Pendulous lilac has, as the common name suggests, distinctly pendulous cylindrical clusters of flowers, as much as 20 cms (8 inches) long. In contrast, when the seed pods form they curve upwards, which is the basis of the Latin ‘reflexa’. Flower buds are usually carmine, but on opening the flowers gradually fade to almost white.
This species wasn’t brought to Europe until the early 1900s, from China. It has inherited genes from several hybridisations which affect how much the flower spikes droop. The true species is often difficult to differentiate from hybrids. Pendulous lilac grows at Mustila in several places: Atsalearinne, or Azalea slope, Nikkarimäki, or Nikkari Hill, and Ketunmäki, or Fox Hill, but only the latter are the true species.
These bushy shrubs grow to about 3m (10ft.) and flower a little later than the common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) more often seen in gardens. With its long dark leaves, pendulous lilac makes a useful and attractive screen even when not in flower.