I spent many happy days in Highland Park when I was growing up. So, as I was passing by yesterday, I took a short break for a stroll. This beautiful, low spreading lilac shrub caught my attention. Lilacs are beautiful in flower, but they can become unkempt and mildewy of not properly sited or cared for. They also lack fall color, which is a tough sell for a deciduous plant.
This mystery lilac, however, is compact and architectural. The flowers are arranged more closely around the stem, upright like a bottle-brush, and its narrower leaves are perfectly in scale. At under two feet high, it is a suitable foreground plant, and could be used effectively along a stone wall. I think it will look neater than a large lilac after the flowers are gone, but that remains to be verified.
According to Olmsted’s plan, Highland Park was meant to promote Rochester’s role as a center for shrub propagation and commerce, as represented by the once-renown Ellwanger and Barry nursery, which provided many of the park’s specimens.
I have yet to discover where this variety can be found.