There is something magical about white flowers in the garden. Not only do they blend easily with all over colors, but the enduring popularity of planting White Gardens is a testament to the powerful attraction of white plants. Especially during cloudy weather, or in the evening, white flowers glow and shine, remaining visible in the dusk and in the light of the moon. If you work long hours, and you are often away from home for most of the day, consider planting lots of white flowers to enjoy when you come home. Among them should definitely be the Miss Ellen Wilmott Lilac, a shrub of unsurpassed beauty, crowned each spring by pure-white blooms.
The Miss Ellen Wilmott Lilac is an upright, deciduous shrub reaching between 6 and 12 feet tall, depending on how it is pruned, and spreading between 3 and 7 feet wide. Its relatively slender form makes it perfect for fitting into smaller spaces, between windows, or beside a doorway or entrance. The rounded, heart-shaped leaves are 3 to 6 inches long, with a tapering tip, and they are mid-green, with a smooth surface. The bark is brown to gray, becoming vertically ribbed and furrowed with age. In spring, shortly after the leaves emerge, huge clusters of blossoms quickly develop at the ends of the branches. These are at least 12 inches long, open and loose, but packed with hundreds of flower buds. The buds are soft green when closed, and they open into pure-white flowers, each with many petals. The look is lush, full and beautiful, and the rich and delicious scent released by them drifts across your garden and through windows into your home.
Grow the Miss Ellen Wilmott Lilac as a specimen on a lawn, or as part of the planting around your home. Use it at the back of flower beds, or as a screen along a boundary. Lilacs cannot be made into clipped hedges, as trimming will reduce or eliminate flower production, but they can be lightly pruned as an informal barrier. With its perfect white flowers, this variety is ideal as a commemorative plant, to mark an important family event – a wedding, christening, anniversary or birthday. Plant it for yourself, or give it as a gift – the annual arrival of its beauty will serve as a lasting memory.
The Miss Ellen Wilmott Lilac is easy to grow. It is hardy even in zone 3, and lilacs are an important element in gardens in colder zones. It will also grow better in zones 7 and 8 than many other varieties. It should be planted in full sun for the most blooms, but it will also grow well with a little partial shade. It grows vigorously in most garden soils, provided they are well-drained. Enriching the soil with organic matter, and using mulch, will encourage the best growth. For flowers every year, it is important to do some trimming and pruning as soon as the last flowers fade. Snip off all spent flower heads at their base, as seeding reduced flowering in the following year. Remove some of the older branches low down, and shorten back long, vigorous new shoots, to keep your bush compact and vigorous. Pests and diseases are rarely a problem and pruning to renew the branches regularly is an important protection against borers and other potential pests. Water your new plant regularly. Once established it will survive normal periods of summer dryness, but a good supply of water to prevent wilting and stress will allow your tree to develop many big, healthy flower buds for the next season. Do not trim your plant with shears, and only prune immediately after flowering, as trimming will remove the flower buds, which are carried at the ends of the branches.
Miss Ellen Wilmott was an eccentric Englishwoman of the Victorian era, and an enthusiastic gardener. She spent her considerable wealth developing gardens on properties she owned in England, France and Italy, dying penniless in 1934. She won an award for her work from the Royal Horticultural Society. Victor Lemoine was the most important breeder of garden plants of the 19th century. In 1870 he began breeding lilacs, using a not-very-impressive variety with double flowers, called ‘Azurea Plena’, to develop around 200 new plants, all with enormous flower spikes in a wide range of colors. Mostly double, and highly scented, these became the ‘French Lilacs’ still grown today. Undoubtedly the two enthusiasts met, and in 1903 Lemoine named a gorgeous pure-white double lilac ‘Miss Ellen Wilmott’, in honor of the famous gardener. In 1917 this plant was given an Award of Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society.
Although Lemoine used some other species, most of his work was done with unusual seedlings of the common lilac, Syringa vulgaris. This plant, native to mountainous parts of south-eastern Europe, was already hugely popular in gardens around the world. It had come to America in 1750 with the early settlers, and Lemoine’s new varieties were soon brought over, displacing the earlier plants. This wonderful heirloom variety has a lot of history in it, and even more beauty. It is one of the most popular varieties, widely considered the best white available, so our stock will soon be gone. Order now and make a space for the Miss Ellen Wilmott Lilac in your garden. You won’t regret your choice.