Meerkerk June Update

Congrats to all the participants of the Botany Adventure Program! "Martha and Ed Hollis took the lead on the program this year and did an outstanding job," said Executive Director, Kathryn Hurtley.  Each week the Botany Adventure volunteer guides shared their love of nature, gardening, and the Meerkerk woodlands with excited 2nd - 5th graders. "The program is a gem and we are so grateful for all the dedicated support."

The BA program successfully served over 250 students from Oak Harbor, Coupeville, and South Whidbey school districts. Special thanks to the following volunteers: Martha & Ed Hollis, Arlee Anderson, John Bachert, Harriet & Tim Arnold, Barb Douglas, Gary Ketcheson, Nancy Watts, Chris Allen, Susan Myers, Patty Johnson, Terry Schallock, Joyce Adams, Randi Eaton, Deb Mitchell, Jane O'Dell, and Linda Wells.

The Botany Adventure Program is generously supported by the Island County Master Gardeners, the Coupeville Lions Club, The Coupeville Garden Club, the Greenbank Garden Club, the South Whidbey Garden Club, and the Oak Harbor Garden Club. 

 Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
The new Hoop House is officially ready for propagation. The com bined efforts of Meerkerk's Special Project Manager Barton Cole and  master carpenter Jason Shubert has resulted in  a great space to begin a new phase of propagation at Meerkerk. 

The Hoop House allows for increasing the inventory and the variety of the plants sold in the nursery. According to Susie, "We have been looking forward to expanding our companion plant inventory along with the ability to increase our propagation program for both rhodys and azaleas."

We want to once again thank volunteers: Steve Stansbury, Mark Walljasper, Dan O'Connell, Greg Troyer, John Bachert, Mark Willsteder, and Lee Williamson, all of whom arrived at Frank Fujioka's on March 28th and disassembled the 60-foot long structure of hoops, sheeting, and footings.  "The generosity of Frank Fujioka and our wonderful volunteers have made this project a reality. I can't thank them enough," says Nursery Manager Susie Reynolds.


Paul Louden
Every Thursday morning, Volunteer Paul Louden enters the Meerkerk Volunteer Cottage and graciously brews up two pots of coffee for the volunteers. He then heads out to the Gardens and make quick work of weeding, pruning, or chain sawing limbs and trees for two hours before the main group of volunteers arrive for their 9:00 o'clock list of duties.

"Paul has been an dedicated volunteer for the Gardens since 2002," says Nursery Manager Susie Reynolds. "Every Thursday he takes his chainsaw and works all day either in the forest preserve or on the marine bluff trail and outperforms everyone." 

Paul grew up in Woodriver, Illinois and he fondly remembers helping in his mother's garden taking care of her roses, helping with the family's Victory Garden, and pruning trees with his Dad.

Since joining the Meerkerk family sixteen years ago, he has worked all aspects of the garden from weeding, to pruning, to trail maintenance. When asked what makes Meerkerk a place that keeps him coming to each week he said, that "Meerkerk gives one a feeling of responsibility and pride of ownership. Quite simply, it is a special place to be."

Gardening is just one of Paul's passions. He volunteers with the Friends of South Whidbey State Park and the Whidbey Camano Land Trust. Most people know him as a Shifty Sailor. He has been in the Shifty Sailor's singing group since 2002, traveling all over the world sharing "salty" songs and humor. He also enjoys genealogy with his life partner, Treaver Arnold, which has resulted in traveling far and wide researching both their family trees. 

Paul encourages everyone to join the fun on Thursdays at Meerkerk. He promises to makes sure there is plenty of coffee and the cookie jar is always filled.


July 9
Fairy House Festival
Create a Woodland Fairy House
11:00 - 3:00 pm
$5.00 Adults/ Free Children 16 and under

July 16
Rhody Care Class
10:00 - Noon
$10.00 Class Fee
Register Early - Seating is Limited

July 23
Friends of Meerkerk & Volunteer Appreciation Picnic
Noon - 2:00 pm
FREE Admission
Bring a yummy salad dish to share
BBQ provided


Styrax japonica
Among the many pleasures to be had in a garden like this are the hidden treasures to be found along the many trails. One of the delights is to look up at see that you are standing under a canopy of white flowers.  

This is the Japanese snowbell tree ( Styrax japonica), a fine small deciduous tree with an abundant display of small white flowers that hang in clusters along the branches. 

It forms elegant branching habit and reaches a height of 25-30ft. First introduced to the west from Asia by the plant collector  Richard Oldham who was collecting for Kew Gardens in late 1860's, over time it found its way into arboreta and gardens where it is grown as a specimen or small grouping in a woodland setting such as we have at Meerkerk.

There are a number of named selections that may be worth searching out: Styrax japonicas 'Emerald Pagoda', according to the Elizabeth Miller Great Plant Picks, is a more vigorous form with larger flowers; 'Carillon' has a weeping habit; 'Crystal' - upright habit, dark foliage, white flowers with purple stems; 'Pink Chimes'- pink flowers. 

However, in the right setting along with stewartia and a rich understory of ferns, barrenwort and salal, the unimproved species has enough charm to make it worth growing.

On the subject of what's in flower at the garden, we were prompted by wind damage to our purple leaved plums earlier this year to carry out some pruning to minimize further damage this year. 

The pruning consists of thinning of the canopy, removing inward growing branches and water shoots to allow winds to filter through instead of slamming into them and blowing them over. For some reason, the canopy growth on this variety of ornamental plums out-strips the ability of the roots to provide sufficient anchorage.

Still Blooming
The great display of dogwoods has come to a close as has most of the rhododendron bloom. 

However, along with the attractive new growth on many of our rhodies, there are some notable cultivars still blooming. 

A fine deep red, R. 'Romany Chal', a Lionel de Rothschild cultivar is in flower in the Asian Species Garden along with R. Grosclaude', another red from de Rothchild. 

   -- Frank Simpson, Garden Manager

"Nothing is more the child of art than a garden . "
--Sir Walter Scott