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 mood—plus 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.