Category Archives: Gardens

Farm Tour On Tap

Farm fresh produce and fall just seem to go together like
comfortable shoes. On October 5 and 6 thirteen Skagit Valley Farms invite you
to visit and discover where your food comes from. The Skagit Valley Festival of
Farms
runs from 10 a.m.-4p.m. each day with opportunities to  visit educational exhibits, take farm tours, view gardening demonstrations, taste mouth-watering samples, let your kids try farm activities and everyone can navigate corn mazes.
Best of all, the basic tour is FREE. Each stop may also have
prepared food or the produce, meat, dairy products, etc. that they are known
for available for purchase.

Here’s a brief preview of what you’ll discover on this tour.

At Taylor Shellfish on Chuckanut Drive in Bow, Wash.,
you’ll meet shellfish farmers, watch oyster shucking demonstrations, urge crabs
along in their own races, build a fairy house on the beach, see the world’s
only lighthouse made of oyster shells and taste steamed Manila clams or
barbequed Pacific oysters.

Stop by Samish Bay Cheese in Bow and taste the phenomenal Arugula Ladysmith cheese that Roger makes.

At Sakuma Bros. Farms in Burlington, take a tractor-pulled
wagon ride, find out what a raspberry machine is, take part in a pie eating
contest and sample fresh berries, chips and salsa made with locally grown
produce and honey from Belleville Honey Company.

Although the Tulip Festival has come and gone for this year, you can still find out all
about this beautiful flower at RoozenGaarde in Mount Vernon. Gather ideas from the experts on layouts and plantings that you can do in your own landscape. Let the
children try the scavenger hunt and before you leave, shop for bulbs and gardening tools.

Wineries, dairies, cattle ranches, produce farms and more complete the tour.

There’s so much to see you might want to spend the weekend.
I highly recommend Candlewood Suites in Burlington
as a comfortable option. Rooms have full kitchens so you can bring back your
bounty and eat it freshly cooked or store it in a full-size refrigerator.

 

Don’t Overlook Salem

Last week at this time I was touring Oregon’s state capital, Salem. Oftentimes, travelers concentrate on the big city of Portland, the coastal towns or the wine country of Willamette Valley when they consider Oregon as a destination. Consider Salem, also. Here’s why:

 

Just a few miles outside of town sits the lovely Bavarian town of Mount Angel. At the Glockenspiel Restaurant, local ingredients from less than a mile away, are the emphasis. That makes the entrees served taste a lot fresher and really brings something special to the table. Besides the tried and true German recipes like wienerschnitzel, I urge you to try their special cabbage, which takes the chef five hours to make. It will tantalize your palate. Then at the appointed time, go outside and watch the performance of the wooden dolls in the Glockenspiel tower alongside the restaurant.

For a healthy walk after dinner, head up to Mount Angel Abbey. Enjoy the gardens and the peacefulness.

Mount Angel’s largest claim to fame and what the townspeople put the most energy into is their Oktoberfest. This year is the 45th annual and runs from September 13-16. With all kinds of fun for the whole family, Oktoberfest celebrates the harvest and the bounty of the earth through live music, street dancing, a car show and more.

Gallon House Covered Bridge

On the way back to Salem, visit the Gallon House Covered Bridge, Oregon’s oldest covered bridge. It was named for the days when liquor was sold by the gallon or quart in a nearby house.

Gerry Frank’s Konditorei, with more than 40 flavors of cake and pastries, is a must-stop for dessert in Salem. Local favorite cakes include Barney’s Blackout, Chocolate Raspberry and Lemon Cream. I savored the seasonal Marionberry and highly recommend it.

Then for $1.50 you can’t beat the price for a ride on the old world-style carousel housed in a stately building on the banks of the Willamette River.

Salem makes a fabulous family vacation and every year right around this time it hosts the Oregon State Fair. Scones, funnel cakes, food on a stick…

Storytelling at Powellswood Garden

This is a heads up for an event scheduled for July 14, 2012 at Powellswood Garden in Federal Way.

 

I love to see our beautiful local venues diversifying to draw in more guests. It not only showcases the venue, but in this case some very good professional storytellers, too.

Experience storytellers from across the nation who mesmerize and entertain audiences of all ages in their own unique styles. From Seattle, Debra Harris-Branham conveys lively African-American folktales; Joe Hayes, who hales from the Southwest, specializes in bilingual Spanish-English tales of that region and Appalachian master teller Donald Davis brings his audience to laughter and sometimes tears with tales of growing up in North Carolina.

