Sweet peas from Jello Mold Farm at the Seattle Wholesale Growers' Market

Sweet peas from Everyday Flowers at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market

Sweet peas from Jello Mold Farm

Sweet peas from Everyday Flowers Farm

“Here are sweet peas, on tip-toe for a flight,
With wings of gentle flush o’er delicate white,
And taper fingers casting at all things,
To bind them all about with tiny wings.”
— John Keats, from “I Stood Tip-Toe Upon a Little Hill”

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I loved seeing the array of colors in the sweet peas at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.  Their ruffled petals really do look like flushed wings, as Keats so aptly observed.  And their tendrils look like wayward calligraphic lines, ready to bind those wings from actually taking flight.

I had the opportunity to visit Jello Mold Farm recently and was rewarded by the sight of a greenhouse full of sweet peas.

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I wish I could do a better job capturing sweet peas with my watercolor paints.  Sometimes, even when I paint something over and over, I don’t seem to be improving.  Aargh!

Sweet pea studies ( a few good ones in there)

Sweet pea studies ( a few good ones in there)

Bucket of sweet peas

Bucket of sweet peas

Latest watercolor sketch of sweet pea bouquet

Latest watercolor sketch of sweet pea bouquet

 

 

Seattle Wholesale Growers Market

Seattle Wholesale Growers Market

This morning I stopped by the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market after dropping  my daughter off at the airport for an early morning flight.  There were buyers lined up at the door at 6 o’clock when the Market opened.  It has been a while since I last visited and things have changed — new vendors, rearranged spaces, new market manager.  But the selection and quality of the flowers is as spectacular as always.

I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible while I took a few photos.  Here they are:

Peonies

Peonies

Peonies

Peonies

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Calla lilies

Calla lilies

Poppies from Jello Mold Farm

Poppies from Jello Mold Farm

Poppy seed cases

Poppy seed cases

Sweet peas

Sweet peas

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“Life is just a long succession of small epiphanies.  You need to stop and seize them.  By making art, you will be recording what you are living through and what you are learning about.  A drawing and a sentence or two in a sketchbook turns those everyday moments into something significant.  Your art will set a frame around it and give you perspective on what really matters.  Over time you will build up a book of memories — a true record of what’s important in your life.”
— Danny Gregory, Art Before Breakfast

This is indeed what drawing and painting does for me — turns everyday moments into something more.  (And creating blog posts about these ordinary moments does the same.)

Watercolor sketch of a bucket of sweet peas

Watercolor sketch of a bucket of sweet peas

Another watercolor painting of sweet peas

Another watercolor painting of sweet peas

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“The exceeding beauty of the earth, in her splendour of life, yields a new thought with every petal.  The hours when the mind is absorbed by beauty are the only hours when we really live, so that the longer we can stay among these things so much the more is snatched from inevitable Time.”
— Richard Jeffries

Poppies, Jello Mold Farm

Poppies, Jello Mold Farm

Watercolor sketch of poppy

Watercolor sketch of poppy

I have a terrible track record with painting outdoors, especially if I have my camera along and know I will be taking photos, too.  I find it easy to pull my camera out and snap shot after shot, but it feels like a hurdle to set up my watercolor supplies. Countless times I have carried my painting supplies with me on trips and outings and left them in my bag, unused.

No, now when I think about it, it is not the physical act of setting out paper, water and paints that proves difficult — it is the mental adjustment I need to make before painting . Slowing down, forgetting to feel self-conscious, becoming absorbed, etc.  All processes that I find easier to embark on in the privacy of my home when I am alone.

But I do want to get better at painting en plein air.  So I packed my little palette of travel paints, a sketchbook, a brush, and a water bottle in readiness for my daytrip to Jello Mold Farm.  On the drive up to the Skagit Valley, I thought I might set a goal of painting 12 sketches in one hour, an exercise to free me up because I would have to work too fast to think much.  And then I discovered that I had not packed any pencils, so I had to skip my usual step of making a light pencil drawing before applying the paint.  This was going to be a day of experiments!

Here are my sketches from Jello Mold Farm.  I simply could not sustain my focus beyond seven sketches, so I stopped.  Still, it was rewarding to have made an attempt at working outside.

Watercolor sketch of poppy and pods

Watercolor sketch of poppy and pods

Watercolor sketch of poppy

Watercolor sketch of poppy

Fallen poppy petal

Fallen poppy petal

Watercolor sketch of poppy petals

Watercolor sketch of poppy petals

Poppy seed pods

Poppy seed pods

Watercolor sketch of poppy seed cases

Watercolor sketch of poppy seed cases

Sweet peas

Sweet peas

Watercolor sketch of sweet peas

Watercolor sketch of sweet peas

Another watercolor sketch of sweet peas

Another watercolor sketch of sweet peas

 

 

 

 

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Ed and Mary Epps' backyard garden

Ed and Mary Epps’ backyard garden

Sunday’s “Let’s Sketch Bay View” gave a few of us the added pleasure of a mini-garden tour by Ed Epps.  He and Mary have garden plots on all sides of their home, with plenty of places to pause and enjoy the variety of colors, patterns, and natural forms.

