By Lura Roti

Our lilac is nearly ready to burst into full bloom and I could not be more happy. You see, last summer she was attacked by a powdery mildew and lost all her leaves. She looked lifeless.

We reached out to one of my favorite SDSU professors, a renowned tree expert. He happened to be in Sioux Falls for a meeting and stopped by to take a look. He reassured us that come spring she would be alright. Sure enough, our lilac looks pretty good for the fact she is more than 100 years old.

We love this lilac. Located at the edge of our back patio, she is more of a tree than a bush standing nearly 20-feet tall. Her profile provides a beautiful canopy that makes this outdoor space private, cozy and special.

It doesn’t seem to matter what the winter weather was or the spring weather is, she always blooms during my birthday week. One of my favorite gifts.

As I reflected on my relief over her return to health, I am struck by the impact a plant someone long ago planted can have on my family’s life.

So many memories were made beside her beautiful branches or under her protective canopy – which our now pre-teen daughter dubbed the “bunny festival,” because when she was quite small, it was a favorite hangout for neighborhood rabbits. As a preschooler, she would play under the lilac canopy, setting up tea parties or swinging on her stronger branches.

Today, Parker enjoys hammocking under her canopy with a good book. And our golden retriever, Tulip, doesn’t allow rabbits to frolic about. She patrols the backyard wildlife from our dining room window and the minute she sees rabbits, she begs to be let out.

Fortunate for the rabbits, our privacy fence allows for a quick exit to neighbors’ yards who do not have dogs.

Our lilac also provides a shady habitat for several plants that do not love direct sunlight. Several years ago, I began creating a shade garden there. I purchased astilbe, but the rest of the plants in my shade garden were gifts.

My friend Liz gave me Solomon’s seals and wild ginger. A neighbor gave me some bleeding hearts. And my friend and fellow agriculture journalist, Connie gave me another springtime favorite – lilies of the valley.

Under our lilac the lilies of the valley thrive and multiply. I appreciate plants like these lilies that crowd out persistent weeds. Come to think of it, I rarely see weeds of any sort under the lilac.

It’s an early spring morning and as I write this column, birdsong streams in through my open office window. Birds. Another reason I love this lilac. She is a favorite hangout for a variety of birds that visit our feeders throughout the day.

In a few days I will celebrate my 44th year. And I am taking a few days during my birthday week to spring clean and recharge. It’s been a busier than typical winter/spring. My brain was beginning to feel like our lilac looked last spring.

Experience has taught me that if I take time to take care of me, and give my brain a rest, I emerge a more creative writer, a more fun wife, mom and friend – and overall, I’m happier.

As I look forward to these days off with anticipation, I’ve been putting together a list of projects and activities to fill my deadline and meeting-free days. Topping my Wishlist: laying in a hammock, under our blossom-laden lilac with a good book. I’m so grateful she is healthy, happy and here for us to enjoy.