lime on lilacs

margaretbelle(z5 IN)May 6, 2006

April 2 in Kentucky I put four 2-gallon cans of hydrated lime/water solution around the very old lilac bushes, which at that time had buds. 3 weeks later I was back there and the buds now had little brown husks on them. One week after that they are forming seeds. So...did they bloom in that three week period and did I miss them, or did I do them damage with the hydrated lime and they just dried up? Never have used this product on lilacs before; bought it for something else.

They did bloom beautifully the year before and I am told that other lilacs around town did bloom.

Please reply.

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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

Do you have a picture? If you have very old lilacs, it's better to rejuvenation prune them - cutting back about 1/3rd of the oldest growth to the ground each year and that should prompt it to send up new sucker growth that will be the new blooming stems in later years.

Unless your soil is naturally very acidic, you probably didn't need to add what you did. They do quite well in neutral to slightly alkaline soils.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2006 at 2:01PM
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margaretbelle(z5 IN)

Tried to send you a reply anyway; might as well do it this way too. I have done the rejuvination pruning. That's when I found out there were 3 bushes instead of one big one! They looked great last year; almost believe I put the hydrated lime on them then, too, but can't find it in my last year's calendar. Anyway, either the lime did it or they bloomed during the 3 weeks that I was not in Ky. Have a feeling I won't use it next year. As for the soil, it is heavy clay...standing on a shovel doesn't even make an impression. My husband had to use a pick in places! Meanwhile over in another area it's like sandy loam. As for the farm surrounding the house it's Pembroke soil...sandy loam...the second best there is. The farmer who leases it is in heaven. Odd how there are clay patches here and there. Poor lilacs seems to be in the clay. I'll try to make pictures next time down. Emailed our landscape architect and she said she had seen lilacs blooming around town, so I know it wasn't a cold snap that did them in....although there had been one which took the straight daffodil stems everywhere and bent them, but no black daffodils like we had one year. Wish I knew the exact temp. of the cold snap but I don't. Nine miles out of town is a world of difference from the official temps. in town.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2006 at 7:24PM
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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

Well, the hydrated lime would take a little bit of time to activate in the soil and if there was some type of chemical damage, with an old established set of lilacs like those, it would probably take some time to show up on them. I expect that they might have already bloomed while you were away at this point. I think you all may have had some warm-ups during that time too so that might have accelerated the bloom.

I wonder if your little clay patches may have had buildings on or near them in the distant past and thus were never cultivated...? Just some musing...

    Bookmark   May 8, 2006 at 12:45PM
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margaretbelle(z5 IN)

Wrote you a long reply, stopped in the middle to look at something else before sending and lost the whole thing! So starting over. The ground around the lilacs has never been cultivated; it was just the yard right by the house...just mowed by the farmer and that's it. Plus when we had a real foundation put under the house (house circa 1865) a few years ago, the dirt they hand dug out was spread here and there to level the yard and I did notice that it was orange clay! So you are right. I bet I didn't mess them up with the lime water solution...following your theory. I bet I just missed the bloom season in that 3 week period. Heck!

Looked at your page...assume you are in the Philadelphia area. Have you ever been to Winterthur and Longwood Gardens? I went there a few years ago on a chartered airplane garden tour and I am dying to go back and take my husband. The sheer scope of Longwood Gardens was unbelievable. I never even covered it all, as we did Winterthur first.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2006 at 2:30PM
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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

I bet your house has had some interesting history over the years and that orange clay must be something else. LOL

Yes I am from Philly and have been to both places. There are a number of garden mansions (another is Chanticleer) and arboretums/botanical gardens here in this area and all they do is make me drool! Glad you enjoyed them.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2006 at 2:47PM
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margaretbelle(z5 IN)

I would send you a picture of the farmhouse but can't figure out how to do the attachment...as to your comment on the weather, the weekend that we were there and the blooms had the little husks on them it was 80 degrees upstairs in the house at midnight (and A/C wouldn't work!) yet one week later it was so cold the furnace was on the entire weekend. So we have had highs and lows in temps in Ky this year.

Thanks for all your help, by the way!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2006 at 9:28PM
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