Making A Show for Our National Parks-The 100 Year Cenntenial

As the Duchess Fair kicks off, it is time for the competition, floral displays to beautify the Horticulture Barn.  With a theme this year of ‘passport to the world’ I knew immediately only one idea I would create.   My passport is and always will be to any of our National Parks; the most awe inspiring places in the world.  There is no need to travel around the world when we have these magnificent places right here in America.   From Acadia to Yosemite, each having it’s own magic to take your breath.   This year is the 100 year centennial and John Muir would be proud for all these precious areas that have been saved.   The National Park Service has a great promotion to ‘find your park’ and I hope you will.

As always, everything I do is complicated.  Nothing good is ever easy my grandfather would say-he was right.  Whenever I see something easily put together I am not impressed.  Easy is ok-but complicated is great.  My first component idea was to recreate the National Park Service sign seen in every park;  and not a carnation thing but yet with all the detail made in natural leaves, twig, and moss. Yes, a nightmare of time.  I started with a picture.. then graphed it.. and then copied it meticulously with ‘gifts from nature’.


6 hours later I was searching in the yard for the 2 perfect branches to nail into a sign bracket.   From there the display was all clear in my mind.   Moms life size wolf, my precious white birch stump & logs, my old hiking boots (which I hiked through Yellowstone with), my backpack from Glacier, and moss, moss, and more moss.

my natparksign

A turtle here and a butterfly there, a found Montana  antler, and feathers from Muir Woods In CA  Easy peasy when you already love what you are recreating.  Which is why I always tell my students, ‘create your passion’as the design will come to you naturally.



Of course what better way to celebrate than with an arrangement of American grown flowers.  No South American or African flowers & goods here!





FYI-Bear grass grows wild everywhere in Glacier-hence why I stuffed my backpack with it.  Adding a vintage postage card finished it off.

I hope you all will get the chance to #FindYourPark in your lifetime as they are an unspoiled environment  just as Mother Nature intended.   There is a peace in this nature because we are nature.  The moss is our grandmother and the trees are our brothers.

“And that the sun shines Is beautiful as long as it is wild.” John Muir


Go find your park-and help save it

Lynn 🙂

National Parks Poached For The Floral Industry

As an environmentalist and eco florist, it is a 24/7 task of constant research and eye monitoring in all areas of the floral industry.  Just when it seems I have discovered and conquered one issue, 5 others  crop up and side wind me; again making me ashamed of my chosen field that I fight to preserve against all sort of forces; and I love so much.  To me, it must be akin to meeting the love of your life, and then through the years finding they have a double side to them that is dark and dirty, secretive, and just a plain lie. A side that challenges everything you believe in, thought you knew and trusted, and a side that violates you.  It is heartbreaking; and I am ashamed of myself for not investigating further on this suspicion I have harbored for the last 10 years when I was first told that, ” salal is an invasive tree in plentiful supply that grows everywhere out west”.   And I believed them.

This is how I feel this month after reading the Sierra Club’s account of yet another environmental assault because of floristry in the Olympia National Park in Washington state.  Photographer/writer Greg Bleakney* investigated the illegal pillage of millions and millions of tons of salal leaves, moss, bear grass, and conifer branches for the floral trade each year, illegally.  One more secret and heinous act for money.  These 4 products are stocked at every florist in the world, and 4 of my own favorite things to use on a daily basis.  They are highly sought after in Europe (especially by the Dutch designers) and evidently a lucrative, US export legal or illegally taken.  Salal leaf is included in every one of my hand tied bouquets, while bear grass wisps from each design.  The cedar boughs are a sacred aromatic as my must have woodland accent, and the moss is everywhere in my store.  All the evergreens touted “grown on west coast farms” are something I await anxiously each November.

A “licensed” picker of salal

 The center of this pillage is Olympia National Park.  A temperate forest and a jewel of the northwest that is home to a rare eco system of flora and fauna.  It was also the inspiration for the Twilight movies with its misty shrouds, and ancient trees dripping of moss and ferns. A place of wild and wildlife supposedly protected from any attack of human degradation according to the federal government. Along with what I always question as alleged, sustainable harvesting; there is a huge black market to fulfill the demand for 100 million dollars worth of 27 million pounds of salal exported each year.  Money and the environment, the constant war.  According to the expose, the Department of Natural Resources, private landowners and packing houses called brush sheds, issue local permits to legally harvest forest products in certain areas.

