With the trend for gardens to become smaller, the traditional lilac – a tree reaching 20 feet or more – has become harder to fit into more confined spaces, but for many gardeners a lilac is essential in the garden. This is especially true in colder regions, where the range of spring-flowering trees is limited, and where many older types of lilac trees are a mainstay of the spring garden, since they are reliably hardy even in zone 3.
In recent years there has been increased interest in some of the smaller types of lilacs, and these are being more widely grown. Sadly, most of these newer dwarf forms are not so hardy, and they won’t grow and flower in colder zones. The arrival of the Tinkerbelle® Lilac is therefore great news if you do garden in those colder areas. Finally, a cold-hardy small lilac bush with fragrant flowers, that will grow no more than 6 feet tall, and be smothered in gorgeous rich pink blossoms every spring. Who could resist?
Growing Tinkerbelle® Lilacs
The Tinkerbelle® Lilac is a hybrid plant that has been tested and proven to be hardy in zone 3. It also, of course, grows well in warmer zones, except for the warmest areas – zones 8 and 9 – where the winter cold is not enough to mature the flower buds. It grows into a rounded bush no more than 6 feet tall, and at 5 feet across it will fit perfectly into a smaller garden.
Tuck it into the corner between two walls of your house, as part of the foundation planting. Place a pair on either side of your doorway (“When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d”), for the perfect spring welcoming, or plant a row as a natural screen along a boundary, or to hide an unsightly fence. Plant one as a specimen in a lawn or terrace. Alone or in a group, this is the perfect backdrop and early sign of spring, to place behind other, later-blooming shrubs. There is nowhere in the garden where this perfect dwarf lilac cannot be used to great effect.
The Tinkerbelle® Lilac naturally has a dense, twiggy structure, and needs only minimal pruning. The leaves are smaller than in common lilac trees, being 1½ to 2½ inches long, and about 1½ inches wide, but they are of a similar shape and texture. The flowers are carried at the ends of the branches, and they are in pointed clusters called panicles. These are 3 to 5 inches long, and there is a profusion of them, covering all the bush.
The many tiny flowers in each cluster are deep wine-red when in bud, and as they open they change to light red and then pink, so that the flowers in a panicle blend many colors, creating a rich overall deep-pink effect. Unlike many other dwarf lilacs, these flowers do not disappoint us with a lack of fragrance. No, they are richly scented with that incomparable lilac perfume, which is so evocative, spicy and rich.
Planting and Initial Care
The Tinkerbelle® Lilac should be planted in full sun or partial shade, in almost any garden soil, from sandy to clay. Adding organic material when planting, and as an annual mulch after flowering, will help keep your bush vigorous and healthy. Water deeply and regularly for the first season or two, and after that during periods of drought. This lilac is much more resistant to the usual problems of older lilacs, and it requires little attention.
It has a naturally dense structure of many branches, and will grow with little pruning, but ideally you should remove all the spent flower heads back to a pair of strong buds, as soon as the flowering period is over. This will encourage your bush to develop many more flowers next year and keep it neat and shapely as well. In future years you can remove some of the oldest branches close to the base, to encourage new strong replacement stems. For an informal hedge or screen, plant your bushes in a row, with each plant 3 feet apart. In bloom it will be a glorious sight.
History and Origins of the Tinkerbelle® Lilac
The Tinkerbelle® Lilac is a hybrid plant, created by Neal S. Holland in Harwood, North Dakota. In 1976 he crossed two older dwarf lilacs, the Korean Lilac (Syringa meyeri `Palibin`) and another Chinese Lilac (Syringa pubescens subsp. microphylla `Superba`). ‘Paliban’ has rather small flower panicles, and ‘Superba’ grows into a large bush and is only hardy to zone 4.
Mr. Holland grew plants from the seed he produced, and among the seedlings he found one that was compact, but with large, fragrant flowers. He tested it for years to be sure it was hardy and trouble-free, and then, with Bailey Nurseries Inc. of St. Paul, Minnesota, patented it in 2001. It was called ‘Bailbelle’ and sold under the registered name of Tinkerbelle. Our licensed growers produce beautiful young plants just bursting to grow for you, and our top-quality stock is limited. To enjoy the beauty of this plant in your own garden, order now.