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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Flower Garden Hints at Soviet-Era Lilac Cultivation

In Mikhail Vrubel's famous picture, "Lilac," the blooming bush looks dreamlike, a mysterious purple foam wrapped around a beautiful girl hiding in the bush.

In Sirenevy Sad, the oldest remaining lilac garden in Moscow, the views are similar. On a hot day, a passerby will know where he is by the lilac's intoxicating, sweet fragrance.

Created in the 1930s by Leonid Kolesnikov, the garden, in the city's northeast, is a remainder of the once-thriving Soviet gardening culture. Moscow Beauty or Moscow Morning, the two most successful of the 300 kinds of lilacs bred by Kolesnikov -- an amateur who worked in a garage for living -- adorn the Kremlin courtyard.

Lilac gardens at Moscow State University, the All-Russian Exhibition Center and the Botanical Garden also were planted from Sirenevy Sad bushes

"There is a certain code for describing the color of a new kind of lilac, but Kolesnikov's colors came out so rich many of them still aren't identified by code," said Nikolai Mikhailov, the lilac breeder who planted the Soviet Union's richest collection of lilacs at the Botanical Garden. A communal park open to the public, Sirenevy Sad has benefited from the late spring and still has blooming lilacs.

"It's like paradise here," said Natalya Meretskaya, 63, sitting under a blooming bush with fellow pensioners. "I never have enough of admiring it." Gradually, after Kolesnikov's death in the 1970s, gardeners from the local decorative-plant collective in charge of the garden stopped looking after it properly. Many bushes have disappeared, dug up in the night and taken to adorn private dachas.

Artist Yevgeny Bogatov, 33, sat with a brush and an easel on a shady path flanked by rows of knotty-trunked bushes. He comes to Sirenevy Sad to paint and worries that the bushes might soon disappear.

"That's the fate of the majority of public gardens on the outskirts of Moscow I've painted in," he said, citing an apple tree garden near Kolomenskoye estate. "We probably only have three or four more years to enjoy this one."

Sirenevy Sad. From the Cherkizovskaya metro station, take bus 32 or 54 to Sirenevy Sad stop.

Botanical Garden: Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Metro: Botanichesky Sad or Vladykino. Tel. 482-1373, 219-5358.

All-Russian Exhibition Center. Metro: VDNKh, behind the Plant Breeding Pavilion.

Moscow University garden. Metro: Universitet