Like Jacob’s search for lilacs, this incarnation of the flowers is associated with freedom for “The gardens of Fernham lay before me in the spring twilight, wild and open” (17).
But the beauty of the world the lilacs represent is a double-edged sword with “two edges, one of laughter, one of anquish, cutting the heart asunder,” a mixing of desire and memory (16-7).
 In the next interlude, right before the friends hear of Percival’s untimely death, lilac reassumes its ecstatic role as purveyor of the beauty of the world when the passionately singing birds are transfigured by light: “Gilt and purpled they perched in the garden where cones of laburnum and purple shook down gold and lilac, for now at midday the garden was all blossom and profusion” (108) Although this traditionally regal combination of purple and gold recalls the ecstatic twilight vision in the Fernham Gardens, lilac’s conventional elegiac function coupled with laburnum’s poisonous qualities hint at a certain proleptic irony. (See LABURNUM)
Lilacs re-emerge in two of Woolf’s later published works, vested with their usual rich literary complexity. In The Years, they are first seen in a muted version of their regal splendor when, once again situated in Cambridge, the rain falls “over flowering bushes of lilac and laburnum” (59). In London, still in the 1880 section, white lilacs appear for the only time in Woolf’s work, in a list of funeral flowers delivered to commemorate the death of Rose Pargiter, the family matriarch: “white tulips, white lilac—flowers of all kinds, some with petals as thick as velvet, others transparent, paper-thin; but all white, and clubbed together, head to head, in circles, in ovals, in crosses so that they scarcely looked like flowers” (79). Although it is not quite clear whether she is referring to the color or the flower, a scene marking the entrance into the Present Day, the last segment of the novel, is set in the incandescent red glow of twilight, harkening back to the imaginative visions of Mrs. Dalloway and A Room of One’s Own: “and the flowers in cottage gardens, lilac and pink like cotton dresses, shone veined as if lit from within” (290).