Lilac festival lures crowd

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PHILLIPS—The day was perfect for the third annual Welcome to Summer celebration in Phillips.

One of the weekend’s activities was the 13th year of the annual Lilac Festival on Number Six Road, 5 miles north of the busy downtown.

A steady caravan of vehicles, many with out-of-state plates, traveled the 2 miles of gravel road Saturday and Sunday to Sandy River Gardens’ off-the-grid haven for lilac lovers. Owners David and Mary Lou King encouraged travelers by offering cheerful, lavender balloons that read “Keep going!” or “You’re almost there!”

The Number Six Road is easy to miss. About 5 miles north of downtown Phillips, the turnoff is just before the Madrid Township line on Route 4. Many of the festival’s attendees, though, are regulars, and they knew exactly where they were going.

The weekend’s popularity has spread by word of mouth, according to the Kings. Visitors toured the carefully tended gardens, sat in the serene shade under the trees and enjoyed some light refreshments on the lawn. Everyone took home a free potted perennial, which children especially enjoyed.

The Kings grow more than 40 varieties of lilacs, each with a description and information and plenty of growing advice from the Kings. 

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The Monge is an example of the elegant and fragrant French hybrid lilac that produces an abundance of deep-reddish-purple, single flowers. Along other collectors’ favorites, the Glory and the Annabelle, the Kings hope to be able to introduce the Betsy Bowman, developed by internationally noted lilac breeder, Ken Berdeen.

The Kings have not stopped with lilacs. Many of their customers seek hardy, native-grown plants that can endure long, cold winters.

“We also have high-bush blueberries, peonies, azaleas, day lilies and lots of other perennials,” David King said.

The whole weekend of Welcome to Summer events in Phillips brought many visitors to town and was a success, according to volunteer organizer Pam Matthews.

The event included enthusiastic runners in the 5K race, readings by author Doug Rawlings at the Phillips Library, a flea market at the Community House, a farmers’ market and specials and sales offered by local businesses.

The 13th annual Sandy River Gardens Lilac Festival lured hundreds of visitors to a little farm that specializes in growing 40 varieties of lilacs, including rare and unusual specimens of the Syringa Vulgaris. Owners David and Mary Lou King have spent the past 30 years collecting and propagating both the traditional and the hard-to-find Syringa Vulgaris. The Monge is one of their elegant and fragrant French hybrid lilacs which produces an abundance of deep reddish purple single flowers. Next year, the Kings hope to introduce the Betsy Bowman, developed by internationally noted lilac breeder, the late Ken Berdeen, along with other collectors’ favorites, including the Glory and the Annabelle. (Valerie Tucker Photo)

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