Friday, May 6, 2016

2016 Lilac Watch: Interview with Landscape and Gardens Manager Jessica Gallas

Lilac buds as of May 5, 2016
The lilacs are beginning to bud throughout the Museum grounds. Soon, the Museum campus will be painted with fragrant shades of purple, white and dark burgundy bushes. Come enjoy these beautiful plants over the next few weeks.

Lilacs have always been an important feature of the Shelburne Museum landscape, with over 400 bushes of 90 varieties situated throughout the grounds. Museum founder, Electra Havemeyer Webb said “[Lilacs were] one of the first collections that I made since Watson and I were first married… When we moved to Vermont, we brought two hundred and fifty lilacs from our Westbury home to the Museum grounds.” Below is a short interview with Landscape and Gardens Manager Jessica Gallas.

Lilacs in full bloom on the north end of the Shelburne Museum grounds, May 2015.

How long have the lilac bushes been part of the Museum landscape?
Some of the lilac bushes on the grounds today have been part of the landscape since the Museum opened in 1947. The lilacs located between the Dutton House and the north end of the grounds came from the Webb estate in Westbury, Long Island. All the others were bought from nurseries around this region and planted in the 1950’s and 1960s. We continue to add new hybrids today, as some of the older varieties are succumbing to disease.

What is the significance to the placement of the bushes within the landscape?

The lilacs and apple trees were chosen for the Museum grounds, knowing they would be in bloom about the time the Museum opened each spring. Their placement was designed to enhance the natural appearance of the historic structures they surrounded.

Why are lilacs so popular in Vermont/New England?

Lilacs are popular in the New England region because they are hardy (like many New Englanders!), they survive the cold Vermont winters, and have been around since the 18th century. Plus they produce beautiful flowers and a strong, elegant scent. 

Lilacs in full bloom, May 2015.

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