Friday, July 22, 2011

Crepe Myrtles in New England?? And a Fabulous Kousa


Who knew crepe myrtles grew in New England? Okay, not really but the northerners have a great FABULOUS substitute in the form of a Japanese lilac (Syringa reticulata). These trees were in full bloom all over southern Maine and were very eye catching.


I tried very hard to identify this tree while in Maine and no one could help. I even Googled every phrase I could think of in order to identify this tree and simply could not get an answer. I asked my daughter what they were and she replied "Lilac". They were obviously not the common lilac; which are very fragrant and bloom much earlier than July but it was clear to me and to my daughter that these trees were some kind of lilac. But what kind? Note the bark is similar to the bark of trees in the prunus (Cherry) family. The lenticels were very visible adding to the mystery even more.


Leaves were heart shaped like redbuds. It was quite an interesting tree to me. It was not until I was back in the south that I finally found out what it was through much computer work. I was not familiar with Japanese lilacs but had heard of Persian lilacs. That is where I started when I came upon Japanese lilacs. Mystery solved. 

I do not have a great picture of the full tree but to see these trees in full bloom is to see a white crepe myrtle in full bloom. Now who says northerners don't have our beloved crepe myrtles?

Now this is a tree I am very familiar with as it is a Cornus kousa. I am not sure of the cultivar if there was one. This tree was planted across the sidewalk from the above Japanese lilac at a local bank. This kousa shined and positively glowed.
You could barely see any foliage and look how big this tree has grown. It was a wonderful specimen and I wish it grew in my garden.

This last picture is of my grandparents home on the border with Canada. The river behind the house is called the St. Croix River and is a tidal river. The land you see across the river is New Brunswick, Canada. My grandmother's family was Canadian.  The house and garage bump right up to the river and as a child the property was always a wonderful place to explore and visit. My grandparents must have sold the home more than thirty years ago but if I ever head up to the Canadian border I make sure to go by the old house. As it was my dear husband made the trip with my uncle and was kind enough to take several pictures of the house; I did not make the trip. Like all things in life this house and the ground have changed immensely since I was a kid. The gardens are no longer there, the white clapboard siding with green trim has been covered up with vinyl, the half wall surrounding the porch has been removed and the two stately elms that graced the front yard were felled many many years ago by Dutch elm disease. This is a huge house and I am sure a very old house. The maintenance alone must be a big burden but I am grateful to see the homeowner appears to be working on the house. Some of the age and maintenance issues were visible such as the huge barn is nearly roofless and the garage is in a sad state of disrepair, but still, this is the house of my dreams and some of my greatest joys and at its heart the house is still the same one I remember. 

This is also the location where I learned about peonies and Gloriosa daisies and cherry trees and vegetable gardening. I am sad to see the large perennial gardens are gone. During the long period my grandmother gardened here the soil gave up many treasures. I can remember a Mason jar filled with old marbles my grandmother had unearthed while digging outside. That Mason jar sat on a radiator in the kitchen just below a window overlooking the river where we would sit and watch bald eagles (when we were lucky) and all other types of birds of prey fishing in the river and flying about. Memories can be such wonderful things for all of us....

in the garden....

Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden


  1. Two trees I adore. I too have CM envy.

  2. What a gorgeous Lilac, it does resemble the white Crepe Myrtle in full bloom. That was nice of hubby to get a picture of your grandparents old homestead for you. :)

  3. Oh, it saddens me to see her peonies and such, gone..... the house looks wonderful tho.
    I'm glad you have a ID for the kousa because that is one of the trees Jack clipped with me that I thought it was magnolia. I'll bet the others are japanese lillac.

  4. What beautiful flowering trees! I like just about any tree with "Japanese" in it :)

    Oh, what a lovely place to have experienced in your childhood. I can imagine some of the adventures & happy memories you must have tucked away in your heart.

  5. What a sweet, sweet entry! I reallly enjoyed going back in time with you today. Sweet memories are the best... and they cause us all to revisit our own with love and longing! Thanks, Jo!

  6. Morning Tina, love the Japanese Lilac. There was one in the Learning Garden in Virginia. I remember it being very fragrant too.
    Love that Kousa, what a specimen! wowzers.

  7. Sometimes it can be bittersweet to visit places from the past. Changes are inevitable over time, but it's too bad the gardens your grandmother tended have disappeared. But it's nice to see the new owners are maintaining the property otherwise.

    Were these lilacs blooming in July?? That's amazing. The dogwood is gorgeous! Do you know what kind it is? I'd love to have something this full of blooms in my yard.

  8. Rose, Oh yes on the lilacs blooming in July in Maine. I also saw peonies, irises, and delphiniums blooming in may. The kousa as well. Not sure the cultivar but it was a mighty happy kousa. Maine is a zone or two colder than I am in Tennessee so their bloom times are later. Not sure how it would relate to where you are in Illinois. Kousas are highly recommended even for my neck of the woods. I don't like the native dogwoods for all their disease and borers and poor qualities in this weather.

