Talk to Ted Collins, known to most as “Doc Lilac,” and you can’t help catching his passion for lilacs.  Doc is the owner of Lilac Hill Nursery, located across the street from Casa Larga Vineyards in Victor, NY.

Doc Lilac "at home"

Doc Lilac "at home"

He started his horticultural career at Charlotte High School which offered  the only 4-year horticultural program in the region.  Ted worked with his father on the grounds of Riverside cemetary and decided landscaping was “in his blood”  so he went to college to study horticulture. 

After 44 years as the owner of Ted Collins Tree and Landscape, he made plans to retire, but the lilacs had a different “calling” for him.  He began selling lilacs at Rochester’s Annual Lilac Festival, and then opened Lilac Hills Nursery, a 15-acre nursery specializing exclusively in lilacs.  There, he grows 300 different varieties of lilacs, which represent 10% of the 3000 varieties available throughout the world.

Besides its enormous collection of lilacs, part of the reason Rochester is known as the Lilac Capital of the World is the fact that Rochester’s Parks horticulturists also develop special lilacs for Rochester that are rare and seldom available elsewhere.  Doc Lilac makes a point of carrying all of the exclusive Rochester varieties, as well as lilacs for warm climates, known as “Southern Bloomers.”

Famous Rochester varieties include:

  • Rochester – Single white, and one of the most famous
  • George Eastman – Single reddish; named after Kodak’s founder
  • Flower City – Single, multi-petaled, violet-purple
  • Alvan R. Grant – Red/purple buds open to purple; named after the late superintendent of Parks
  • Adelaide Dunbar – Double purple with white in center; named after the wife of the Founder of the Park
  • Frederick Douglas – Single purple-violet buds open to multi-petaled blue; named after Rochester’s famous abolitionist
  • Frederick Law Olmstead – Single White flowers; named after the designer of the Park
Beauty of Moscow is one of the most fragrant lilacs

Beauty of Moscow is one of the most fragrant lilacs

Doc’s all-time favorite is the Beauty of Moscow.

“When women ask me which is the most fragrant and I take them to see the Beauty of Moscow, they fall in love with it!” he shared.  “It starts as a rose-colored bud and blooms in pink to white double flowers.  It’s gorgeous.”

Lilac Hill Nursery carries lilacs in  small starter pots all the way up burlapped bushes perfect for landscaping.  They will ship anywhere in the U.S., except the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, where it’s prohibited.

Ted has been featured in such publications as Better Homes and Gardens and People, Places and Plants.

If you’re visiting the Lilac Festival, be sure to stop by Lilac Hill Nursery and Casa Larga Vineyards across the street, home of the official wine of the Lilac Festival.  Lilac Hill Nursery is located at 2366 Turk Hill Road, Victor

Check back later in the week for articles on how to care for cut lilacs, a list of lilacs that will grow in southern climates and an article on the official wine of the Lilac Festival!