Meerkerk March Update

Nursery is open Wed - Sun (9-4) through May 
"Oooh! I have to take that one too!"  This familiar refrain was heard all weekend at the Meerkerk Opening Sale.
Garden lovers and rhody enthusiasts were in a constant state of excitement and indecision as to how many and which rhodies they absolutely needed and couldn't live without. "I have customers who come back every year and tell me that 
Decisions, Decisions
they have been waiting all winter to buy this rhody or that rhody", says Nursery Manager Susie Reynolds. "It is so fun to see a customer light up when they see a rhody that it is 'just perfect' for their garden."

The Nursery is open every weekend through May. Meerkerk memb ers receive an additional 10% off their purchase. 

New Retaining Wall 
Significant progress on the Hoop House project was realized during the month of March. The retaining wall was installed and the interior sand and clean fill were compacted providing a solid floor. Master carpenter and Meerkerk volunteer, Jason Shubert worked closely with Special Projects Manager, Barton Cole throughout this phase of the project.

The next phase of the project involved a group of hardy volunteers including: Steve Stansberry, 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.  "Frank's generosity in donating this hoop house to Meerkerk will help our propagation program immensely" said Board President, Don Lee. 

Final installation of the hoops, footings, and plastic covering is planned for the middle of April. "The support of our members donating their time and talents to this project has made all the difference." said Susie Reynolds, Nursery Manager.
Fairy Magic at Meerkerk
All ages are invited to join in the fun of creating beautiful and fanciful fairies from natural wonders found in the garden. 

Fairy making at Meerkerk has become a Springtime tradition. Using skeletonized magnolia leaves for wings, poppy seed heads, and a little bit of magic results in endearing creations of whimsy and charm.  

All you need is your creativity and imagination.

April 23
11:00 am - 3:00 pm
$10.00 Adults/ Children under 16 FREE

An Evening of Fun & Merriment
Meerkerk's Benefit Gala tickets are on sale now. You can purchase your tickets by calling 360.678.1912 or stop by the Volunteer Cottage Monday - Friday from 9am - 3 pm. 

This year's event will be held at the beautiful
Holmes Harbor Cellars Winery. The evening will entail both live & silent auctions, live music, scrumptious appetizers and, of course.... wine.  

Wine & Rhodies Benefit Gala
May 21, 2016
7:00 pm
Tickets: $50

4591 Honeymoon Bay Road
Greenbank, WA

Due to two board members who are relocating off Island, the Meerkerk Board of Directors has open seats. 

If interested, please review the Board Job Description and send in your Meerkerk Board Application. The Governing Committee members will review all applications and speak with the board candidates in-depth about the short and long-term goals of the organization and time commitments required to serve on the board effectively. 

The Meerkerk Board meets monthly, the first Wednesday of each month, and the meeting generally runs two hours in length. "It is a great time to join the board. There are so many exciting projects that are happening here at Meerkerk," says Executive Director, Kathryn Hurtley. 

Removal Work on the Red Plum Tree 
For the most part, the gardens at Meerkerk sustained minimal damage during the March wind storms. However, we were disheartened to see one of our red leaf plum trees along the Meerkerk Lane driveway fall over and have to be chopped up and removed. 
Alder down in the Big Leaf Valley
Additionally, over in the Big Leaf Valley garden, a 14-inch diameter alder fell across the walkway and thankfully is not causing any further damage to rhodies or posing a danger to visitors walking the trail. "We will be working on the alder just as soon as the rains lessen and the ground dries up a bit, so we can safely chainsaw around the tree," reported Garden Manager, Frank Simpson.  

Botany Adventure Program serves over 200 Island County students each year
Botany Adventure is ready to kick off another season by bringing students (K-5) into the garden beginning in April. The program serves the Oak Harbor, Coupeville, and So
uth W hid bey school districts.

We are seeking garden and nature lovers to assist with the school field trip tours. As a Botany Adventure Guide, you will have an opportunity to help shape the next generation in their appreciation of the environment and global challenges. Tours will match your ability and schedule and are arranged for small groups of 8-10. Training is scheduled for April 1st and 5th (3.5 hour sessions: 9:30 am to 1:00 pm). You needn't be an expert in horticulture or education. And, you only have to attend one training session.
Students learn about the importance of pollinators in the garden

The program is inquiry-based and teaches our young visitors about pollinators in the gardens. The students watch and lea rn as pollinators work in the garden, discover what's inside a flower, and study the parts of a flower using microscopes--just like real botanists!  

For more information or to sign up for the training session call the admin office at 360.678.1912.

Meerkerk would like to thank the following organizations that have generously supported the Botany Adventure Program this year: Coupeville Garden Club, South Whidbey Garden Club, Oak Harbor Garden Club, Greenbank Garden Club, Island County Master Gardeners, and the Coupeville Lions Club.


Magnolia Sargentiana
Besides the many rhodies in bloom right now there is a rich over-story of flowering trees that command attention. Among these, the magnolias with flowers in white and pink provide a wonderful display.  Campbell's magnolia
Magnolia campbelii is native to Nepal and China where it grows at altitudes from 8000- 10,000ft.  Named for Scottish botanist Dr Archibald Campbell, Magnolia
campbellii was introduced to Britain in 1868. Despite its mountainous origins, this magnolia is used to some shelter and relies on a mild spring. The first reports of specimens known to have flowered outside the Himalayas were in the south west of Ireland where the climate is very mild. The flowers in shades of white and pink, which can be up to nine inches wide, begin to open between March and April.

One other magnolia growing at the gardens  worth a mention is Magnolia sargentiana, a tree up to 80 feet with huge leaves. Like M. campbelli, the huge leaves litter the ground below. Sargent magnolia's leaves slowly decay on the ground below to leave just a skeletal lace-like remnant that is used at the garden to make fairy wings for Fairy Making Magic on April 23 rd. The flowers are white, most easily seen from a distance as they appear so high up the approximate 50 ft high canopy.
Mt. Fuji Cherry

Most striking among the flowering cherries in bloom now is labeled as Mt. Fuji cherry,
Prunus serrulata 'Shirotae' (?).

Its spreading form and abundant clusters of white flowers grab your attention as you enter the garden. It's an ideal tree for small gardens where its light shade allows for planting of low shrubs below.  

R. hyperythrum
The Rhododendron dis play continues to amaze us as each week brings new color to the garden. Nearest to the cherries, 
R. hyperythrum Pink Form , a species that forms a rounded plant, reaching 6 feet in hei ght and diameter at maturity, is in full flower. 

A fine compact cultivar,  R. fletcherianum with shiny green foliage and pale yellow flowers makes a nice grouping near the nursery.  
R. fletcherianum

Further along on the  main walking loop R. arboreum  'Album' shows off its white flowers against a backdrop of deep green leaves. This plant m akes an excellent tall evergreen with four inch-long lanceolate  leaves, deep green above  and cinnamon brown on the underside.

Enjoy!     -- Frank Simson, Garden Manager

R. arboreum 'Album'
"Life begins the day you start a garden ." ~ Chinese Proverb