To me, lilacs are a true harbinger that spring has arrived. We have an old scraggly bush just on the side of our deck. Throughout March and April, I watch the leaves slowly emerge and buds swell. I will get whiff of their sweet scent even before they bloom. They have waiting to burst open the past week but the off and on weather has kept them tightly budded.
The days are long and slowly warming. The sun has been out but covered hazily with high clouds. But the sun has been strong enough the past to days to push them open.
Lilacs are very fascinating. Driving through the country side it is common to see them planted near old homesteads. One of the reasons is they were planted were to remind the Northern European settlers of their home country. Another reason is they are an indicator plant. The plant is sensitive to the temperature and not length of daylight. The changes in the lilac, when it leaved out were used by people to know when to plant crops. Here in the Northwest, when the lilac leaves are the size of mouse ears, you know the ground is warm enough to plant peas. Phenology is the science of studying natural changes or phenophases to chart the seasonal calendar. Lilacs are one of the plants that have been studied and tracked over the years. Scientists are now using records to also track climate changes. Project Budburst is a great site for finding out more about this science and getting involved.
Mothers Day has always been lilac time here in the Northwest. I've notice more and more that they are finished by Mothers Day and the mid to end of April is the time when they are at their peak. There is a wonderful garden devoted to lilacs in Southern Washington - Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens. We stopped one year on a trip to Portland but we were too late for the blooms.
We planted our lilac about 20 years ago. It has been battered over the years by the wind and has grown tall and scraggly. We may replace it soon but until that time, I'll continue to enjoy it every Spring.