Where Lilacs Still Bloom

Written by Jane Kirkpatrick
Review by Jo Ann Butler

Passion is an emotion usually associated with the young. However, Hulda Klager discovers her passion when she is in her thirties – lilacs. She has experimented with apples and daffodils, cross-breeding for a deeper yellow or an apple crisp enough to make a tasty pie. When she discovers French lilacs in a seed catalogue, her passion is ignited.

Hulda and her husband own a small dairy farm in Washington State at the turn of the 20th century. Though they have little money to spare, her husband sells a cow so Hulda can buy those precious imported lilacs. She turns previous experience to breeding lilacs in colors and shapes never before seen. Creating hybrids takes many years to show results, and the Klagers suffer numerous setbacks, particularly when the Lewis River repeatedly floods their home and threatens the work of decades. Yet Hulda never gives up on her quest for the perfect lilac.

Jane Kirkpatrick based Where Lilacs Still Bloom on Hulda Klager’s true-life achievements. This uneducated woman teaches herself how to create beautiful hybrids, opens her gardens to the public, and generously shares her precious creations with everyone. And when disaster strikes, Hulda’s true impact is revealed in an event which brought tears to my eyes.

I enjoyed Where Lilacs Still Bloom and recommend Kirkpatrick’s gentle tale of persistence and imagination to anyone who dreams of coloring their worlds with dazzling new blossoms.