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Curious Lola

How do you do that?

Exhausted after two back to back events, I slumped on my comfy couch pondering whether I should cook myself my post event special (refried beans and tortilla chips) or do the smart thing and actually cook up something more nutritious like a kick-ass salad with the works. Instead of jumping into action, I instead zoned out the lone leftover from last night’s Museum of Flight Event (super cool space for an event by the way).

It was a purple ranunculus with full flower and two tight small buds. I became transfixed on how so lush and full a blossom can come out of something so small. How does this happen? My inner nerd had to be satiated before my belly had its way. After 2 hours of research and a still hungry belly, here’s what I came up with thanks to Wikipedia’s resources…

So buds grow from stems. Leaves on stems are modified stems. So in a plant’s life, a plant is going to send up a stem and hormones (little chemicals that are made in each cell as opposed to something like a human organ) tell the plant, “Dude, we need a leaf to eat up some of that delicious sunshine.” So cells that were making plant stem change to start making plant leaves.

Then there comes a time in every plant’s life when it wants to get busy making little plants. So the plant gauges a good time for optimal reproduction based on temperature, hormone levels, and hours of sunshine. So the same hormones tell the plant, “Hey you, Stem, we don’t need you to make leaves. Change those leaves to flowers.” So the stem stops making a leaf or stem and the cells start building the stem into a bud.

So the flowers are modified leaves. Crazy.

The flower makes sepals (the house the bud lives in), petals and stamens(pollen bits), and the carpel (middle thing that houses the reproductive junk), out of concentric rings of stem- working from the outside in. Bud, you are amazing.

I also learned from Wikipedia’s sources that apparently some plant stress hormones actually destroy some human cancer cells….

… I was leaning toward the beans and chips but maybe I’ll have both.

There. That’s settled.

Here’s a picture of the Museum of Flight. I haven’t been there since I was a wee ragamuffin. Must definitely get back there soon.

Rhododendrons- really, it’s not what you think.

For most of my life, rhododendrons have been the official flower of mediocrity. Elementary school reports on the state flower, rhododendron lined highways, and overgrown foundation plantings in front of EVERY home reinforced this belief. To add to that, the Rhododendron Species Garden has a sign on Interstate 5 beckoning people to pull off into Federal Way, pretty much a mediocre ‘burb. I’ve looked at this sign for years in a driving induced zombie-like state. For reasons unclear to me, one day last year I stopped.

Definitely NOT mediocre. Kind of magical, actually.

And thank goodness these photos were unearthed in my files because they were taken in middle-ish, late-ist April last year. So that gives you time to strap on your fanny pack and head to  Federal Way for the Rhododendron Species Garden. And what luck, their plant sale is April 15th and 16th in the Weyerhaeuser parking lot (across the street)…. and actually come to think of it, the Weyerhaeuser campus is a whole nuther thing. Worth its own post AND its own drive.

Rhododendron pachytrichum

I don’t know what about this day made me stand in front of rhododendron bushes, but there I was, appreciating the color flushes from bud to blossom. And there size! Many rhodies want to be small trees. How wonderful when they are allowed to grow that big. Walls and canopies of pink bells? Hello!!!!! My inner five year old is screaming Fairy Fortress!

Rhododendron calophytum


Part of my former problem with rhodies is that I thought they look weird in the landscape. Kind of garish. It can be totally out of my blossom to foliage comfort zone. Improper use of scale…. This one is so big, however, it transcends and enters the ‘holy crap’ category. It reminds me of what an old art teacher used to tell me…When all else fails, make enough of something simple- to the point of obsession. , or make something simple as big as possible.  This rhody is as big as possible.

Rhododendron williamsiana ?

I don’t really know which one this is but its leaf shape and structure made me stop in my tracks. I love it. I want to touch it,  roll in it.

The great thing about this place is not only the Rhododendrons. Honestly a lot of them aren’t even in bloom this month, but they also have a great collection of other plants such as viburnum, magnolia, and evergreens.

Viburnum plicatum tomentosum 'Popcorn'

This garden has also got some great places. What was most wonderful was that I was the only person here. It had also just rained that morning and the sun was shining. And in the Northwest, we know that that makes for some squishy, forest magic.

Next to this green pond is a little sign warning children not to step onto the water because it is not solid. Tiny ferns cover the surface. Tiny. Ferns. Art rule number three, that I’ve added, when all else fails, make something as small as possible.


Rhododendron roxieanum oreonastes

This one was my favorite of the day because of its super cool leaf and structure. AND because of its name which leaves me with only one question… Roxie, what is an oreo nasty?….  (snort)… nevermind. Roxie, please keep it to yourself.

So nice to be reminded that what I see day to day is not what is really all that’s going on.

Irises! The un-old lady flower.


Purple Streaker- From Hopefoote on Flickr

This may be a little early but it needs to be known! For years I have poo-pooed on the Iris name. When Irises make their debut this year, hopefully more people will be waiting to enjoy their beauty!

My name for Irises once was, “The Old Lady Flower.” Irises were one of those transient flowers that old ladies in gardens fussed over, but really, did not appeal to me.  And of course, as always, when I make uninformed generalizations, I am schooled…. this time by the old lady.

Not in any subtle way, either. Not in the, “Oh, maybe I just didn’t really understand, it’s not that bad.” But more like, “What kind of rock have I been under? I’ve been ridiculous! Why don’t I learn to shut my mouth?!”

Irises are amazing. AMAZING. And it took a trip last year to the Presby Memorial Iris Garden in Montclair, New Jersey to figure that out. It is a humbly designed garden with rows and rows of beds packed with 3,000 varieties of the world’s Irises. Really unbelievable.

Even more unbelievable was that I had forgotten my camera. Imagine my joy when I stumbled upon Hopefoote, Ambassador of Wow’s Photostream on Flickr that documented several year’s growth of this very same garden. YES! You can check out Hopefoote’s entire stream here. It is all about the irises.

For info on growing Iris (which I will immediately do so that soon I will be the old lady fussing over irises). There’s some good info at the Schreiner’s Iris Garden Site. Very good stuff. If I had just jumped into it, from the looks of this site, I would be making several mistakes.

Enjoy Hopefoote’s and others’ work. I went a little nuts.

Iris Antares- By Hopefoote, Ambassador of Wow


Iris 'Caesar's Brother'- by Beautiful Rust (Flickr)

I love this one. It looks like insect wings.

Iris 'Crackling Caldera' by Hopefoote, Ambassador of Wow

This is one of the varieties I had put a crazy amount of stars next to in my brochure.

Mystery Orange Iris- by Hopefoote, Ambassador of Wow

Fluffy, frilly goodness!

by Hopefoote, Ambassador of Wow

Iris 'Happenstance' by Hopefoote, Ambassador of Wow

These colors are nuts!

Iris 'Iriquois Scout' by Hopefoote, Ambassador of Wow

Iris 'Carnival Time' by Alwyn Ladell (flickr)

This is another one I starred like mad. It’s the brownish/ orange variety in the back.

Iris 'Let's Elope' by Hopefoote, Ambassador of Wow

Anything you want, Iris.

Iris 'Morning Frost' by Hopefoote, Ambassador of Wow

Iris 'Noob' by Hopefoote, Ambassador of Wow

This is my favorite. Most likely because its name is Noob. noob….. noob.

Iris 'Peppermint Cream' by Hopefoote, Ambassador of Wow

Iris 'Rigamorole' by Hopefoote, Ambassador of Wow

Iris 'Rigamorale' by Hopefoote, Ambassador of Wow


Iris 'Sea Power' by Hopefoote, Ambassador of Wow

Iris 'Solar Fire' by Hopefoote, Ambassador of Wow

Hello Dahlia.

It’s time for dahlias. We are verging on Western Washington’s  yearly color explosion of happy dahlias. I recently stopped by Skagit Heights Dahlia Farm to see the party and thought I would share.

Dahlias look delicious. I can’t find any other way to explain them. The way a dahlia can flush from cream to pink at the tips, or the perfect round curl of a pom pom petal just makes me want to put them in my mouth. (don’t worry Skagit Heights Dahlia people, I restrained myself)

Dahlia 'Pink Sensation'

Dahlia 'Switzer's Kerkrade'

Dahlia 'Fidalgo Black'

I stopped by on an overcast day in August after it had rained (we are never safe from the rain…not even in August).  Instead of looking droopy and sad, the flowers looked extra voluptuous, sucking in all that moisture and standing tall and turgid. The indirect light made the magentas and cool tones glow.

