Lilacs, though native to East Asia and Southeast Europe, were brought to North America by the first settlers and were sold in American nurseries as early as 1800. The oldest living lilacs in North America may be those at the Governor Wentworth estate in Portsmouth, N.H., believed to have been planted around 1750. In 1767, Thomas Jefferson recorded his method of planting lilacs in his garden book, and in 1785, George Washington noted that he had transplanted lilacs in his garden. Today, over two million lilacs are sold annually in the U.S., accounting for over $13 million in wholesale sales.
Lilacs are a part of U.S. history and in honor of that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently developed and introduced three new cultivars of lilacs. Honoring the patriotic role lilacs have played in U.S. history, the new shrubs have been dubbed 'Betsy Ross', 'Old Glory', and 'Declaration.'