Gary Parton stands with some of his lilacs in this May 2011 photo. Photo by Marshall Smith

In less than a week, spring returns to Idyllwild. As trees, shrubs and flowers began to bloom and emerge on the mountain, they are joined by an ever-increasing number of lilacs. Gary Parton and crew planted these multi-colored beauties in Idyllwild’s village core as part of a downtown beautification project. Eventually more than 1,000 lilacs will blossom in prominent village locations, paving the way for an annual lilac festival that Parton hopes will re-create the vibrancy and popularity of Reva Baldreich’s famous annual lilac festival that attracted many off-Hill visitors.

Parton has a vision of an Idyllwild Lilac Festival beginning in 2014. The first steps in implementing that vision were to plant 1,000 lilacs downtown by the end of October 2013. To date Parton and partners have planted 400. They will plant an additional 300 in October this year and the final 300 in 2013. Parton is talking with the Idyllwild Chamber of Commerce and the Idyllwild Garden Club to interest them in possibly spearheading and managing the nascent 2014 festival. Should it take hold and bloom, the Idyllwild Lilac Festival would join the Idyllwild Lemon Lily Festival as a new tourist attraction. Flower festivals are popular tourist draws throughout the country.

Idyllwild lilacs begin to bloom
Idyllwild lilacs begin to bloom in May. Photo: James Larkin

Parton germinated the lilac plants for the town center and provided them to local businesses with the proviso that they or the property owner water and tend the plants during their formative years. Once established, lilacs are very hardy and can grow to more than 20 feet in height. But until that time they need care. Parton said he hopes to convince downtown plant recipients to commit to providing that care.

Parton said the new Idyllwild Playground, to be built at the Idyllwild Community Center property, would receive lilac plantings around its perimeter as part of the 300 lilacs to be planted this year. The playground construction is planned for June.

On Saturday, May 19, the third annual Lilac Tea, Walk and Art Show returns to Parton’s AlpenGlow Garden on Fern Valley Road. A co-venture with the Idyllwild Garden Club and Art Alliance of Idyllwild, the event last year was a sellout blessed with blooming lilacs, perfect weather and sumptuous tea service.

Over 80 varietals in a profusion of colors were in bloom on the brightly sunlit day of the tea and walk. Live music and a greater number of participating artists, some working, some exhibiting will enhance this year’s event. Brought together by AAI’s Gary Kuscher, working and exhibiting artists at last year’s tea and walk helped attract additional audience and added a distinctive new element to the event.

The Saturday event begins at 11 a.m. and runs until 3 p.m. Tickets are $20 for the tea and walk and $5 for only the walk. The gardens are open on Sunday, May 20, for walk only, also at a $5 admission price. Tickets will be available at the garden gate, the Idyllwild Pharmacy and online at Parts of the garden will be wheelchair accessible.