A tunnel of laburnum trees bloom into fragrant golden waterfalls of flowers at Bayview Farm & Garden. The annual spring delight is expected to attract many garden lovers Memorial Day weekend. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group

A tunnel of laburnum trees bloom into fragrant golden waterfalls of flowers at Bayview Farm & Garden. The annual spring delight is expected to attract many garden lovers Memorial Day weekend. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group

Tunnel vision: Time for ‘Golden chains’

Crowds gather at Bayview nursery for annual display

It’s time to sit a spell beneath the lovely lace of laburnum.

Trees, that is, at Bayview Farm & Garden.

Flowing like golden waterfalls, the long, arched tunnels of blooming laburnum branches put on a spring show seldom seen — or sniffed — at other nearby nurseries.

From near and far, green-thumbers and others flock to see the floral arbor like bees to pollen. In fact, both species are buzzing about as the trees peak.

“This weekend, people will all just be standing under here, taking pictures,” nursery owner Maureen Murphy said earlier this week. “Busloads are coming from Canada and around the region. It’s like a carnival, there’s so much activity.”

Murphy planted the trees in 2002 just a few years after starting the nursery on the side of a barn that sold farm feed.

“I was trying to think of a real ‘wow’ feature for this garden center, ” she recalled. “English garden centers influenced me a lot.”

Laburnums are common in England, Scotland and Ireland. They do best in maritime climates with moderate summers and winters, which is why they like the Pacific Northwest.

There are other laburnum trees on Whidbey Island but none have been shaped into tunnels of love and labor.

“It takes four people a whole week up on ladders to prune out the dead wood and reweave and retie the branches,” Murphy said. “Definitely a labor of love.”

There are 24 trees total, six on each side of the two tunnels. Most people are so enthralled looking up, across and out the dripping ribbons of leafless racemes (that’s the official name of those hanging ribbons) they don’t notice that tree trunks hold up the spectacle.

Laburnum, sometimes called golden chain or golden rain, is a genus of two species of small trees that are native to the mountains of southern Europe.

They are deciduous, lending themselves to seasons of color and contrast going from blooms to bare braids of branches. When snow occasionally falls, as it did this past winter, some swear to see hobbits burwrowing holes underneath the arbor.

In years past, the nursery had a professional photographer taking portraits under the golden tresses for customers. But because of on-going renovation to the nearby Flower House Cafe that’s just re-opened, and other factors, that service was scrapped for this season.

But there are always selfies.

Pretty as a picture, yes. Poisonous too.

All parts of the laburnum tree are potentially deadly — in large quantities — particularly the seed pods.

“It’s toxic if enough is ingested,” Murphy explained. “Primarily the seed pods which we prune off before they develop when the arbor is finished blooming. There is no need for concern unless someone tries to make a gigantic tub of salad of it and eats the whole thing. Many plants in our gardens can be poisonous, but it’s not a worry.”

Opened in 1993, Bayview Farm & Garden is also known for abstaining from using any chemicals during its 25 years of business.

“I protect all the pollinators. The bees at this nursery are so fat and spoiled,” Murphy laughs, “they’re drunk on happiness.”

Maureen Murphy, owner of Bayview Farm & Garden, stands beneath the arches of laburnum trees that she planted some 20 years ago in the nursery.

Maureen Murphy, owner of Bayview Farm & Garden, stands beneath the arches of laburnum trees that she planted some 20 years ago in the nursery.

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