Neighbors celebrate 400 trilliums at tea party

There’s something poetic about Ervin Nalos’ backyard.

There’s something poetic about Ervin Nalos’ backyard.

In a darkened forest “haven,” as he calls it, ferns and shrubs play hide and seek with invasive ivy. Woodpeckers and squirrels take turns with the swaying Douglas Firs, cedar and hemlock trees.

But its beauty comes from the trilliums – more than 400 of them.

“I have always loved the trilliums,” said Nalos, 84, who has been collecting the white flowering plants for nearly 50 years. “There’s a certain gentleness about them and perfume. It’s just sort of a way to get closer to nature.”

On a recent afternoon, Nalos walked through his 1.2 acre forest behind his Bridle Trails’ home and over the trails that he has made and named over the years: Squirrel Place, Raspberry Cut Trail, Ant Hill Cut and Ivy Way, to name a few.

Each trail is speckled with trilliums – a white three-petaled flower with three green leaves. The perennial has about 50 species, of which Nalos has the Trillium ovatum variety. The flower blooms in April and in a matter of weeks turns into a shade of purple before it is gone again until next spring.

“They’re very hearty,” he said. “They come back every year.”

Nalos stopped on a trail with a wooden sign posted on a tree that read “Trillium Blvd” and pulled up some ivy that had crept over some trilliums’ stems.

He has been collecting trilliums since 1963 when he and wife, Margaret, moved into the neighborhood. At that time there was a lot of undeveloped land in the area, on which he had found a few scattered trilliums, he explained.

With a growing interest in the plant, he went to Snoqualmie Ridge with his friend who was working on a housing development there.

“I got a few of them up there,” Nalos said of the dozens of trilliums that he dug up and saved before the bulldozers came. “Then, whenever a new development area came up, I’d scour it before they bulldozed it down. So I’ve been collecting them since then.”

Every third year, his collection multiplies.

“Just dig them up,” he explained. “They’re very much like garlic. Each stem has its own little clove that you can break off and split if you’re very careful.”

He takes the pieces of bulb and replants them in his front and backyard. The flowers also multiply from their own sticky seeds that fall to the ground.

Once he took hundreds of seeds from the plants and put them in plastic pots to grow for his friends. Not one trillium sprouted.

He’s not a master gardener, he says, but he just loves nature. The Czech Republic native loved to go to the forest as a little boy and pick mushrooms.

Now, Nalos encourages others to be passionate about nature.

“People are building bigger homes up here,” he said of all the housing development going on in the city. “They’re all gated and it’s a different breed of people that are coming in here.”

On Saturday, he held the fifth annual trillium tea party at his house and invited all his neighbors – in big houses and in small – who came to see his trilliums while they are in full bloom. During the day, a dozen kids ran down to play in the forest Nalos built.

Carrie Wood can be reached at 425-453-4290 or