“Elephant Hunting in Thurston County”

The new season of free monthly history talks at the historic Schmidt House kicked off with a full house on Thursday, Oct. 20 with a presentation from archaeologist Dr. Dale Croes about the earliest confirmed humans in our area at the time of the Ice Age.   Talk about history!  This was Pre-History in an illustrated talk titled “Elephant Hunting in Thurston County”.  Dr. Croes not only talked about the mastadons, sabre-toothed tigers, giant bears and other ancient animals that lived here, but also shared artifacts from the early humans that lived here.  He also shared some very interesting evidence-based theories of how those people arrived here on the land bridge from Asia and how they came inland to our area from what is today’s Grays Harbor.

The presentation concluded with a unique demonstration in the back yard of the Schmidt House grounds of a working replica of an early hunting weapon that was used with great impact by those early people.  Those who stayed for the demonstration were impressed with the power and ballistics that early weapon produced.

Our next speaker is from Washington State Parks.  On Thursday, Nov. 17, Sam Wotipka will be giving the history of both Tolmie and Millersylvania State Parks here in Thurston County.  Its first come first seated as doors open at 11:30 a.m. for the noon hour talk.  Doors close as we reach capacity, which happened with Dr. Croes’ talk.  We at the “Heritage Builders” program would love to see you here.

Don Trosper

Fall pruning the Centennial Rose Garden


Photo 1. Volunteers from the Olympia Rose Society pruning roses in the Centennial Garden at the Schmidt House in Tumwater.

One of the most frequent questions I am asked about growing roses in our area goes something like this: “When should I prune my roses and how should I do it”? The answer is, well, it depends.

It depends on what time of year it is and what you plan to achieve by pruning. So let’s talk about the time of year first. In summer, when your roses are blooming furiously week after week, it is a good practice to “prune” them often – perhaps as often as weekly. But during summer the pruning you do is actually called “deadheading”, which means simply removing the spent blossoms along with their stems. Some people claim that this stimulates the bushes to produce more flowers, while others argue that this is not true. Personally, I haven’t seen any scientific studies that address this question so I have no opinion on it. But one thing is clear – deadheading markedly improves the appearance of your rose garden.

If spent blossoms are allowed to remain on the bushes, over time they will wither and die generally dropping petals all over the place creating something of a mess. This debris can build up beneath the bushes and may harbor slugs, destructive insects and fungal disease spores. The conscientious rose gardener therefore deadheads his/her garden frequently throughout summer.

Now let’s discuss actual pruning, as opposed to deadheading. Pruning involves serious removal of many canes from the plant and you should be done two times every year; once in fall and once in spring. Fall pruning has two objectives: to get the bushes down low and out of the wind, and to protect them from winter damage. In spring we prune our roses to remove dead or damaged canes, to influence the plant’s architecture to promote upward and outward growth, and to maintain what is called ‘juvenility” of the bush. When spring arrives I will post here to describe exactly how spring pruning should be done. But now let’s turn our attention to fall pruning.

When and how do you do your fall pruning? Right now – before the risk of hard frost, low temperature and desiccating winter winds is upon us. In the Centennial Rose Garden we typically shoot for the end of October for the reasons cite above. Another reason is that the weather in late October tends to be pretty nice around here. Much more conducive to gardening than the cold, rainy, windy weather of November.


Photo 2. Fall pruning involves cutting the canes down to about a foot tall, striping the leaves from the bushes, and then mounding the bushes up with bark mulch to protect them from winter damage.

The first task in fall pruning is to cut the canes down to about a foot high. We just mow them down with pruners and loppers and get rid of them. The next chore, and it really is a chore, is to remove the remaining leaves from the bushes. This is tedious work but it accomplishes at least two objectives. First, the leaves harbor insect eggs and fungal spores – both ready to jump on your bushes when the first hints of warm spring weather arrive. Second, the bushes are far more attractive over winter after the ratty, brown leaves are gone from them. Also, you’re going to have to do it in March anyway when the weather is often horrible – so why not get this chore done now during the pleasant afternoons of autumn.

After the canes are cut down to a foot or so tall and the leaves stripped off, the final step is to mound the bushes up about 8 to 10 inches with mulch (beauty bark works well). Why? Because this mound of mulch will protect the lower canes from sub-freezing temperatures and the desiccating winds of winter. This is often not necessary during our typical mild Puget Sound winters, but should the occasional severe winter occur, mounds will save the lives of your expensive and beloved rose plants. All it takes is for three or four nights down in the teens to kill an unprotected rose bush.


