Standing from Mikel Townsley’s flower stand, visitors can see the Dungeness Spit, then turn around and see the Olympic Mountains.
Poking your head in to pick a bouquet, you might smell sweet peas or catch the fireworks-effect of dahlias for a nominal price.
Whether the flowers go to the dinner table or to a loved one, Townsley said she’s “not trying to go into a big business here.”
“I just want to make people’s days better,” she said.
For the 34-year-old Sequim High grad, Townsley said her Cays Road garden is a way to handle the stresses of the day, to take on adversity we face and overcome, and sometimes not.
Since May 2017, Townsley has worked as the patient navigator — and for the last few months also as supportive care lead — for Olympic Medical Cancer Center helping coordinate its many elements of social work. She interacts with countless patients at various stages of treatment seeing some for upwards of three years, she said.
“I don’t work for a paycheck,” Townsley said. “I care about offering people a meaningful experience that are being seen and advocated for.
“You think about those people’s lives all the time. Some people are better at doing that than others.”
For Townsley, her stress relief was going for runs.
“It was my way of processing the day,” she said.
Townsley would run in Dungeness or closer to the mountains. She also did some mountain biking too, but a health issue and advice from her doctor led to a dramatic change in her lifestyle and into the garden.
“I just came to this place. It’s heavy and I wanted something light,” she said.
“It was a polarity. In this process, I want to put my hands in the dirt and create something for these people.”
Little house by the bluff
Before the garden came the seed of an idea that she’d eventually live at her house now at 2680 Cays Road.
Townsley moved to Sequim/Dungeness in third grade with her mom Victoria and older brother Gavin, who now lives in San Francisco, Calif. They lived nearby on Victoria View Street and they often went by the little house.
“When I was in grade school, I remember telling my mom I was going to live there someday,” she said.
About two years ago, Townsley was living in West Port Angeles but looking for a place in Sequim. She had two priorities for the new home: a fenced yard for her dog Tucker, and living close enough to ride her bike to work.
She met the homeowner Ruth Beach, who had rental properties with her husband Glenn, and they went to the first vacant house. While the home was beautiful, it didn’t have a fenced yard, Townsley said.
So they went to the second, and on the drive out, she remembers saying, “’Oh my gosh!’ I knew it was the same place!”
Now living in the 1938 farmhouse, she finds it has a lot of character and is “funky.”
When she moved in, the landscaping went around the home and featured sage and Shasta daisies. However, in her line of work, the phrase “pushing up daisies” came to mind too often.
“I couldn’t have that,” she said.
So she dug them up and started anew.
Townsley knew she wanted to expand her garden after painting the house with some help from Glenn Beach.
A dividing fence went in Feb. 2019 to separate Tucker’s roaming area from the future garden. She rented a sod cutter and planted dahlias, her favorite, and sweet peas, which she says smell like “fresh summer mornings.”
This year, Townsley went all in with her garden filling her sun porch and dining room table with about 700 flower starts.
“It took a little while, but I got it all in the ground after a few weekends,” she said.
For the flower stand, she enlisted long-time friend Ryan Schaafsma, her best friend Arin’s brother, and their dad Tom to build a flower stand — on the condition Ryan receives a fresh bouquet each week for his vacation rental by owner.
The stand was built on July 4 and up on July 5. Some people stop by to chat or to buy flowers, or both.
“It’s really amazing how many people rubberneck driving by, or yell out the window, ‘Nice flowers!’” Townsley said.
Genetic green thumb
Plants were common around Townsley growing up with her mom being a horticulturist. She became more active with plants in middle and high school helping shovel bark and other tasks for Victoria’s landscaping business.
But, she said, “I didn’t fall in love with it.”
Years later though while living in Port Angeles she signed up for a plot with the Fifth Street Community Garden.
“I just loved it,” Townsley said. “It was a great way to grow my own vegetables.”
She worked the plot for three years before finding the trek too much while working in Sequim.
Townsley is finding the silver lining during the COVID-19 pandemic too, with her mom living with her for the time being. Victoria recently retired from the Port Angeles Library with the intent to retire to Tucson, Ariz., but those plans have been delayed since April.
“If she wasn’t here, I’d be even more exhausted without her,” Townsley said.
“My assistant is on leave (at the center) and I’m trying to keep pace. (My mom) is a gifted floral arranger, and I’m extremely grateful.”
Her mom and brother also helped inspire the name of the flower stand: Wild is Her Favorite Color. When Townsley turned 30, her mom and brother surprised her with a party, and Gavin picked out a poem for her, “Wild is Her Favorite Color” by J. Iron Word.
Each day, Townsley and her mom put out about 15 bouquets and sell out each day with about 80 varieties of flowers used from the garden. She plans to keep the stand open until early October or when the first frost comes.
Sales go towards Townsley’s costs for her Master’s degree in social work through the University of Washington starting in late September. She’s already begun reading books for school and plans to continue working at the cancer center while taking classes. The Clallam County Physician’s Fund also awarded her a scholarship to help, too.
Her plan is to remain in the area and continue working in social work. Bouquets will remain a staple in her office but not around the cancer center, she said, as she wants to respect people’s allergies.
While standing in her garden Townsley said the flowers “make me feel like I’d added another layer of something beautiful to the world.”
“They’re lovely to look at. Who doesn’t love flowers? It’s a beauty and a joy!”