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Lilac Time In Lombard

By Amy Cavanaugh in Arts & Entertainment on May 12, 2013 6:00PM

When we were in Lombard in DuPage County last week, we visited Lilacia Park, which was once Colonel William R. Plum's lilac garden. The Colonel, an Ohio native who moved here from New Haven, CT after graduating from Yale, was a lawyer in Chicago. At his Lombard home, which he shared with his wife (a descendent of Roger Williams), Plum assembled an impressive collection of lilacs. When he died in 1927, the park was bequeathed to the city. In 1929, Jens Jensen of the Chicago Park District landscaped it. Originally called Plum Memorial Park, the name was later changed to Lilacia Park.

While in Lombard, we picked up a reproduction of the first lilac festival program. On May 17, 1930, Lombard held the first lilac festival, which included a processional with a hot cross bun man, watercress seller, and others; a maypole dance; a Lilac Queen (Miss Adeline Fleege, whose parents, Dietrich and Matilda, ran a grocery store); and something involving gnomes and Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King. The program also says that the park had nearly 350 varieties of lilacs.

Here you have the best of the original stock of our own and many distant lands as well as numerous amazingly beautiful varieties produced by hybridization. Every country on the globe that produces distinct types of lilacs is represented here as well as the work of the master lilac hybridists of the world.

The lilac, like the rose, the gladiolus, the peony and many other flowers, has been improved by hybridization and careful culture until it differs unbelievably from the parent stock. The flower clusters, if you notice, differ from one another on the various bushes, the individual florets, both single and double, are different both in color and general character. The color range now covers a multitude of lovely tints including cerulean blue and deep winey-red. Between these two, and including a number of heavenly white lilacs, there are delicate blendings of color of such superb loveliness and perfume that one can safely say they are unmatched in all the floral kingdom.

This year, Lilac Time is from May 4-19, though when we visited, the 700 lilacs weren't quite at peak bloom. There are also many tulips planted in the park, which spans 8.5 acres. There is a Lilac Parade on May 19 at 1:30 p.m., along with plant sales, wine tastings, and other floral-focused events throughout the festival. Check out the full schedule of events here.

Lilacia Park is located at 150 S. Park Ave. in Lombard.