The Department however, is severely under manned (due to government cuts or I suspect also turning the blind eye) with only 8 officers to patrol over 5 million acres; doing the best they can.  This poaching is no different from the drug or animal trade, and operates the same.  When one set of poachers is caught, another set moves in.  The thought is I’m sure; with so many acres who cares if some is pillaged and it’s free?  But 27 million pounds is a bit more than ‘some’. That’s how the American buffalo disappeared. Thoughts of my favorite quote emerge; “every day we lose 116 square miles of rainforest, or about an acre a second.  And… how every day we will lose 40-100 species and no one knows if the number is 40 or 100.”**

A park officer surveys the damage of cedar from poachers for the floral trade

Just SW of the park is the Native American reservation of the Quinault tribe that Gregg quoted  reservation, resource protection officer  James Smith who reported  in 2010 the ravaging  of 40-80 acres of bear grass in just one season.   They are now hard pressed to find any quality, grass for even their basket weaving.  In the same year, a hunter came upon poachers who had destroyed two, separate, multi acre stands of trees taking 40,000 lbs of white pine boughs for the holiday wreath trade; leaving bare branches.  All I see in my mind are the massive stacks of bundled wreaths for sale everywhere in November, and now wonder if the trees were raped for our Holiday doors.  Worse, I further wonder if all the wreaths I have sold up to now have been from an honest, sustainable source or were they from an old growth forest.

A moss laden ancient tree is keep secret to keep poachers from finding it.

 And about the moss…When I was a young camper, even then I would always search out the moss beds.  They were soft, warm, and clean being a natural antiseptic.  This affinity for moss is still evident in the store as I use it every day in some design context or display.  Obviously, I am not the only moss lover as the amount taken for the floral trade every year is estimated in the “tens of millions of pounds”.  I am dismayed at the sheer volume of that figure.  We only have 60,000 retail & wholesale florist in the US, so I am assuming another export.  In Olympia it is pulled from the forest floor and stripped from the trees-with the tree bark.  It can’t possibly all be grown on moss farms as I am told-so again I ask myself; where are all these boxes of moss coming from really.  Moss is an ancient and important plant to the eco system, taking years to cover the ground.  As you well know, if you have ever had a shady spot in your yard; a 5 inch clump will take quite a while to grow to 3 ft.  I watch mine patiently.

A few summers ago, I was having a nice conversation with a Florida native about my stance on offering only ‘US grown” products and mentioned that my cut ferns are grown there.  He asked which farms they were grown on and when I asked why, he hesitated but told me he had worked around many of those farms.  After an awkward silence, he informed me that not all the ferns packaged in FLA boxes are created equal and they are actually supplementing their crops with South American grown and…. repackaging them in Florida.  He was a truck driver who delivered fresh products from the Miami airport.  That airport is the main eastern hub for imported flowers and plants from South America, and that’s exactly where these shipments were from.  I thanked this man for his time and conversation and walked away both deflated and elated that I had yet uncovered another secret.

You can learn so much by talking with people, asking questions, and reading even the most unlikely publications.  The Sierra Club is known for its environmental mindset so I read it faithfully; John Muir’s writings have always inspired me.  However, when I read this month’s issue, little did I know I would find anything related to the floral industry,  nor chatting with a man who I seemingly had nothing in common with, but yet who brought information unknown and so important to me.  I encourage, no I implore you to ask where your floral and plant purchases are from and who grew them.  85% of all flowers are grown outside the US while most of the houseplants come over the border from Canada.  Bryan Adams is a super guy, and I adore Celine Dion, but I wish the Canadians would keep their plants for their own-the journey here kills one third of them, and the rest succumb to big box neglect.

 I will again be sharpening my microscope to the chain of product in the store from now on and I will never assume anything again.  A mantra my Mother forever quotes; and another example of who to listen to and who not to.

Forever thinking of the trees,


Always I thank the


**my praise to photographer/writer Greg Bleakney

*** my admiration to David Orr professor of environmental studies Oberlin College….who wrote that 17 years ago, I can’t imagine the tally now

For Earth Day

This weekend is Earth Day; one of the most revered of days for anyone of clue and conscience.   Most think of it as just another day for the likes of tree huggers and old Woodstock goers; thinking it started with them, but it did not.

Our planet has supported its inhabitants in every way possible for millions of years; without its resources we would not be here at this very moment.  From the water to the trees to the soil and the bees …..there is no other entity that is more important to our existence; it is our friend, our enjoyment, our protector, and our life giver. So many scoff and so many more ignore; but it is an indisputable fact; we cannot survive without it, and if it is injured and sickened so will we be.  Just as you would protect and care for your loved ones, so should you the planet.

