Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Daffodils in the Skagit Valley

March is here and that can only mean one thing - daffodils! These beautiful flowers begin popping up in flower beds in neighborhoods all over the Pacific Northwest this time of year.

Want to see more? I'll let you in on a little secret. Think Skagit Valley. Think Mount Vernon!

I say secret because, unlike the Tulip Festival that takes place next month and draws visitors from around the world, the daffodils attract a much smaller crowd. In fact, calling it a "crowd" is overselling it!

You can arrive at 8:00 am on a Saturday morning and possibly be one of only a handful of cars in the Roozengaarde parking lot - it happened to me last year!

Meanwhile, the fields of flowers are there in all their glory and variety of colors. Variety? Oh yes. If you thought daffodils only came in yellow, think again!

Though the varieties may not be as numerous as with the tulips, there are still enough to create attractive alternating rows in the fields. Bring your camera!

How to get there. If you've attended the Tulip Festival, the driving directions are exactly the same.

From Seattle, take I-5 north to Mount Vernon. Take the Kincaid Street exit (#226), go west on Kincaid. At the first stoplight after the railroad tracks, take a right. Go straight through 2 stoplights and over the Division Street Bridge. Continue to the first stoplight after the bridge, taking a left at the light onto Wall Street. Wall Street makes a quick right turn and becomes McLean Road.

Continue down McLean Road about 3 miles. Make a left at the grocery store onto Beaver Marsh Road, and begin watching for yellow fields on your right.

The main parking lot for Roozengaarde is 1/4 down on your right. There is another parking lot about 1/2 a mile further. Both offer access to excellent viewing opportunities.

How to view. I recommend viewing the fields first, especially if arriving early. If photography is your goal, I really recommend viewing the fields first. Both parking lots offer access to ample wandering and many opportunities - check them both out or you'll regret it!

Please respect all signs and walk only in designated areas.

After finishing your wanderings, make your way back to the Roozengaarde Gardens. There is a $5 entry fee to get in, but it is well worth it. The gardens aren't as bustling as during tulip season, but there is still a lot to see. Make sure to get your picture taken in front of the windmill!

What to wear. Dress for the weather. There is something else synonymous with March - rain! Dress warm and bring rain gear. Even if you arrive under dry skies, this can change fast. There is a reason that daffodils and tulips grow so well here! Speaking of rain, it has - and often, trust me! Expect lots of puddles in the fields, much more than during tulip season. Rubber boots are highly recommended.

When to go. Mid to late March offers the best showing of daffodils. Weekdays and weekends are both excellent. Reports this year are that peak blooms are still ahead!

Best weather. Clear days offer vivid colors in the fields and the backdrop of the snow-clad Olympic Mountains in the distance - truly a Pacific Northwest experience.

But many photographers prefer cloudy days. Direct sun offers harsh lighting that burns out the color and details of the flowers. It also creates unwanted contrasts with dark shadows. Cloudy skies diffuse the light, making it more even. The last three images appearing here were taken under such conditions.

Most important. Have fun! Bring a camera if you wish and enjoy the day! Drive slow and stare often!

Finally. Roozengaarde offers the biggest fields and displays that I have found. But there are others. I encourage you to drive around and explore. If you see another display that you really like, send me line and let me know!

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