Passions — a blog

Searching for New Wildflowers

Potentially new buttercup

Potentially new buttercup [Ranunculus sp.]. Klickitat Wildlife Area


It’s getting harder and harder for me to find a wildflower in the Pacific Northwest that I’ve never seen before. After spending two full years on the road looking for everything that blooms, and then another eight years continuing to look there’s not much that I’ve missed. I can add two more species to my list after a trip late last week.

Last Friday I had the pleasure of joining my friend Paul Slichter and some of his friends on a flower hike across a portion of the Klickitat Wildlife Area west of Goldendale, Washington in search of what may be a new species of buttercup. Continue reading

In the Pink with Columbia Desert Parsley

Columbia Desert Parsley blossoms

Columbia Desert Parsley blossoms

Columbia Desert Parsley, Lomatium columbianum, blooms early in the Columbia Gorge. Today, the first day of spring, it was at “early peak” along Washington Rt. 14 between Bingen and Dallesport.

This is one of those plants that is very common in those places where it grows, yet it has a very limited distribution. It’s prolific on both sides of the Columbia River in the area I visited today, essentially at the mouth of the Klickitat River.

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2014 Northwest Flower & Garden Show

'The Art of Upcycling,' a display garden at the NW Flower & Garden Show designed by my friend Judith Jones. Seattle, WA. © 2014 Mark Turner

‘The Art of Upcycling’ Display Garden

Every February gardeners throughout the Pacific Northwest make their way to Seattle for the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. We’re in need of inspiration, a push toward the delights of spring, and perhaps a chance to reconnect with old friends. Many of the garden designers repeat year after year so it’s fun to see what they’ve come up with that’s new and different.

The garden above, The Art of Upcycling, was designed by my friend Judith Jones, who I first met at the garden show more than 15 years ago. Her display garden won a gold medal this year. Judith owns Fancy Fronds, a specialty fern nursery in Goldbar, Wshington.

I’ve been photographing the display gardens, and creating a video slideshow, for the past few years. This year I took my brand-new Canon 5D MkIII camera for a test run in the low-light conditions of the garden. It’s amazing what you can get with an ISO setting of 12,800. Enjoy the garden video below, produced through the online service Animoto.

The Northwest Flower and Garden Show runs through Saturday, February 7. I’m speaking on the last day at 5:30 pm with a program called 50 Native Trees and Shrubs for Northwest Gardens in the Rainier Room. Come up and introduce yourself after the program if you’re in the audience.

Visiting with Santa: Sunday Edition

Max & Olivia with Santa

Santa loves talking with kids, hearing their wishes and asking whether their parents have been good, too.

Here’s a video slideshow of the kids who visited with Santa on Sunday, December 8 at Bellingham’s Holiday Port Festival in the Bellingham Cruise Terminal.

This is the fifth year I’ve had the privilege of photographing kids with Santa at the Holiday Port Festival. We see a lot familiar faces each year as kids come back again, a little more grown up each time.

Thank you, parents, for sharing your children with us and with Santa. The prints you ordered will be on their way to you soon, just as fast as we can get them into the envelopes, stamped, and in the mail.

Visiting with Santa: Saturday Edition

Here are the kids and families who visited with Santa on Saturday, December 7 at Bellingham’s Holiday Port Festival in the Bellingham Cruise Terminal.

We had a steady stream of visitors with Santa all afternoon. Some wanted photos and others just wanted to visit with the jolly guy.

I shot a handful of frames of each visitor with Santa and then chose my favorite. Those who ordered prints will have them later this week. My print order is at my lab.

Visting with Santa: Friday Edition

Each year since 2009 I’ve spent the first weekend of December photographing kids as they visit with Santa at Bellingham’s Holiday Port Festival, at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal in Fairhaven. We see quite a few children come back year after year. It’s fun to watch them grow up, and to share their wishes with Santa.

This video slideshow is of the kids who visited Santa on Friday evening, December 6, 2013.

Waterworks Canyon

It had been six years since my last visit to Waterworks Canyon, a gem of a place for early season wildflowers west of Yakima, Washington. This past Sunday I returned, this time with my wife, Natalie, and my son, Zach. Little had changed since April 2007, which is a good thing. This only significant difference is that a Washington Discover Pass is now required to park at the trailhead (Google map satellite view).

