A rare lilac varietal is resplendently in bloom in Gary Parton’s Alpenglow Lilac Gardens. Photo by Marshall Smith


Idyllwild Lilac Festival organizer and owner of Alpenglow Lilac Gardens Gary Parton.File photo
Idyllwild Lilac Festival organizer and owner of Alpenglow Lilac Gardens Gary Parton. File photo

Long planned, the inaugural Idyllwild Lilac Celebration serves up a festival for seeing, smelling, tasting, listening and learning on the first weekend in May, with events on Saturday, May 2 and Sunday, May 3.

Centered at Gary Parton’s Alpenglow Lilac Gardens, 25025 Fern Valley Road, the celebration also includes events at the Idyllwild Library and Caine Learning Center.

The weekend begins with a Victorian Tea sponsored by the Idyllwild Garden Club. It includes tours of the lilac gardens and an art show throughout the day from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 2. The Victorian Tea, featuring English tea sandwiches and pastries presented by costumed servers with soothing background music, is held on a patio overlooking Parton’s resplendent lilac garden. Garden entry fee alone is $5; tea and garden entry is $20.

Parton and organizers have struggled to fix the perfect dates for the ongoing celebration, since, depending on weather conditions, the lilacs could reach their peak in April or May. The inaugural celebration was scheduled for May this year, but Parton said subsequent festivals will be held in April. “The recent cold weather has been a blessing,” said Parton. “It’s held back the full flowering of the lilacs. They may peak a week before the celebration, but by the festival weekend they should be great.”

The Ernie Maxwell Lilac in full bloom this week, named for the founder of the Idyllwild Town Crier. The flowers have a unique, pinwheel shape. To view the lilac in person, stop by the TC front desk soon. Photo by Halie Johnson

On Saturday, May 2, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Idyllwild Library, organizers have planned an interactive event, “Growing Lilacs in California,” with a talk presenting tips on successful planting and nurturing of lilacs in the local climate, lilac history and a presentation to the Idyllwild Town Crier of the Ernie Maxwell lilac varietal, created to honor the Town Crier founder and key contributor to Idyllwild’s history and growth. Refreshments will be served and there will be a lilac raffle. Admission is free.

Sunday, at the Caine Learning Center, organizers present an event that will delight participants’ senses. At 10 a.m., an informative talk, “A Lilac in Every Garden,” explores the history and lore, and why lilacs are called a plant of memory. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., “Artists Inspired by Lilacs” includes live music, a gallery of lilac paintings and photographs, and a display of entries in a competition of lilac floral and pastry designs. Parton reminds readers that lilac blossoms are fully edible and are great to dress salads and desserts.

Entry forms for the competition are available wherever festival posters are featured around town. Remove the entry form from the poster and take to the Idyllwild Library front desk by no later than Wednesday, April 29. Admission also is free for Sunday’s program.

The celebration concludes where it began, at the Alpenglow Lilac Gardens on Fern Valley Road from 4 to 6 p.m., with wine, cheese, music and art.

“Next year I’m hoping to extend the celebration to two weekends in April, a time better for blooming,” said Parton. He noted one new feature next year could include walks throughout town to see the nearly 1,000 lilacs planted by Parton and his associates in the downtown business corridor.