  9. I'm sorry Rose, I just realized I did not state the full name of the kousa. It is Cornus kousa, or Korean Dogwood. Not sure of the cultivar if there was one. This is a dogwood. The berries of the kousas look like raspberries and the birds love them!

  10. Such simple things in life as a jar of marbles. Ah, the memories will be there for ever even though the gardens are gone. I too get depressed when driving by my grandmothers house and seeing a huge garage in the middle of where her beautiful Rose Garden once adorned. But as you, I have the memories....

    Have a good weekend...

  11. Ahhh, memories, good memories. Wow!!! The porch looks so different without the halfway up enclosure. They do however still have the same poles. Does not look like where I grew up. I assume you cut the 3 bay garage and 3 floors of the barn off due to the poor condition of it all. Yes, the house is very old. When Nana and Baba bought the place in January of 1955 (actually I think they bought it in Nov of 54 but we moved in Jan of 55) there was not a nail in the house. It was built with wooden pegs and no sheetrock. Laths and plaster made the walls and when Baba would tear it out and put sheetrock up it sure did make a mess!! Redo's are terrible at anytime but NOTHING like the old fashioned walls. It is a shame about the barn and garage area. I love old barns and that one was a real gem with all the trap doors going to other floors. The reason for the large barn was a doctor had lived there in the pre car era and had to have room for his horse and buggies. They sold the house August 30, 1983

    Glad you finally got an id on the white flower you had asked about. I have a couple of lilac bushes that look just like the one pictured only they are a light purple and I was told they were French Lilacs. I am amazed they were blooming when you were here (the ones you saw) as mine are a little later each year than my common ones and everything was late this year but they still had gone by when you were here.

    That is one huge Dogwood, stunning!

  12. Memories are so poignant. That lilac tree is spectacular.

  13. The tree are all covered with pretty blooms. That is magnificent to look at.

  14. That Kousa is amazing! I've never seen one so big with so many blooms! I wonder how old it is. Glad you finally got your answer about the lilac. Your persistence paid off! Love hearing about your grandmother's house and the find in her garden. Memories are so sweet, and they're strongest, I think, when attached to a place.

  15. That Kousa looks great! Very full of blooms. I'd like a few of them here. The lilac does make a a good substitute for the crape myrtle. Although I think the crape myrtle has a much nicer bark when grown as a tree.

  16. Evening All.
    Memories, one of our best things to enjoy at any time. I have a brick from the chimney of my grandfathers log house that was added on to. The house has been gone a long time. I still remember the old barn & corn crib.
    I'm so glad you got an ID on the tree. It is gorgeous. I'm glad you were able to visit "home".

  17. It is always with mixed emotion that I look back at former places -- hoping things haven't changed, but realizing they have. Sweet that you love to check on your grandparents house after such a long time.

    Love the kousa. I have one, but it has to grow taller than the deer before I shall ever see many blooms.

  18. Both the dogwood and the lilac are really beautiful! That's one of the fullest flowerign dogwoods I've ever seen. I didn't know they grew that far north! It's wonderful that you can go back to your grandparents house and even though it no longer looks the same, can have such sweet memories.

    My cup plant hasn't spread too much since it's not in an overly moist spot and does have to deal with a bit of shade. If it were in a moist, sunny spot, it might be a bit more aggressive, but it's such a cool plant, that's ok!

  19. Those are certainly amazing trees to have in a garden, dainty and pure ambiance. It can be a very good accent with other colors all around it or adorning it. But that house and its location is extremely beautiful, i wonder why you did not purchase it for yourself. Here we also love to maintain ancestral homes especially for reunions of the future generations. It also serve as the cementing structure for families already much separated by technology, space, and time. I am a bit affected by your story and i also miss ours. That is certainly a very wonderful vacation house, especially with those surroundings and location. Happy Sunday Tina.

  20. The Japanese lilac does seem to be extensively used all over southern Maine. I don't think I have ever seen it in PA. Beautiful tree.

  21. Both trees are really pretty. I'd never heard of a Japanese Lilac before, I love how airy the blooms are.
    What a neat house and memories you have of your grandparents home. I was sad to learn that the home my grandparents built was torn down years ago to build a subdivision. I remember the creek we'd look for frogs in and my grandparents beautiful gardens they created from cuttings of family and friends plants and shrubs.

  22. What a terrific post Tina. I hardly ever go back to places I have lived because of the changes. Isn't it funny how differently people approach things? It sounds like you made many wonderful memories here.

    I LOVE the dogwood. I got lucky the other day and found an unknown one (no id tag) at Home Depot. I snatched it up right away (it was only 20.00) and I'm hoping it is actually hardy for this area. I've wanted one for a long time now. If it gets as enormous as the one in your photo it will outgrow my small yard!!!

  23. Those Japanese tree lilacs are so pretty! We have them all the place here. I never knew what they were until a couple of years ago when someone asked me, and I had to do some research to find out. Now that I know what they are, I seem to see them everywhere when they're in bloom.