This is the story of a lilac tree. Syringa Madame Lemoine, to give it its full name. Who, I wonder, was Madame Lemoine? And was she appropriately, well, fragrant?
a story about any old lilac tree; it's about our lilac tree. It is a tale sad in part, but with a belated happy ending. In short, it's like all the best tales. You know what I mean: boy meets girl, they fall in love, they are separated, they (possibly) fall
in love with someone else, then much, much later they meet again and love burns as strongly as ever. Only for boy, read tree, and for girl, read garden. I know, I know, it takes a leap of imagination but do try, won't you?
If you ever have read Captain Corelli's Mandolin and then watched the film of the book, you will understand that age is no barrier to love - except where film-makers are concerned. The director of the film was so convinced that audiences simply wouldn't
be able to stomach the bitter-sweet ending, that he changed it completely. I, along with many other lovers of the original story, felt totally let down. Mr B, who has never read the book, said what was I going on about, it was a perfectly good film, set amidst
stunning scenery. What more did I want? Truth, I wanted to say.
Anyway, back to the lilac tree. We bought our first lilac tree, Mr B and I, to celebrate our Silver Wedding almost twenty-five years ago. It
was a Syringa Madame Lemoine, of course, but I imagine you were there before me. Every year, around our anniversary, it blossomed - great, beautiful, white clusters of sweet-smelling blossom. It was truly magnificent.
So pleased were we with our Anniversary Tree, that over the next few years we bought White Lilacs for a good many family and friends who were celebrating similarly auspicious events in their lives. Our gifts were well received and every year, from that
year to this, the recipients have sent us photographs of their trees all of which, it seemed, were in fine, even rude, health.
Unfortunately, our own tree was not just ailing, it was, not to put too fine a
point on it, dead. Excuse my bluntness but lilac trees can't "pass on" or "go to meet their Maker" or any other euphemism. They just die. Especially when their trunk is gnawed through by the local Brer Fox. Oh, the tears I shed.
It is fortunate, indeed, that neither Mr B nor I are remotely superstitious. I wouldn't flinch from walking under a ladder if it saved me getting my feet wet taking a detour through a puddle. I wouldn't worry about seven years' bad luck should I smash
a mirror, though I'd be cross to have to buy another. I'd never think of throwing salt over my shoulder should I accidentally spill some. Thirteen is just another number.
So the unfortunate demise of Madame
Lemoine did not signal Trouble Ahead for our happy Union. We went on to celebrate our Pearl Wedding, followed by our Ruby Wedding - and on each of these special anniversaries we promised ourselves we would buy a replacement White Lilac. We never did. We were
like Captain Corelli and his Lost Love, living our lives without each other, though never forgetting the Beloved. Though in our case, of course, we still had each other, despite the Loss of the Lilac Tree.
June, as regular readers know, we will celebrate our Golden Wedding - so today we set off on a Jolly Jaunt to track down Madame Lemoine Mark 2. We finally found her. Not in any ordinary garden centre, great places though they may be, but in the splendid surroundings
of an Arboretum, no less. It was as if she had been waiting just for us.
She is taller than I am, far too tall for us to transport her home. Madame is stately indeed. She will therefore be delivered to our house
and planted for us on Tuesday week. I was sorry to leave her there in the Arboretum, now that I had found her after all these years but Tuesday week isn't too long to wait.
Come our Golden Wedding Day, she
will be an honoured guest, along with all the other honoured guests who will be joining us.
Our guests, however, will all have homes to go to at the end of the Celebrations.
Madame Lemoine will be already home - and (hopefully) Here To Stay.