Read about the other storytellers performing on July 14 at the Powellswood Festival site.

Storytelling includes folktales, myths, legends and even tall tales. What better back drop for listening to these treasures than a garden full of colorful blooms and beautiful water features. What better way to introduce computer-addicted children to an ancient art.

And it’s a real bargain:  Adults $10, children $5 and a family ticket $20.

Heather Larson writes about the Pacific Northwest from her office in Tacoma, Washington hoping she can entice you to visit or share your own memories of the region.

Cue Sun and Tucson Botanical Gardens

Washington’s summer was one to remember, but not because of warm temperatures and clear skies. It made the record books when in July we’d only had 4 ½ hours of temperatures above 80 degrees. So we had to go some place where we could not only enjoy the sun, but also refamiliarize ourselves with it. We chose Tucson, Arizona.

Last week everyday the temperature in Tucson rose to the mid-90’s. It was heavenly.

Owl Butterfly

We stayed at the Embassy Suites in Williams Centre and the hotel offered a shuttle to any place within a five-mile radius. We took them up on their offer and traveled to the Tucson Botanical Gardens one day. What an interesting attraction.

To make it even more fun, “Butterfly Magic at the Gardens,” a temporary exhibit, is on tap until April 30, 2012. A vast variety of butterflies can be seen and may even land on you tickling your fancy. The “Owl” was one of my favorites as it has an “eye” on its wing that makes it look just like an owl. You can also watch the butterflies emerge from their chrysalis and hang until they are dry before being taken into the main butterfly house.

Butterfly exhibits seem to be fairly rare as they have to have specific controls on temperatures and enough personnel to answer questions and monitor the influx and outflow of visitors. If you get a chance to visit this one, you really should do so.

 

At the Botanical Gardens, five acres of regional plant life with 16 specialty gardens introduces you to the flora common to the Tucson area in a delightful and interesting way. I especially liked the Zen Garden and the Cactus and Succulent Garden.

Jaunt Up to Joe’s Gardens

For the freshest and most delicious produce around, a trip to Joe’s Gardens in the Happy Valley district of Bellingham is in order. They grow tons of different vegetables and more than 300,000 potted plants.

 

For something very special, try their Romano beans. The flavor is nothing short of amazing.

Joe’s Gardens has been around since 1933, which says a lot about their success.

Fall brings beautiful braids of garlic grown from seed brought to the U.S. from Genoa, Italy. Shallots, apples, pumpkin and Fall squash varieties line the shelves along with fresh fruits and vegetables. All the crops grown on site are grown without pesticides. Quality and flavor prevail instead of prolonged shelf-life in a grocery store.

 

And everything is affordable, but hurry – Joe’s Gardens closes mid-October.

Come back next year in early March for bedding plants, vegetable starts, potting soil and compost so you can grow your own bounty.

Apples and More at BelleWood Acres

Sansa, Sunrise, Zestar, Tsugaru and Pink Pearl. What do these all have in common?

John Belisle talking about some of his favorite apples

They represent just some of the varieties of apples grown at Bellewood Acres in Lynden, Washington. John and Dorie Belisle grow 20 different varieties of apples – some you might recognize like Gravenstein, McIntosh and Honeycrisp.

Besides being a working farm, Bellewood Acress also provides education to children and adults alike. A self-guided tour is offered that includes the orchard, packing shed, juice parlor, bakery and farm store. Each year in their garden, the Belisle’s grow something new. This year it’s Atlantic Giant Pumpkins, but because the Northwest has suffered from a lack of sunshine this year, the ginormous pumpkins probably won’t be that big.

At the packing shed they pack over 200,000 pounds of fruit a year. In the coolers you can see the sizing tables. The largest apples are sold in the Farm Store, medium-sized ones go to the grocers and the sweet little ones make their way to some of the local school districts.

A breakfast of hot, flakey apple turnovers and Bellewood Acres Bubbly makes a great start to your day

After learning about the farm and taking a tour, a visit to the farm store should be on your agenda. Apple pie, apple turnovers, Bubbly, peanut butter and gifts galore await you. I’m sure you’ll leave with lots of goodies for your dining table and maybe even some décor items. I know I did.

