Lilacs at the Central Experimental Farm

Friends of the Central Experimental Farm

About the Friends

Core of Lilac Team
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The Lilac Team

Every Friday, all year round, the four 'old ladies' (team leader Joan Speirs, with Jean Currie, Maura Giuliani and Audrey Pullan), who are the core of the lilac team, meet at the Farm.

They are there because in 2001 George Vorauer, Director of Activities, Friends of the Central Experimental Farm (FCEF), and Brian Douglas, Foreman of the Arboretum and Ornamental Gardens, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), recommended that a Friends' team be established to help AAFC grounds staff rejuvenate the Farm's lilac collection. This team was to assist with the research and restoration of all the lilacs at the CEF, with special attention to the Preston lilacs.

Audrey and Jean
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Working with AAFC grounds staff, these four share every stage of lilac life - from pruning to propagation.

Identifying and labelling the lilacs was an initial focus. Old records of plants were examined, with the invaluable help of Sharon Saunders, Lead Gardener, AAFC. Literature was searched for descriptions. Lilacs were located on the grounds and identifications confirmed, rejected or proposed. Maps, prepared over the years, by FCEF volunteers Harry Battersby, Stan Kemp, and Audrey Pullan and their teams, proved invaluable for locating lilacs.

Lilac Tour
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Janice & Paul Bertrand
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From early spring to late fall, the team works outside. Photos of the lilacs are taken (by Richard Hinchcliff, Joan Speirs and, in the past, by George Vorauer) and bloom samples are collected to check plant identities and to fill in the lilac inventory in AAFC's Vascular Plant Herbarium.

Plant tags and plaques are checked for changes or replacements as necessary (AAFC grounds staff produce these and the lilac team installs). Volunteers Dr. Peter Vlad and Stan Kemp kindly assemble plaques on stakes for the Lilac Walks, Preston Heritage Collection and Carling Avenue lilacs.

At the height of bloom time, tours are offered for the public. Janice and Paul Bertrand, with teaching expertise, join the core team as tour guides.

A full wagon
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As the blooms fade, the tough, physical work begins. With an expanded team of volunteers – for which the lilac team is very grateful – each plant is assessed for pruning. The object is to remove old, weak, dead or injured parts, as well as to control ungainly growth.

The help of Bruce Peart, then with the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG), Hamilton, was invaluable in our first year. His lecture and workshops on pruning techniques were much appreciated.

Our work concentrates on the plants in the Ornamental Gardens, but over the years we have tackled lilacs in the Arboretum and those along Carling Avenue. Many a farm wagon has been filled during the pruning sessions (see photo).

Maura pruning

Propagation has been a challenge. The team has traded with, begged from, or purchased desirable plants from nurseries or other institutions (especially RBG) to enhance the CEF collection. But often the problem is replacing those heritage plants that no one else has.

With the help of volunteer Anne Vincent, new plants have been started from cuttings of old stock and are being raised in the CEF nurseries.

During the winter months, the collection of photos and specific plant information from the spring and summer are recorded. Records are updated and entered into a data base. Thanks to invaluable assistance and advice from Freek Vrugtman, registrar of the International Lilac Cultivar Registration Authority (ICRA) at RBG, nomenclature meets international standards. Freek's help with all phases of our lilac research is greatly appreciated.

Information is organized for talks, the Friends' website and articles. Volunteer Richard Hinchcliff provides visual accompaniment and design.

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About the Friends of the Farm

Friends of the Central Experimental Farm (FCEF), also known as Friends of the Farm, is an organization of dedicated volunteers who care about the Farm.

We help to care for the Arboretum, the Ornamental Gardens and other public areas of the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

We work with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) to maintain and enhance this beautiful green space for the educational benefit and enjoyment of the public. We also help to promote the Farm's historical and heritage significance.

We dedicate over 15,000 hours annually to this vital service. We are young and old, skilled and unskilled, from research scientist to garden lover; but we want to make a difference and enjoy doing it!

FCEF membership, volunteer work and support of FCEF fundraising efforts help us accomplish our goals.

Join us!

Visit our website at

Or contact us at:

Building 72, Arboretum, Central Experimental Farm,
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A 0C6
Tel: (613) 230-3276
Fax: (613) 230-1238

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Building 72, Arboretum, Central Experimental Farm, Ottawa, Canada K1A 0C6
Tel: (613) 230-3276    Fax: (613) 230-1238    E-mail: