Debra Prinzing

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Charm in the country: my early fall trip to Skagit Valley and Bellingham

October 4th, 2011

Isn't this border pretty? Corn, sunflowers, zinnias - all in a row!

 A few weeks ago, at the invitation of the Whatcom Horticultural Society, I spent a relaxing 24 hours surrounded by gardens, flowers and nature – as well the company of like-minded plant-lovers. 

“Why don’t you come up to my house on Wednesday morning and we’ll go see some gardens before you give your lecture?” my friend Dawn Chaplin suggested. With established Bellingham landscape designer Susann Schwiesow, Dawn organizes the monthly lectures for WHS. This is the third time over the years that the society has invited me to speak. It’s always enjoyable, especially since the drive to Whatcom County and the enticing gardens and kindred spirits make my trip north so pleasurable. 

After meeting up with Dawn, who lives on a beautiful bluff outside Stanwood with her husband David, we hopped in the car and traveled to Fir Island, a small, bucolic place that’s reached by a bridge, so you barely realize you’re crossing over Skagit River to a real island. We toured the timeless garden created by Lavone Newell-Reim and her husband Dick. I’m hoping to publish as a magazine story in the future, but I can’t help but treat you to a few of the luscious images from this very special, lived-in and loved-in landscape: 

To me, this is a perfect vignette, camera-ready for a magazine. Lavone and Dick have a natural gift for placing plants in community with ornamentation and salvaged materials.

A circular patio with a thyme garden at its center. Inviting!

Chartreuse at its finest - in twin conifers and a potted succulent.

 Charm in the country, continued . . .

Barn art: this wonderful, three-dimensional sunburst was crafted by Arnie Garborg, a local artist

Lavone holds colorful, speckled heirloom beans, and I brought some home with me!

Zinnias in an array of south-of-the-border colors on display at Hedlin's Family Farm.

NEXT STOP. . . After a fun lunch in the one-diner town of Rexville, Dawn drove the “back way” to La Conner. She wanted to stop by a U-Pick Flower Farm, complete with what feels like a mile-long Sunflower-Zinnia border along the corn fields – you can see that shot at the top of this post. 

Hedlin’s Family Farm is an organic venture with roots dating back more than a century. Today, with 50-plus acres of mostly edible crops in production, Hedlin’s offers a popular CSA program, a wonderful year-round farm stand and sells produce at several Seattle area farmers’ markets. Dawn and I couldn’t resist taking a self-guided camera tour of the growing fields. The Hedlin’s crew encouraged us to wander to our hearts’ content. 

Every time I decide I’m onto something completely forward-thinking and progressive with the subject of my book, The 50 Mile Bouquet, the local-seasonal-sustainable flower project I’m creating with David Perry (we formerly called it A Fresh Bouquet), I happen upon some hardworking, passionate folks who’ve, well, as it turns out, have been growing locally and seasonally, not to mention organically, for a century. Duh. 

Enjoy the photos and promise yourself a side trip to La Conner for the real deal

After our flower-break, Dawn and I continued on to Bellingham, driving along the very scenic Chuckanut Drive. Before dinner with a few of the WHS board members and my subsequent lecture and floral design demonstration, we stopped to visit yet another terrific garden! Anita George’s property is perched on the highest spot above Chuckanut Drive. Let’s just call it a steep hillside garden that would be daunting for anyone less determined to grow plants than Anita. 

First: the amazing view of all the islands one sees to the west

Second: we had a sighting of a baby barn owl in Anita's grotto. He was quite still, a little stunned at our attention, and majestic!

Later . . .  after all the creative stimulation of the day (!) . . . I thoroughly enjoyed my audience for my presentation on “A Year In Flowers: Local, Seasonal and Sustainable Floral Design:”

Thank you Whatcom Horticultural Society!

2 Responses to “Charm in the country: my early fall trip to Skagit Valley and Bellingham”

  1. Rex Boerma Says:

    This is a great country. And the idea of three dimensional sunburst is superb.

  2. jasonalonzo Says:

    Wonderful nature designs. This reminds me of los angeles landscape design of gardens.

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