Jello molds with spider web

Jello molds with spider web

While I was in the Skagit Valley, I took a quick side trip to walk the flower fields at Jello Mold Farm.  It was a foggy morning, so instead of photographing in the morning light, I worked under white/gray skies.  But there was a surprising amount of color in the fields this time of year, especially in the dahlia beds.  Our warm weather has extended the growing season.  Here are a few photos from my fall visit:

Dahlia

Dahlia

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Monk's hood with spider web

Monk’s hood with spider web

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Jello Mold Farm

Jello molds decorate one of the garden sheds at Jello Mold Farm.

This weekend I returned to Jello Mold Farm in the Skagit Valley to see what a flower farm looks like in winter.  It is very much the dormant season, with the fields at rest.  But that doesn’t mean rest for the farmers!  Dennis was out making compost, and Diane was busy with her work spreading support for sustainable flower growing practices among local and regional growers.

Diane and Jello Mold Farm were recently featured on an episode of PBS’s “Growing a Greener World.”  I urge you watch the broadcast.  It’s a great introduction to the practice of local, seasonal, sustainable flower growing, and you’ll “meet” Diane, whose enthusiasm and passion for her work are infectious.  The episode  showcases some beautiful scenes from Jello Mold Farm during the summer when the gardens are a riot of color.

Winter at Jello Mold Farm has its own kind of beauty.  The palette is more subtle.  I’ll be sharing more photos from my visit in the next few days.  Here are a few to set the stage:

Droplets of melting frost sparkle on some netting over a flower bed-- enchanting!

View of snow-capped Mount Baker from Jello Mold Farm

Bed of sunflower stalks

Robin in corkscrew willow. I like how the branches frame the bird's silhouette.

Greenhouse, garden stakes, and chair

Roll of netting seen through the greenhouse plastic

Straw-covered flower beds

Bucket of string, ready for the new season

Garden stake

Plant starts through a greenhouse window

 

Work area by the barn, Jello Mold Farm

I’ve been to the Skagit Valley many times over the years to visit the large, commercial tulip and daffodil fields and bulb companies.  But this week I was delighted to tour a small, 7-acre farm that grows over 150 varieties of flowers for the cut-flower market.  Jello Mold Farm is nurtured by Diane Szukovathy, one of the founders of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, and Dennis Westphall.

We knew we had arrived at the right place when we saw this telephone pole decorated with jello molds (and spider webs).

Jello molds, whimsical emblems of the farm

Diane and Dennis are passionate about sustainably and locally grown flowers.  The U.S. flower market is dominated by imports from Columbia, and small flower growers are threatened.  The 18 growers (so far) who have cooperated in forming the Seattle Wholesale Flowers Market hope to inspire florists and their clients to buy locally.  To compete in this market, the local growers offer supremely fresh and quality cut flowers, local specialties such as dahlias that don’t travel well, and new products. For example, Jello Mold Farm sells branches with clinging crab apples or quince and chestnut foliage and spiky nut cases, which add interesting textures and colors to floral arrangements.

Chestnut leaves and spiky green nut cases

A basket of chestnuts

 

The carnations at Jello Mold Farm smell like real carnations. Imported carnations have been bred to have no scent.

Diane with carnation and coffee cup, out in the flower beds

After an introductory tour, Diane set us loose on the farm to wander among the fall blooms.  Here are some photos of my favorite Jello Mold Farm flowers:

Pincushion flower (Scabiosa caucasica 'Alba')

Pincushion flower

A bed of Scabiosa 'Dark Knight'

Scabiosa 'Dark Knight'

Dahlias

One of many varieties of grasses grown at Jello Mold Farm

Bed of 'Queen Lime' Zinnias

'Queen Lime' Zinnia

The leaves of this Smokebush plant glowed like stained glass.

The unfurled petals of this sunflower plant looked like Japanese furoshiki (folded fabric gift wrap)

And, this being the start of autumn, decorative pumpkins and gourds are in season at the farm.

Harvested pumpkins

I loved the pale salmon color and warty texture of this Galeux d'Eysines squash.

There were still a few pumpkin blossoms in the fields.

Princess pumpkins

Flower ties, Jello Mold Farm