Meerkerk May Update

Over one hundred garden lovers and Meerkerk Friends gathered together on May 21st and enjoyed an evening of wine, rhodies, scrumptious appetizers, and great jazz music. 

Cheesecake Supreme by Lynda McCormick
"We are very pleased and appreciative to all the people who came out to support Meerkerk", said Board President, Don Lee. "Our fundraising efforts grossed almost $12,000 and we send out a big thank you to  the donors, volunteers, and supporters."

Jazz by Skinny Ties
A special part of the evening involved the Meerkerk Board of Directors honoring Frank Fujioka for his years of dedication and commitment to the Meerkerk Gardens and organization. 

Frank was presented  with an original oil painting of the Garden Gatehouse and also named as a Meerkerk Director Emeritus. "The Gardens continue to benefit from Frank's expertise, knowledge, and generosity and we wanted to express our appreciation to him among his friends and colleges," said Don Lee. 

"Arlee's Angels" Enjoy the Bidding Activity

Bidding was lively for several of the live auction offerings, especially "Arlee's Angels" which consisted of three of Meerkerk's finest gardeners availing themselves to weed, and prune for 3 hours. Dressed with fairy wings, tie-dye, and sequins, the three gardeners: Ellen Alexander, Barb Douglas, and Arlee Anderson were awarded to the highest (and luckiest) bidder adding their smiles and good cheer into the gala mix throughout the evening's happenings.

Thanks to all the donors and volunteers!  

Gala Merriment


June 4th & 5th  9:00 - 4:00 pm
Great Deals!

20% off all Potted Plants

Wear Purple & Receive a Free Plant!

Purple is the focus of this Nursery Sale. Choose from rhodies like "Jim's Blueberry Jam" or "Bob's Blue" and take home a stunning purple/deep blue rhodie for your own garden. A wide variety of hybrid, species, and heritage rhodies for sale. 


Artist, Judy Nyerges
During the month of May and Peak Bloom Season, the Gardens were visited by several artists sketching and painting the blooms and beauty of the Gardens.

Artist, Judy Nyerges and several Whidbey Island Sketchers nestled in among the rhodies and flowering trees on May 14th producing several works of art. 

According to their website they are a group of Whidbey Islanders who love to draw.  They are all about learning from one another, showcasing the unique character (and characters) of Whidbey Island, and most importantly - having fun.  Anyone can join and all levels are welcome. For more information about this group of Whidbey artists v isit their website at: whidbeyislandsketchers.blogspot.com.

Artist, Bobbi Bradley

Also in May, local Coupeville artist, Bobbi Bradley set up her easel in the Garden Gazebo area and painted a beautiful Holmes Harbor water scene; which she then donated to the Wine & Rhodies Gala. Special thanks to Bobbi for her generosity and sharing her talents with the garden visitors. Visit Bobbi's website at paintwithbobbi.com if you're interested in learning how to oil paint landscapes.


R. Purple Passion
Joining the 'last fling' of rhodies in the garden include the amazing R. 'Walloper', R. Purple Passion',

R. 'Black Sport and R. 'Fire Rim' are the many trees that make up the upper canopy of the garden. 

R. Walloper

One of the more spectacular displays in April was bestowed on us by the dove tree located behind the volunteer cottage, beside the former Meerkerk residence where it could be enjoyed from the living room window. 

It is part of a small grove of flowering trees whose display begins with an ornamental cherry, soon followed with the dove tree and a flowering dogwood. The whole display spans as much a three months in the late winter/spring. Whether it was the mild spring or the extra rain this year, the dove tree was at its best, covered in six inch long white asymmetrical flower bracts against a backdrop of fresh green leaves. 

Dove Tree
Botanically, the dove tree belongs to the Cornaceae family along with dogwoods and tupelos. According to Kew, Royal Botanical Gardens, it was introduced by Ernest Wilson, a young botanist who is credited with the introduction of many plants we value as garden stalwarts. 

These include Acer griseum, Actinidia deliciosa (kiwi fruit), Berberis julianae, Clematis armandii, Clematis montana var. rubens,  Jasminum mesnyi, and many others. Wilson's story is interesting when you consider he was sent to China at the age of twenty two to gather seed of the dove tree and other desirable plants for Veitch's Nursery in England. He set out for Yunnan Province with only a hand-drawn map, some written instructions and without any knowledge of the local language. 

Once there, he proceeded to evade bandits, a fatal illness and a drowning mishap in pursuit of his search. He succeeded in gathering seed and it reached Kew in 1901, where is has been part of their arboretum since 1903.  Its generic name, Davidia comes from the French priest and naturalist Father Armand David, who first described it in the eighteen sixties.  

It is variously given the common name of dove tree, ghost tree, or handkerchief tree because of the large white bracts that accompany the flower. With the slightest breeze, these flutter mimicking a dove or waving handkerchief. This is only topped after flowering by the slow-motion fall of the white bracts as they give way to the slightest puff of wind.  It is said to take 10-20 years to reach a point where it will flower but, if you do have to wait that long, it is certainly worth it. 

The dove tree develops wide canopy with a pleasing form and will reach a height of 40-60 ft. The flowers are followed by almost golf ball sized seed capsules that stay on the tree after leaf drop in the fall. It is sometimes prone to water shoots which should be removed to maintain an open habit. It is content in a woodland environment with well drained organic soil and some protection from afternoon sun. To see it at Meerkerk, you will need to venture all the way past the nursery where you can see it behind the volunteer cottage.

Cornus 'Venus'

While on the subject of remarkable flowers, you can't miss the Venus dogwood (Cornus 'Venus') as you enter the garden. 

Venus Dogwood

You could be forgiven for mistaking this for a magnolia as the white flower bracts are not only much larger than other dogwoods but are rounded and almost cupped in form. It is the result of crossing Cornus nuttallii and Cornus kousa var. chinensis by a plant breeder at Rutgers.

Our plant came from Bayview Nursery where I'm sure it is in high demand. It is said to grow to a height of twenty feet with an equal spread. It would make great choice for a small landscape against a dark green backdrop. 

Cornus controversa
Another delight for tree lovers is a cousin of the dove tree, the giant dogwood (Cornus controversa). In full blossom right now, it is best viewed from a distance as the full display of creamy white flowers are not as visible close up. It is fast growing to a height of about forty feet with a horizontal branching system. 

The handsome heart-shaped leaves give a brilliant display the fall and the black seeds continue to provide food for birds.  This one is located on the Easy Walking Loop near the volunteer cottage. 

   -- Frank Simpson, Garden Manager