The Lilacs of Budapest

If I weren’t a teacher, I would have been a florist. Back in California, I often made my friends floral wreaths for Christmas and birthdays. I never bought my flowers. I had my sources. One neighbor lady let me cut her hydrangeas in exchange for a bottle of wine. Another allowed me to snip leaves from her magnolia tree. A third gave me permission to cut branches from her holly bush. After a couple of seasons, though, I had to find another source for holly. I guess I’d been too zealous with my cutting. The bush died.

Lilacs#1My first spring in Budapest, I discovered something that made my flower-loving heart turn a somersault — lilacs! I had never lived in lilac country before. California doesn’t get cold enough. Come this time of year in Budapest, you can’t go anywhere without seeing these fragrant flowers with their heart-shaped leaves spilling over fences and painting gardens lavender and pink. Lilacs are sold at every Metro station, and it’s not uncommon to see men and women carrying fat bunches of them down the street.

Lilacs#2In fact, if Hungary were smart, they’d start giving lilac tours like the ones people take in Japan to see the cherry blossoms and in Holland for the tulips. On these tours, lilac lovers would be surprised to discover, as I was, that the lilacs in America actually have their origins from none other than this part of Europe! Yes, American lilacs have Hungarian roots. Literally.

One day, I wanted to bring some of my favorite Hungarian blooms home. A couple of lilac trees were blooming just outside the school parking lot where I work. Surely, no one would mind if I snipped just a few branches, I thought. So, I pulled my snippers out of my trunk (I always keep them handy, just in case), sneaked over to the trees, made sure the coast was clear, and started cutting.

Lilacs#3After about five minutes, I heard a small voice. “Mr. Done, is that you?” I whipped around. It was Drew, one of my third graders. Dang! “What are you doing?” he asked. I looked down at the large violet bundle in my arms then back at Drew. “Uh…well…I…” I felt like the Grinch when he is caught by little Cindy Lou Who as he’s stuffing the Christmas tree up the chimney. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as slick with my comeback as the old Grinch. Before I could respond, Drew turned around and shouted. “Mom, look! It’s Mr. Done!”



9 thoughts on “The Lilacs of Budapest

  1. Nice one!
    Haven’t heard from you for ages.

    My garden in the UK has many lilac trees, and I now have lilac in my Canadian garden.
    Yes, they are indeed beautiful blossoms with a wonderful perfume.

  2. Yes, they are beautiful to look at and smell. I’ve seen them throughout New England &FL, but a very special treat is to find them as I have over many years, in N.B., Canada. They’re called French Lilacs, the leaves are pretty much the same however, the flowers are fancier with frilled-lacy edges, so much prettier.

  3. We spent the children’s spring break in Budapest. I was looking forward to seeing all the lilacs in the Buda hills :) . Walking down from Citadella or the Buda Castle is fantastic at that time of the year.
    The cogwheel railway even has a station named “Orgonas”.

  4. You are right, I come from the Czech republic, where they are quite common too. While this was my second spring in Budapest, their fragrance feels much stronger here than back at home.

  5. I am enjoying your book about the Bunny and I googled you and discovered this website. If you ever have a chance to come to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in mid-May, you will see and smell so many wonderful lilacs. Also, we have the Central Experimental Farm, where they give free tours of the lilac gardens. You are right – the lilacs come from many different countries. Keep sharing your wonderful, funny and heartwarming stories.

  6. Your last post has been almost over a year. What happened, did you leave Hungary? I miss your blog. Hope all is well and just moved on to the next country. :)

  7. I found your site when looking for Töltöt Paprika, I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog, brings back memories. I am a Hungarian/American living in California since 1951. My mother”s favorite flowers were Lilacs, California Lilacs don’t have that fragrance, miss the hedges of Lilacs found in Magyarország and Slovákia. Please keep witting, you bring joy to a Hungarian who loves the US, but misses my Hungarian family, after all, I do have Paprika in my blood!

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