Tag Archives: wildflowers

A Big Blooming Surprise

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you know that I’m a big fan of native plants. Each spring, I comb the woods and fields for the first budding Calypso orchids, starflower, twinflower, white fawn lily and other favorites. But I’m not a flower snob: I find all plants fascinating. When I recently got an invitation to tour an Orcas Island iris garden at peak bloom, I jumped at the chance.

Charlie Carver's Iris Garden on Orcas Island

Charlie’s happy place: the iris garden he created on his 15-acres on Orcas Island

Like recalling the first blush of love, Charlie Carver vividly remembers when he first laid eyes on a wild iris while hiking in Colorado some 40 years ago. The graceful form, seductive petals and flirty colors stopped him in his tracks and changed his life.

He dedicated himself to begin seriously studying and collecting a wide range of iris cultivars, and quickly became an expert on their history and propagation. When Charlie moved to Orcas Island, he brought his beloved irises, cleared space for a large garden and began expanding his collection.

Parts of an iris flower

Parts of an iris flower

Charlie’s devotion to his plants is complete. He lives very simply so that he can pour his time and passion into his gardens. Nationally renowned among serious flower people as “Charlie the iris guy,” he’s currently Chair of the American Iris Society (AIS) National Collections Program where he’s on the leading edge of efforts to catalogue and preserve as many iris cultivars as possible.

Charlie’s personal Orcas Island collection has grown to more than 1,600 varieties of iris. Many are rare specimens and more than half are considered historic, meaning they were introduced more than 30 years ago. His special interest is in dwarf iris. He collects both standard dwarf bearded iris (SDB) which are 8-16” tall and miniature dwarf bearded iris (MDB) which are 2-8” tall.

What I expected to be a short tour of interesting plants turned into an entire afternoon immersed in the beautiful, exotic blooms, with Charlie providing an in-depth expert tour into the spectacular world of irises.

Below are photos of just some of my favorite flowers from his collection. Click on the photo to see the cultivar name. Even captured with just a cellphone camera, which doesn’t do them justice, I think you’ll understand why these remarkable flowers have now become some of the island’s most fascinating and beautiful imports. Enjoy!

 

Sandi Friel at Sucia IslandLooking to pursue your passion and live simply on Orcas Island? Contact me!

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Tiny Wildflowers on Orcas Island – Three Lesser Known Beauties

Sandi Friel - Orcas Island Real Estate brokerBy Sandi Friel
It’s easy to get excited about the riot of color on Yellow Island, or the many cultivated flowers beckoning bees right now. But if you slow down, look down, and take notice, there’s a miniature world in bloom too. Here are three often overlooked native beauties I found growing on our mossy knolls – all with very different growth habits.

Littleleaf Montia on Orcas IslandLittleleaf Montia | Montia parvifolia
This adorable mini succulent grows from a base of spreading rosettes, sprouting up tall thin stems which support delicate pale pink flowers May through July. The fleshy egg-shaped leaves are evergreen, sometimes with a reddish hue. Also known as Little Leaf Miner’s Lettuce (although I’m not sure why — it doesn’t resemble the Miner’s Lettuce plant at all), it was named for the eighteenth century Italian botanist Giuseppe Monti. It likes moist areas and flourishes amidst mosses in rocky outcrops. One of my favorites!

Chickweed Monkeyflower on Orcas IslandChickweed Monkeyflower | Mimulus alsinoides
Get out your magnifier to appreciate this tiny annual.  The small striking flowers are intense yellow with a prominent reddish landing spot to guide pollinators. They are prettier and daintier than their name suggests; monkey flowers are named after the grinning ape-like faces of the flowers. Also known as Wingstem Monkeyflower, it grows to a max height of 6 inches and likes moist rocky ledges.

Naked Broomrape on Orcas IslandNaked Broomrape | Orobanche uniflora
Another harsh-sounding name for a delicate beauty! I discovered this intriguing deep purple flower growing in a limited area amidst stonecrops, which it parasitizes in our area. A single yellow-throated flower blooms on a “naked” stem without leaves. The genus name Orobanch, from orobos (‘a clinging plant’) and ancho (‘to strangle’) alludes to its parasitic nature. There’s a British species that’s parasitic on Scotch Broom.  Appearing briefly in April and May, it seldom grows over four inches tall.

These are just a few samples of our miniature native wildflowers worth appreciating. So slow down, and take notice!

Looking to enjoy the simple life on beautiful Orcas Island?
Contact T Williams Realty – we’ll help you find your way home.

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Wild About Yellow Island

Posted by Sandi

Approaching Yellow Island - an 11-acre preserve owned by the Nature Conservancy. What a gorgeous day for a paddle!

Yesterday I finally did one of the San Juan Islands’ must-dos: a tour of  Yellow Island during the  peak wildflower season.  We hooked up with Jeff Zbornik, owner of Shearwater Kayaks, for an easy paddle from Deer Harbor. Wow! Now I know what everyone’s been raving about.

The island’s caretaker, Phil, who has lived there in a driftwood cottage for 13 years, said this is the most spectacular spring he’s seen. The extra rain and cooler temps have extended the camas flowers by a month, synching blooms with Harsh Paintbrush and Buttercup. The result: a dizzying combo of purple-blue, red and yellow. I hope to be posting a video soon; in the meantime you can see more photos at my husband’s website. 

Harsh Paintbrush, Great Camas and Buttercup. Some of the Camas were waist-high!

 

McConnell Rock connected by spit to McConnell Island; background is Deer Harbor and Turtleback Mountain

Things to know before you go:

  • No food or drink allowed on the island.
  • No restrooms.
  • No pets.
  • Stay on the trails.
  • A group of six or more requires permission. Call 206-360-4344
  • All of the surrounding islands are either private or off limits. But tiny McConnell Rock, just north of Yellow Island, is open to the public. Go at low tide so you can land on the spit that connects McConnell Rock and McConnell Island.
  • To go ashore Yellow Island, use the south beach only. 

There is some interesting history to this area. I will save it for another post. Meanwhile, this adventure reminds me why I love living in the San Juan Islands — so beautiful and so many cool things to do within easy reach (or paddle!)

Looking to enjoy the simple life on beautiful Orcas Island?
Contact T Williams Realty  – we’ll help you find your way home.

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