Hellebores at the airport
Primroses I won't have in the garden

The Communist Lilacs

Graham Rice,lilac,syringa,russia,communist,Korok let Komsomola. Image © Lattah Nursery
 Browsing through an old copy of The Gardener magazine – Tom Cooper’s superb but short-lived venture put out by White Flower Farm a few years ago – I came across a piece entitled The Communist Lilacs!

It was by Peter Schneider (author of Taylor's Guide to Roses ) and discussed the range of large-flowered, super fragrant lilacs raised in Russia in the middle of the last century. I’d forgotten all about them. They sound fantastic - especially the names.

Obviously they were all originally named in Russian – but in English they have names like ‘Beauty of Moscow’, ‘Banner of Lenin’, ‘Soviet Arctic Region’ and, from 1958, originally ‘Korok let Komsomola’ - splendidly translated as ‘40th Anniversary of the Communist Youth League’!

Now I often think that some of the names of modern hostas and daylilies are pretty extraordinary – Hosta ‘Outhouse Door’ and Hemerocallis ‘How Beautiful Heaven Must Be’, for example. But surely nothing beats Syringa vulgaris ‘40th Anniversary of the Communist Youth League’!

Image © Lottah Nursery, with thanks.


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Nigel Colborn

If the picture's anything to go by, they are pretty fantastic. I like the way the petals curl slightly and the panicles aren't over-packed.

I suppose we'd have to abbreviate that last cultivar to 40ANCYL. You'd have though 'Banner of Lenin' would have to be red.

Graham Spencer

For naming, nothing beats Hemerocallis Little Bugger.

I've always had a soft spot for the Canadian prestoniae lilacs. We used to offer Elinor back in my Croftway Nursery days and it was a splendid thing.

Graham Rice

Actually, Nigel, 'Banner of Lenin' seems to be pinkish purple (http://url.ie/a4pz) - how did that happen?

And here's the hemerocallis that Graham mentions http://url.ie/a4q1


The issue of cultivar name word count has arisen on this blog before. As the ICNCP limits cv. names to but three, these clearly can't be valid cv. names. I presume the Lilac's is a prolix rendering of the original, valid, Russian name, but the Hemerocallis'? isn't there a registrar keeping tabs? Perhaps there are now so many daylilies that they've exhausted every possible three word combination...

Graham Rice

To be a little more technical about it, anon, in the latest International Code for the Nomenclature of Cultivated Plants (which governs the creation of cultivar names) the limit of three words has been cancelled: there is now no limit on the number of words in a cultivar name but there is a limit of 30 on the number of characters in the name.

Also, cultivar names are now only considered to be correct in their original language. Translations are considered Trade Designations, sometimes known as selling names, for which different rules apply.

So, to follow the letter of the law: ‘Korok let Komsomola’, in the original Russian, is the correct cultivar name and the English translation, 40th Anniversary of the Communist Youth League, is a Trade Designation. Trade Designations should normally be set in a different type face (which I'm afraid I can't do in a blog comment).

I know, it's complicated. But it's important to have agreed rules that we all try to stick to.

It would be interesting to hear of any cultivar names rendered invalid by having to many characters...


Very interesting! Thanks for the clarification- I know not whereof I speak!

Fiona Gilsenan

Wondering when we're going to see some social media plant names. Like Nepeta 'LOL Cat' or Carex 'DM Me'...

Graham Rice

The old purists, the ones who look back longingly to 'Purple Queen' and 'Star of The East', will hate that! But numbers are now allowed as well, Fiona, so that could be interesting... 'Route 66' and, I suppose, for a plant found alongside a British country road, 'B4234'!

Fiona Gilsenan

'Tiger Blood' can't be far off...

Graham Spencer

Anon: I'm told that in US slang, a "bugger" is something or someone trying to get your attention (they "bug" you).
For Americans reading this, in British slang "bugger" means something very, very different.

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