Pacific Northwest Flower & Garden Show (An Introduction)

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It’s been a few years but I’m back! Coming up here to Seattle from Portland has reminded me why I missed coming to the Pacific Northwest Flower & Garden Show so much. I guess it’d been so long I’d nearly forgotten. Sure I missed one heck of a snow storm, but it was worth it.
Here are a few highlights with more posts to come because I’m still really enjoying the show. I’m going to seminars, and after I hit “publish” I’m off to look at some books. (Later tonight I’ll return to the restaurant where I first learned how to eat with chopsticks as a teen—but that’s another post.)
The show in Seattle is just edgy enough to have a neon-style light in a log on the ground in the garden. I have no idea yet how much this would cost, but I want it.

There is glass here. This is Chihuly Territory after all and his work has inspired many to take up the craft and I’m eternally grateful for their work.

There is nothing more reminiscent to me of the PNW style than huge trees and rusty metal. This is a refined nod to the logging industry if ever I saw one and to the great resource which although now managed, is something that still inspires awe in all who experience it. That’s why each and every year the ancient woods are brought into the convention center. I’ve missed these homages.

Whimsy? Not always my thing but I burst out laughing when I saw this bat house. My former foster children would have loved this.

There is always something that appeals to the over-the-top Italian side of me. This garden display cured my wintertime blues and made me crave a glass of limoncello.

As someone who specialized in modernism as an art history student I understand it and its midcentury relative well. It’s not my style because I’m too wild and flamboyant to live in it, but I love seeing it and being in it when it’s in another’s home.

It’s calming to see the lines all “just right”.

Seeing the simplest joys and pleasures on display here make me tingle.

Then there is what I would do. Luckily I cannot afford a giant glass pavilion with an art orchid made of glass and metal in it. Was it my favorite display garden? Yes. The huge glass Sarracenia? Well what do you think? This was amazing to behold. It could be in a museum.

I should add that I come here for the hotel too—at least this time around. Let’s just say that my husband really likes to spoil himself with a nice hotel so this trip I actually have marble tile on my bathroom floor. Did the show spoil us rotten with a great discount at the Fairmont Olympic? Absolutely. Will I take high tea tomorrow with our extra discount? Definitely.

I think one of these is going home to the family house on the river. It only seems appropriate when you have salmon spawning behind your house.

Not something I’d put in my garden, but I would love to see these in lieu of other options in other gardens. Variety is good. I think they’re fun and I would love to slam that arrow on the front of my house so that people would walk around that way but it might be an overstatement. (I’m pretty sure there might be something more “subtle” I could do too.)

Miniature gardens are in the show as well. They aren’t for me, but my husband is now eager to make a few. I’m excited to see what he makes and I would love to have one. I just wouldn’t know where to begin. John has loved other types of miniatures for years so I know he’ll make something wonderful.

This is a stake you can add to a planter pot and I loved it. (Gotta have my bling.) We do live in a rainy region so we might as well celebrate it.

Yesterday I didn’t buy much but I came back to the hotel last night after a long day with a few free plants from a reception. I was grateful.

My husband John got to take a silly picture of me. That’s his takeaway from the event. (You can tell I’m amused.) I’m afraid this is a word that pops out of my mouth from time to time and he does tease me about it a lot. Again, I love the silliness.

Then there is ikebana too.

I miss making arrangements but I’ll be back at it again soon.

(More to come with A LOT more detail. I just wanted to post a few pictures.)

