Syringa ‘Bluets’

It’s coming into my office to find me again. Climbing in through the windows, pushing the curtains aside, floating over to the computer to lure me outside. Sometimes it throws its voice like a ventriloquist. Sometimes it spreads its sweetness so broadly that who can pinpoint exactly where the buzz first began? But eventually, I always follow the deep-throated redolence back to the lilac tree on the side of the house.

Tell me that other bushes of Syringa ‘Bluets’ exist out there. Tell me that I don’t harbor the sole remaining ‘Bluets’ blooming in my front yard. Surely other gardeners are inhaling that evocative aroma of musky wine tinged with the undertone of baby powder and just a touch of vanilla right now. I was photographing the Rochester Lilac Festival last year — home of the largest lilac collection around — and promised I’d propagate one for them. For years now, they’ve been searching for it. Mine made its way to my front yard from Blue Meadow Nursery just minutes before that incredible nursery resource closed its doors. I’m bringing cuttings to Broken Arrow Nursery ( to propagate next week. Hopefully, they’ll have plants ready next year.

‘Bluets’ isn’t the first lilac to open in May by a long shot. But it’s nearly June now and a few blossoms still linger. So it’s one of the last to fade until that signature scent is just a heady echo on the warming evening air. When its prime, ‘Bluets’ umbels are plump with blossoms so double and dense that they form an absolutely solid mass of bloom. And the color is the faded glory of bluets — the little wild groundcover we called Quaker ladies when I was a kid. So there it is, the synthesis of youth spun into a maelstrom of plump interwoven petals checkering the shrub loitering by my window.

'Bluette' snuggled against my cottage

For what seemed like forever, ‘Bluets’ was stalled in its ugly duckling stage. I honestly wondered whether I’d planted a lemon among lilacs. That’s how long I waited for my first cotton candy-like wads of blossoms. And now they dapple the bush by the dozens. And ‘Bluets’, I might add, DOESN’T GET MILDEW (so far) throughout the years with nothing but rain as well as the years with nothing but drought.

If I were going to stage a story about spring, ‘Bluets’ would be in the scenery. It’s redolence would be humming the harmony while the tulips sing along. And even when the tulips get winded and run out of voice; even when the alliums pick up the tune, ‘Bluets’ is still in the brew.

Do me a favor. Read this blog again next winter. Read about the power and performance of ‘Bluets’. Glance the description of the scent one more time. And tell me — can you smell the essence of lilac season floating beyond your curtains again? Close your eyes and inhale. That’s the pulse of spring.

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24 Responses to Syringa ‘Bluets’

  1. No, I’ve never seen or heard of ‘Bluette’. Nor is it descrfibed in Bennett’s “Lilacs for the Garden.” I’ll have to check Fiala’s Encyclopedia. ….can’t imagine why it’s named Bluette…I’d have called it “pink”

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Interesting, Professor, please let me know what you find in Fiala’s. The curators of the Rochester collection were aware of the cultivar ‘Bluette’ but never had a source. Really, the color is mauvish-purple — I know it’s a hard shade to capture on film, but I tried.

  2. Tovah, Fiala’s encyclopedia didn’t list a “Bluette” either, but did list a “Bluets”…a 1979 Fiala introduction with single flowers. There is a picture, but it’s not a good one…so that doesn’t help much.

  3. Whatever it’s name is , boy is it pretty. My lilacs are just getting going ,save the common old fashioned one which is through. ‘Miss Canada’ is in full bloom, and the ‘Donald Wyman ‘has not even opened yet. My others are tragically unamed as I can not find their buried labels, but, like me, they are late bloomers. I am glad you are proagating and will anxiously await Broken Arrow’s stock. Looking at your wide shot I also see that your garden is going through it’s purple phase. Every year it catches me off guard because I don’t think I plant a lot of purple yet late May there it all is dominating the landscape.

    • Tovah Martin says:

      You sure are in your “purple stage,” Cheryl, I checked out your blog. Truth to tell — I’m crazy about purple and seek out flowers that are real purple rather than insipid pinkish mauve. You know = there aren’t many real purples out there. Of course, if I could grow clematis the way you grow clematis, my tune would be different…

  4. warrington says:

    It’s been a great spring for lilacs this year. Here in Ann Arbor, every single lilac looks (and smells) amazing.

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Thanks for mentioning that, Stephen, I thought that I was the only one who has good and bad lilac years. But does the fragrance vary year to year also? Interesting…

  5. Heidi S. says:

    Alas my lilacs are all done blooming (I just have an unnamed variety from an old neighbor). I would love a later blooming variety for next to my front porch. I will have to keep an eye out for yours.

    I just commented last week on my blog about how many purple plants I have too. Purple is my favorite color but I didn’t realize how much I favor the blues and purples until I started looking at some of my photos.

