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Taos, NM
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A toy car with a lilac branch in the back

Lilacs in springtime are ubiquitous in Taos; they are as iconic as the hollyhocks of summer. Whether set against a Taos blue sky or an adobe wall or draped over a coyote fence, lilacs are a much-loved sight in Taos.

Artist Rebecca Salsbury James began a campaign in the 1940s to plant lilacs as a way of beautifying Taos Plaza. Rebecca had accompanied Georgia O’Keeffe on her first visit to Taos and ended up staying here for the rest of her life. Her home, La Casa Feliz, is located at the end of Bent Street where you can still see her lilacs as they bloom each spring.

The annual Taos Lilac Festival happens every May, sponsored in part by the Los Jardineros Garden Club of Taos, a civic group dedicated to the beautification of Taos, including encouraging local gardeners to plant more lilacs. 

Lilacs have a typical blooming period of up to three weeks, and many of these brilliant bushes and hedgerows of blossoms can be found while taking a Lilac driving tour on the side roads of Taos. So, go out for a drive, roll your windows down, and take in the scented air of lilacs blooming in Taos!

A Scenic Lilac Driving Tour around the Taos Historic District:

Start your tour at the northern end of Salazar Road and head to La Loma Plaza at Valdez and Ranchitos Road, turning onto La Loma Street. Head onto Valverde Street where there are also some lovely lilacs in bloom on Geronimo Lane near the Hanuman Temple. On Valverde Street, you’ll pass behind the Taos Library and Town Hall to reach the Taos Living Center where you can see from the road beautiful lilacs in bloom. 

From there, continue your lilac driving tour in Taos by crossing over Camino de la Placita to Lund Street where you’ll also find Lilacs in bloom on Theodora Street, Sierra Vista Road, and Hinde Street. 

The Sierra Vista Cemetery (505 Paseo del Pueblo Norte) is awash in lilacs; park your vehicle and stroll around to see for yourself. Lilacs are commonly planted in cemeteries as they need little to no upkeep. Historically, lilac colored clothing was considered proper mourning attire, and the flowers were worn as a sign of a lost love.

Head north on Paseo del Pueblo Norte, turning left at the stoplight onto the northern end of Camino de la Placita and keep an eye out for all the lilacs in bloom that you can see from the roadside and around Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. Continue driving up Placitas, then turn right onto picturesque Ledoux Street. At the bottom of the hill, turn right onto Ranchitos Road and follow it over to Quesnel Street where you’ll see the Couse Meadow and more lilacs all around you.

Cross Kit Carson Road to Morada Lane up to the Mabel Dodge Luhan House (240 Morada Lane); from the large parking area, you can view hedges and rows of more lilacs in bloom. Your lilac driving tour in Taos takes you back onto Kit Carson Road; then head east and make a quick left turn onto Las Cruces Lane where you will see some of the very best gardens proudly on display. 

Back to Kit Carson Road heading east once again, head to the Thom Wheeler Studio Gallery (939 Kit Carson Rd.). From here, turn back toward Taos and enjoy more lilacs at the Couse-Sharp Historic Site (146 Kit Carson Rd.). Turn north onto Paseo del Pueblo Norte to see the lilacs at Kit Carson Park & Cemetery, the Taos Art Museum at Fechin House (227 Paseo del Pueblo Norte), and the El Pueblo Lodge (412 Paseo del Pueblo Norte). Head back south towards the Plaza, taking one last right turn onto Bent Street, where the lilacs are always worth seeing. 

Other Ways to Enjoy Lilacs

Lucy McCall, a Taos herbalist and Associate Instructor at UNM-Taos said, “People are just coming into consciousness of foraging for edible flowers, herbs, and plants. I’ve used lilacs as a medicine to reduce fever by steeping lilacs in warm water to make a tea. Not too hot or you’ll lose the lovely aroma. They also have astringent qualities. Lilacs used as a flower essence open up all the chakras for those who practice Kundalini.” Aromatherapy usage of lilacs also helps to ward off depression, creating an uplifting emotional and spiritual quality.

Lilac flowers may also be used to make a simple syrup to enjoy as a refreshment with sparkling water, or they can be made into a vodka-based beverage much like a homemade limoncello.

If your tastes run more to the edible than the potable, here is a recipe for a delicate and not too sweet treat to munch while you’re on your lilac driving tour in Taos.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Stick of Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 1/4 Cup Powdered Confectioners’ Sugar
  • 1 Cup Flour
  • 2 Tsp Blueberry Syrup
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla
  • 1/4 Cup Dried Lilac Flowers

Instructions:

  • Cream the sugar and butter
  • Add the rest of the ingredients, adding the Lilacs last
  • Roll the dough out between sheets of parchment paper to 3/8 inch thick
  • Use a simple cookie cutter or slice into wedges
  • Place onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet
  • Bake in the oven at 325 degrees for 12-14 minutes until they begin to brown at the edges