10 June 2018

🌿 June Blooms from Shaw Island 🌿

Peony 'Eve Shaw'
Once growing on Broken Point, Shaw Island, WA,

by the late great gardener, Eve.
This bouquet for seedster-cyclist Rachel, 10 June '18.

01 June 2018

🌿 ONE JUNE 🌿 Foxgloves Standing Tall 🌿

Digitalis purpurea
Making seeds for next year,
Shaw Island Gatehouse
Squaw Bay Road.
Anno One June two thousand and eighteen

"I wonder what it would be like to live in a world 
where it was always June."
L.M. Montgomery.

Digitalis purpurea and Rhododendron 'Blue Frost'
Shaw Island Gatehouse Garden

Foxglove seeds are the easiest to germinate.
A true 'throw and grow" with a touch of shade 
and some damp soil. Watch out for slugs.
1 June 2018

01 May 2018

🌿 MAY ONE 🌿 2018

Clematis montana 'rubens'
over the deer-gate entry into Angel's garden.
Anno 10 May 2018
Shaw Island, WA.

In 1987, the well-known Seattle-based gardening columnist, Ann Lovejoy, came to Shaw Island for those keen to hear about her new book The Year in Bloom; Sasquatch Books, spring 1987. A book of instruction for gardeners of all abilities to celebrate one of the most ideal growing climates on earth (zone 8b for most of this wonderful rock.)
      One reviewer stated, "This is the book that inspired me to create a real garden. This is the best book that Lovejoy has written [out of c. 18] to actually communicate the fun of gardening and to help with plant selections if you live in the northwest."
      One gardener in the Shaw Island community just told me it was the words of Ann that inspired her to plant Clematis montana––the essay from the month of March pages 41-44, with thanks to Ann, is included below:

"The Clematis (KLEM-a-tis is preferred) family album is a fat one with over 200 species and many hybrids represented in dazzling array, dominated by the florid summer-blooming beauties with enormous blossoms and a relatively short but spectacular season. They are all lovely, if perhaps a bit obvious, but I have a preference for some of the less insistent members of the clan. One of the really rewarding ones is Clematis montana, a strong and splendid deciduous vine that deserves a place of prominence. Nursery people tell me that it is not a good seller because gardeners want the larger-flowered kinds. I feel sure that once seen, this early bloomer would be in demand. It is perfectly true that the flowers are not showboats, but C. montana and several other seldom-seen species Clematis have charms and strengths which make them as good or better choices for most gardens than the big, flashy hybrids that hog the limelight.
      My vine is now in full bloom, a great glory of pale blossoms. It has built up to this performance over the past month and will continue well into May with a light spangling of flowers all summer [?] Just now one can hardly see the leaves for the closely packed flowers. These look a bit like dogwood with their four rounded petals. This is a flower to savor and appreciate at close hand, a few floating in a flat bowl or tucked with a sprig of leaves into a bud vase for inspiration.  
Clematis montana
May Day on the boatshop,

Shaw Island, San Juan Archipelago, WA.
      The leaves are a definite point in its favor, a good strong green with a matte finish rippled and veined giving an interesting light-catching texture, faintly hairy, which gives a silvery glimmer to the edges and undersides as they move in the wind.
      A beauty of this vine is that of the seedheads left by the passing flowers. As petals fall, long strands of silky floss emerge, furry beards which function like dandelion fuzz, parachutes to transport the tiny seeds. These persist a long time and can make a striking winter feature on vines grown in a sheltered corner out of the wind. 
      If potted up, these Chineses natives are very strong growers and will throw their arms in happy flowering trails over an arbor, a fence or a trellis. Since they bloom on old wood, any pruning or shaping should be done just after the spring show is past. They will stand being cut back quite heavily but like to have a full summer to recover. All Clematis like to have a cool root-run but want to grow into the sun.
      Give new Clematis a deeply dug bed, adding compost, lots of peat moss, and some sand or gravel to the soil to make a rich but fast-draining medium for the roots. Where the soil is acid, as it generally is throughout the maritime Northwest, add a good handful of lime, incorporating it well so it can be taken up by the roots. Plant deeply so the roots are several inches below the surface, but not so deeply that you bury the crown. Water well, and keep it adequately supplied with water for its first season, and you will probably not have to think much about this plant again, except to admire its billowing blossoms next spring.
      Above all, this species Clematis is healthy, sturdy, and easy to please. They seem resistant to the dreaded Clematis wilt that loves to cut the lusher beauties down overnight. A Clematis for practically every season, for sheer ease, abundance, and beauty, nothing can top the spring beauty of the Clematis montana."
Lovejoy, Ann. The Year in Bloom, Gardening for all Seasons in the PNW. Seattle. Sasquatch. 1987. Author signed copy from the Gatehouse collection.