Rarely have I seen such exuberant variety in a garden.  Ed seems drawn to all manner of flowers and plants — from the odd voodoo lily, to the uniquely colored chrysanthemum ‘bright eyes,’ or to the more traditional sweet peas and poppies.  Something lovely is always in bloom, and each plant is worthy of joyful attention.

Desicated bloom of weird voodoo lily

Desiccated bloom of weird voodoo lily

Chrysanthemum 'bright eyes'

Chrysanthemum ‘bright eyes’

Sweet peas

Sweet peas

Poppies

Poppies

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Ed and Mary’s garden exhibits all manner of things done well, but surpassing all is the celebration of foliage.  The foliage provides its own beauty in the variety of colors, textures, and structures it displays.  I was particularly taken with the jagged-leaf melianthus, whose early leafings are folded like intricate origami (another of Ed’s interests), and whose mature leaves bring intriguing spikiness to the garden beds.

Melianthus leaves, folded like a miniature origami fan

Melianthus leaves, folded like a miniature origami fan

Melianthus

Melianthus

Melianthus

Melianthus

The spiral of the rex begonia escargot

The spiral of the rex begonia escargot

The under leaf of the rex begonia escargot

The under leaf of the rex begonia escargot

Succulents

Succulents

I was also most impressed with the many ways Ed incorporated chocolate browns, deep dark purples, and (almost) blacks into the foliage and flowers of the garden.  It made me wonder if a chocolate garden, similar to Vita Sackville-West’s white garden, could be executed in an exciting way.  I imagine cafe au lait dahlias and black leaf dahlias combined with  . . . what else?  Ed would be the one to pull this off, I’m sure.

Black leaf dahlia with yellow bloom

Black leaf dahlia with yellow bloom

Thank you again, Ed and Mary, for opening your private gardens for the participants of Sunday’s “Let’s Sketch Bay View.”

 

 

 

 

The Georgetown warehouse of the Seattle Wholesale Growers' Market

The Georgetown warehouse of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market

“We tend to consider bloom to be the ultimate gift of the garden, but the structure is just as important. For example, the phlox is beautiful in its mass of foliage, even before the blossoms emerge.”
— Stanley Kunitz, from The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden

Kunitz finds metaphors for his poetry writing in his flower garden.  Here is one of its lessons:  “In a poem, the secrets of the poem give it its tension and gift of emerging sense and form, so that it’s not always the flowering in the poem and the specific images that make it memorable, but the tensions and physicality, the rhythms, the underlying song.”

So, too, one of the lessons I’ve learned from the flower growing experts at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market is that you can make a spectacular bouquet from stems, twigs, pods, leaves, and things scavenged from nature.  Blooming is definitely not all a plant can offer.  There’s plenty going on in all seasons of the year.

The Seattle Wholesale Growers Market is a farm-owned cooperative with a focus on local, seasonal, and sustainable flowers.  I dropped in last week and was pleased to see that the Market is growing.  It’s expanded its warehouse space and is gearing up for its busiest year yet.

Here are some photos from mid-May at the Market celebrating its “underlying song”:

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Sweet peas

Sweet peas from Jello Mold Farm

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And sweet pea vines

And sweet pea vines

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Calla lilies from Z Callas

Calla lilies from Z Callas

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Wildly exuberant branches, still bare

Wildly exuberant branches, still bare

I love visiting Jello Mold Farm, my favorite flower grower in the Skagit Valley.  I’ve stopped by in all seasons, but this week’s visit was the quietest by far.  The Skagit Valley’s annual tulip festival is in full swing, and the fields there are full of colorful blooms.  At Jello Mold Farm, in contrast, the flower beds are just now beginning to wake from their winter sleep.  One of my painter friends commented, “Talk about peaceful — it felt a bit like a ghost town because you could see how much work had taken place yet no one was there.  I would have thought the rapture had occurred . . .”

The greenhouses were full of plant starts and seedlings.  The flower beds were tidy.  It was as if everything was holding its breath, knowing that a few more weeks of sunshine and warm weather will bring on far too many tasks to keep up with.

Here are some photos of Jello Mold Farm in early Spring:

Bonnie displayiing the "lady in the bathtub" hidden inside a bleeding heart

Bonnie displaying the “lady in the bathtub” hidden inside a bleeding heart

Lovely, ruffled helebore

Lovely, ruffled helebore

Greenhouses open to the warmer temperatures

Greenhouses open to the warmer temperatures

Sweet peas just starting to blossom

Sweet peas just starting to blossom

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Young poppy

Young poppy

Dusty Miller

Dusty Miller

Bird in blossoms

Bird in blossoms

Old chestnut clinging to a tree

Old chestnut clinging to a tree

New leaves, chestnut tree

New leaves, chestnut tree

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A few early lilacs

A few early lilacs

 

 

“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!”

Zinnias

Zinnias

The blushing pink of Dahlia 'Cafe au Lait'

The blushing pink of Dahlia ‘Cafe au Lait’

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Beds of Scabiosa 'Dark Knight'

Beds of Scabiosa ‘Dark Knight’

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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

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Bee balm, Monarda 'Raspberry Wine'

Bee balm, Monarda ‘Raspberry Wine’

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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

Love-in-a-mist

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