31 December 2015


We wrap up the great year of 2015.
Thank you for the support at the seed shed
and best wishes for happy growing in the year 
ahead. I look forward to stuffing Shaw Island 
seeds into packets for you next spring.

10 December 2015

🌿 Green for the Holidays 🌿

SALAL (Gaultheria shallon)
Pressed on the scanner bed,
Shaw Island, this day of ten December twenty fifteen.
For Margaret Cameron (1906-1994)
Resident sculptor, Margaret Cameron, gardened in pots on her terrace; pots whose summer flowers were protected from salt spray by a masonry wall along with chicken wire to discourage the deer. If she was home for the holidays, it was to the forest she went to cut fresh, evergreen sprigs of salal. These she used to dress the artistically crafted wood and stone home she designed with her husband, Malcolm. She knew the lush specimen growing outside her studio door was just perfect for celebrating the season. 
       This ubiquitous shrub (Gaultheria shallon) of the western forest, including Shaw Island,  common name of salal, with a name given by the native Indians, according to Scott Atkinson. It is distinguished by thick, leathery, oval leaves that are noticeably waxy and end in a point. The spring flowers spread a sweet scent throughout the forest understory, looking like little white bells, sticky and slightly hairy. The common shrub bears fruit between August and October, depending on elevation and weather conditions. The berries, resembling huckleberries, form in dense groups to weigh down the branches, blue-black when ripe, ranging from delicious to bland and boring, depending on their soil, and amount of sun exposure. 
      Salal berries were much prized by Indians, who dried them in cakes for winter use. Ethnologist Erna Gunther reported that the Quilcene would pick an entire branch of the berries, dip it in whale oil, then pull it through their teeth to eat the fruit. The Klallam and Quileute chewed the leaves as medicine, and the Makah mixed it with kinnikinnik to smoke.
      Salal seeds aren't featured on the Gatehouse inventory but there will be young plant starts potted up for next spring.
City of Dreams. A Guide to Port Townsend. Simpson, Peter. Bay Press (1986) 
Wild Plants of the San Juan Islands.  Atkinson, Scott. The Mountaineers. (1985)
Wild Roses and Western Red Cedar by Krohn, Elise.(2007)

23 November 2015

🌿 Shaw Island Grower of Fruit, Vegetables and TURKEYS 🌿 Marian Lutz

Happy Turkey Day
Vintage postcard dated 1914.
"Marian (1897-1981) and Herman Lutz were pretty much dependent on agriculture like everyone else. They raised almost everything they needed on their 250 acres and sold the excess to buy staples. They canned fruit and vegetables and meat for year round sustenance.
      Thanksgiving was a neighborhood affair. Marian called it a waste of time to have a holiday by yourself. Each family would bring a specialty to whichever house was large enough to accommodate them all.
Angel's restored wood cook stove;
former Lutz farm, Shaw Island.
Suspected to be Marian Lutz's
turkey cooker of many years ago.

Photo 2015,
 by Debbie Maxie, Coastal Mission©
      When Marian was raising turkeys, turkey was her specialty. That meant getting up at 5:30 AM to start the big bird in the wood cook stove, because dinner was at midday. There were no electric lights to brighten an evening feast or light the way home.
      After some years of farming on Shaw, Marian's husband left one day. She said that he had a lot of curiosity about other places, and she never saw him again. But she loved the island farm and stayed on and ran it with the help of her daughter and her neighbors. She said she would never have made it without good neighbors within a half a mile or so whom she could call on when she got into a jam."
      News clipping of unknown publisher and date; suspected to be the Friday Harbor Journal. From FHJ subscriber, historian, gardener, Shaw Island booster, Gwendolyn Yansen to this writer/1998.

31 October 2015


"We had pumpkins in the morning and had pumpkins at noon. 
If it were not for pumpkins, we'd be undone soon."
Written by an American colonist in a 1693 diary.

Pumpkin grown by Diana
Shaw Island, 2015.

Jack-Be-Little pumpkins
Shaw Island,  2015.

Peter's cedar basket full of
Pumpkin Stars carved by Elsa.
Shaw Island, 2015.