According to Christopher Lloyd who wrote a monograph on the genus, titled Clematis, "the montana group is easily recognized. It stands apart from the rest in appearances, and its members are all so vigorous that they may be set the popular task of climbing into and draping quite large trees.

      Clematis montana is white. You don't have to call it montana alba or anything of that sort: it is white by definition. the gardening public is often unaware of this and think that, if they order a C. montana, it will be pink..." 

All this to say that there are Clematis montana, Clematis durandii, Clematis macropetala, and Clematis 'Helsingborg' seed packets installed at the Gatehouse, Squaw Bay Road, Shaw Island. 

27 April 2018


"The cardoon has found a special and perfect place in one garden, and in my heart. Two springs ago, I purchased two plants based solely on the recommendation of a respected fellow gardener who extolled it as a gorgeous perennial. It seemed like it would be the perfect 'something large and spectacular' for a particular area I had in mind. The cardoon is the ancestor to the artichoke and reportedly has been cultivated for 30,000 years (how do they know this?) The Cynara (both artichoke and cardoon) are edible thistles on a grand scale. The cardoon is often mistakenly identified as its kin the artichoke which is much better known. 
      The word cinara is derived from cinis (ash), perhaps because of the cardoon's grayish blue color, or maybe ashes were the best fertilizer for it. The word became bastardized to cynara.
      Pliny, a Roman philosopher living around 100 A.D. claimed that a small plot of cardoon would bring in a large annual income because the vegetable was so highly prized in Rome that it was found only on the tables of the very rich. Indeed cardoon continues as a staple Italian vegetable and in Italian cookbooks you can find recipes for 'bagna cauda' which is a hot garlic-anchovy dipping sauce. Tender cardoons and other Mediterranean vegetables are prepared and served with it.
      It is not surprising then that the cardoon was introduced to the United States in the 1920s by immigrant Italian farmers. It is thought to originate in Sicily and North Africa. Although I would no more think of eating my cardoon than my cat, this plant does hold high culinary interest in parts of Europe. 
      As a fabulous perennial, the cardoon is a really beautiful and dramatic plant. It fills a hot rather arid area of our garden which needed something to catch the eye. And catch the eye it does! Show-stopping, huge, blue-gray deeply toothed foliage is its main attraction, until mid-summer when it sends skyward its flower stalks. The term 'flower stalk' seems too delicate to describe the sturdy 1-inch thick stems the plant rockets up to support the ultra-large thistle-heads encased in scaly armor. The bold unusually colored foliage of this plant can grow 4 to 8 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide and the thistle heads thrust up from that. When the thistles finally open, they are a beautiful soft bluish lavender which the bees and hummingbirds find very attractive. The plant makes a nice show from late spring all the way through October. The flower heads can be lopped off after the start to dry and before the seed matures. They are striking in arrangements. 
      For several months of unique color and drama in your garden, you might consider the drought-tolerant magnificent cardoon as a candidate for a generous area with poor soil and full sun."
Patricia Lundquist, author and illustrator. From The Social Gardener, the Journal of the Whatcom Horticultural Society. Summer 2003. Pg 12-14.

      Just in case you'd like to add this deer resistant drama queen to your life, there are fat seeds of this Shaw Island grown cardoon (Cynara cordunculus) for sale under the Dragon at the Gatehouse, Squaw Bay Rd.
More cardoon plant notes added to this post tomorrow.

