Mid-July Vividness

July 13, 2014

Harvesting for market, Jello Mold Farm

Harvesting for market, Jello Mold Farm

“Mid-July comes and the palette of blossoms shifts to hotter colors, as if in their vividness they were reflecting the sun.”
— Verlyn Klinkenborg, More Scenes from the Rural Life

I saw some evidence of vibrancy in the flower fields at Jello Mold Farm this past week.  The deep reds and oranges of the crocosmia, poppies, and sneezeweed glowed in their jeweled presence.  And the sunny yellow sunflowers were starting to burst into bloom.




Crocosmia with hummingbird

Crocosmia with hummingbird





“How shall I live?”
—  Jeanette Winterson, Art [Objects]:  Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery

Watercolor sketch of sneezeweed

Watercolor sketch of sneezeweed

“To live for art . . . is to live a life of questioning.  And if you believe, as I do, that to live for art demands that every other part of life be moved towards one end, then the question ‘How shall I live?’ is fierce.  The choices I am making are choices that allow me to go on working at maximum output and with utmost concentration.”
—  Jeanette Winterson, Art [Objects]:  Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery

Here are the choices I am making right now:

  • To blog only when I have something that I consider of value to share.  To stop straining to fill the calendar with daily posts.  (If I strive to live a more thoughtful, artful, imaginative life, then I hope to have lots to share.)
  • To buy good running shoes and resume my long defunct practice of running around Green Lake every morning.
  • To eat smaller portions and lose 25 pounds.
  • To paint something on each of my days off work.  (It’s still a challenge to maintain any momentum even painting these three days a week, but I believe steady practice will be productive in the long run.)
  • To eat from the freezer and pantry and then restock lightly and thoughtfully.
  • To get rid of stuff.
  • To begin a year of reading about art and artists.

What choices are you making these days?

“The earth laughs in flowers.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I must have flowers, always, and always.”
— Claude Monet

Truck in the flower fields, Jello Mold Farm

Truck in the flower fields, Jello Mold Farm

There was so much to see at Jello Mold Farm at this time of year.  It’s a busy time for flower growers.  These Skagit Valley flower fields were bursting with exuberance and beauty.  Zinnias, dahlias, sunflowers, bee balm . . . they all shout “summer!”



The blushing pink of Dahlia 'Cafe au Lait'

The blushing pink of Dahlia ‘Cafe au Lait’



Beds of Scabiosa 'Dark Knight'

Beds of Scabiosa ‘Dark Knight’


Scabiosa 'Fama White' contrasts nicely with the 'Dark Knight'

Scabiosa ‘Fama White’ contrasts nicely with the ‘Dark Knight’

Harvested sunflowers at the start of the trek to the warehouse

Harvested sunflowers at the start of the trek to the warehouse

Sunflower, Jello Mold Farm


Bee balm, Monarda 'Raspberry Wine'

Bee balm, Monarda ‘Raspberry Wine’


View from the end of the row

View from the end of the row

Sneezeweed Helenium

Sneezeweed Helenium

Cutting raspberry canes for filler in bouquets

Cutting raspberry canes for filler in bouquets

Chestnuts for texture

Chestnuts for texture

Seed pods, love-in-a-mist

Seed pods, love-in-a-mist



And always, flower gardens remind me of time passing . . . for everything there is a season.

The last sweet peas

The last sweet peas

Last of the sweetpeas

And the last poppies

And the last poppies




















Nothing lasts forever

“Nature reminds us that we cannot hold on forever.  Only with letting go can new life come. . . . So autumn always makes me wonder what I am holding on to.  What is it that I am afraid to let go of? . . . What must be put aside so that spring can arrive?”
— John Izzo, Second Innocence:  Rediscovering Joy and Wonder

You certainly get a sense of time passing when you see the withering and decaying flowers in the flower beds at Jello Mold Farm.  A few valiant blooms stand bravely in their last days.  Come with me for a walk in the flower fields as Jello Mold Farm prepares for winter.

A few sunflowers brighten the fields.

Sunflower bed, Jello Mold Farm

Dahlia beds

I love the plum-colored and dark-toned petals of this dahlia.

Sunset-colored foliage

Red fruit

This artichoke looks like a spiked bludgeon from medieval times.