17 October 2015

Botanical Color October 2015

Quince (Cydonia oblonga)
Grown on the former Clark farm, 
Shaw Island, WA.
Commonly enjoyed in colonial days,
quince were a symbol of love and happiness;
please see this great article in the
New York Times.
Quince & a hand-thrown Mideke pot
for Gwyneth.

Anno seventeen October two thousand and fifteen.

08 October 2015

🌿 Thank You Bouquet 🌿

Shaw Island fruit, 
Medlar & Aronia.
For the nice notes and customer 
support from the cyclists from Orcas Island 
and the herb lovers visiting under gray skies,
in appreciation.

Anno Eight October 2015.

01 October 2015


Wishing you a colorful harvest season.
Greeting card with seeds and one wood
cork from the "Flotsam and Jetsam" event
at the beautiful  Foss Waterway Museum
for Aho'i and Maggie.

21 September 2015

🌿 Mirabelles off the Tree and in the Jar 🌿

Sweet Mirabelle plums, this gardener's favorite,
A speciality in Lorraine, France.
Harvested from a Shaw Island orchard.
A thank you for the Gatehouse note to the
quartet here from Sisters, OR, Soap Lake & Edmonds, WA.
Happy growing.

Anno Twenty-One September Two Thousand and Fifteen.

01 September 2015


Courtesy of the Saturday storm.
On handwoven English willow tray.
Shaw Island Autumn 2015.

Click to enlarge.

26 August 2015

Seed Harvest 2015

Mary Lou's Lunaria annua grown on Shaw Island;
willow basket, handwoven in England.
Anno 26 August 2015
Shaw Island, WA.
Seeds for sale at Gatehouse Seeds, 

Squaw Bay Road, Shaw Island.

There are still a few gardeners with an "attitude", who won't let this "commoner" into their flower borders; how nice to see some sophisticated gardeners who are enjoying the beauty of the old fashioned Lunaria. Particularly the seed pods of August. Here's a photograph caught from a sneak preview of an open garden––sponsored by the Hardy Plant Society and the Garden Conservancy for the Open Gardens Tour in the Beaverton, OR., area happening this weekend August 2015.
Photo courtesy of Scott Weber
Rhone Street Garden Blog
August 2015.

23 August 2015

🌿 BLUE SAILORS 🌿 Local Roadside Wildflower Seeds

"Blue Sailors"
(Cichorium intybus) 

A resident of Shaw Island roadsides.

Common Name: Blue Sailors

Life Style: Hardy, perennial herb.

Native Growing Region: Europe and the Near East. Common on roadsides in the San Juan Islands.

Flower: fine sky blue, July to October. "This may be the only plant of our area that can be instantly recognized by color alone." (Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest from Alaska to Northern California by Lewis J. Clark.)

Tolerates: Drought. Deer.

Description: Can reach 3' to 5' if growing in an area not mowed by roadside work crews.

Soil: Light, preferably alkaline. Sunny and open.

Uses: Can be grown for culinary purposes and for a nutritious pasture and fodder for animals. Dried petals are used for potpourri. Buds can be pickled. This European immigrant has been cultivated for many years, both for its leaves and roots. The roots are sliced, roasted, and ground as an additive to coffee. Europeans familiar from an early age with chicory-flavored coffee consider as improvements the added color, bitterness and body. 

Chicory is often grown in floral clocks for the regular opening of its flowers and their closing five hours later. These opening times relate to latitude, but the leaves always align with the north. Gardeners interested in metaphysics credit this plant with life-giving forces.

This plant is mentioned by Scott Atkinson and drawn by Fred Sharpe in their wonderful Wild Plants of the San Juan Islands. 

Notes: great data listed here

22 August 2015

🌿 Herb BORAGE 🌿

Herb Borage
Scientific name of Borage officinalis

Common Name: Borage

Life Cycle: Hardy Annual

Native Growing Region: Mediterranean region.

Degree of Difficulty: EASY

Tolerates: DEER and DROUGHT.

Flowers: Small, wispy five-pointed stars of clear, silky azure blue with a sharp black point sticking out the middle."The flowers are a beautiful pure blue often chosen for embroidery on fine medieval tapestries and on scarves for tournament jousters. They were included in the page borders of herbals and Book of Hours. For courage, they were floated in the stirrup-cups given to Crusaders at their departure. The noble qualities of borage may derive from its high content of calcium, potassium and mineral salts; research suggests borage works on the adrenal gland, where courage begins." (The Complete Book of Herbs. Bremness, Lesley. Viking Studio Books. 1988.)

