Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I frequently say that I'm a rancher, writer and rattlesnake fighter. But we've left our ranch after 26 years to be closer to medical care for my husband Jerry (married nearly 36 years) and there aren't any rattlesnakes in this part of Oregon (thankfully!) so I'd say I'm a writer. I'm also a step-mom and step-grandmother.
What was your inspiration to develop Where Lilacs Still Bloom?
Without giving away the story, it was the ending that really inspired me. This simple housewife, married at 16 and having four children fairly close together, never lost her passion for flowers and the propagation of them. But it was her generosity, the way her flowers and her life touched hundreds of others and how that selflessness was returned to her in later life that made me want this story to have a wider audience. Then, there was this descendant who kept telling me this was a great story and I finally listened to her!
Are you passionate about gardening? Lilacs?
I am passionate about lilacs and flowers but I have a purple thumb! Gardening in the high desert region of Oregon where it's dry and can freeze any day of the year has always been a challenge. The best garden I ever had here was when I planted starts after the Fourth of July! When we returned to eastern Oregon we purchased a home that was tended by a master gardener and I have to say I feel blessed every time something new blooms that I didn't know had been planted there!
It's said that the sense of smell brings memory most quickly to our minds. When I smell a lilac, I am returned to my family's farm in Western Wisconsin and the huge lilac bush that grew at the opening to the school yard where I attended a one room school for a year. It was a quarter mile from our farm and now, the acre where the school sat, is all that is left of our family's farm. But the lilac bush continues to bloom each spring. I love the restorative nature of that scent and the promise that comes with each bloom.
Do you live in or near Woodland, Washington where the garden still exists?
We live about four hours from Woodland, Washington which is close enough for me to have traveled there several times while working on the book. The climate zone is very different as it's rainy with occasional snow in the winter and big tall fir trees shadowed by Mount St. Helens and tulips and dahlias and lilacs grow well there. The garden today is still exceptional especially in the spring when the lilacs bloom.
How much research did Where Lilacs Still Bloom take?
Because I'm not a gardener, getting the information about lilacs and flowers right was the most pressing. I had lots of great help with the horticulturists and gardeners at the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens. But I also did a lot of reading about propagation, Hulda's particular methods and what was known about flower and food production at the turn of the century. The International Lilac Society researched and wrote about Hulda some years ago and that article was essential for helping me see just how amazing her work was and how many lilac varieties she propagated -- over 250.