New York City, NY

Lilacs Now in Bloom: Where to Smell the Sweet Flowers in New York


Photo by author: lilacs, April 2021

Lilacs have just started to bloom in Park Slope, Brooklyn, as shown in the photo above. The lovely floral scent wafted through the air on 3rd street yesterday afternoon. Lilacs have a sweet smell, reminiscent of roses and almonds.

Indoors, the pretty purple flower may become overwhelming for some, but outdoors, mixed with the fresh spring air, they offer a heady whiff of pleasant aroma.

If you don’t have a lilac bush of your own, or if you can’t find any among your neighbors’ gardens, consider visiting one of New York City’s botanical gardens.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden recently moved The Lilac Collection, which includes 100 unique plants.

Screenshot from BBG website

Located along a winding path, the flowers show up in many colors, including white, bluish, and magenta. You can find the new collection between the Osborne Garden and the Cranford Rose Garden.

At the New York Botanical Garden, the lilac collection features antique specimens, as well as tall lilac trees. You can find the typical sweet-smelling variety, but there are also spicy-scented ones.

Lilac lovers have flocked to The New York Botanical Garden to see and smell these charming flowers since 1896.

According to The New York Times, the lilac has a long history of hybridization. When hybridizers decided to experiment with new cultivars of the plant, they focused on the color and the unusual shape of the cluster formations. As a result, many of the new cultivars are less resilient than the older ones.

Also, the older hybrids of lilac tend to smell stronger than the new ones.

Photo: New York Botanical Garden

For the true lilac aficionado, a trip to Rochester is in order. Every year, Highland Park hosts a Lilac Festival, with events including wine tasting, art shows, and live entertainment.

The Rochester Lilac Festival is the largest event of its kind in North America, drawing more than 500,000 people annually to the ten-day free event.

According to the Rochester Events website, the upcoming festival - its 123rd edition - begins May 7 and continues through May 23, making it an ideal place to celebrate Mother's Day this year.

Photo: Rochester Events

But you don't have to wait for an official festival to start enjoying the lilacs. You can visit your local park and look for the lilac bushes there.

If you’re not able to leave the house, or if you would prefer to smell lilacs every day, in the comfort of your own home, you can order a bouquet from one of the many New York florists who carry the fragrant flowers.

Or, consider planting your own lilac bush. They require full sun and annual pruning, but otherwise, the sweet-smelling flowers are known to be resilient.

For the next few weeks, if you’re walking down the street, and you catch a whiff of something sweet, look around for the pretty purple flowers. And if you like what you smell, go in for a closer sniff.

It’s likely you will smell the pungent lilac long before you see it.

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