From Seeds to Seeds: Seed Harvesting and Happiness

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Happiness is not something I usually discuss publicly but today I am brimming with it. Sure, the world is currently a bit crazy—and I acknowledge and care about that—but right here at my house, it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. I joke not, seriously, and I mean this both figuratively and literally.
For me, seed collecting currently feels like opening tiny gifts wrapped in crinkly sun-dried seed pod papers. Funny that after that is done, I wrap them up in cute little origami envelopes and store them until they are sold in my online store! As many of you know, Christmas shopping often begins early and as usual, I am seeing sales from early shoppers. When I hear that folks are buying seeds for someone for Christmas though it makes me so happy. These are gifts that will give back in return if properly cared for by a gardener—sometimes for years!
Milton’s Garden Menagerie (located on Etsy.com) has been a wonderful experience for a chronically ill woman who was terribly confused about how to take that next step in her life. At first I wasn’t really sure what I was doing with it and I doubted myself a great deal, but now that it has been almost 2 years and as it nears a viable business status, I think I can say I did it mostly—for the love of seeds! Saying that loud and proud makes me happy today too.
Each time I collect seeds it’s exciting no matter where I am. When I collect seeds from plants I’ve grown from seed it is even more exciting. This year, for the first time, my gardening friend down the street is letting me harvest from her garden too. Since she is 100% natural in her garden I have no problem collecting her seeds—especially when they are from plants I have sold to her at some point.
Here are plants I’ve grown from seed that I am collecting seeds from this year for my Milton’s Garden Menagerie harvest:
Tube Clematis, Clematis heracleifolia.
Variegated Honesty, Lunaria annua ‘Variegata’.
Heirloom White Single Hollyhock, Alcea rosea. 
Cardinalflower, Lobelia cardinalis.
Great Blue Lobelia, Lobelia siphilitica.
White Rose Campion, Lychnis coronaria ‘Alba’ or Silene coronaria ‘Alba’. 
Maximilian’s Sunflower, Helianthus maximilianii.
Sticky Monkey Flower, Mimulus cardinalis.
Bottlebrush Grass, Elymus hystrix.
Then there are the plants I did not grow, but from which I am able to harvest seeds from this year.
Sticky Phacelia, Phacelia viscida.
Smoke Tree, Cotinus coggygria.
Blue Love-in-a-Mist, Nigella damascena.
Tall Alumroot, Heuchera chlorantha.
Lewis Flax, Linum lewisii.
Pale Corydalis, Corydalis sempervirens.
Adding to all the hectic seed collecting there are the other things too. On my most recent trip to the Seattle area I came home with this gem. It, along with many others, will be planted in the coming weeks.
Blechnum chilense.

The fern is native to China and can grow up to 6′ tall in some places. It is evergreen in my climate so I am very curious to see what it will do. It spreads by underground runners and I’ve read that it can be invasive but no word on this yet in my area. I guess I will have to see what happens and in the meantime I’ll enjoy it as much as I can while it is still docile and not a screeching teen.

And during my copious amounts of free time I will begin working with my many Douglas fir cones. I need to make some new wreaths and holiday decorations because if I continue only using wine corks, someone is seriously going to think we have a drinking problem in our home.

More happy news to come in the following week so stay tuned!

Sleeping Bees

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If you drive from Portland, through the Columbia River Gorge, towards Idaho or Wyoming, you will see tons of sunflowers guiding you along the highways. Native sunflowers, some consider weeds now, almost pull you over the Rockies towards the prairies of North America. That is one way to look at it, as I choose to do so. I guess that others pragmatically see the seeds of these flowers getting stuck in the wheels of our vehicles, being flicked hither and thither as we drive about the place. Regardless of all of this, at least there is this caveat. It appears as though these blooms offer a soft resting place for the bees that we need so much. And if you are worried about these little guys in the image, we touched one, just to be sure, and it was alive. They were all in a very deep, deep sleep.
It was the kind of sleep I have been searching for during the last few years of my illness. It reminded me of the times when I could enjoy sleeping outside, under the stars, in the arid or mountainous areas of Oregon and Washington. Not afraid of my strength, but in a mood to cherish it. I no longer have that gift. Instead, I instinctively spend every moment looking over my shoulder—as all injured animals do.
That night the train pounded past our cabin at the campground, chugging up the other side of the small canyon and I rolled around outside, on a bench, in a sleeping bag. My husband sleeping soundly inside. At home, I usually use my garden to help me sleep, image by image, task by task, otherwise I focus on the physical pains. I can easily tire and fall asleep if I think about my garden. But that night, I thought only about the bees, tucked away into flower blooms only a few yards away.
My own garden seemed like a far off and unbelievable place—a dream. The bees sleeping in flowers was real at that moment and the image in my mind only intensified that feeling of the possible that only a child can have. And it felt magical. Shooting stars rolled by and I felt more free than I have felt in years, inside my experience, horrible as it may sometimes feel. I easily fell asleep then, like a child lost and not afraid in a wilderness. I wonder though now what bees dream, if they do.