Photo 3. Protected by their mounds the roses are snug and warm beneath a blanket of new snow.

But we shouldn’t feel too sorry for ourselves here. In the Northeast, Midwest and Rocky Mountain states, many rose growers actually bury their plants underground to protect them. As a kid growing up in Pennsylvania, I remember helping my dad bury his roses every fall. We would dig a trench about three feet long and two feet deep. Then we would dig up our dozen or so rose bushes and lay them in the trench. A few bushel baskets of oak leaves over top of them, finished off with a foot of garden soil did the trick.

To learn more about fall rose pruning, and to see the process up close and personal, come join us at the Centennial Rose Garden, 330 Schmidt Place, Tumwater on Saturday, November 5, from 9:00 to about noon. We’ll have a team of volunteer rose experts on site to show you how to do it and to answer your questions. Along with hot coffee and donuts. I hope you can make it.

Gary Ritchie, Chairman
Centennial Garden Foundation
Olympia Rose Society

LA Times visits Tumwater Falls Park


Brian Clark, Moira Davin and John Freedman at the middle falls in Tumwater Falls Park.

Los Angeles Times¹ travel writer Brian Clark recently visited Tumwater Falls Park while researching an article on weekend getaways in South Puget Sound. Moira Davin from Visit Olympia (formerly OLT Visitor & Convention Bureau) arranged Brian’s media tour and selected the Park as a “must see.” A former resident of Olympia, Brian has fond memories of the area and gets back whenever he can.

¹The Los Angeles Times has an audience of 19 million.

From the Archives: Olympia Beer in Alaska

In 1913, the USS Maryland, a US Navy Pennsylvania-class armored cruiser, visited Seward, Alaska as part of her survey mission in the Northern Pacific. On July 13, Maryland’s sailors and band paraded down Main Street. In this photo they are shown marching past The Commerce saloon and restaurant, which proudly featured Olympia beer. Town residents—and one dog—looked on.

Welcoming parade for the USS Maryland. From the collection of the Olympia Tumwater Foundation.

Parade during the USS Maryland visit to Seward.. From the collection of the Olympia Tumwater Foundation.


USS Maryland

Television show “The Voice” films in Tumwater Falls Park


Earlier this summer, a production crew from NBC filmed local musician Ethan Tucker in Tumwater Falls Park for the television show “The Voice”

Ethan Tucker may only be in his early 20s but the self-starting Olympia native has already made a name for himself, impressing some of the more respected veteran artists in today’s music world. Performing and recording since the age of 16, Tucker has honed his unique blend of acoustic-roots, soul, blues, and reggae, slowly building a dedicated and ever-growing audience, and making friends with some significant musicians in the process.

Ethan chose country music artist Blake Shelton as his coach after his succesful audition on the September 20, 2016 “The Voice” broadcast.

This week’s (September 20) “Blind Auditions” episodes of “The Voice” were prerecorded in Los Angeles, as was the coming “Battles” episode that will feature Tucker in October. If he makes it far enough, he will sing live on national television during the final “Live Shows” competition, which will include voting by the TV audience.

Good luck Ethan!

Click here to watch Ethan’s audition:  The Voice

Fall Chinook salmon putting on a show in Tumwater Falls Park


Now is the time to visit Tumwater Falls Park where Chinook salmon are showing up in impressive numbers in their annual migration upstream. Each fall, the Park welcomes thousands of visitors and schoolchildren to see salmon in their natural habitat, slowly making their way to the Tumwater Falls Hatchery. Come be enthralled by the cascading waterfalls, learn the life cycle of the majestic salmon, or just spend an afternoon relaxing on the grass.


Tumwater Falls Park is funded by the non profit Olympia Tumwater Foundation and contributions from people like you. Click here for more information.

Model Ship Returns to the Schmidt House After 50+ Years Absence



The “Kearsarge” as it looks now.

In June 1896, Scientific American magazine published an article titled “The New Double-Deck-Turret Battleship Kearsarge.” The article described the dimensions and armaments of a new class of U.S. battleships, and included an artist’s rendering and a deck plan of the ship.

Peter G. Schmidt, just sixteen at the time, was intrigued by the new battleship design—so much so, that he decided to build a scale model of the ship. Unlike today, though, he couldn’t go down to the local hobby shop and buy a kit. Instead, he studied the plan, the picture, and the text, and built his own model—entirely from scratch. Continue reading