Sunday, April 25, 2010

Smelling the Lilacs

It’s become an annual rite of spring. It can happen anywhere between the end of April and mid-May, depending on the weather, our schedules, and Mother Nature. But it definitely is not to be missed.

Usually Jim and I go together. After all, he was the one who started it. But last year, when Jake asked what I’d like for Mother’s Day, I had him take me there.

“There” is the New Jersey Botanical Gardens at Skylands. “It” is visiting the Lilac Garden to see—and smell—the flowers. The garden is a lilac lover’s dream, a breathtaking collection of over 100 varieties (each one labeled for those who care). I’m not sure what we enjoy most: their intoxicating perfume, which greets you before the bushes come into full view; or the stunning array of colors and shapes.The NJBG website says that peak viewing time is mid-May. Maybe it’s because of the unseasonably warm stretches of weather, or maybe not. But for the past two weeks, Jim and I have noticed some local lilacs already in bloom. So rather than wait and miss them (which happened last year), we thought we’d take a chance and go today. And we weren’t disappointed.
It was drizzly and chilly when we got there, so we were spared the usual crowds. And although not every bush was in full flower, a heady aroma filled the air as we climbed stone steps to a sloping lawn. We wandered the grassy pathways, cupping the flowers and pulling them close to inhale each variety’s unique perfume. I closed my eyes and was instantly transported to my grandmother Bernard’s house, where lilacs lined the gravel driveway and the scent drifted through the open windows of my dad’s car as we arrived for dinner on any number of sunny Sundays.
The raindrops that hung on every petal and leaf soon trickled from my nose to my lips and down my chin. The always-surprising color palette—from white to pale pink to light purple to almost fuchsia—was vivid against the gray sky. My favorites were the variegated purple with the white trim (for looks) and the pink with the delightfully small and curly flowers (for smell). I don’t remember the names, and it doesn’t matter anyway. Because next year I’ll fancy something completely different.


  1. The universe is such a funny, funny place! I just heard about Skylands last week and now you are mentioning it too... I guess I should go :)

  2. They are beautiful. i have some in my side yard. Just goes to show you that Mother Nature is still the best artist.

  3. Your words inspire my memories of the lilacs' perfumes. I can smell them!