26 September 2014

🌿 Gwen's Sweet Pea 🌿

Lathyrus latifolius
Hand thrown porcelain pot by Louis Mideke

Shaw Island, Summer 2014
      From a photograph documenting the day, we know that in the late 1960s, Gwen Yansen, with a maiden name of Jones, traveled to the small island of Jones, SJC, with Babs and Coonie Cameron. Their mission was to gather wild-collected seeds of flower specimens for the woodland garden being planted for the new Library and Historical Society. 
      We all know that Gwen loved flowers, but with a healthy love of books, she also contributed as a trustee on the first board of directors to help round up supportive charter members.
      The native, Lathyrus latifolius vine enjoyed a prominent place in Gwen's own garden overlooking Wasp Pass, but I neglected to ask if she adopted a plant from the wild, or started one from purchased seed.
       Gwen grew her perennial Sweet Pea specimen for at least twenty years, on its own 7-ft iron support with the vine staying right where it was planted, displaying good manners, without making babies, perhaps due to deadheading of the old blooms, which she knew to be important. 
      For a good portion of this summer of 2014, several friends and one young apprentice botanist know I've been prowling and researching wild Sweet Peas--not classified as a beach pea, or a vetching.* 
      Mary Lou, another great island gardener used to give her annual Sweet Peas an early start by sowing them in the autumn season, in a warm southerly location next to her house. She remembers that wild Sweet Peas used to grow along Shaw Island ditches before our roads were so well maintained by the County Road crew. 
Lathyrus latifolius
Blooms of summer '14.
     This naturalized, roadside wildflower was introduced from Southern Europe into English gardens before 1635, and came with immigrants to North America. Now throughout the west, the plant is an example of the adage that "we can't have it all." The perennial vine, with healthy foliage all through the hot, dry simmer of '14, is long-lived, salt-spray and wind tolerant, it has a long bloom season with fine flowers for cutting, a gorgeous magenta rose color, keeps its roots in a tidy clump, displays resistance to deer and drought. It won the prestigious RHS Award of Garden Merit, but alas, it lacks fragrance.
      According to seed specialist, Renee Shepherd, this species can be trained as an attractive and reliable perennial hedge plant, much more drought tolerant than the annual sweet peas. Here is a link to her site.
Pre-soak seeds and sow in containers for placement in a cold frame in Sept/Oct or store seeds in the refrigerator for sowing in early spring. 
Prone to diseases if seedlings are over watered.
Enjoys the sun.
Some good culture notes here

*Favored reference for this Lathyrus study; 
Clark, Lewis J. Wild Flowers of the Pacific Northwest from Alaska to Northern California; Sidney, B.C., Gray Publishing Ltd. 1976.

The sweet pea packets are processed and 
on the rack at the Gatehouse,
 Squaw Bay Road, Shaw Island.

21 September 2014

Mary Lou's Siberian IRIS

E. B. "Bert" Fowler & Dorcas Marold Fowler farmhouse
established on Shaw Island in the 1880s.

I.d. of people on file.
 Photograph date c. 1905.
Click to enlarge.
Former farm of friends Don & Mary Lou Clark.
The genus is certain when we list this heritage plant as being an Iris. There are over 200 species, however, Mary Lou thinks this is a Siberian Iris. It is not what early-timers called a "flag," or of the Bearded Iris, type growing from thick rhizomes. Nor has it been an Iris to spread into monster clumps needing frequent division like some Siberian Iris. Seems like well-behaved might be an appropriate description.
      It is a given for the plant to be hardy to Zone Range 8 and possibly colder.
      Mary Lou has gardened on Shaw Island since 1946; she thinks this Iris was growing on the farm when she arrived with Don. 
      E. B."Bert" Fowler and Dorcas Marold Fowler homesteaded the farm to earn the first patent deed in the 1880s; their daughter Alice Fowler Owens, with her husband and children, were the next residents before Mary Lou and Don arrived. 
      If one needed to reach this farm by switchboard through the early, private Shaw Island Phone Co-Op, one cranked out "two longs" on the wall phone. 
Mary Lou's Iris
Photo of Art by Sue Morse,
summer visitor to Shaw Island.

Courtesy of Mary Lou©

Flower Color: Blue-Purple.

The plants that produced the seeds for sale were grown by Mary Lou in what seems to be relative isolation from cross-breeding with any other Iris.

For maximum freshness, please keep seed refrigerated in its original packet until you have time to plant.
Expert notes for Iris seed germination can be found on this link
Grow in full sun to light, dappled shade.

Out of stock.

06 September 2014


Picea sitchensis, 
native to Shaw Island, WA.

Largest of the world’s spruce family, seldom found far from moist, maritime air. Lifespan of over 700-years. Grows in a narrow strip along the north Pacific coast, including Shaw Island, WA.

Seed starting:

Soak in water, then let stand for 24 hrs. No stratification needed. Sow 1/8" deep, tamp the soil, mulch the seed bed. Can be sensitive to excess moisture.


Likes deep, moist, well-aerated soils—poor on swampy soil. Tolerant of ocean spray.
Great notes on the history of this Spruce can be found here

Freshly harvested seeds will be for sale again at the Gatehouse, on Squaw Bay Road.