Bayview Farm & Garden
Bayview Farm & Garden, in the seaside village of Langley on Whidbey Island, promoted green gardening before the word “green” meant anything more than a color. Ambitious and industrious owner Maureen Murphy, constantly strives to improve the business while sticking to her philosophy that an industry responsible for growing beauty shouldn’t also be involved in damaging the environment. Murphy comes from a family business of greenhouse manufacturing and first sold wholesale plants before turning the site into a retail center, Bayview Farm & Garden, in 1993.
The garden center is believed to be one of the first in the industry to not sell toxic chemicals. Citing the center’s location in a sole-source aquifer, Murphy found even more reason to abstain from indirectly adding chemicals to the surrounding waters through the garden center’s sales. She studied up on soil science, how insects work in gardens, and how planting various plants can achieve desired outcomes. Plus, she said, “it’s way more fun to do a non-toxic approach,” even though this meant having bins of natural ingredients like blood meal and compost, with recipes for customers to mix combinations for their intentions. Now green gardening mixtures are readily available.
The 2001 Garden Center Magazine award for Innovator of the Year recipient is now a thriving business consisting of three parts: the Flower House Cafe, a gift store, and a garden center. The crown jewel of the premises is the Laburnum Arbor. It was inspired by similar arbors found in English gardens. From about mid-May through the third week of June, the 40-foot long arbor of 24 trees becomes a cheery yellow tunnel of heavenly fragrance. Every winter it takes four to five people nearly two weeks to prune and reweave the branches, but it’s well worth the effort. Murphy rightfully calls it a “portal to beauty.”
The arbor sits in the middle of the organized garden center. Wide stone paths link categories of plants: maples, climbers, roses, conifers, herbs, and ground cover plants, to name a few. An area is included for “Functional Plants” like those that are great for attracting bees or butterflies, or are deer resistant. Inside the nursery greenhouse are rows of house plants, flowering hanging plants, bromeliads, orchids, a vegetable plant section, succulents, and topiary plants. All the plants are grown chemical-free in the Pacific Northwest.
Inside the center, you’ll find everything you need for gardening, taking care of pets, and even gift products like cards, notepads from recycled paper, baby items, and mugs with sayings that conjure smiles. Murphy’s criteria for inventory includes being functional, beautiful, locally made or fair-trade; she asks if this will be “something that really makes people happy.”
Across the courtyard that buzzes with activity during warmer months is the Flower House Cafe. Run by Murphy’s pastry-chef daughter and chef son-in-law, the cafe does a spectacular job serving seasonal, light-fare food made with locally sourced ingredients. The duo trained and worked in San Francisco before moving back to Whidbey Island. They’ve proven to be innovative, and thrive in a cafe that doesn’t have a full kitchen yet. When you visit, try the creamy, lightly salty avocado toast and any of the decadent cookies.
Be sure to allot an hour or two during your visit to Bayview Farm & Garden. There’s so much to look at, and the ambiance makes an ideal setting for wine-sipping. Better yet, spend a few hours there and check their website for upcoming classes like Pruning Basic, Raising Chicks 101, or How to Build a Terrarium. You’ll leave feeling inspired and ready to cultivate plants.