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    Original Essays | November 7, 2014

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Where Lilacs Still Bloom


Where Lilacs Still Bloom Cover

ISBN13: 9781400074303
ISBN10: 1400074304
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It’s the lilacs I’m worried over. My Favorite and Delia and City of Kalama, and so many more; my as yet unnamed

double creamy-white with its many petals is especially vulnerable.

I can’t find the seeds I set aside for it, lost in the rush to move out of the rivers’ way, get above Woodland’s lowlands

now underwater. So much water from the double deluge of he Columbia and the Lewis. Oh, how those rivers can rise in

the night, breaching dikes we mere mortals put up hoping to stem the rush of what is as natural as air: water seeping, rising, pushing, reshaping all within its path.

I watch as all the shaping of my eighty-five years washes away.

My only surviving daughter puts her arm around my shoulder, pulls me to her. Her house is down there too, water

rising in her basement. We can’t see it from this bluff.

“It’ll be all right, Grandma. We’re all safe. You can decide later what to do about your flowers,” my grandson Roland

tells me.

“I know it. All we can do now is watch the rivers and pray no one dies.”

How I wish Frank stood beside me. We’d stake each other up as we did through the years. I could begin again with him at my side. But now uncertainty curls against my old spine, and I wonder if my lilacs have bloomed their last



Food for Thought

Hulda, 1889

Daffodils as yellow as the sun, ruby tulips, and a row of purple lilacs from the old country border the house I live

in with my husband, Frank, our three young children (ages eight, five, and three), and next month, if all goes well, our

fourth child. We are hoping for a boy. My parents live with us, but only for a few more months. They’ve built a new house near Woodland, Washington. We’ll be moving too, to a farm of our own south of Whelan Road. We’ll still be within a few miles of each other, a close-knit family of German Americans captured by this lush landscape between the Lewis and Columbia Rivers. We call where we live the Bottoms. It’s made up of black soil that was once the bottom of those great rivers—and sometimes becomes so again with the floods. We hope our new places will be less prone to flooding, though it’s the nature of rivers to rise with the spring thaws. We live with it.

My mother and children have dug daffodil and dahlia bulbs, snipped lilac starts to plant, and my sisters and brother

and neighbors will give us sprouts from their bushes once we move, which is the custom. A lilac says “Here is a place to stay,” and how perfect that such promise of permanence should come from family and friends?

We can’t move the apple orchard. But I wielded my grafting knife and wrapped the shoots, scions they’re called, in

sawdust and stored them in the barn earlier this year when the trees were dormant. Today I’ll graft them onto saplings at my parents’ new house, so one day there’ll be an apple orchard there. I’ve also stepped into the uncommon for a simple house Frau: I’ve grafted a Wild Bismarck apple variety known for its crispness with a Wolf River, an apple of a larger size.

My father encouraged such dappling with nature—and that I keep my efforts quiet, at least for a time.

It was April, and we tied the scions onto the saplings he’d started as soon as he knew they’d be building the house. I

liked working with my father in the orchard, a misty rain giving way to sunbreaks, and the aroma of cedar and pine

drifting down from the surrounding hills in the shadow of Mount St. Helens. So much seems possible in such vibrant

landscapes. A garden is the edge of possibility.

He was a great storyteller and advice giver, my father, though this day his story surprised. “Don’t tell Frank right away,” he told me. “Let him think you’re just grafting plain old apples to help us extend the orchard.”

“Frank wouldn’t mind.”

“In time—when you have the final result in hand. But Frank discourages you. I see it, Hulda.” I pushed at my frizzy

walnut-brown hair and stared at him. “He dismisses your interests if they go beyond your children and him.”

“It’s a woman’s duty to meet her family’s needs.”

“Meet their needs first. But you want a crisper, bigger apple too,” he said. “Nothing wrong with that.”

“I do. I get so annoyed at those mealy things that hang on to their peels like bark to a tree.”

He nodded. “Some would say that meddling with nature isn’t wise. Frank might agree—especially if the one meddling

is a mother who should be content with looking after her family.”

I stood, using my hoe to help me and my burgeoning belly up. I was nearly as tall as my father. He liked Frank; at

least I always thought he did. My love and admiration for both men were rooted deep. It felt strange to defend my husband to my father. “You’re wrong, Papa.” I pushed my pointy straw hat back. “Frank’s a good helpmate for me. And he’ll like having more pies.”

My father tied another scion onto a branch, making sure the cambium was fully covered in the slanted cut I’d made so

the two would bond securely. “You have a gift, Hulda. You can see distinctive things in plants. You see the possibility,

like a crisper, larger apple and then imagine it into being.” He lifted another scion as emphasis. “Those are gifts few have, and people can be envious.”

My father had never granted me such a compliment, and I was both pleased that he noticed and humbled that he

shared it. “Not Frank,” I insisted.

“Not everyone understands that we are all created to have complicated challenges and dreams. We must honor our longings, then go beyond them whether others support us or not.”

I wondered if he spoke of my mother. Did she resent my father’s dreams that took us from Germany to Wisconsin,

Minnesota, San Francisco, then back to Wisconsin, and then here to the Lewis River of the new state of Washington? My father had many longings: farming, becoming a brewmaster, investing in creameries and cheese factories before the landscape was dotted with cows. He’d done all those. Now logging interested him, and he’d built a big two-story house; yet another adventure that meant more change for my mother—and the rest of us too.

“My dream is to raise my family.” I didn’t see getting a crisper apple as any budding desire. I wasn’t rising beyond my

station. “These apples will make life better for them.” I was merely an immigrant housewife wanting to save time peeling apples.

“Just think of what I’ve said.” He wrapped his big paw around my hand that was holding a scion. He looked me in

the eye. I swallowed. “Huldie, don’t deny the dreams. They’re a gift given to make your life full. Accept them. Reach for them. We are not here just to endure hard times until we die. We are here to live, to serve, to trust, and to create out of our longings.”

“Yes, Papa,” I said, but it wasn’t until after he was gone, years later, that I came to understand what I’d committed to.

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

Narita, August 10, 2013 (view all comments by Narita)
Ms. Kirkpatrick is one of my favorite historical fiction authors! I love the way she takes true stories and solid historical facts then seamlessly weaves in fictional details. This is based on the true story of Hulda Klager a German immigrant with only an 8th grade education. What she lacked in years of schooling she made up for in her God given genius in horticulture.
Her love of plants came from her father. Her first “mission” was to develop a larger apple that tasted great and peeled with ease. All because she wanted to be able to make apple pies faster! After many years she accomplished her goal.
Her next passion was to produce a specific new color of lilac that also had more petals that the standard lilac. Once that was accomplished she continued to work with her favorite flower until she had created 100’s of other varieties.
She achieved this while caring for and raising a family. Her massive flower garden began to attract attention far and wide to the point they had 1000’s of visitors each year. She truly earned her name, the “Lilac Lady”.
While Hulda’s story itself was fascinating I found some very important lessons to be learned from her life. One was her amazing perseverance. Her beloved plants were stomped by animals and a different times flooded by the nearby river. Each time she dealt with the damage and start again. The last time a flood completely destroyed her garden to the point all that was left was some large trees. At the age of 83 she started over. Now that is faith and determination at its greatest!
She also faced opposition from her pastor and others in pursuing her dream. They felt she was “tampering” with God’s creation. Guilt plagued her that she was spending too much time on her flowers and neglecting her family. Each time she faced opposition within or without, she turned to God for her answers.
Her strong faith brought her through many painful losses of those she loved. Again she turned to the Lord for her strength and guidance.
Hulda never wanted to “get rich” and was even resistant to selling her hybrids to companies and individuals. She just wanted to share the flowers she loved so much. Not once even when fame came her way did she grow prideful in her success. She remained humbled and very much in awe at the attention she drew.
I believe she was able to continue on and leave such an amazing legacy because her focus was always on her Lord and the task she believed He had given her.
Hulda died in 1960 at the age of 96. Today you can still visit her gardens that have been restored and maintained. Many of the lilacs she planted are still there. After reading the book I want to purchase a Hulda Klager lilac! An interesting and entertaining book that will inspire you in your faith!
Be sure to go to and check out more of Jane Kirkpatrick’s wonderful books!
I received this book free from Waterbrook Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own
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Tante Bitte, May 15, 2012 (view all comments by Tante Bitte)
A beautiful story based on the life of Hulda Klager (1863-1960), whose legacy as the Lilac Lady remains evident today in her gardens in Woodland, Washington. As many of Kirkpatrick's historical novels portraying courageous women, this one also left a lasting impression, invoking a desire to pursue ones dreams despite hardships that life throws at us. Such amazing detail given to the characters and life surrounding Hulda, that when I was privileged to visit the "real" farmhouse and garden for the first time, I thought I had been there before!
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Virginia Campbell, March 31, 2012 (view all comments by Virginia Campbell)
"Where Lilacs Still Bloom: A Novel", by Jane Kirkpatrick, is based on the remarkable true life story of Hulda Klager. A German immigrant and a "farm wife" with only an eighth-grade education, Hulda's natural intellect and intuition, along with a burning curiosity, allowed her to develop hundreds of hybrid fruit and flower varieties, especially lilacs. The book is beautifully written--an inspiring and life-affirming tribute to the courage and spirit of the amazing Hulda Klager. The book begins in 1948, with a brief prologue during which the flood waters are rising and threatening to destroy Hulda's work of a lifetime. She is eighty-five years old, and as she looks down on the surging waters from the safety of a bluff, she recalls her life story. What a story it is! As the book unfolds, we share with Hilda her triumphs and sorrows, and her indomitable spirit shines throughout the years. In her own way, she was a pioneer for women's rights, a scientist, an environmentalist, and an example for anyone who won't take no for a final answer. There is a pure, timeless joy in putting a seed into the ground, nurturing its growth, and watching it come into its full glory. Hulda did all that and more, ever adding newer and more sustainable plant varieties that she first cultivated in her agile mind. The real Hulda survived until 1960, when she passed away at the age of 96. I am now in my early fifties, and I cannot imagine living four more decades, much less being vibrant and vital until the very end. Hulda outlived her beloved husband Frank, all of her children, and all of her brothers and sisters. Her gardens were restored after the disastrous flood of 1948, and to this day, they remain open to the public. The "Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens" are a National Historic Site located in Woodland, Washington. The "Hilda Klager Lilac Society" revived her annual “Lilac Days” each spring when the lilacs come into bloom, selling lilac plants to visitors just as when Hulda Klager was there. As generations come and go, Hulda's sweetly scented legacy continues to enrich lives with its beauty.

