1974 🌿 EARTHLY PARADISE 🌿 A Garden Tour of Shaw Island

 Primula vulgaris "Quaker's Bonnet."
Elsie Wood (1891-1986)

shared starts of this plant with her Shaw friends. 
Many of these primroses are growing happily in local gardens into the 21st C.
"Untouched, these islands' are all wild gardens, 'gardens without gardeners.'
      Visually, the ferns and wild roses, the Columbia lily and the tiny Deer's Head orchid, the pines and firs, cedars and madronas, the wild berries, fireweed, vetch and wild sweet peas, satisfy the most exacting botanical tastes.
      But the creative urge and the price of the food impel all but the weariest or the most completely waterless and rockbound soul to plant a bit or a bushel of garden.
      Geb and John Nichols have transformed the landing area around the Shaw Store from a dispersal point into a verdant welcome. Roses, herbs, and delphinium bedeck John's "elephant fence", a collection of driftwood, cedar totems. Baskets of fuchsias hang from the porch rafters, and small rock gardens dot the formerly utilitarian garage areas.
      Just up from the store stands a small house bordering the ferry line. 
 Elsie Crawford Wood's Shaw Island cottage,
built by Elmore and Henry Crawford.
Elsie bought it from Clara Crawford in 1962.
The site is now parking lanes for State ferry traffic.

Undated photo.
Here Elsie Wood tends a lovely small garden, practically every plant of which was put in years ago by her family. A snowy peony with crimson splashes deep inside the petals was a gift from her father to her mother, Rosa Crawford. Every person who arrives on or leaves Shaw passes her Aunt Clara's purple and white clematis, her white lilac, her cork elm, and her pink hawthorn.
      Driving out around Blind Bay, Frank, and Elsie Fowler's big garden, flourishing in this spot by the edge of the bay for more than 25 years, can be seen sporting a new "deer proof" fence. Elsie's calendulas are riotously overwhelming her roses and we swear by her ox-heart carrots.
      On the sunrise side of the island, Ray and Josephine Harford have a lush, selective vegetable garden where grow notable parsnips, 
Island grown Sweet Meat Squash.
Freshly harvested, curing for winter pantry.

A longtime favorite of Ray and Jo Harford, 
who gardened at Picnic Cove, Shaw Island.
the sweetmeat winter squash popular on the island, and big, fine tomatoes, but the pride of this idyllic garden-spot with its split rail fences, lovely fields and boulders strategically placed in the Japanese manner are the examples of northwest trees and shrubs and the naturalized flower garden.
      The boxwood and the corkscrew willow, a graceful pattern tree, and the glistening red-brown leaves of Prunus pissardi highlight the hosta, columbine, Verbascum, and heather that grow in such abundance here at the edge of the sea [Picnic Cove.] Rose lovers will delight in the old French La Marne, an original polyanthus that flourishes in the center of the garden.    
      Back out on Squaw Bay Road, past the Graham's "deer park" where the does and fawns, flicking their tails, graze companionably beside Ernest and Beverly as they garden; the Leighton's brand new garden has sprung up, scarlet runner beans, spiking sunflowers, giant zucchini and all. Like Thoreau, they have made the earth say "beans".
      Next door, in the magnificent old orchard surrounding the house and cabin on the Graham farm, the Gilsons have been haying and pruning steadily, adding new fruit and nut trees and berry vines to this historic site at the head of Squaw Bay. Out on the point, no expense has been spared to create a gourmand's delight of Bob Ellis' new garden, tilled and fenced by island friends.... here the herb and the exotic will receive their due.
      Out at Cedar Rock where the south winds sweep-in fairly continuously, Tom Brudenell reports that his peas have responded spectacularly to the cool weather, his squash secret is steamed bone meal, and his mangle tops are mighty. This spot is not sheltered enough for corn. Because the greenhouse soil was phosphate poor this year, he has abandoned a formerly successful peanut project, but his mint and watercress is luxuriant. Tom's fail-proof method for slugs is to place logs treated with motor oil around the garden.
      At both Hilen's and Hoffman's, the families have the best of everything from the garden. Del's loganberries are treasured on the island as the most delicious anyone ever ate.
      On the old Dick Shaw homestead in the warm, sheltered center of the island, the Melvilles have one of the largest garden areas on Shaw. Kathi sells her vegetables Tuesdays, Saturdays, Sundays, and evenings after six. Turn in opposite the Coppers'.
Ted Copper, at home on Shaw Island
New Year's Day 1959
Bringing in the firewood before a Northeaster the next day.
      Eunice and Ted have been cultivating their gardens across the road for many years. The banks bloom with bulbs and the whole place is fenced so the deer can not munch among the paths leading from the house. They used to raise berries commercially and had customers throughout the islands clear on down to Portland.
Potting Bench
Copper Farm
Shaw Island, 1971.

Click photo to enlarge.
      When we arrived, Eunice was preparing sparkling currants for jelly. We find the islanders tend to divide sharply on the subject of mulch––Eunice on the subject––"people who mulch are the ones who raise gardens with a book in one hand and a packet in the other. The old-timers all raised big families on their gardens and they never mulched at all, they all believed in cultivation."
      We were struck by a small square pond surrounded by creeping thyme where for 40 years Eunice has nurtured a water lily worthy of Tennyson––its colors light burgundy shading to cream with a citrus center.
      At the Yansen home, the tuberous Begonias and Fuchsias grace the courtyard, mingled with her mother's lilacs. She has Rhododendrons given her, named after each of the Yansen children and commemorative roses, one of which her mother planted when Gwen was born [1915.]
      On around from this farm, the Lamoureuxs have a shadier, cooler location on the north shore. Charlotte's kale thrives here through the winter in salads and bouquets. 
New home and garden-to-be for Mahlon and Charlotte
North shore of Shaw Island, looking north to Orcas Island.
Her sunflowers tower above the snow peas, recently denuded by Mahlon's two snowy goslings.
      We end our short tour wishing there was time to stroll through Louise Fowler's garden behind the airport, to pick some of Sue Smith's lettuce, and see Mary Kay Birum's greenhouse and Eve Shaw's magnificent spread at Broken Point, but time has run out.
 Fonnesbeck apple orchard, early 1970s.
The stock was purchased from Thorsens, Waldron Island.

Photo by Leon Fonnesbeck.

Leon Fonnesbeck, mid-1980s.

      Driving back past Berit and Leon Fonnesbeck's orchard, we are reminded of Robert Frost's poem, Good-bye and Keep Cold describing his having to leave his orchard untended through the New England winter."

Written words by "the Bayside Gazer," aka
Jo Ann Morse Ridley (1925-2010)
Published by The Friday Harbor Journal, 8 August 1974.

Jo Ann is the author of Oh Shaw! and other Islands. Long House Printcrafters, Friday Harbor, WA. 1978.


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