The French horticulturist Victor Lemoine began cross-fertilizing lilacs of different species to develop the “French hybrid lilac“. Helen Plum was fascinated by the fragrance of lilac blossoms and dazzled by the spectrum of purple, mauve, and lilac hues captured by impressionist painters like Claude Monet, Matisse, and other modern artists who portrayed the French landscape and surroundings at Lilac Time.
Impressed by the Lemoine Lilac Gardens and Nurseries in 1910, the Plums began an extensive collection of lilacs after their 14-month Grand Tour of Europe and Russia. Thus, William and Helen Plum brought to the Village of Lombard a fragrance of Lilac Time.
Upon the Plums return to Lombard, William and Helen began to cultivate their Lombard estate garden described by Edna Thompson as “a thing of beauty extending into a 7.5 acre park along historic Maple Street and Park Avenue which displayed 275 varieties of lilac bushes with single, double, and semi-double blossoms, in a kaleidescope of colors from the purest white to azure blue, pinks, delicate lavenders, mauve, and deep vibrant purples. At that time, there were 1,500 lilac bushes, highlighting the colors of 45,000 tulips boasting 160 varieties blooming in unison at Lilac Time, from late April through May, annually. Colonel Plum named his estate “Lilacia”, creating his own Latin word for lilac to refer to his fragrant gardens.
According to the Lombard Historical Society, William Plum received a complimentary letter dated December 25, 1925, from Lemoine, France, stating that “Colonel Plum had the largest collection of lilacs in the world”, following the death of Victor Lemoine in 1911.
Lilac enthusiasts and visitors alike compared Lilacia to the Famous Botanical Gardens of Highland Park, New York, and the Arnold Arboreteum in Boston, Massachusetts.
William and Helen Plum acquired Lombard real estate property at the corner of Park Avenue and Maple Street early spring of 1868. The Plums’ acquisition was appraised at a value of $375 U.S. dollars with property taxes of $11.05 in DuPage County, Illinois during XIX.
In the 21st century, XXI, the Lombard Park District describes Lilacia Park as renowned historical landmark extending into an 8.5 acre botanical garden and treasure-trove, featuring over 700 varieties of lilacs and 25,000 varieties of tulips during Lombard’s 140th anniversary and Lilac Time’s 80th anniversary in the year 2010.
If Colonel Plum and Helen Plum were alive today, the Plums would be very disappointed that the Village of Lombard Park District does not maintain the legacy of the original Lilacia Park bequeathed by Colonel Plum upon his death during April 1927, as it was envisioned, appraised, and donated to the Village of Lombard.
Nowadays, Lemoine’s complimentary letter boasting the largest lilac collection in the world, would fall on deaf ears at the Lombard Park District, for Lilacia Park in 2013 does not have the same extensive lilac collection that Colonel Plum and Helen Plum had acquired after 1910, one hundred and three years ago, after his worldwide horticultural travels and lilac plants acquisitions in the 20th century, XX, abroad.
In 2013, the lilacs at Lilacia Park are begging for attention to cover bare areas and empty plant borders neglected by the Lombard Park District. One hundred years later, Lilacia Park is in dire need of centennial attention. Where is the original lilac bush for the double-purple blossom lilac which in 1910, Colonel Plum and Helen Plum named Mme. Casimir-Perier, anywhere at the Lilac Park?