Lilac's subtle color variations are perfect for creating painterly, layered arrangements.
Gather blooms in two or more hues and group them by color gradation in a heavy vase. Retain some of the leaves on the shortest stems -- they'll form a bottom border of green. Display the composition in a foyer or another public space, where its heady scent and explosive beauty will dazzle guests.
Lilac shrubs, which grow in Zones 4 to 7, bloom for just two weeks in late spring and early summer. Gather flowers judiciously, identifying boughs in need of pruning, whether from old age or overcrowding.
Leave 12 inches of stem so you'll be able to cut the lilacs down to various heights when arranging. To help them stay hydrated, smash the last few inches of their stems with a hammer. Keep arrangements out of direct light, and refresh the water every three days.
Lilac blooms range in color, shape, and fragrance. Here are four examples of Syringa vulgaris varieties from the more than four hundred available:
'Krasavitsa Moskvy' has a pair of cream-colored blooms per stem and a distinctively upright form.
'Firmament' works well as a hedge, with boughs that reach 15 feet with dusky-blue, sweet-smelling flowers.
'Martha Stewart' sends up well-formed, conical clusters with petals in a classic shade of lilac.
'Sarah Sands' is an extremely hardy shrub that has compact royal-purple petals.