It's been nearly a month since the lilacs bloomed.
The fragrance of lilacs is so intoxicating that most people pick up on it even when there are no plants in sight. As long as there are lilacs in the neighborhood, its perfume is transported by even the slightest breeze.
I managed to squeeze out three lilac events this year. The first was two weeks prior to our own lilac season when I visited my daughter in Maryland. In her zone 6B climate, we sat on the patio and took in the lilac scent for a week at the end of April.
By the time we got home, our own lilacs were beginning to open, but it was more than a week later before the blooming peaked and the fragrance was wafting its way through the neighborhood.
And now it's happening again because Miss Kim is in bloom. I don't know if it's due to our wet spring or because she is still maturing, but this season Miss Kim is blooming profusely. Not only is she covered in pale lavender blossoms, but her fragrance is stronger than common lilac and seems to fill the air even more. If you are sensitive to lilac, you will want to pass on putting this plant in your garden, but if you love the flowers and the fragrance, not to mention the ability to extend the lilac blooming season, you will want to put Miss Kim in your garden too.
Her common name is Manchurian Lilac and her botanic name is even longer, Syringa patula 'Miss Kim'. Called a semi-dwarf, she is a slow grower and not nearly as tall as the common lilac, Syringa vulgaris.
I've had my Miss Kim for about eight years and she is only just over five feet tall. I purposely planted her beneath a window so we could take advantage of her lovely fragrance inside the house in late spring when it warm enough to open the windows. I like her just under the window, but if she does get taller, the plant can be easily pruned after blooming to keep her shape compact.
Not everyone appreciates Miss Kim. Those who are devoted to the old-fashioned overgrown lilac shrubs of their parents' and grandparents' gardens might be disappointed in Miss Kim's smaller and more upright shape. Her blossoms are not the tight, deep lavender clusters we are used to. While common lilac can be found it all shades of lavender, blue and white, Miss Kim is pale by comparison and her blossoms, while clustered, are more loose. Many people buy her thinking she will be a smaller, later-blooming version of what they remember a lilac to be, and then are disappointed to learn she is an entirely different plant. Originating from China and Korea, Miss Kim stands out quite independently from French varieties. If that's what you want, don't buy Miss Kim.
But she does have a purpose. She is a foundation plant and can go close the house without worry that she will eventually hide the windows. Not just because I can have her so close to the house, I love her for a lot of reasons. I love her because long after common lilac has dropped its blossoms, Miss Kim is just coming into her own. I love her for another reason too. In mid-summer, my common lilac never fails to be covered in somewhat harmless, but horribly unattractive powdery mildew. Miss Kim is mildew resistant and her leaves are clear throughout the season. She doesn't seem to have any pests and looks good all the time.
While the common lilac is relegated to the back of the yard, Miss Kim is next to the house. Her dark green foliage stands out beside a variegated red twig dogwood and deeper red dwarf Japanese maple.
Miss Kim loves full sun, but will grow in partial shade, although there may not be as many blooms. In the fall, the leaves turn a deep burgundy shade before dropping. Miss Kim isn't as drought tolerant as common lilac, but since she is near the house, she tends to get more water from the downspouts anyway. I have never had to give her water, even in dry summers.