Hulda Klager Lilac Garden

Last month, Captain Cavedweller and I made a quick trip to Portland in search of “stuff” for our kitchen remodel project.

We were so pleased to get to spend time with my cousin, Brad, and his lovely wife, Brenda.

One morning while the guys went to the shooting range, Brenda, her mom (Mary), and I drove to Woodland, Washington, to visit the lilac gardens.

Oh, my word!

It was magnificent.

The 1889 Victorian farmhouse and country garden is a national historical site. Visitors get to enjoy more than 150 varieties of lilacs and some unusual plants and trees.

Hulda Klager  came to this America from Germany with her family in 1865, when she was two years old. She loved flowers and as a little girl in Wisconsin, she would wander through the woods in search of wildflowers. Her family moved to Woodland, Washington in 1877, where they purchased farmland and built a home.

In 1879, when she was just 16, Hulda married Flank Klager. The house in the photo above was built by Hulda’s father in 1889 and sold to her for $1000 in 1898. She and Frank moved into the home in 1903. One day that same year, when Hulda was ill, a friend brought her a book about  Luther Burbank who worked to improve plants through propagation.

Intrigued, Hulda did her own tests on an apple tree at the farm. She crossed a mild Wolf River apple with a sour, juicy Wild Bismarck apple, successfully producing a larger fruit that took less time to pare.

Hulda began her hybrid work in lilacs in 1905. She experimented with three specimens of Lemoine’s: one was a double white, one a double blue, and the third a red purple. By 1910, she had 14 new varieties of lilacs.

In 10 years, she had enough varieties to host her own open house during the spring bloom. She continued the event until her death in 1960. She became known as the Lilac Lady.

After her passing, the family was unable to maintain the farm and gardens, and the property was sold. When the local garden club heard Hulda’s legacy was in danger of being destroyed for a housing development, they stepped in to save the home and gardens.

Since 1976, the Hulda Klager Lilac Society has owned and maintained the gardens.

You can read more about Hulda’s life and accomplishments in Jane Kirkpatrick’s book Where Lilacs Still Bloom.

When Brenda, Mary and I arrived at the garden, the first thing that caught my eye was the landscaping in front of the house. Then I was immediately transfixed with these beauties.

The salmon hue of these Japanese camellias was incredible. I think part of why I loved them so much is because they look like roses.

The property, of course, is full of hundreds of lilac plants. I think Brenda and I sniffed every single one of them! This one, called Frank Klager, was probably my favorite as far as fragrance went. And the showy blooms were so pretty!

There were lilacs in a myriad of colors. This was a pink one. Sometimes Brenda and I couldn’t quite see the “color” other than anything other than purple, but each plant had a color designation on a plaque at its base.

Isn’t this white and purple variegated one lovely?

One of my favorites was what I’d call a dwarf lilac with petite little pink blooms. It was aptly named Tinkerbelle. And the scent was divine!

In the parking lot, there was a tree that looked like a huge pine at first glance. Then Brenda mentioned it being a monkey tree.

“A what?” I asked.

Monkey tree.

I’d never heard of such a thing, but was completely enthralled with it. The branches look like succulents and it has big pods on it, that (from a distance, or if someone didn’t have on their glasses) look like pinecones.

At any rate, if you ever have a chance to visit the lilac garden (which is open for the summer season), I highly recommend it.


Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Pinterest
Share by Email

4 Responses

  1. We visited the Hulda Klager Lilac gardens at the end of covid. Even through our masks the lilac scent was divine! I can see one of your books in this setting!

    1. It would be so fun to set a book there, or in a similar landscape. So glad you got to visit!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *