The Garden Club’s Lilac Walk and Tea, on Saturday May 14, adds a new element this year — artists working in their media and exhibiting their work. Combine that with the Mozart that host Gary Parton envisions playing over just-installed outdoor speakers, lilacs already beginning to bloom and more expected by the event, servers offering guests a Victorian tea repast, and docents conducting walkers through the many lilac varietals in Parton’s evolving garden, and you have a recipe for a successful event.

Idyllwild lilacs begin to bloom
Idyllwild lilacs begin to bloom. Photo: James Larkin
The forecast for the Lilac Walk weekend is promising, unlike last year’s unfriendly cold weather. This year, the Art Alliance of Idyllwild (AAI) is partnering with the Garden Club to introduce artists, easels and displays into the mix. “It’s perfect for painters to be painting in several locations throughout the venue,” said AAI’s Gary Kusher. “The artists will help draw more people to the event.”

Kusher noted that six artists — Jan Jaspers Fayer, Helen Haskell-Molles (also displaying), Elena Kern, Jessica Robinson, Jan Bruner and Rachel Welch — will be creating art on-site during the festivities. An additional six will display art, arranged throughout the outdoor setting. They include sculptors Ethan Steward and Norman Deesing and painters Gwen Novak, Lois Shepphard, Gary Glasheen and Evalia Nash. Five participating artists have been previous AAI “Artists of the Year”: Haskell-Molles in 2001, Kern in 2005 and 2006, Novak in 2008, Welch in 2009 and Steward in 2010.

Toni Berthelott, Garden Club vice president for communications, sent invitations to all registered garden clubs in San Diego, Riverside, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. “We’re anticipating at least 150 attendees,” she said, “but we may be overwhelmed. If we are, that’s a good problem to have and we’re prepared for it. The kitchen, servers and docents are geared up to handle greater volume.”

Gary Parton stands with some of his lilacs. Photo by Marshall Smith

Parton is enthusiastic. “We’ll have 70 to 80 varietals that will bloom this year that have never before bloomed on my property,” he noted. “We’ve created secondary paths throughout the venue so that attendees can actually walk among and get up close with the lilacs, and smell their subtle scents. We wanted to bring people closer to the plants.” All told, the Garden Club’s Lilac Walk will feature nearly 200 lilac plants in delicate bloom.

Touring Parton’s property almost two weeks prior to the event, one could envision the ambiance that will permeate his fastidiously manicured venue: many lilacs already beginning to bloom wafting delicate fragrances throughout his garden; the sound of a water dripping from a fountain mixed with gentle gusts of wind carrying the faint perfume of the just-opening flowers; the sound of classical music gracing the day — and soon the sound of quiet conversation, docents delivering primers on lilacs, and tea being poured into cups.

Parton is hoping to recreate the vibrancy of Reva Baldreich’s famous annual lilac festival, which attracted people from miles away — lilac aficionados and lovers of beauty.

The event is from 11a.m. to 3 p.m., with tea served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets for the guided walk alone are $5 and for the walk and tea, $15.

Separately, on Thursdays through Sundays during May (with the exception of May 14 and 15), from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., anyone can walk Parton’s garden on their own. Parton’s Alpenglow Lilac Gardens are located at 25025 Fern Valley Road in Fern Valley.