Thursday, May 2, 2019

Adventure 10/50 : the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens

Lilacs are my favorite flower. Always have been. And for years – ever since I heard about it – I’ve wanted to visit the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens during Lilac Days. 2019 was the year!

We drove down early Saturday morning, arriving at the gardens about 10:30 – a long drive. Happily the skies were blue as we paid our $5 and went in.

Hulda Klager came to the United States with her family in 1865 when she was 2 years old. The family moved to Woodland, Washington, in 1877, where they purchased farmland and built a home. The lilac gardens are on that original farm and feature the Victorian farmhouse where she grew up and later lived as an adult.

Klager farmhouse image courtesy Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens

She began to hybridize lilacs in 1905 and had created 14 new varieties by 1910. She had created so many new lilacs by 1920 that she began opening her house and garden each spring to other lilac lovers. But in 1948 her farm was flooded, destroying nearly all her plants. But at the age of 83 she started rebuilding her garden, and many people who had purchased her lilacs over the years sent her starts so she could replace her plants. Two years after the flood she re-opened her gardens for Lilac Week, and continued doing so until her death in 1960.

After she died, the Woodland Federated Garden Club and the newly formed Hulda Klager Lilac Society helped save the property. The volunteers of the HKLS restored the garden, farmhouse, and other buildings on the property and now operate the garden year round.

The garden also includes a gift shop housed in the old carriage barn, and a potting shed selling lilacs. The gift shop and lilac sales only happens during the lilac bloom. And boy, is that gift shop an explosion of purple!!! Somehow I managed not to buy anything – even the cute pre-cut quilt kits.

gift shop image courtesy Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens
But the main attraction, of course, is the lilacs themselves. To be honest, I somehow expected to see acres and acres of lilacs – a forest of lilacs. But there were still dozens and dozens of mature lilacs, and dozens of varieties. I knew that there were dark purple, medium purple, and white lilacs, but didn’t realize that there were pink lilacs, lilacs with striped petals, and really blue lilacs. I also didn’t know that lilacs bloom at different times; on our visit the early- and mid-season lilacs were putting on a show.

After walking around, sniffing lots of lilacs, and giggling at people doing mini photo shoots, we settled into a pair of Adirondack chairs in the sunshine and just relaxed for a while.

It’s a long drive to go see the lilacs from Seattle – and even though I love them, I don’t know that I would do it again unless I could combine it with something else taking me south. But if you live closer, or happen to be passing through between late April and mid May, it’s definitely worth a visit!

As an added bonus, btw, a tulip farm called the Holland America Flower Gardens is just a couple of miles down the road with a small demonstration field and gift shop. It's no Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, but it was a nice surprise.


Fun to see this "confetti" planting, with so many different types of tulips planted together.

Finally, we saw these signs all over the area and while we're still not sure what they mean, they made for a good photo op:

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