What seemed to me... a cathedral in Utah

I so often wonder how humans can be so selfishly blind as to take so much from something so giving and treat it with such disrespect and unconcern.  It is used and used and given back nothing; not even a considerate thought.  I urge you to sit for a moment wherever you are and take in any scene-your home, your business, your backyard, or your bedroom.    Any object you see has been enabled because of the planet.  Whether furniture, computer, your lunch, your clothes, your pool, or the scene out the window.  None of those things are possible without the help of the planet and its resources.  Think about that, I implore you to really think about it.

Imagine the impact if on this one day we all planted a tree, or we all did not cut a tree.  Imagine if we all unplugged our cell chargers from the outlet for just one day, or if we did not let the water run as we all brushed our teeth tonight.  Imagine if the cruise ships did not dump their waste in the ocean on just that day.

 Earth Day is just a single day of your life, once a year, to stop and thank this planet for everything it has done and struggles to still give us.   Are we not taught to thank when given a gift? And aren’t we ever so grateful for help with no strings?

There are a multitude of large and small things we can do in thanks, look around you and it will become clear…crystal.

            Five Easy Earth Day Thank You’s 

Turn off your car at a drive-thru

Creatively reuse something-at least once

Lower your thermostat 5 degrees

Buy one local (or at least US) grown product at the grocery

Flip your paper in the printer

Recycle your Sunday paper

 Look out the window, promise to do better and, say “thank you”.

 A simple quote from one of histories most famous environmentalists and my favorite mentor.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe.”  John Muir 1869

Seeing what John Muir saw

Happy Birthday Yellowstone

I hear so many talking about their vacations and excursions to the Caribbean and Europe.  These parts of the world are exciting with their own special places; however, one needs not leave American soil to see some of the most breathtaking places in the world.  A person could spend months traveling from one national park to the next; and I have a few in my camera already.

Yellowstone has been crowned our king of national parks, with each Season having a special virtue.  Winter is my absolute favorite time to be there-the serene beauty and solitude is truly inspirational at the very least; I felt what John Muir felt.
To be alone in the wild, with no sign of a modern world as far as you can see…is something each one of us needs to experience.  The winter silence is mesmerizing and you feel your connection and also…. your place amongst its power.  Life is put into perspective at Yellowstone; you quickly see that it is all, not about you, but yet we are just a miniscule part of Natures wheel.  You are humbled next to 1000 year old trees; your reverence rises the higher Old Faithful does, and snow encrusted buffalo gain your heartfelt respect at their strength and survival.  Who are we such little ants in this place, with no strength, power, or survival skills unless with a car and cellular phone.  A scenario where money is unknown, inconsequential, and of no use.

The skill and artistry of Nature so  outweigh ours that it is not even a contest; which is why  I expect man continues its quest to conquer it-but I do believe he never will.    We can clear cut mountaintops, dam rivers, and fly into hurricanes; but one visit to Yellowstone will show you just how small a part we are in this ecosystem and who really is in charge.  Yet, we seem to do the most damage.  The parks have had enemies of banks, railroads, mining companies, and timber barons.  Today we add more enemies of fuel companies, technology, and land grabbers to the mix.
Our entire country was like Yellowstone before it was settled and the Natives living there respected the land, they still do-never using more than needed and never for profit.   To them one cannot own land; but instead are stewards  to care and protect it.  Our responsibility.   A rare time in history when both Native Peoples and a government agency somewhat agree.

I have sat in the snowy solitude next to a steaming river, not 20 feet from an elk herd of nearly 30 members;  watching each other and wondering-but oddly not afraid.  I have respectfully stood behind a tree as a herd of buffalo passed just in front of me.   Winter nights are filled with the howls of wolves singing you to sleep.  You don’t fear, you gain respect.
When is the last time you experienced anything like this on vacation or… anytime?  It was one of the most awe inspiring events of my life, and I wish everyone would experience it.   Then you would see our kindred inhabitants,  and the wild and free, majestic surroundings.  It changes you; and you leave with a peace and enlightenment which John Muir called a religious experience-his religion.   Which it was; and it is mine.

Sitting with my Friends

Happy Birthday Yellowstone; I thank you for being there and showing us what is really important.   My birthday gift to you is a forever pledge to keep you safe.

Learn and see all our parks at the National Park Foundation and download your free National Parks Guide-because these parks do indeed belong to us.  Then put your own star and comments at your favorite park which just happens to enter you in the This is Your Land Sweepstakes  for a wild and free vacation.

Think wild….Lynn