Summer Interviews! Place-based Living with Kent and Gwen Ellyson, Part 2

On Tuesday, I introduced you to Kent and Gwen Ellyson and hopefully inspired you to consider your connection to place and how you are creating opportunities for the children in your life to build deep and meaningful connections to place.


Swallowtails were all over the zinnia

I have to quote Laurie Lane-Zucker again because I think this idea on place-based education and experience really captures how I see Gwen’s connection to her flowers and the beauty that the land provides, “…it emphasizes creative exploration and the joyful realization of the ties that connect a person with nature and culture in her place.” Lane-Zucker continues on to say, “It does so out of love–love of nature, love of one’s neighbors and community–is a prime motivating factor in personal transformation, and the transformation of culture” (2004).

I believe that if we learn from people like Gwen’s example of how she shares her love of natural beauty as a model for helping others connect through creativity, the way that one’s personal connection can inspire others, that we can help re-transform our culture to one that values nature, beauty, and the invaluable benefits that a connection to place brings.


I would love to, and take a minute to check out that swallowtail on the lantana too!

Today, I am excited to continue the summer interview with Gwen Ellyson, my cousin’s wife and avid flower gardener and designer. Gwen creates some of the most beautiful flower arrangements I have seen and I think one thing that makes them so especially beautiful is that she grows or wildcrafts everything she uses in her arrangements! They are seasonal, sustainable, and spectacular!

Without delay, let’s get into it!

Blooming Place Connection Through Beauty and Creativity: An Interview with Gwen Ellyson

First, what inspired your connection to place and made you decide to stay in the county that you were born and raised and to raise your own children here?

Gwen: Love! Kent inspired me and brought me from the far end of the county here.


This doesn’t half illustrate the length of the Gwen’s rows of zinnia, gladiola, and cockscomb

That is the best–flowers and love! When did you become interested in growing flowers and creating arrangements with the cultivated and wild nature around you?

Gwen: I became interested in the past 10 years. I always had small flower beds, but it was not until my kids were grown and work slowed down that the interest I have now developed.

What do you think inspired this late blooming interest? Was there a bulb planted in your in childhood?

Gwen: I have a memory of a lady’s house that had the most beautiful assorted flower beds and that memory stayed with me because I like to grow the old fashioned flowers like cockscomb. As an adult, I had a mentor who helped spark my later interest in creating the arrangements.


Cockscomb just starting to bloom. The red veins and stalks are a great accent in an arrangement, not to mention the texture of the flowers.

You grow the flowers for the arrangements you create for your church every Sunday and I know you create them for other community events, friends, and family as well, which is no small feat even for someone who loves what they are doing. I know you use greenery and foliage you gather in the woods surrounding your home and here you mentioned that you like to grow the “old fashioned” flowers like cockscomb and evening primrose. What is your favorite to grow?

Gwen: Hydrangea. I have one plant that is 35 years old and was a Valentine’s gift [from Kent of course!]. I like gladiolas too.


Here are the lovebirds with the thriving 35 year old hydrangea! Love makes everything grow healthily and happily!

I’ll say! you have the most biggest most beautiful gladiola field that I have ever seen!! Do you have any tips for us on growing or arrangeing any of your favorite flowers?

Gwen: When Planting them, plant the bulb deeper than recommended to prevent the glads from falling over. Then cut them when the 2nd bloom opens and bring it in, don’t leave it out. [When using gladiolas as cut flowers] cut the tip off to make them last.


The 2nd bloom is not open so this one is not ready to cut.

Every time I come to visit  I leave with the most amazing bounty of veggies, sweet smelling bouquets, and even seeds to plant in my own garden. What is your favorite smell in nature?

Gwen: Cut grass. I just love the smell. It’s so fresh!

I thought you would say a kind of flower! The favorite smell question always surprises me! This is so great and I hope you will share more tips and gardening advice on Wings, Worms, and Wonder in the future-especially as you begin to explore the natural world with your new grand-daughter! Learning from each other is the best way we can cultivate and grow both our flowers, food, and our communities!! Thank y’all so much for letting me interview you!!

Share your favorite flowers to grow with us in the comments! 

Seeds to Sprout:

Did you miss Part 1 of the summer interviews Place-based Living with Kent and Gwen Ellyson? Catch up here!

August’s Wonder Wednesday lesson plan. Sign up for the newsletter and have these lesson plans delivered right to your virtual door each month!

Birds and Blooms’ list of their favorite top ten old fashioned flowers

Order some heirloom and old fashioned flower seeds and start your own cutting garden!

Tips for creating a flower arranging station in your home or classroom


Evening primrose

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