By Lisa Nunamaker Orgler
Iowa State University
Lilacs are a dear friend to many gardeners, providing them with reliable blooms and aroma each spring. Though many gardeners are content with just these characteristics others feel that the ideal lilac offers much more, including an over-abundance of blooms, breathtaking fragrance, substantial flower panicles and enduring color. A lilac that excels in all of these characteristics is the 'Beauty of Moscow' lilac (Syringa vulgaris ‘Krasavitsa Moskvy’).
The common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) originated in Eastern Europe as far back as the 15th century. By the 17th century, lilacs spread into Western Europe and with the help of early settlers eventually extended into North America. Cultivars were not actively bred until the 1800s, with most hybrid activity occurring in France. French hybridization was extremely successful and lead to the practice of referring to common lilacs as French hybrids. Today, though still termed French hybrids, many lilacs are bred in other European countries and North America.
One such French hybrid is the 'Beauty of Moscow' lilac. This lilac was developed by Russian hybridizer Leonid Kolesnikov in 1943 when he crossed the lilacs ‘I.V. Michturin’ and ‘Belle de Nancy’. Intended as a tribute to Moscow, its cultivar name ‘Krasavitsa Moskvy’ literally translates to “Beauty of Moscow.” Considered one of the top twenty lilacs today, ‘Beauty of Moscow’ blooms in early to mid-May and exhibits an array of small pink buds that open into large white double flowers. This stunning combination of pink and white synonymously creates a beautiful bouquet effect. In addition, the flower panicles are remarkably abundant and have a long blooming period. As the flowers mature, its exceptional fragrance becomes strikingly stronger.
The 'Beauty of Moscow' lilac is fast growing and within ten years can reach a height of eight to twelve feet tall and six to seven feet wide. It is hardy in Zones 3 to 7 and does best in full sun, and also with well-drained neutral to somewhat alkaline soils. If pruning, do so soon after blooming in the spring.
Place your 'Beauty of Moscow' lilac plant where it can be viewed often; its unique grandeur is one that should be indulged. It is a true gem as a specimen or as part of a border, but it can also add splendor to your home’s interior as a cut flower.
View 'Beauty of Moscow' lilacs on the east side of the Sunnyside Yard in the Town & Country Garden at Iowa State University’s Reiman Gardens.