The common thread running through historical descriptions of borage is its ability to make men and women glad and merry, to comfort the heart, dispel melancholy and give courage. 
Dies back very soon after flowering but loves to self sow, so we can enjoy several crops in one season, according to Jerry Traunfeld, The Herb Farm Cookbook. Scribner. 2000. 

Light, dry, well-drained soil. Will self-sow freely on light soils. Prune to keep tidy. Maintenance is LOW. No serious disease or insect problems.

Uses: The splendid color and form of the flowers make them an invaluable garnish. Can be sprinkled in salads and crystallized for cake decoration.Many cosmetic and medicinal uses.
Plant near strawberries as they stimulate each other's growth. 
Traditionally used as a garnish in a Pimm's Cup cocktail. 

Attracts honey bees to the garden.
When burned, the nitrate of potash content will emit sparks and slight explosive sounds, like fireworks.

Borage as a cure for a swoon click here

These seeds are available at
Gatehouse Seeds on Squaw Bay Road, Shaw Island.

21 August 2015

🌿 Chilean Glory Flower 🌿 (Eccremocarpus scaber "Tresco Gold")

Chilean Glory Flower
Eccremocarpus scaber "Tresco Gold"
(on right.)
Loving the heat in a "wall pot" on Shaw Island, WA.
August 2015.

Common Names: Chilean Glory Flower; Chupa-Chupa; Lorita & Voqui.

Life Cycle: Perennial vine.

Native: Chile and Peru.

Flowers: July to October. Will flower the first year if sown early.

Vines: If supported, vines can reach 12'. They are NOT an aggressive thug.

Award: The prestigious RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Sowing: Indoors in late winter to early spring or sow directly outdoors from May onward.

Soil: loves neutral to slightly acidic, rich soil in full sun.

Propagation: usually by seed.

Degree of difficulty: EASY.

Notes: An excellent greenhouse specimen; will grow happily in a container where they will last a long time. Wonderful weaving through roses, clematis, on fences, etc. Often grown as an annual.

15 August 2015

🌿 Herb Lovage (Levisticum officinale) 🌿

Plated Umbels of Lovage seed
(Levisticum officinale)
Shaw Island, 

Photo this day 15 August '15.

Common Name: Lovage; "Love Parsley"; "Mountain Celery", in Italy.

Life Cycle: Hardy, Herbaceous Perennial.

Native: Most say the Mediterranean, but others dispute that.

Height: 8'-10' at maturity in 3 years.

Bloom: Tall umbels of white/yellow flowers, in the 2nd year.

Tolerates: Deer.

Site: Full sun or partial shade.

Sowing: September to October or February to June.


Cultivation since the time of Pliny (23-79AD), long grown in Europe. 
Lovage art
by Louise M. Smith©
One of 16 watercolors in
The Herb Farm Cookbook.

Reference for this post:
The HerbFarm Cook Book
Traunfeld, Jerry.
Scribner, N.Y. 2000.

      This will tower over your herb garden with its architectural beauty. One plant is enough but try to replant with a new plant every few years. Give it good soil, some water and deadhead the flower stalks if you don't wish new seedlings around the base of the plant. Traunfeld writes that this plant will tolerate more shade than most herbs; in hot climates, it dislikes baking in the sun.
Good for use in S. European cuisine, where leaves are used as an herb, roots as a vegetable and the seeds as a spice. For the essence of celery without the trial of growing that vegetable, this is for you. Lovage has a distinct flavor and is greatly appreciated by food aficionados.
       It is considered a prize on the list of good companion plants that improve the health of all garden vegetables. Tender growth has the best flavor, so in summer, around June, consider pruning back to encourage new leaves. Will die down in winter but will re-emerge in spring. 
      Lovage has been used in alcoholic cordials for centuries––mixed with tansy and yarrow then mixed with brandy. The original cordials were used on long voyages. First cordial containing lovage was recorded in 14 C; it is used in some liqueurs with Borage, as one of the Pimms mixes in production today.
      Medieval travelers tucked the leaves into their shoes because of the antiseptic and deodorizing properties. 
      Lovage flowers are adored by honey bees and Swallowtail butterflies. That is enough reason to grow this herb.
Fresh seeds of this herb available
at the Shaw Island Gatehouse,
under the Dragon on Squaw Bay Road.