Review Copy Gratis WaterBrook Press
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Product Details

Kirkpatrick, Jane
Waterbrook Press
Literature-A to Z
Christianity-Christian Fiction
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
8.2 x 5.5 x 1 in 0.8188 lb

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Product details 384 pages Waterbrook Press - English 9781400074303 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Kirkpatrick's (The Daughter's Walk) latest work, a fictional account of real-life gardener Hulda Klager, was inspired by the German immigrant who came to be known as the Lilac Lady from Woodland, Wash. Beginning with her pursuit of a better baking apple, the book chronologically follows Klager's horticultural enterprises, most notably her creation of more than 250 distinct varieties of lilacs. Kirkpatrick's research ferreted out a woman who worked diligently, and in relative obscurity, simply for the love of her craft. Sadly, Klager's accomplishments were entwined with deeply personal tragedies, told with as much historical accuracy as possible. Her family's misfortunes and heartbreaks serve to reinforce Klager's belief in the value of ornamentals, but some readers may not sympathize with a woman who seems to care more for plants than for her family or their finances. In addition to Hulda's family members, additional characters join the story at random intervals, making the character listing at the front of the book most helpful in reminding readers who is who. Told primarily in Hulda's voice, the book meticulously explains her means and methods; however, the horticultural detail might tire those readers who are not flower fanatics.. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Synopsis" by , One woman, an impossible dream, and the faith it took to see it through. 


German immigrant and farm wife Hulda Klager possesses only an eighth-grade education—and a burning desire to create something beautiful. What begins as a hobby to create an easy-peeling apple for her pies becomes Hulda’s driving purpose: a time-consuming interest in plant hybridization that puts her at odds with family and community, as she challenges the early twentieth-century expectations for a simple housewife. 


Through the years, seasonal floods continually threaten to erase her Woodland, Washington garden and a series of family tragedies cause even Hulda to question her focus. In a time of practicality, can one person’s simple gifts of beauty make a difference? 


Based on the life of Hulda Klager, Where Lilacs Still Bloom is a story of triumph over an impossible dream and the power of a generous heart.


“Beauty matters… it does. God gave us flowers for a reason. Flowers remind us to put away fear, to stop our rushing and running and worrying about this and that, and for a moment, have a piece of paradise right here on earth.”

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