It started in 2006 when she answered a Craigslist ad for propagation mats.
That might sound kinky, but the mats were for plants.
She became good friends with the seller, who was closing a geranium nursery in Marysville.
"Lo and behold, I bought her geranium business. And I've been at it ever since," said Elmendorf, owner of Westwick Gardens in Snohomish. "I'm glad."
Well, her husband might tell another story, but he stays out of it.
Tending to the 1,800 square-foot greenhouse by their secluded Westwick Road home is her thing, with the help of several friends who work for plants. Business is word-of-mouth and by those tenacious enough to find it from the road.
The greenhouse actually came before the propagation mats. It was a previous Craigslist find, and one she had to disassemble to move from the seller's place on Camano Island, then reassemble in her yard.
So there it was, the greenhouse of her retirement dreams. She finally had time to pursue her lifelong love of gardening after working 30 years in the telecommunications industry.
"I wasn't too sure what I was going to do with the greenhouse," said Elmendorf, 58. "I kind of had a passion for palm trees."
After the propagation mat encounter, she went gaga over the geraniums.
"I changed gears," she said.
Did she ever.
She became a geranium crusader.
"People don't know what's out there," she said. "They need to get out and rediscover the beauty of these flowers. A lot of people who stop by have never seen geraniums like I have."
Elmendorf specializes in unusual species.
"It's not the run-of-the-mill geraniums," she said.
She has those, too, among her 150 varieties.
Her greenhouse pals include ivy, scented, zonal, stellar, fancy leaf, cactus, dwarf, angel and Martha Washington geraniums.
"They are easy to grow," she said.
"You deadhead them, remove the dead flowers. They don't like wet feet. They like to be on the dryer side. They'll bloom all summer long if you take care of them."
Geraniums flower in beds, hanging baskets, pots and window boxes. They are pretty to look at and you can even eat them.
That's not all.
The leaves are softer than Charmin, she said. "I tell everybody, 'If you run out of toilet paper ...'"
Some have foliage with aromatic scents such as lemon, rose, pine, citrus and mint.
Elmendorf said the lemon scent was a deal-breaker for one customer.
"She didn't like it. She said, 'It smells like housework. Lemon Pledge.'"
The nursery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. It is open by appointment during the week.
It is located a mile off U.S. 2 between Snohomish and Monroe at 15002 Westwick Road, Snohomish.
For more information, call 360-568-6111 or go to www.westwickgardens.com.
- Geraniums are also called cranesbills because the fruit capsule resembles a crane's bill.
- Geranium essential oil can be used as a deodorant, perfume and diuretic. It's known as the "women's oil" because of its menstrual and menopausal benefits.
- The exotic, floral scent also makes it an aphrodisiac. For mosquitoes, however, it can be a repellent.
- Geranium leaves can be used to make tea.
- Scented geranium leaves are used to flavor cakes, jellies and vinegars.
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