14 August 2015

🌿 Artichoke Bouquet 🌿

For Charlie and Amy
Enjoy the Kale in your community garden.
And for Lauren and Rueben,
Here are a few leaves picked for you today.
Appreciate your purchase and notes at the Gatehouse.

11 August 2015

🌿 AQUILEGIA vulgaris 🌿

AQUILEGIA vulgaris
Spring, Shaw Island, WA.

Common name: Columbine
Type: Herbaceous Perennial
Growing region:  Zones 3 to 8
Days to sprout: 14-28.
Height: 1.5 to 3-ft.
Bloom time: April to May
Bloom Description: Blue or violet-blue.
Sun: full sun to part shade.
Water: medium
Maintenance: medium
Flower: showy
Attracts: Hummingbirds
Tolerates: Rabbits

Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soil. Surface sow.
Remove flowering stems after bloom to encourage additional flowers. When foliage depreciates, plants may be cut to the ground. Aquilegia may be easily grown from seed, will naturalize in the garden over time; self-sowing easily. Seed collected from garden plants, may not come true because different varieties of columbine may cross-pollinate in the garden producing seed that is at variance with either or both parents. This seed is harvested from a plot of blues. They can also be easily grown in large pots.

Genus name comes from the Latin word for eagle (aquila) in reference to the talon-like spurs on most flowers.
Columbine comes from the Latin word columba meaning dove-like. The number and varieties of Columbines are staggering.
These seeds should be 90% blue tones as I still rogue out a few pink and magenta in the same garden.

Borders, rock gardens, cottage gardens, woodland gardens or naturalized areas. A good choice for a hummingbird garden. Continue to water plants after bloom to enjoy the ground cover effect of the foliage.
Long lasting for flower bouquets.
Research notes: Missouri Botanical Garden.

Aquilegia vulgaris
Common name is Columbine.
A dependable, easy perennial, great for bouquets.
Seeds for sale at the Gatehouse,
Squaw Bay Road, Shaw Island.
Sold out for 2017

05 August 2015

Thank You Figs

Thanks to the Newberrys, for the note at the seed shed. A bouquet for you.

Sweet seeds of the fig from the Bryant garden.
Blue Elderberry seeds

SEDUM nussbaumerianum
Eccremocarpus scaber "Tresco Gold"
Shaw Island, 4 August 2015.

28 July 2015

Seed Harvest 2015

Chamomile seeds sifted for tea
Rhododendron species on the left.
Harvesting on Shaw Island, 

summer 2015.
"The healthiest way to gamble is with a spade and a package of garden seeds." Dan Barett.

11 July 2015


Rhododendron 'Polar Bear'
Purchased from Meerkerk Gardens, Whidbey Island, WA.
Blooming on Shaw Island this day of Eleven July 2015.
"Gardening is not some game by which one proves his superiority over others, not is it a marketplace for the display of elegant things that others cannot afford. It is, on the contrary, a growing work of creation, endless in its changing elements. It is not a monument or an achievement, but a sort of travelling, a kind of pilgrimage you might say, often a bit grubby or sweaty, though true pilgrims do not mind that. A garden is not a picture, but a language, which is of course, the major art of life."

The late, great Henry Mitchell, in the Essential Earthman.
      Slate published a beautiful tribute to one of my favorite garden writers in 1998. See Deborah Needleman 

21 June 2015

09 June 2015


California poppies surviving in the rock along
Blind Bay Road, Shaw Island.
Planted by island gardener Elsie Fowler long ago.
Photo June 2015.
Elsie's California poppies,
not exactly wild and not native,
but self-sowing gently each year to brighten the roadside.

Botanical Name: Eschscholtzia californica

Native: USA and Mexico. The official state flower of California where it covers the hills of Napa Valley.

Zone Range: 4-10

Life cycle: Annual and perennial.

