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Warming the soul in greenhouses

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by MICHAEL DASHIELL
Sequim Gazette

Leilani Wood is all about positivity.

No gloomy books, no scary movies, no bittersweet stories.

After all, what can grow in the black hole that is negativity?

Wood is hoping to help others see the positivity and growth — personal and in their plants — as she hosts a pair of greenhouse gardening seminars on the Olympic Peninsula in mid-February.

The events are fundraisers for the Volunteers in Medicine of the Olympics medical clinic in Port Angeles.
While Wood says she hopes to help seminar attendees grow in their knowledge of greenhouses, she’s hoping for a little growth herself: She’s using the seminars as a dress rehearsal for the Northwest Garden & Flower Show in Seattle, Feb. 23-27, where she will be a featured speaker for the first time.

“It can do nothing but make me a better speaker,” Wood says.

Not that Wood is entirely out of practice.

The green-thumbed greenhouse authority is not only a veteran of the local garden club speaker circuit but also an active member of a local Toastmasters club.

“You should hear them — I’m there with authors, pastors, storytellers,” Wood says, beaming. “You see the growth and experience of others. There’s no book as eloquent.”

Finding her way

If there’s anything Wood loves to talk about more than plants, it seems hard to find. As she strolls through her Carlsborg-area greenhouse, she chatters about this plant and that, the temperature in which almost all plants stop growing (92-94 degrees), the benefits of cats (no rats, mice or moles), and the simple joy of taking part in helping plants grow.

“It might be a lot of work to own a greenhouse, but the rewards are,” Wood starts, then pauses to find the perfect words, “soul warming.”

A Northwest girl with family roots on the peninsula dating back several generations, Wood knew she wanted to live here permanently by age 6 and knew she had a connection with the plant world.

“Before I grew up I knew I wanted to know every plant on the side of the road,” Wood says.

She started college in Alaska, though, and explored several different career paths before finding a home in greenhouses.

She tried cartography.

“I didn’t pay attention — I was always looking outside.”

Then theater costume design.

“I’m not competitive. I couldn’t climb the ladder.”

Then wine-making, a path that took her to Wenatchee and a viticulture program that took up the better part of five years.

“A hundred and ten degrees in the vineyards?” she says. “I gave it a good try.”

She finally shifted her focus to Washington State University and a degree in ornamental horticulture and moved back to the Olympic Peninsula in 1991.

Now she says, “All I ever wanted to do was work in greenhouses, to be with plants, by plants.”

Wood sold plants out of the back of her truck for a couple of years until she opened Rainshadow Greenhouse. She ran that business for 10 years before selling the company.

Since then she’s kept busy hosting several seminars and workshops with Sequim Prairie Garden Club, Port Angeles and Port Townsend garden clubs and the Master Gardeners.

And she was a vendor for years at the Seattle Northwest Garden & Flower Show selling topiaries — trees and shrubs clipped into ornamental shapes.

She’d applied to be a featured speaker at the Seattle show as well but hadn’t been picked until this year.
She gave show officials three subjects she could speak about: topiaries, beneficial insect controls in greenhouses, and simply greenhouses.

They picked her for her greenhouse expertise.

Wood said about 280 people applied to be seminar speakers at the show. Just 125 were selected.

Common questions

Wood is moving about her greenhouse — now mostly empty but with a good number of nubile strawberry and kinnikinnick plants arranged neatly in rows on her counter — with a pace that’s not frenetic but efficient.

“I’m always propagating something,” she says.

Wood says people can grow just about anything they want in greenhouses but often they are not certain what they want to grow and they don’t know what kind of greenhouse they should get.

Greenhouses can be as big as one wants and as small as a 12-foot by 8-foot space, all depending on what one aims to grow, Wood says.

Her pride and joy is tomatoes. Using rope hanging from her greenhouse’s roof, she grows tomato plants that start producing in June all the way through November.

“I’m still eating tomatoes — in January!” Wood says.

Beyond providing sustenance for the stomach, greenhouses can provide food for the soul, too, Wood says.

“It cures the winter blues,” she says.

For more information about Seattle’s Northwest Home & Garden Show, visit www.gardenshow.com.

Reach Michael Dashiell at miked@sequimgazette.com.

 

 


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