This small town is the lilac capital of Ontario (and they have a festival!)

the lilac lane sign in Franktown, Ont. Photo by Vanessa Chiasson

Imagine a quiet community flooded with flowers, woodland paths covered with dainty lilac petals, and the air thick with fragrance. It sounds like a dreamy setting from Anne of Green Gables, but it’s a real community that’s eager to welcome visitors.

The small village of Franktown, Ont., is part of the township of Beckwith, about 45 minutes southwest of Ottawa. Since 1995, the area has been home to an annual lilac festival, and in 1998 it was crowned the lilac capital of Ontario. If you love gardens, add the Franktown Lilac Festival to your travel list.

When does the lilac festival take place?

The Franktown Lilac Festival occurs each year on the last Saturday in May. In 2023, festivities are scheduled for Saturday, May 27.

What can you expect at the festival?

Lilacs, lilacs, and more lilacs! You’ll see white, purple, blue, burgundy, and pink blooms all over town. The festival’s highlight is the horse-drawn wagon ride that transports visitors through the fragrant Lilac Lane while a guide shares the region’s history. If you’d rather not wait for a ride, you can explore on foot—and stop as often as you like to smell the blossoms.

Visitors also enjoy the craft market, children’s games, garage sales, and a silent auction. Cottagers passionate about DIY projects will especially appreciate the dry stone wall demonstration in front of the church. There’s also a community breakfast, a barbecue, a children’s bike parade, and live entertainment.

Practical considerations

Like all outdoor festivals, bringing sunscreen, bug protection, and bottled water never hurts. If you plan on staying to watch the live entertainment, you’re encouraged to bring your own lawn chair. Other information can be found on the event’s Facebook page.

How did Franktown become Ontario’s lilac capital?

Franktown was settled as a supply stop between Richmond and Perth in 1818 by Scottish and Irish settlers who planted lilacs around their farmsteads. Over the centuries, Franktown has remained a small community. No large-scale developments have razed the land. In fact, the opposite has happened—undeveloped land has allowed the seeds and suckers to flourish unchecked. When scientists from Ottawa’s Central Experimental Farm examined the area in 2007, they found the suckering so dense that other plant species were mainly excluded.

Franktown’s lilacs aren’t just dense. Many of them are unique. Over time, naturalized hybrid species with double florets developed and became species known only to the Franktown area. A pink variety has been named Dixie (after Dixina Pierce McLellan, who once owned property along Lilac Lane). A white combination has been aptly named Franktown, while a blue variety is called Beckwith after the Township. These varieties just aren’t a local point of interest. In 2009, Franktown was honoured with the International Lilac Society’s President’s Award for protecting its unique varieties.

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