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Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Dear Readers,

It's lilac time again. Today, as I drove around an older neighborhood here in Tacoma, I saw dozen of these old-fashioned beauties. So I decided to republish this post about the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens in Woodland WA. If I didn't convince you to go there in 2012, or 2013, maybe another look at this photo tour will inspire you to make the trip. You couldn't ask for more perfect weather in the Northwest than we're having this week, and the gardens are only open through Mother's Day, Sunday, May 11, 2014. Don't miss this opportunity. 


After returning home from the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens yesterday, I could hardly wait to upload my photos, but as soon as I saw the first image, something weird happened. I smelled the perfume of lilacs. Seriously, I swear I did.

I know it had to be my imagination, just a memory of the scent, but there was something magical about spending an afternoon in a purple paradise of lilacs. After an easy two-hour drive from Tacoma to Woodland, Washington, I strolled through a vast arboreum of not only countless lilac bushes, but also other blooming shrubs, trees, and perennial flowers. All the while, both plants and people basked in the welcome warmth of May sunshine. Add to that a little breeze to stir the air, some live music, birds singing, the company of others who shared my mellow moodplus the chance to go inside Hulda Klager's Victorian farmhouse (now a museum)and I had even more reasons to call this blog "Good Life Northwest."

Hulda Klager's parents moved to Wisconsin from Germany in 1865, when she was a toddler. They came to Southwest Washington in 1877, where they bought farmland and built a house. By 1903, young Hulda had a husband, Frank Klager, and children to keep her busy, but the gift of a book about the famous horticulturist Luther Burbank was about to change her life. She became fascinated with the idea of hybridizing plants and began by creating a better, larger apple for use in pies.

Within two years of Hulda's first experiments, she began to hybridize lilacs. Over the next five years she created 14 new varieties, and ten years after that, by 1920, she had so many she began inviting the public to view them during their bloom time in the spring, which became an annual event called "Lilac Week."  She became known as "the lilac lady" and went on to receive national attention and acclaim as a hybridizer. But this story isn't as smooth and happy as it sounds. It's a story of determination, hard work, and love. 

After the death of her husband in 1922, Hulda nearly gave up. She considered throwing away the plants to which she had dedicated so much time and energy to develop, but her son insisted that she should continue on. Then, in 1948, a major flood destroyed ALL her lilacs and others shrubs too, with only the large trees surviving. By this time Hulda was 83 years old. Yet she began all over again.

People rallied around, bringing her starts of the lilacs she had hybridized that they had obtained earlier for their own gardens. It took two years, and some have never been replaced, but as an old woman Hulda Klager was able to see her dream reborn. She died in 1960. You can read the full story of how the gardens came to be, how the farmhouse and land were nearly lost, and the valient efforts of lilacs lovers to save it all, by clicking on this link to the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens website's history page.

Members of The Hulda Klager Lilac Society lovingly perserves and perpetuates the gardens for future generations, and the annual "Lilac Days" event would not be possible without the dedication of many, many volunteers. This celebration will end on May 11 this year, but the gardens contain a wide variety of other spectacular plants and trees, making this destination well worth visiting at any time. Membership in the Lilac Society costs only $8 per year. For information on membership, click here.

I promised you a photo tour, so let's go. Please follow me down the path and into the gardens. Use your imagination. Can't you feel the warm sun? Hear those birds singing? And you do smell the lilacs, don't you? I still can.


All photos are the property of Candace J. Brown and cannot be used without permission.


Anonymous said...

Candace - I luv Lilacs - have 6 plants with one white one. They smell so nice especially when I am working out in the yard.Too bad they don't last long in the house...
Thanks for sharing - hopefully I can go there next year!!!

Candace Brown said...

Hello "Anonymous"--

Thanks so much for reading my blog and commenting. I love to hear from readers and it makes me happy to know people have enjoyed my posts.

I hope you do get the chance to visit these beautiful gardens. I plan to go next year myself and I hope I'm as lucky where weather is concerned as this year.

If you have any special tips for growing lilacs, I'd love to hear your thoughts and I'm sure others would too.

Readers? Let's start a conversation on growing lilacs. I would love to learn more about this.

Thanks again for writing.

Best wishes,

The Belly Dancer said...

This is such a lovely place! I am glad I found your blog and very happy you included pictures inside the house. I just became enamored with Hulda's garden yesterday as I read a book about her (devoured it in just one day) I was looking for more info since I'm going to review it on my blog. I would be beyond pleased if you let me link your post to my review since you have the most beautiful pictures I've found on the internet. This is one of those places I wouldn't want to die without seeing, you are truly lucky to live near! All the best and I hope you consider giving me permission to link up your site, I will not use your pictures without permission and hope that many people click through to your post. Thank you so much for your consideration and have a blessed day. I am now following you on google reader and visited your Etsy shop, I love crochet and the rest of the items there, everything is so lovely.

Candace Brown said...

Dear Readers,

My friend Chellis emailed some wonderful memories involving lilacs at her childhood home in Tacoma, WA. She gave me permission to share them with you here:

Dear Candace,
I can't smell them from the pictures, but yesterday I picked some from my one Lilac bush and have them perfuming the air from the dining room table. My childhood memories are from the house I grew up in: 810 North C street (corner of C and Borough Road below the Tacoma Lawn Tennis Club). My parents bought the house the fall of 1945 when I was in 5th grade and we moved in two weeks before Christmas.

The house was built in the 1920's as a wedding present from loving parents to either the bride or groom (I have no names). Lilacs were imported from France and planted along the Borough Road side ...there may also have been some across the front of the house, though I cannot remember....doubles and singles, and the colors were varied: white, pale pink, dark purple, the traditional lavendar color, and even a dark red. Every spring people would drive by just to see and smell the lilacs.

I have not checked them out this year, but would guess they are in bloom now, if you happened to drive by. My parents lived there until spring of 1978, when dad's Alzheimers, plus their age, meant it was time to sell and move to a small apartment. It was a gracious home and entertained many people over the years, and my father worked hard on that house and yard out of great love and devotion.