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Living in a sea of purple

Grassroots Tehachapi


May 26, 2018

Julianna Crisalli

Purple blooms on the Cherry Lane lilac farm.

When I decided to move back to my hometown more than two years ago, I was incredibly lucky when it came to finding a house to rent.

Dear family friends of mine own a lilac farm that just happens to have a beautiful rental home in the middle of the property. Today, I live in a sea of purple that is completely breathtaking.

This year's harvest wrapped up about a week ago. While many of the remaining blooms are beginning to brown from the spring sun, there is still a hint of purple out each window. I couldn't have found a prettier place.

I knew moving here would lead to many beautiful photos and memories of my children playing among the blooms, but I never expected to live on a property with such an interesting history. My friend Jon Hammond shared with me the farm's beginning.Continued from page 1.

The lilacs were planted in the 1930s by a Swedish man who had been a gardener to Swedish royalty. At the time, the property was home to lilacs, peonies and tulips. The current owners will still find random tulips mixed in among the lilacs. The farmer placed old fishing nets about 3-feet above the tulips to provide a slight shade. Each year he received wooden crates of tulip bulbs from Holland.

If this history wasn't enough to fall in love with my cute little rental all over again, meeting another former owner of the lilac farm, Wanda Wilder, did the trick. This lovely woman and her husband, Gary Wilder, bought the lilac farm in 1975. At that time, the farm had about 14-acres of lilacs and some remaining peonies. They built their house, a Colonial-style home, along Cherry lane. Wanda said the backyard was, "just like a park."

"It was like a dream...our grandkids had quite the time playing out there. It was wonderful," she said.

During lilac season, Gary would make daily trips to the L.A. Flower Market to sell their bunches of fresh cut lilacs. The yearly sales in lilacs were enough at the time to pay for their house.

"They say money doesn't grow on trees, but it does on lilac bushes," she said.

Her love for the property and the delicate flowers it produces is easily recognized.

"I think the hardest thing about leaving that house was leaving knowing we wouldn't be cutting lilacs or working with the lilacs anymore," she said. "It was all a good time and the kids were so happy there. It was just a good family house and when we moved it was hard. But you can't go back."

Julianna Crisalli

Wanda Wilder stands with one of her husband's lilac farm paintings.

Her eyes fill with tears as she reminisces about the views, birthday parties and her children and neighbors that lended a hand during harvest. The walls of her current home are lined with paintings her late husband created. Many of them, which sit in the most prominent spot in the house, depict their days in a sea of purple on Cherry Lane.

"We had great parties there and a big family. My parents got to see it and I'll always remember my dad's joy there," Wanda said. "One of my favorite dad loved the lilacs and my mom, too. They both helped us cut."

There's so much beautiful history in this town, but it's always the lovely people, like the Wilders, that make it truly bloom.

Do you know an inspirational group, individual or program that should be featured in an upcoming Grassroots Tehachapi? Email me at [email protected]

See you next time!


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