Flowering shrubs have been a mainstay for gardens and landscapes for time out of mind. They accent smaller plants that surround them, and break up the space that sits between the more diminutive greenery and the taller more imposing trees. Making the effort to add layers of interest to the grounds surrounding your property ensures a well-balanced garden that, with good planting, will attract a wide range of wildlife. The creation of lush and varied landscapes brings both pleasure to you and an important sources of shelter and food for mammals, birds and insects, something we should all show consideration for when selecting the bulbs, shrubs and trees that will populate our green spaces.
Lilacs have long been used in domestic planting situations for their size, aroma, spectacular flowers and highly attractive nature that brings butterflies, bees and even the much loved hummingbird to your garden along with a warm smile to your face. The Manchurian lilac first appeared as a plant available to horticulturalists and casual gardeners after its discovery in the late 1940s, in Korea’s Pouk Han Mountains. Seeds were collected by a Professor Meader who brought them back to the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station. After germination the lowest stature seedling that displayed the best autumnal colors and remained mildew free, was named Miss Kim – as a nod to its native country – and was released to the public in 1954. Its smaller and more compact nature has made it a very popular choice for those with slightly less space, and the lovely hues of the flowers and wonderful aroma have caused some to announce that this is indeed the best lilac available today.
Of course these things are subjective but there can be no denying what a beautiful specimen this is, with the lovely deep dark green shine-free foliage of long elliptical leaves that often curl unevenly at the edges. When the flowers come to maturity then really all else is eclipsed, as this is a real showstopper of a shrub with the flower-packed cones erupting from the foliage in mid spring. The opened buds are a dusky pink, that persists for a while once the four petals have peeled back to expose the long throat so adored by hummingbirds. The exposed inner of the petals is a lovely white that contrasts beautifully with the left over pink, before these tiny flowers phase through different shades of lilac, lavender and pale blue.
The smaller and denser form of the ‘Miss Kim’ lilac makes it much more manageable, with it reaching a height of around nine feet over time, and a spread of nine feet in width. This not quite dwarf height means that maintaining them is far simpler, not that there is much to be done in itself. Pruning is best undertaken immediately after flowering if you would like to neaten the shape and structure of the shrub. New buds for next year’s floral display appear soon after the flowers die off, so leaving it any later will impact of the quality of flowers in the next spring. Flowers can be deadheaded as and when required in order to maintain a tidier look, but this is purely aesthetic and is not needed.
There are a few basic things to consider when you are choosing the site for your new ‘Miss Kim’ Manchurian lilac, and first and foremost is the level of sun exposure. There is no doubt that although these may survive in a shaded position, the very best blooms will be borne on stems that get at least six hours of full sunlight a day. This lilac has a preference for pH neutral soil but is also tolerant of slightly alkaline conditions, with acidic soils a no-no. Ensure the soil is well drained as over watering is not appreciated any more than soggy roots are, but do water regularly.
If you have a garden that you always wanted to populate with a beautiful lilac, so that you may enjoy the heady and evocative aroma that brings hummingbirds and butterflies to feed on its nectar, but thought there wasn’t one small enough, now you know different. Easy to maintain and care for, with very few requirements, there will be many years of joy had from the planting of ‘Miss Kim’ in a warm, sunny part of your landscape. All there is left for you to is enjoy the wildlife that comes to visit this fragrant shrub year after year after year. A decision you most certainly won’t regret.