Whimsical, unexpected moments. They can change lives for the better. Certainly, narratives would be wanting without them, particularly when love is involved.
There is one such tale attached to the Dunn Gardens that dates back to 1927. In that year, Edward, the son of founder, Arthur Dunn, was a student at the University of Washington. During spring break he was appointed to drive his parents and some visiting aunts to California. (One is tempted to pause at this point and imagine the between-the-wars-scene; the adults formally dressed, both sexes in hats, the cumbersome vehicle with a honker of a horn, and the numerous bags stowed.) Outside of a flat tire, the journey was notable for its lack of drama.
The touring party stayed at a hotel at Grant’s Pass in Oregon and Ed Dunn’s whimsical moment took place at breakfast. Decorating the table was a generous vase of wildflowers: ‘dogtooth violets’ or erythroniums. Ed was smitten and it was a true love affair since it persisted. Subsequently, erythroniums were to become one of the wildflowers he collected most passionately and propagated in the woodland garden he developed on the Dunn property. Along with rhododendrons, they are his signature plants.
In the early spring of the year visitors to the Dunn Gardens will see drifts of erythroniums that are descendants of Ed’s collections taken from the wild. The most notable and common in the Dunn is E. revolutum, pictured in our accompanying image. The flowers are usually lavender/pink, although white is also known. Leaves of the plants are generally mottled and they tend to be more resistant than green foliage to the predations of slugs.
These West Coast natives thrive in deep, woodland moist soil. They grow from seed but the patience of the gardener is tested as the process of coaxing them along takes time-three to five years. Plus, it is easy to mistake the initial offerings for blades of grass. But once these plants reach maturity, the admirer is rewarded with a dainty flower with pointed petals, giving the air of a plant with a happy personality.
We have some E. revolutum seeds available at the Dunn Gardens if you would like to create an early spring show at your woodland garden in the future. Do know that the mature plants will be out very early in the year and will die down by late May.
Call Carolyn in the office if you would like to indulge in a moment of whimsy yourself and/or give the seeds away as a gift this year. She will be happy to accommodate you. (206) 362-0933. When your seeds sprout you can trace their history back to a hotel in Oregon in 1927. That is, indeed, a whimsical idea.