I have three favorite flowers: daisies, irises, and lilacs. Daisies remind me of childhood and afternoons spent with my grandparents picking them in the fields near their house. Irises are so visually beautiful, they take my breath away. And lilacs…lilacs make me want to never stop breathing. Nothing compares with the scent of lilacs. I wait for them with great anticipation every spring, and I mourn the end of their blooms almost like I’d mourn a death of a relative. When I own a home of my own, I will fill the yard with lilac bushes.
Happily for me, I’ll have some nicely magical ingredients at my hands if I do so. According to Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Lilacs–in addition to being aligned with the feminine gender, the planet Venus, and the element water–are protective to the point of exorcism. As he writes in his succinct entry, lilac “drives away evil where it is planted or strewn, and indeed in New England, lilacs were originally planted to keep evils from the property. The flowers can be placed in a haunted house to help clear it.”
I think anything as strongly scented as lilacs are has the potential for use in exorcism, but the pleasant potential lilacs have is so appealing. A fresh lilac bouquet would probably make a great springtime housewarming gift, and lilacs could be used in springtime “cast off the old and bring in the new” rituals very easily.
Beyond the immediate blooming season, I suppose lilac blooms could be dried and preserved. The flowers could be used in a potpourri or sachet, but they are also edible (though taste more bitter than their scent would let on). Perhaps one could use their protective and exorcising qualities in a tisane. Fresh blooms could probably be eaten with yogurt and granola or used in cake decoration. They could also be sugared and thus kept for later edible uses; after all, sugared flowers can last several months, if they are done properly. The scent could also be preserved in sugar, much in the same way vanilla sugar is made. Basically, mix equal weights of clean, dry lilac blossoms and granulated sugar together, let them sit for a couple days, and then sift the blossoms out and store the sugar in an airtight container. It would be vitally important to sift the blossoms out before they lose their color, otherwise the decaying plant matter would overpower the fragrance. I think the process could be repeated with the sugar and new flowers, though, for a more intense sugar.
Lilac jelly could also be made, which has a whole host of possibilities. One recipe involves 4 cups of lilac flowers, 3 cups boiling water, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 1/2 pack of pectin, 4 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 cup sugar. The flowers are put in a large jar, and the water poured over them and let to sit for 6 hours. Then the flowers are strained out, squeezed, and discarded. The infusion is poured into a large saucepan, the other ingredients added as directed on the pectin label, brought to a boil and boiled until the gel point is reached. Then the jelly is poured into jars and sealed as recommended by current canning guidelines.
Growing lilacs is a fun and easy activity for any gardener. Lilacs are relatively easy to care for, if the proper conditions are given. Most lilac plants require full sun, yet some will tolerate partial shade, at the expense of fewer and smaller blooms. Lilac plants also need a good amount of moisture in the soil to thrive, but standing water may cause rot. The best thing to do when growing lilac is to mulch heavily near the base of the plant. This will allow the soil to maintain moisture and also provide shade for the root system.
Growing lilacs should be done in a location with a good amount of soil drainage. While they are drought tolerant, growing lilac plants do need a good deal of moisture in order to thrive properly. They should be watered regularly to ensure that the soil is moist. Growing lilac shrubs can be done in areas all over the world, as there are lilacs that can thrive in zones from two to ten.
Another important aspect of growing lilacs is how and when to prune. Pruning lilacs differently will result in different bloom times and quantities. Lilacs should all be pruned as soon as the bloom period has ended. Pruning should consist of removing any spent blooms to increase the likelihood of more flowers the following year. The stems and branches of growing lilac bushes may also be cut back, as long as not more that one third of the plant is cut. Pruning more than this will reduce the amount of blooms the following year, and may even prevent blooms from appearing for up to four years.