Pick up in the flower fields, Jello Mold Farm

Luminous hydrangea leaves

Pumpkin patch

Pumpkin with black & white focal effect

Spent sneezeweed bloom

Time to let go

Lingering last days of sneezeweed in bloom

“The days may not be so bright and balmy—yet the quiet and melancholy that linger around them is fraught with glory. Over everything connected with autumn there lingers some golden spell—some unseen influence that penetrates the soul with its mysterious power.”
Northern Advocate

You can see in the many colors of the sneezeweed beds the gradual letting go, the change from summer splendor to the dimming of winter.

Sneezeweed in October

Sneezeweed in its final days of glory

Watercolor sketch of sneezeweed

And another watercolor sketch of sneezeweed




Exhibit of my watercolor sketches at the Elisabeth C Miller Library

An exhibit of my watercolor sketches is now on display at the Elisabeth C. Miller Library at the Center for Urban Horticulture in Seattle.  The exhibit, which runs through September 28, is available for viewing during the library’s normal visiting hours.  Please check this link for hours and driving directions.

I spent a delightful couple of hours yesterday morning with a group of six women who drove down from Bow, Washington to see the show.  This is the first time I’ve actually met new friends through my blog, and they are each kindred spirits — some painters, a couple of librarians, some with ties to the Midwest, fellow travelers.   I am touched that they made the effort to see my work and it was a real pleasure to meet them.

Magnificent bouquet from the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

I was also very honored to see a stunning bouquet from the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market delivered to the Miller Library to celebrate my show.  The bouquet is so beautiful, and it is such a thoughtful gesture of support from my friends at the Market.  The bouquet was quite a showpiece of local, seasonal blooms — I was tickled to see a stem of blackberries tucked in among the flowers and greens!

Display cases show sample blog posts, some photographs, and tools of my trade — watercolor sets and journals.

The framed watercolors are arranged by season — spring, summer, fall and winter.

I invite you all to stop by the Miller Library to see my show.  And to spend some time visiting this wonderful horticultural resource in the city.  Tomorrow’s blog post will take you along the trails of the Union Bay Natural Area adjacent to the Miller Library.  And Friday’s post will introduce you to the Otis Douglas Hyde Herbarium, also part of the Center for Urban Horticulture.  I’ll close here with some photographs from the demonstration gardens.


This purple trumpet flower is called “the devil’s trumpet,” or datura

Bed of sneezeweed

Sneezeweed, so much variety in one bed



I loved the range of colors here, too.

A hanging curtain of green

Looking through the curtain

Grape leaves like stained glass


Bed of sneezeweed in bloom

Sneezeweed flowers

I haven’t been painting as much as I’d like in the past month, so it felt good to take up a brush again.  Here are my first attempts after a long break:

My work table

Watercolor sketch of sneezeweed

Another watercolor sketch of sneezeweed





Diane Szukovathy of Jello Mold Farm checks an order at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market

You have to get up early to catch the action at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.  The doors open at 6 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and by 6:30 a.m. the warehouse is already a whirl of activity.  Florists and buyers arrive at sunrise for the freshest blooms.  I can image the local growers on the road in the pre-dawn darkness hurrying to get their flowers to market in time for this buying rush.

Seattle Wholesale Growers Market is open to the public on Fridays from 10 – 2 (small fee for admission)

Ready to load up the car with new purchases

The back of another florist’s truck

This has obviously been a good year for our local flower growers, and it is gratifying to see the market flourishing.  Summer is a season of abundance in the flower fields, and inside the warehouse was a bounteous array of choices for bouquets and floral arrangements.  Here are some photos:

The morning sun casts a shadow through the open warehouse door.

Nicole, the front desk manager, greets buyers and keeps the operations flowing.

Oregon Coastal Flowers section of the warehouse

Such an assortment of colors and textures for unique floral arrangements

Deep purple calla lilies lined up for purchase, Oregon Coastal Flowers

Buckets of calla lilies, Oregon Coastal Flowers

Floral lamp shades, J Foss Garden Flowers

Green and orange gladioli, J Foss Garden Flowers

Calla lilies await wrapping

Wrapped and ready to go

Wrapping supplies

A buyer backs up to the loading dock for her purchases

Dahlias in yellow bucket

Sneezeweed assortment in brown wrapping paper


Check out counter

Fallen blossoms and petals on the loading dock

Scabiosa, Jello Mold Farm

The loading dock at 7:30 a.m. — the early morning rush was over.