Eccentric Inventor First Lived at Arbor Crest Wine Cellars

Arbor Crest Wines not only taste good and satisfy the connoisseur, but their place of origin is stunning. The grounds have a panoramic view of the Spokane River, Liberty Lake, downtown Spokane and the Spokane Valley.

The Cliff House, rebuilt after a fire in 2009

The Cliff House Estate, a three-story Florentine mansion located on the property, was built in 1924 by Royal Newton Riblet, an inventor and mechanical genius. His patents included a pattern sprinkler system, a mechanical parking garage and the square wheel tractor.

Riblet and his seventh wife entertained many guests while they lived here. Their beautiful home plus the lush grounds made entertaining ideal with over four acres of terraced gardens, a life-sized checkerboard and a 6,000 gallon swimming pool.

In 1984 Arbor Crest purchased the estate which had been designated as a National Historic Landmark.

In 2009 the historic mansion was heavily damaged by fire and had to be rebuilt from the ground up. Many antiques were destroyed.

But now the renovation has been completed and Arbor Crest is back in business in a big way. One of this summer’s concerts boasted the largest attendance ever.

Life-sized checkerboard, you can actually play with

 

Close to 35,000 people visit Arbor Crest each year either for an event or for wine tasting. With its manicured gardens, the enchanted forest, the gorgeous three-story Cliff House and a separate wine tasting building, it makes an ideal venue for any event or just as a place to come and relax an sip some tasty wine.

Community Garden Summit: Tacoma Rocks

Last Saturday I attended the 2nd Annual Community Garden Summit, not knowing what to expect, because I missed the first one. The event made me even prouder to be a Tacomaite than I already was.

First it was totally free – from the workshops to lunch to the vegetable starts we were given at the end of the day. We were welcomed by our mayor, Marilyn Strickland, who told us that the number of community gardens (sometimes called pea patches) per capita in Tacoma has now surpassed those in Seattle.

We had a vast array of workshops to choose from during the day, such as composting, edible flowers, vermiculture, trellising, planting a food bank garden and much more. I chose to attend square foot gardening, container gardening and polycultures and perennial plantings.

The information on polycultures that Kelda Miller of Sustainable Tacoma Pierce gave out sounded really good to me, so I’m going to try it in my raised bed. Basically what polycultures means is that you grow plants together that complement each other in growth habit, nutrient uptake and water harvesting so that they actually care for each other. I’m going to try the four-season polyculture.

 

We actually planted a garden like this at the event so I got hands-on experience. Other vegetables and flowers can be used, but this is what I’ve chosen to plant. First you broadcast radish seeds in your bed, then daisy seeds which become beneficial insect attractors, next comes bush bean seeds for a nitrogen fix and last is carrot seeds for the carrot roots. Then you cover the whole mix of seeds with soil.

The idea is that all the seeds germinate at different times and grow at different rates, so you have constant crops through the fall. I’ll let you know how it works. It sounds quite easy, but I’m a very novice gardener.

 

Tip:  I just heard about a new web site today that is a luxury lifestyle magazine for Seattle. The publication is Seattleite. You might enjoy it – I know I did.

W. W. Seymour Conservatory Saved the Day

In an attempt to recover from the perpetual grayness that seems to have enveloped Western Washington for the past few months, I visited a garden in Tacoma – the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory in Wright Park in downtown Tacoma to be exact.

It worked. The beautiful, bountiful colors and textures of the flowers blooming in this indoor fantasy served to boost my mood dramatically. Surrounded by the yellows, oranges, apricot shades, pinks and magentas amidst lots of lush greenery, I wanted to stay all day and continue to drink it all in.

 

More than 200 species of exotic tropical plants make their home at the Conservatory, including the bird of paradise, ornamental figs, tropical fruit trees, orchids, ferns and bromeliads. Azaleas, Easter lilies, hydrangeas, begonias, tulips, cyclamen and chrysanthemums make the perfect backdrop for photo opps. or just for personal enjoyment. You, too, can escape into this soothing, fragrant exhibit any day, but Monday, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and it’s totally free, although the suggested donation is $5. We do want to keep it going.

The Conservatory and nearby Gazebo can be rented for small weddings or other events.

On the second Sunday of each month, you’ll be treated to live music – so not only will the experience be a treat for your eyes and nose, but also your ears.

 

You may not be alone when you go because the readers of the Tacoma Weekly voted the Conservatory ad the “best place to relax.”

For more information, visit www.metroparkstacoma.org and click on “Parks & Facilities.”