Lilac Island: Mackinac Island’s Lilacs & Lilac Festival

Mackinac Island Lilacs and Lilac Festival

Fort Mackinac & Lilacs, photo by Steven Blair

The 66th annual Mackinac Island Lilac Festival starts tomorrow and runs through June 14th. It celebrates the Island’s historic varieties of lilacs (many from the Colonial era) and equestrian culture and is one of the Island’s biggest attractions.

Apparently it’s “Lissa Edwards Goes to Mackinac Week” on Michigan in Pictures as I turn again to one of my favorite writers for her take on the Lilac Festival.

Metaphors for islanders and their favorite shrubs are easy pickings. Lilacs are tough as native islanders (or native islanders are hearty as these flowers?). Like their human counterparts, lilacs thrive in the cold Straits of Mackinac winters; neither lilacs nor island folk shrink from sinking their roots into the island’s craggy limestone bedrock. In fact, they crave that acidy terra firma. And last but best, lilacs prefer their soil the way these islanders like their beer: well drained.

When the long, cold winter and cool spring finally ends, Mackinac lilacs show their joy by transforming the island into a fairyland of blossoms. Cotton candy–colored tinkerbelles tempt from behind white picket fences. Big bold creamy Madame Lemoine lilacs strut next to a fluttery pink and white Beauty of Moscow in Ste. Anne’s churchyard. Down at the marina, where voyageurs working the Great Lakes fur trade once pulled their canoes, blue President Lincolns wave next to white Betsy Rosses. A froth that includes double pink Elizabeths and dark purple Monge spills out over the rolling green lawn at Marquette Park. And the gauzy backdrop to them all: the anything-but-bourgeois, lilac-colored common lilac.

The island is home to all 23 lilac species, some 400 varieties and thousands of individual plants. In June—and even into July in the case of late-blooming varieties—these flowers radiate their perfume into the windy Straits, where it melts into the aroma of warm fudge wafting from Main Street’s famous fudge shops and fresh horse apples (cars are banned on Mackinac Island) to create a signature Mackinac Island scent.

Read on for lots more.

View Steven’s photo background bigtacular on the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival’s Facebook and see a bunch more lilac photos from Mackinac Island on his Photography by Blair Facebook.

More lilacs and more Mackinac on Michigan in Pictures.

Lilacs on Mackinac … and lilacs in your garden

Lilacs on Mackinac Island

Lilacs on Mackinac Island, photo by Steven Blair

While lilacs are starting to wind down around the state, they’re just getting going on Mackinac Island. The annual Mackinac Island Lilac Festival started last weekend and continues through Sunday, June 15th. Here’s a few tips courtesy the Lilac Festival and Jeff Young, Lilac Curator at the University of Vermont Horticultural Research Center, Master Gardener and presenter of the “Walk and Talk with Lilacs” program during the Lilac Festival.

  • Common Lilacs need to have 9-12 canes for each 6 feet
  • Leave at least 2 feet between mature Lilacs.
  • Plant new shrubs 16 feet apart (circular shape)
  • Allow for a few more canes if you are planting as a hedge with less depth.
  • If you have too many canes, consider the oldest canes for removal first, leaving good spacing between canes.
  • If not enough canes, pick one or two of the best suckers each year until there are enough.
  • Once the Lilac is established, consider adding one new cane and removing the oldest cane each year to create a vigorous, healthy full flowering plant.

More at the Lilac Festival website.

View Steven’s photo background bigilicious on Facebook and see more at the Artistic Mackinac Gallery & Studio.

More lilacs and more summer wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures!