut flower) of approximately 6-10 days. They consume large amounts of fresh water, so be sure to add water to your lilac arrangement at least daily and do not smash the stems (a popular misnomer for woody stemmed flowers is that smashing or pounding the stems aids water uptake; however, it simply damages the vascular system of the stem which will inhibit the absorption); rather, your flowers will enjoy a very steep angled cut along the stem or if that isn’t conducive to your arrangement, a cross-cut (like a plus sign +) on the bottom of a straight cut stem.

Besides being beautiful to look at and amazing to smell, lilacs also have a delightful edible aspect. The flavor of lilacs varies from plant to plant, but is typically distinctly lemony with pungent floral overtones. It’s great in salads and crystallized with egg whites and sugar. We discovered the tasty combo of a few lilac blooms with a lemon zest sorbet, whipped cream and some sugary sprinkles, a refreshing combo for warm Spring days.

Lilac tea can also be made from the flowers, leaves and thinner branches of Syringa vulgaris (common lilac), and common white lilac, which has a floral flavor. Claims have been made that this tea has shown some signs that it may produce a light euphoria in higher amounts (3+ cups of strongly brewed tea), but this is relatively unverified with no scientific backing. Some find the white varieties of common lilac to have a sweeter and more pleasurable flavor, but both white and purple seem to produce more palatable tea with more flowers and only a few leaves.

Besides enjoying lilac flowers in their purest form, we also enjoy including their scent and color in other aspects of our lives. Lilacs and lavenders have long been a favorite color of sophisticated ladies, exuding femininity. This shade of purple suggests refinement along with grace and elegance. Add a little lilac to your look with nail polish, makeup, sparkly jewelry or a lilac cami under a sleek gray jacket. Mix up lilac with other colors for fun combos. Lilacs with pinks are very feminine, or add some mint green for a Springy look. Keep lilacs cool with grays and blues for a sophisticated look or take a modern earthy approach with light browns. Add warmth and romance to lilac with reds or burgundies. And don’t forget that heavenly lilac scent. Perfumes, soaps, incense and candles are all perfect when our beloved blooms are no longer in season. You’ve simply got to love lilac!

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