Dahlia 'Mingus Toni'

Dahlia 'Precious'

I wonder if a cool, rain saturated dahlia, to a cow in summer, would taste something like a ‘Big Stick’ popsicle. Cool, bursting with refreshment, bright, fruity and delicious. I think, yes.

Dahlia 'My O My'

Dahlia 'Patty Cake'

I love this one. It is referred to as a ‘waterlily’ shape. I also love the dark foliage and simple shape of  ‘Sunshine’

Dahlia 'Sunshine'

Dahlia 'Foxy Lady'

Dahlia 'Vienna Waltz'

Thank you Skagit Heights Dahlia Farm. Your flowers look delicious.

By the way, if you are using dahlias in a flower arrangement, the best method I’ve learned to ensure they last as long as possible is to do the following:

  • Cut dahlias early, early, early in the morning (oh and shake out the earwigs. Ew.)
  • Put cut stems into containers filled with a couple of inches of boiling water.
  • Let the flowers sit in the water for about 2-4 hours.
  • The stems will look kind of brown but that is okay. Cut them again if you need them shorter and they should last.

Smell This!

No, really. You’ll like it.

Tis that time of year where I head off to Cedarbrook Lavender & Herb Farm for the annual Sequim Lavender Festival happening the 16th, 17th, and 18th of this month. And what better time than now for me to plug my parent’s farm.

I won’t tell you about the quite amazing farm cats, the most amazing burger mastered by my pop, the fact that, yes, upon entering Sequim, the skies do open and it IS sunny (even though a cloud may be dumping on your head on the mainland), the adorable quail babies…

… but the flowers…. will… be… fantastic…. Especially this year, the flowers have all been preparing themselves to be ripe with beauty just about the time you and I roll in. I stopped by last week to take a few pics of what you can expect.

This Folgate lavender is one of the most vivid purples and is our best culinary lavender. It is also a great landscape plant! That’s green santolina in the back.

Green Santolina ready to burst.

This plant is Ballotia. It is organized into fuzzy tiers of a beautiful mint/ light lime color. I love this plant because of its long lasting beauty. It’s received a large serving of neglect in my yard and has performed wonderfully. I love using this plant in bouquets.

This plant was new to me. I’ve never noticed it before. It’s burnet and is edible like a lot of the plants in Cedarbrook’s Garden. My parent’s use herbs from their gardens for cooking and garnishing the dishes in their restaurant.

Some weird curry? Smells like it. I tried using this in a floral arrangement last year. No bueno. But it does look great in the landscape.

Fennel! Delicious AND beautiful.

This is another of my all time faves. AND Cedarbrook is the only place I’ve ever seen it sold. It is an ornamental oregano called ‘Kent Beauty’. It is so lovely that people gasp when they walk by it. It is so delicate and fabulous in hot spots and containers.

More Folgate (an angustifolia, by the way).

With the recent heat, I bet these peonies will be popped. The peonies on this farm are nearing forty years old. Forty years. And I’m fairly certain it gets nearly no maintenance. Its roots are probably shakin’ roots (that’s how plants meet, right?) with the heritage pear clear across the garden.

This adorable little Spanish lavender is tender but so cute in containers. It is L. stoechas ‘Pinnata’.

Here is a more robust Spanish Lavender with flower heads like big fat bumble bees. Which reminds me, bees love lavender but fear not! Through years of wrassling bee laden lavender plants at harvest time (sometimes up to 40 bees per plant), I have yet to be stung. Our honey guy says they are drunk off of nectar and if you are nice about shoo-ing the happy flyer, they don’t bother you.

This is one of my favorite lavenders. It is L. angustifolia ‘Royal Velvet’. I love its mid length stem, great landscape size, and neatly organized whorls of buds.

You say agressive, I say easy to grow. I never get sick of Stachys.

Thyme! Again with the delicious and beautiful.

The flowers and festivities are worth checking out. And where will I be during all this? Spreading landscape design advice? Creating gorgeous flower arrangements? No. You will find me at the food hut pushing sammies, herbed sodas, and lavender lattes. They will also be delicious and beautiful.

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