farmstand flowers for March 29th – Balm of Gilead

I remember my first Northwest spring. Every walk became a search for the source of a mysterious and captivating scent, my nose in the air and my eyes scanning the greenery instead of watching where I walked, with sometimes unfortunate results.

That scent has become a much-loved sign of spring for me. I now know what it is and have added it the farm bouquets for Friday, along with double tulips, anemones, ranunculus and daffodils. Happy Spring!

I cut the branches four weeks ago and forced the shiny, slightly sticky apple-green leaves in the greenhouse so we could enjoy them as early as possible. The shine is a wonderfully fragrant resin known as ‘Balm of Gilead.’ Those of you collecting this week’s bouquet at our farm-stand or Fiddlers Coffee will pass many wild trees of the source, commonly called black cottonwood.

I coppice a few cottonwoods on our farm so they make thin branches, nice for bouquets and within easy reach – black cottonwood usually grow up to 100 feet tall. The clean, sweet smell of Balm of Gilead is said to travel 100 yards, scenting the whole Northwest in April.

Balm of Gilead is used in everything from perfume and cosmetics to ink and other industrial applications. It is said to have analgesic, antiseptic and sedative properties, and it’s a key ingredient in propolis, those little orange superfood granules that bees make.

Black cottonwood buds for home use can be purchased on Etsy for $7 an ounce, but Northwesterners can collect our own, once we track down a tree. Check out for a neat blog post about making and using Balm of Gilead salve.

Enjoy the smells of spring everybody – lots more flowers to come!

It’s Spring – lambs and flowers time!

Meet Dot. She’s a big fan of local flowers and the smallest lamb I’ve ever seen. She’s a serious distraction from my work! Speaking of – the farm stand will be stocked for the first time this spring on Friday afternoon, March 29th. Stop on your way home for bouquets featuring daffodils, tulips, and ranunculus. Bouquets will also be at Fiddler’s Coffee at Exit 81, I-5.

Happy Spring everyone!

flowers in snow

Yesterday we battened down the hatches – covering everything in the high tunnels with frost blanket, winterproofing the chickens and sheep, shutting off the irrigation system – preparing for the cold and snow that arrived last night. But did that stop the flowers? Nope, it did not. Hellebores, ume plum blossoms, pink pussy willow, and the earliest icelandic poppy pods.

Muddy colors

Earl Grey larkspur, Mollie Rilestone sweet peas and Rosanne Brown lisianthus are examples of a floral trend of muted, “muddy,” dusty colors. Part of the appeal for me is the aura of “vintage” – Mollie Rilestone’s tea-stained petals even resemble the browned edges of old pages.

Mollie Rilstone – Photo borrowed from

I thought about this last week when the trailer for “They Shall Not Grow Old,” Peter Jackson’s colorized World War I film, made me and the rest of a roomful of jaded movie-goers sit up, drop their popcorn, and stare at the screen. The movie is said to “bring lost WW1 voices back to life;” by bringing color to scenes that were made remote by black and white, the soldiers of 1914 are suddenly living and breathing. It was pretty breathtaking.

Soft muted colors conjure a cosy nostalgia, putting things firmly in the picture frame of “the past.” I love them for this; but right now, in late January, I’m craving the vivid colors of this year’s spring, lit up by the sun.


We are deep in the dark season right now in the Pacific Northwest. I can’t complain – we’ve actually had quite a few partly clear days so far this winter. But when daylight only lasts til 4:30 and that light is fairly weak and watery, I stare at this picture of the farm on a sunny June day in hungry amazement. Looking forward to that bright summer and armfuls of dahlias!