15 April 2018

🌿 Shaw Island Petals Leaving Town 🌿

Flowering Cherry
Shaw Island ferry landing
Anno fifteen April 2018

"It is the spectrum, not the color, that makes color worth having, and it is the cycle, not the instant, that makes the day worth living."  
Henry Mitchell. One of America's most beloved garden writers who wrote for the Washington Post for almost 25 years and could rattle off the Latin names of 3,000 plants.  

01 April 2018


Narcissus Van Sion
A new Gatehouse planting of a Shaw Island heritage
daffodil blooming on time for Easter;
 Squaw Bay Rd.

There will be bulbs for sale again next door at
Market Camp in the autumn.


After so long
hardly anyone remembers: 
April's air
is colder than November's
But April is like 
a pitcher warming up:
gradually the ball 
starts to hop.

Ed Rosemann

23 March 2018


Primrose Quaker's Bonnet
(Primula vulgaris flora-plena)
A long-lived primrose compared to the hybrids of today.
A true Heirloom that dates to at least 1835 in an Irish
garden and maybe 100 years later on Shaw Island
where it was grown & shared by gardening pioneer women
Eunice Biendl Copper and Elsie Crawford Wood.
There will be some potted starts for sale at the
Shaw School fundraiser 21 April 2018.
No Quaker's Bonnet seeds for sale at the Gatehouse;
instead, try hard not to be a cheapskate,
buy a potted start and support the scholars
planning a field trip to Washington, DC.

03 March 2018


(L-R) Shaw Island brothers J. "Lee" and Eber Bruns
Picking their wildflower Easter bouquets of
Erythronium oregonum (aka "White Fawn Lily.")
The bulbs love the rocky, coastal bluffs,
thickets, and woods of Shaw Island.
No seeds offered at the Gatehouse for this plant; please
leave the flowers untouched for others to enjoy.
Photo c. 1920.

It was long ago that well-known women, Elizabeth V. Dodd and Harriet G. Tusler completed their monograph Wild Flowering Plants on Coon, McConnell, Reef, and Yellow Islands. It was released in the spring of 1959.
      The compilers of the list of 177 flowering plants said that seven of the plants listed under 33 families are found only on Coon Island, ten on Reef and forty on Yellow Island.
      Tib Dodd has identified the plants on Yellow Island, Mrs. Tusler has identified the flowering plants on Coon Island, where she lives, McConnell and Reef Islands.

      Included in the published work is a description of the Islands covered as follows:
"Coon, McConnell, Reef and Yellow Islands belong to the Wasp Island group of the San Juan Archipelago. They lie within a few hundred yards of each other about ten miles from the Canadian border in the northwest corner of Washington State. 
The three acres of Coon Island are
mostly wooded with considerable underbrush. There is open grassy point facing N.E., N.W. and S.W. and some small grassy slopes on the south side of the Island.
 The thirty-one acres of McConnell Island are heavily wooded with some open fields, several grassy points and a small open, swamp area near the hightide line on the north side. The seventeen acres of Reef Island are heavily wooded with much underbrush with a few small areas of open fields.
      The eleven acres of Yellow Island are mostly arid and open, there is a wooded section on the top of the island a few small groups of trees on other parts of the island. the rest is mostly open fields and grassy points. This island is exposed to all winds while the other three islands are more sheltered, especially Coon."     

      Included in the bibliography are eight books used in identifying the plants and in conclusion there are two pages of line drawings picturing Hawkweed, Willow Herb, Cudweed, Wood Rose, Deerhead Orchid, Giant Adder's Tongue, English Plantain, Dog Fennel, Indian Pipe, Everlasting, One Flowered Cancer Root and Nipple-Wort.
      The Orcas Island Historical Society contemplates the compilation of a Herbarium of Orcas Island flora. A start on this work may begin this spring and will be continued over a period of years.

Above text from the Orcas Islander. April 1959.
When you boat over to Yellow Island this spring to see the wildflowers, remember it was on that gem of an island that Tib lived and did some of her botanizing. Tib and her husband Lewis were friends of Shaw Island.