So much more than a walk in the park, the annual celebration of Lilac Sunday at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University stands among the most time-honored traditions in New England. Since the early 1900s, the peak blooming time of one of the world’s most significant collections of lilacs has attracted flower and garden lovers of all ages to the Arboretum landscape. On May 10 from 10am to 3pm, Lilac Sunday beckons all to see and smell what’s in flower as spring comes to Boston.
A premier horticulture and nature event, Lilac Sunday showcases Boston’s unique learning landscape in bloom and offers fun, outdoor explorations for the entire family. Scheduled activities range from theme tours of lilacs and other special plant collections to an array of activities for families and children. A consortium of nearly twenty food trucks organized by Food Truck Festivals of New England—including Clover Food Truck, Bon Me, and Roxy’s Grilled Cheese—will offer a wide variety of menu options from 11am to 3pm, and picnicking is allowed at the Arboretum on this special day only.
The closest entrances to access the lilacs and event activities are the Arborway Gate (125 Arborway, Boston, MA 02130), Forest Hills Gate, Centre Street Gate, and South Street Gate. Parking is limited to available curb space on streets surrounding the Arboretum perimeter; visitors are encouraged to take public transportation. The MBTA Forest Hills station on the Orange Line is nearby, and several bus lines serve the Arboretum area.
The tradition of Lilac Sunday began more than a century ago, when Founding Director Charles Sprague Sargent made annual predictions for local press of when the Arboretum’s lilacs amassed on Bussey Hill would be at peak bloom. Today, this one of a kind collection numbers more than 370 plants representing nearly 170 different kinds of lilacs. As in recent years, Lilac Sunday falls on Mother’s Day, making the occasion even more special and memorable as a holiday destination. The event is free, though donations to the Arnold Arboretum are appreciated.
Lilac Sunday schedule of events
Lilac Collection at the Arnold Arboretum
Plants of history, plants of tomorrow
How to plant and care for lilacs
Best lilacs for New England gardens
Would a lilac by any other name smell so sweet? A search for fragrance
Century Flower: 100 years of Lilac Sunday [pdf]