Preferred climate: warm and sunny.

Bloom: An almost continuous summer display of bright orange flowers on mat-forming foliage 12" high. Flower petals close at night and on cloudy days.

Culture: requires poor, well-drained soil in full sun. Drought tolerant, self-seeding. Resents being transplanted.

Degree of difficulty: EASY.

Seed viability: one source claims 3 years.

Notes: Widely planted as an ornamental. Survives mild winters.

Gwen Yansen told me that her friend, Elsie Fowler (1900-2003), scattered the poppy seeds many years ago; they still survive in the hot, dry, rock bank across from the Community Building on Blind Bay Road. 
      Elsie, who came to the island in 1938, moved away to Anacortes in 1996. She was an early member of the Garden Club, later called Women's Club, that kicked off the fundraising for the Shaw Islanders, Inc building project.
      The seed packets carry Elsie's name to honor her love of Shaw Island and garden flowers, she bloomed where she was planted.
      These seeds are not harvested from her plants in order that the small colony of poppies will self-perpetuate.
      If you broadcast California poppy seeds along the road, as Elsie did, choose the sunny side.


"Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz (1793 - 1831) was a Livonian physician, botanist, zoologist, and entomologist. He was one of the first and most important scientists in the exploration of the Pacific, Alaska, and California.
Born in Dorpat (now Tartu) in the Russian Empire. He studied medicine at the local University of Dorpat, and spending the main part of his career there: extraordinary professor of anatomy (1819), director of the zoological cabinet (1822), and professor of anatomy (1828).
From 1815 to 1818 Eschscholtz was a physician and naturalist on the Russian circumnavigational expeditionary ship Rurik. He collected specimens in Brazil, Chile, California, the Pacific Islands, and on either side of the Bering Strait, Kamchatka, and the Aleutian Islands.
One of the other naturalists was the botanist Adelbert von Chamisso, who took over Eschscholtz's specimens on completion of the voyage. The two were close friends and, after his early death, Chamisso named the California poppy Eschscholzia californica in his honour. The results of the trip were published in the Berlin journal Entomographien in 1822."
Source of nomenclature data: Seedaholic.

These seeds are for sale at the
Gatehouse, Squaw Bay Road, Shaw Island.

05 June 2015


Peonies are royal garden visitors for early summer.
This luscious Peony shared by former islander, Eve E. Nygren Shaw, came without a cultivar tag, so I call this the "Eve Shaw Peony." Eve was a great gardener who married retired Captain Clayton Shaw and settled very happily on Broken Point, in 1971. Clayton was the last member of the pioneer Shaw family on the island. Clayton and Eve moved away to Alabama in the mid 1980s after donating several family antiques to the local museum. The island wasn't named for this Shaw family but the myth persisted for awhile, helped a little by Eve.
      No seed packets of this plant are planned for the Gatehouse but the plant has had a long life on Shaw Island and may show up for a fund-raising auction some year.

17 May 2015


Red Russian Kale
Brassica napus
Description: Beautiful, blue-green heirloom kale that is hardy, tender, mild, and sweet compared to other cultivars. Good for salads and light cooking, after the stems are removed, a quick, easy process. A variety approved by botanist friend Elsa who, at a young age, enjoyed taste-testing her way through Peter's garden patch of greens. 

Stamppot is a traditional Dutch recipe, a substantial combination of well-mashed potatoes, lots of kale and hearty smoked sausage. When kale is served in Dutch homes, a small bowl or pitcher of vinegar is passed to dribble on the top. 


After enhancing the plot with aged compost, plant seeds 1/4" to 1/2" deep in well-drained, light soil. After 2 weeks, thin to 8"-12" apart. Cool weather crop that can tolerate temperature as low as 20 degrees F; actually the flavor is enhanced by fall frost. 
In hot area regions this can be planted in late summer for harvest in fall/winter. Side dress with aged compost every month or so, as kale is a strong grower.

Botanical Name: Brassica napus.

Native: Siberia. Brought to Canada by Russian traders around 1885. Grown on Shaw for several years.

Type: Biennial.

It takes 2 years if you'd like to save your own seed. 

These seeds will be available this Spring 2017,
at the Gatehouse, Squaw Bay Road.