Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Inland Northwest, High Desert
June, 2004
Regional Report

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Idaho's state flower, the mock orange, is an excellent choice for any garden.

What's in a Name?

Behold the wild mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii), Idaho's state flower. She also is called "syringa" as in lilacs, but she's not really a lilac. Sunset's Western Garden Book says she rarely grows as a tree form. It also says she wants regular water and light shade in the hottest climates. None of that seems to be true in our yard.

When She Blooms, She Really Blooms
Her blooms smell a lot like orange blossoms, and they look like them, too. Just after lilacs bloom, syringa will put out bowers of white, fragrant flowers in early to mid-June and keep it up a good part of the summer. The bees are nuts for them. She'll take a little break and might bloom a tad more when the heat of the summer subsides.
A low-maintenance kind of gal.

Syringa jumps right into our highly alkaline soil with never a whimper. We've never whipped up a special menu for her, and in some places, she gets minimal water. Syringa never complains. Neither insects nor disease have bothered any of our syringas. Some are planted in full sun bordering the rose garden, others are on the north side, taking the brunt of our high desert winds.

But She Can Be Stylin'
While Sunset says she doesn't do tree forms, our syringas have always been pruned into trees. Her slender new branches twist around one another or braid nicely to become stout trunks. Though she suckers heavily, a couple of good prunings at the base coax her into behaving herself for the rest of the summer.

Syringa is an excellent choice for any garden. Let her grow to her full height and you've got a small flowering tree. Or prune her and some of her friends into a hedge. Plant syringa as a specimen and let her go au naturel, and she'll really show off.

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