Campus & Community

Arnold Arboretum blooms for Lilac Sunday

2 min read

They are bright and beautiful, aromatic, and full of life.

For five weeks every spring, colorful lilacs dominate New England gardens, with a span of hues ranging from rich reds to deep blues to festive pinks to majestic whites. Perhaps the most impressive display around can be found at the Arnold Arboretum, where more than 200 different varieties will be in full bloom during Lilac Sunday, May 14.

The annual event draws thousands of visitors from throughout the world.

“We expect anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 people, depending on the weather,” says Ellen Bennett, manager of horticultural information for the Arboretum. “People will be able to see as many as 500 plants, all different colors and scents and sizes.”

Visitors can purchase plants, lilac T-shirts, hats, and posters, along with refreshments. An English folk dancing group, the Morris Dancers, will perform throughout the day. It is also the only day during the year when picnics are allowed in the Arboretum.

Lilacs are not native to this area, Bennett explains, although she says they thrive here because “they like cooler summers. You can’t even grow them south of Washington D.C., so they are really tough plants that do well in New England.” The lilac collection at the Arboretum is the second largest in the United States.

Seasoned gardeners will certainly enjoy the spectacle, but Bennett says even amateurs will be impressed. “The flowers are so beautiful to look at, and the scent is just incredible. On Lilac Sunday, if you’re walking up along the paths, you’re almost overwhelmed by the perfume. It’s just incredible. Both the scent and the sight of the beautiful flowers make this event so special.”

The Arboretum, held in trust by Harvard University, is located at 125 Arborway in Jamaica Plain. The facility operates normal hours on Sunday, from dawn to dusk. Plants and refreshments are available for purchase from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is no charge for admission.