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Fallen Lilac - can it be saved?

There was a huge old lilac against the (north facing) garden wall. 

The neighbour dug out and replaced the wall, saying he couldn't guarantee he wasn't going to damage the lilac, about a year ago. 

The storm last week has torn the lilac down, leaving it lying on the lawn with a rootball about the size of a black rubbish bag. The tree is about 3-3.5m tall and was already that sort of size about 8 years ago. It has been a constant beautifier of the garden - is there any chance I could save it? 


  • I can post pictures if that helps
  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 12,158
    A picture or two could be helpful,  thanks  :)
  • pr1mr0sepr1mr0se Posts: 1,194
    It happened to my neighbour, and at first it looked as if it could be saved.  However, the new shoots, that had looked so promising, turned black and withered.
    You might be better off with a new sapling, having first enriched/replaced the soil where the rootball was originally placed.
    In my experience, no plant is irreplaceable - even those that have sentimental value.  It can be better to be cruel to be kind.  Or you can see it as an opportunity.
  • Thank you both so much. Here's a photograph of the root ball and the lower 1/3 or so of the tree/bush. My hope was that I could trim the trunk back to a single stick, a bit like a grapevine, enrich the soil around the root, and put it back in the ground. Is there any chance that might work, and if so is there anything else I should try to do? . PLease let me know if you need to see the whole tree and I can photograph it in daylight. 
  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 12,158
    To be honest, that looks a very small rootball,  even if you trimmed it right back. I suspect that it was quite possibly damaged by the new fence. I also suspect that Shrinking Violet is right, but it may be worth a try if you really want to save it  :)
  • The rootball is tiny - it's a huge tree, and the neighbour I assume cut out bits of the bigger roots that were going under the wall. But thank you so much for the help - I will see what happens. 
  • It's possible the lilac still has roots in the ground on the side away from the wall.  I wouldn't uproot it further, but would definitely reduce the top growth very considerably, remove the ivy growing up it and return it to the vertical.  Plenty of water and a mulch might help it re-establish.  Any chance you could secure it to the wall or to a couple of stakes, one either side of it?  That might give it stability while it's growing new roots.  It's worth a try, I'd think...

    I'm remembering what they did in Kew Gardens in the 1980s after the hurricane which destabilised so many large trees.  They lost a lot, but some which looked like lost causes were restored... I'm also remembering a pink hawthorn of great age near where I used to live, growing horizontally with most of its root plate in the air, just using the few roots remaining in the ground.   :)
    Since 2019 I've lived in east Clare, in the west of Ireland.
  • UpNorthUpNorth Posts: 376
    @Hogroast2 i think your first sentence puts the nail in the coffin, when you describe it as old.   I understand these trees only get to a (relatively) young age before they die.   I have a couple of Lilac and one is slowly been killed off by the winter winds.   first a few years back, one of the largest stems came down.   a few weeks back we lost another major stem.   now have about two left.     you have my sympathy, they are great trees for a garden, i love the bark on the older trees, all twisted and knarled, they look great.    

    lucky for me, the other Lilac i have has suckered a few pups for me a few years back and i've had them away and planted them out now, so in 20 or 30 years the garden will have the succession but  right now they're about two foot tall at most.     

    have a close look, you might already have some small ones beside the fallen one?
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