If you love the scent of lilacs, admire Victorian houses, and will be traveling in the Woodland, Washington area during the next couple of weeks, stop by the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens. This national historic site is celebrating its Annual Lilac Days through May 9. Although visitors can tour the gardens year-round, it’s only now that you can enjoy over 150 varieties of lilacs in full bloom, tour Mrs. Klager’s Victorian-era farmhouse, and even buy lilac bushes to take back home.
Known as the “Lilac Lady,” Hulda Klager was a leading hybridizer of lilacs and continues to be a source of inspiration to modern-day green thumbs. Mrs. Klager began her work with hand-pollinated plants in 1905 while in her early 40s, and continued until her death at age 96. In the first five years, Hulda had established 14 new varieties of lilacs and sold them to many people who established their own gardens. Although it took several years for each new variety to truly prove itself, Hulda’s propagation efforts progressed steadily through the decades, and her reputation grew.
Hulda was just a toddler when she and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Theil, immigrated to America from Germany in 1865. The family settled in Woodland when Hulda was 13, and had the house built in 1889. Married at age 16, Hulda and her husband, Frank Klager, lived with Mr. and Mrs. Theil and helped farm the land. Eventually the Klagers bought the home from Hulda’s parents for one dollar, continued to farm, and raised their own children there.
Unfortunately, much of Mrs. Klager’s work was destroyed by a terrible flood in 1948. But although the Woodland area, including her farm, was underwater for nearly six weeks, Hulda re-established her gardens using plant starts from the people who had originally acquired them from her. It took two years and a great deal of work, but by 1950 she was back in business and today you can stroll among perfumed lilacs with names as beautiful as the blooms— Pink Elizabeth, Peacock, Sensation, Superba, Vesper. Even though Hulda was 83 years old at the time of the devastating flood, she was dedicated to restoring her gardens to their former glory. It just goes to show that just about anything is possible with enough passion and perseverance!
Mrs. Klager’s Victorian-era farmhouse is open to tourists only during the Annual Lilac Days, so take advantage of it. Hostesses in each room tell stories about Huldas’s family life and about the memorabilia on display. Many of the artwork, antiques, and furniture are original, including Mrs. Klager’s piano, which bears a high water mark from the flood! Notice the ornate hinges on the parlor door. You will even find Hulda’s gardening hat and hoe hanging on their rightful hooks on the sun porch. Although the lilac garden walkways are wheelchair accessible thanks to beautiful brick pavers, the narrow two-story house is not. Behind the house is a potting shed filled with antique gardening tools, and a restored water tower and carriage house with a gift shop.
Today, the lovely lilac gardens are owned and maintained by the nonprofit Hulda Klager Lilac Society. Come enjoy the spectacular fragrance and colors of lilacs in full bloom—Hulda Klager and Mother Nature make an impressive team!
115 South Pekin Road
Woodland, Washington 98674
Hours: 10am – 4pm daily
$2.00 adults; children under 12 years of age are free but must be accompanied by an adult.
Just a couple of miles from the lilac gardens, you can view tulip fields and custom planted show fields with over 60 tulip varieties in bloom at Holland America Bulb Farm. Stroll through the unique display garden and see thousands spring flowering bulbs such as tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, muscari, and crocus.
1066 South Pekin Road
Woodland, WA 98674
Hours: 10am – 6pm daily in April
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In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com