The lilacs are coming early this year. In fact, they are coming so early that we may miss Mother’s Day entirely with our crop.
We will be bringing the first few bunches of our early varieties to the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market this coming Wednesday, April 6. From there, they will be flowing like a river until about the end of April.
Lilacs come in batches, starting with early varieties. The first on for us are single white ‘Sister Justena,’ single purple ‘Pocahontas’, and double pink-lavender ‘Katherine Havemeyer’ – blooming now.
In a week or two, we will be bringing in mid season varieties ‘Atheline Wilbur’ (pink-lavender), ‘Montaigne’ (lavender) and the lovely blush pink ‘Krasavitsa Moskvy’. These varieties will be peaking just in time for SWGMC’s 5 Year Anniversary Celebration on April 20.
Our latest varieties are double white ‘Edith Cavell,’ and single dark purple ‘Sarah Sands’ and ‘Sensation’ which should be at market around April 27, if our warm spring weather continues.
Every year is different with lilac. Remembering back five years to the market’s first day open for business April 20, 2011 – we had no lilac. Spring was so cold and late that year that our first lilac didn’t get harvested until well after Mother’s Day and we were still selling it in June.
Whenever it comes, we welcome lilac season! For sure flower farming involves a lot of repetitive hard work, but there is nothing quite so lovely as driving a van load of freshly cut lilac to market. (So what if the only other people on the road are bread truck drivers…)
Lilac Harvest and Post-Harvest Care: Rule One – ignore the lore. All that business about pounding stems, boiling stems, cutting on a sharp diagonal – most of it is not based on science. The fact is lilac has a three to five day vase life at best. The closer to home you can buy it, the better quality you will enjoy. Here are a few extra tips for best quality and longest vase life:
Stage of harvest – cut single varieties with 1/3 to 1/2 of florets open, doubles with about 2/3 of florets open. Flowers will continue to open some after harvest, more so on single flowering types.
We cut and bunch in the field (using clean cutters), recutting stems right before placing into a hydration solution to condition overnight in the cooler. The hydration solution we use is Chrysal RVB. Quick Dip and HydraFlor are also effective. Since lilac has already leafed out by the time it blooms, this is an extra important step. Leaf stomata are closed in the dark cooler and acidic water promotes maximum hydration with minimum transpiration.
After 24 hours of hydration conditioning, we transfer bunches to a low sugar holding solution (Chrysal Pro #2). This allows the cut stems to stay hydrated while getting enough sugar to keep the flowers in perfect condition. Sugar also helps the flowers to continue opening – so floral preservative is recommended at the end user stage.
Of course, if you pick lilac from your own garden (or from your local flower farmer) you can still enjoy for a plenty good while in plain water. The indescribably delicious, poetic and fleeting fragrance of lilac reminds us that all good things in life must be had in the moment. Enjoy is the operative word!