Bingen Lupines, Carey's Balsamroot & Showy Phlox

Bingen Lupines, Carey’s Balsamroot & Showy Phlox

The flowers were spectacular right from the beginning of the trail, which leaves Washington Route 410 about a quarter mile west of the junction with US 12 in Tieton Canyon a few miles west of Naches and Yakima. Pass through the gate and before you’ve made many steps the hillside explodes with brilliant yellow balsamroot, rich blue lupines, and bright pink showy phlox. These will be your showiest companions along much of the trail as you climb 1,000 feet or more up the canyon on a well-worn boot track, crossing and recrossing a small stream that sometimes disappears underground.

Ball-head Waterleaf

Ball-head Waterleaf


Most of the hike is on rocky ground in full sun, but there are a few sheltered and shady spots that hold a bit more moisture. Here you’ll find ball-head waterleaf and star-flowered false Solomon’s seal.

We also found patches of deep blue Menzies’ larkspur, pale blue trumped lungwort, and the last few blossoms on sagebrush buttercups. Prairie stars were thick on places, scattered among the grasses in others. Thompson’s paintbrush was just starting to show its yellow bracts, and linear-leaf daisies were still in bud.

Columbia Puccoon

Columbia Puccoon

There were numerous clumps of Columbia puccoon. This one, beside the stream, was among the nicest of them. This is a plant that nearly always grows in clumps like this. I can’t recall ever seeing just a single stem of it anywhere.

Western Rattlesnake

Western Rattlesnake

A special treat was encountering a small western rattlesnake along the trail. This guy (I presume it was a guy, but I didn’t try to determine its sex) was just a couple of feet off the trail in one of the wooded sections. I surprised it as I walked by, invoking the distinctive buzzing of its rattle. Natlie and Zach stopped below the snake and we all watched it for a while. I put my longest lens (70-200mm plus a 2x teleconverter) on my camera before photographing from a safe distance. This is not a subject I wanted to photograph up close with my pocket camera or iPhone. After I finished shooting Natalie and Zach stepped quietly past the snake and continued on up the trail.

I don’t encounter snakes of any kind very often when I’m out hiking, although when in rattler country I always keep my eyes and ears open for them. I would have been less surprised to encounter one out in the open among the rocks than in the woods. But I’m not a herptologist and don’t really know a whole lot about rattlesnake habitat and behavior.

Into the Woods

Sunday morning Natalie said, “let’s go for a walk in the woods” and I suggested we hike the loop trail at the Stimpson Family Nature Reserve near Lake Whatcom. It’s an easy 3-mile loop through nice old- and second-growth forest, perfect for a quick getaway on a morning when light rain threatened.

Beaver pond wetland

Beaver pond wetland

Just a tenth of a mile up the trail there’s a viewpoint to a large beaver-built wetland. This is the view from the trail, with the wetland framed by western redcedars, Douglas-firs, and red huckleberries. The wetland plants are still brown, not yet having started their spring growth in the cold water.

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Chuckanut Spring

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A few days ago I had a little time to kill between appointments in Fairhaven so I headed down to the North Chuckanut trailhead for Bellingham’s Interurban Trail to see what I could find. It was a glorious warm and sunny spring day, somewhat uncommon for late March around here. I didn’t have a lot of time so I didn’t hike far with my camera and tripod slung over my shoulder.

1300151 Unnamed waterfall along Interurban Trail. Interurban Trail, Bellingham, WA. © Mark Turner

Waterfall along Interurban Trail

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2013 Northwest Flower & Garden Show

On the Road to Oz

On the Road to Oz

The Northwest Flower and Garden Show, held in Seattle each February, is one of the world’s greatest garden shows. Here in the northwest it’s an event we look forward to each winter as the days begin to lengthen, buds swell, and the earliest flowers in our gardens begin to bloom.

The warm and dry environment of the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, all decked out with fabulous display gardens, welcomes gardeners from across the country to this annual extravaganza of garden theater. This year’s theme is “The Silver Screen Takes Root…Gardens Go Hollywood” and the garden designers did a good job interpreting this very broad and fun concept.

The first garden you encounter on the way into the show takes you on a journey to Oz, with Dorothy, the Tin Man, and a daffodil-filled golden brick road.

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