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Okay, here’s the quiz, Heidi — how many truly blue plants do you have in your garden? I mean real sky or sailor blue. By the way, ‘President Lincoln’ was the bluest blue I could find at the Rochester Lilac Festival last year. Really a different color than the rest of the lilacs.

      • Heidi S. says:

        Hmm… Tovah here is what comes to mind, plumbago is the bluest flower I have. I also have a nikko blue hydrangea which is bright blue but fades quickly. Then I have forget-me-nots and brunnera in spring and some Dutch irises in early summer. My dwarf balloon flowers are pretty blue (although there is a hint of purple) and I have a couple kinds of amsonia that have blue flowers (although I grow them more for their texture). I also have some Virginia bluebells (but they have a purplish color too).

        • Tovah Martin says:

          You’ve certainly hunted up the treasures in the blue realm, Heidi, and won that argument beautifully. I’ve actually had to move a lot of “blues” out of my “Vatican border” — which was supposed to be cardinal red and royal purple. Like Stachys ‘Hummelo’ which was mauve and toned everything down. Sort of put an insipid spin on its surroundings. The anchusa is making me really happy right now.

        • Jan says:

          Your collection sounds like mine. I also didn’t realize how much I liked purple and blue until I looked at some of the pictures I had taken. I’d highly recommend Pulmonaria ‘Trevi Fountain’. I love its pink/purple/blue flower clusters. Then, when it’s done flowering, it still shows off with its gorgeous leaves of green with white spotting.

          • Tovah Martin says:

            And don’t you love the dialogue between blue and purple also, Jan? I know that they’re close on the color wheel, but I lvoe the way they speak to each other. And pulmonarias are THE BEST. I don’t have ‘Trevi Fountain’ yet = will have to hunt it down. But you can never have enough pulmonarias in life…

          • Jan says:

            I have LOTS of ‘trevi fountain’. I can pot up some for you next spring when you come up for the Lilac Festival.

          • Tovah Martin says:

            Did I hear rumor that the hallowed Lilac Festival was canceled this year, Jan?

  6. Paula says:

    Tovah, once again, something for our “list”, as you know, we are a bit over the top for Lilacs, and this one sounds like one to search for. Our last to bloom will be the white Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulata). While it isn’t very showy, the blossoms now stand at the height of our guest bedroom window. I have encouraged them to hold off until later this month to bloom when good company is on hand.

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Hey Paula, I just delivered a bucketful of cuttings to Broken Arrow Nursery earlier today and Adam (propagation) says they’re looking good so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they’ll be available soon. Glad you reminded me of the tree lilac because the town just took down a tree by the road and I was toying with it as a replacement. Rumor has it that S. reticulata is salt tolerant…

  7. Cathy says:

    Tovah, I’m coming to this discussion late, but I think I can help. Yes, there is a lilac named Bluets but your beauty is not Bluets (sorry). The real “Bluets” is a Fiala lilac with a single blue flower with white streaking at it’s center – quite lovely, but definitely a single flower. The “real” Bluets is sold by Select Plus Lilacs in Canada. (I’ve gotten several amazing lilacs from them.)

    Your lilac is very similar to one of mine, a very fragrant double blue lavender. Mine seems a bit lighter than yours, but it could just be the lighting. The buds look lavender blue but it opens to a true blue, double flower. The fragrance is incredible. I got it from Select Plus. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you the name as a couple of summers ago, one of my sons, thinking he was being helpful, removed ALL of my plant tags and discarded them when we were doing a last minute clean-up of the garden before a garden tour.

    You might email Frank Moro a picture of it along with info about it’s fragrance, size, and bloom time.

    If its any consolation, I have gotten several things that were mislabeled including a gorgeous bell-shaped clematis named “Diana”. I was researching botanical names as we are posting tags with botanical and cultivar names for every plant in our garden… well, there is NO bell-shaped clematis with that name and it’s most likely “Betty Corning.” Grrrrrrrrr.

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Wow. I just managed to hunt up a Fiala photo of ‘Bluets’ and boy are you right. I’ll send my photos over to my buddies in Rochester for identification. Thank you so much for setting me straight, Cathy. Nothing worse than perpetrating a myth. I got mine from Blue Meadow Nurseries under that name. But it was propagated from a bush on the property and they might have named it. They actually had it as ‘Bluette’ but Prof. Roush found the spelling that I have on the blog. Thank you SO MUCH again. I hate mislabelled plants.
      But we love ‘Betty Corning’…

  8. Paula says:

    Tovah, I insisted that our Syringa reticulata wait for you, and we thought they did. Alas… they were hesitant, and bloomed tonight. Our daughter Andrea and her daughter Rachael are hopefully enjoying them tonight upstairs as they sleep… between the buckets of rain that are falling in NH tonight.

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