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Scientists, Trains, and Lilacs

Last year, the staff of Belgorod State University's Botanical Garden Research Laboratory, led by Dr Mikhail Tretyakov, initiated a competition to find out just where there were lilacs growing in the wild in our Region

Initially, the plan was to travel to the sites of old noble estates, as pre-revolutionary landowners were fond of planting lilacs on their land. There was a fashion for bringing lilacs across from Europe, and some of those varieties are now thought lost to history. The 'Belgorod Lilac' competition ended up providing numerous sites across the Region for Dr Tretyakov and his colleagues to check.

On one trip by train, the good Doctor saw a patch of lilacs through the window somewhere near the small town of Novy Oskol. He alighted at the next stop and hiked several kilometres back in the direction he had come to locate them. He concluded that the whole stand had probably resulted from single seed-carrying branch thrown from a train window. As he looked around, his expert's eye caught sight of an unusual and unique double-budded lilac. It was quite small compared with the rest, and therefore quite young. Dr Tretyakov surmised that this might be a new variety, and may be one of many varieties across the Region that are as yet undiscovered. Many trips are planned in response to the information sent in by botanists and gardeners across the Region in the near future.

Dr Tretyakov is a real expert, but is also a connoisseur. His advice on planting lilacs in order to bring out the best in the plants, clearly demonstrates the love he has for his work. Among his top tips are: combine lilacs with plants that bloom at another time of year, like the golden forsythia; peonies bring out the colours of lilacs beautifully; white lilacs look great next to the coniferous thuja tree; the same goes for the red-leaved apple trees; philadelphus (mock orange) bushes also make a good neighbour. Gardening tips from the top!

 Translated by I P Turner, Centre for Foreign Language and Academic Writing

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