Meerkerk September Update


Volunteers Barb Douglas and Billie Jung load
rhodies from Frank Fujioka growing fields for the Meerkerk Sale
OCTOBER 1 & 2  
9:00 TO 3:00 PM

Nursery Manager, Susie Reynolds is busy pricing and potting rhodies and companion plants for fall planting. 

Susie says, "This is the time to plant your rhodys while the soil is warm. The winter moisture will help to establish the plants for spring enjoyment."

Susie Reynolds, Nursery Manager
NW hybridizer, Frank Fujioka has provided Meerkerk with over 100 plants from his fields. Susie and the Thursday volunteers worked quickly last Thursday digging and loading up the  plants for the October Sale.  

Susie says, "Frank's plants offer a wonderful variety of foliage, size, bloom, texture, and leaf shape to choose from to fit everyone's garden needs." 


The Design Concept Map for the
 New Pathway
Garden Manager Frank Simpson, and the Meerkerk Horticulture Committee have made progress in the design process to implement changes within the garden area formerly known as the Test Garden. This is the area immediately after exiting the Gatehouse. 

The Horticulture Committee has agreed to the following goals for this garden area:
  • Enhance the Visitor Experience.
  • Showcase Rhododendrons.
  • Provide an Assembly Area for Tours and Information Delivery.
  • Minimize Maintenance Needs.
  • Provide an Educational Component.
  • Reduce Water Demand.
The committee has agreed on a "first phase" redesign for this garden area to begin in October. A new crushed stone pathway will be installed that will lead the visitor towards the Loderi King George rhododendron and then continue to a defined assembly area. 

New planting areas and the existing planters will be reconfigured to showcase rhododendrons with companion plants displaying a variety of color, shape, texture, and bloom. 

Volunteers will be vital in helping with this project when it comes time to transplant rhododendrons and companion plants to new planting beds.

Because this area is crucial to the visitor experience during Peak Bloom, the design approach will be done in phases to minimize the "construction" impact to the garden. "We have a short window to do this type of change to the landscape and we want to be able to successfully install the crushed stone pathway and complete the transplanting well in advance of the Peak Bloom season," says Garden Manager, Frank Simpson.

The next goal will be to extend the crushed stone pathway to connect with the Nursery area which will aid the visitor in finding their way and ensure showcasing a wide variety of rhododendrons.


Every winter Meerkerk experiences a tremendous amount of surface water drainage. 

This year we have been proactive in installing additional swales, improving culverts, and upgrading french drains to help move the water through the gardens to protect plants and facility structures. 

We thought it would be interesting to calculate the total amount of water and convert the total drainage to bathtubs to help visualize the millions of gallons of surface water that Meerkerk has to manage each year. 

Thanks to Barton Cole for providing the calculations for this demonstration.

So here it goes.....

Assume 20 acres of watershed.
Assume 24" of annual rainfall
thus, 40 acre-feet of water falls to the ground
( One  acre - foot  equals about 326,000 gallons, or enough water to cover an  acre  of land, about the size of a football field, one  foot  deep.).

That equals 13,000,000 gallons of rainfall - WOW!
Assume 80% evaporates/transpires/infiltrates.
Therefore 20% of annual rainfall becomes surface water for Meerkerk to manage.
13,000,000 x.2 = 2,600,000 gallons of surface water - WOW Again!

So how many bathtubs is that?
Average Bathtub holds 40 gallons of water and is 5 feet long.
2,600,000 divided by 40 = 65,000 bath tubs.
Max checking the grade for the french drain installation

Here's the Visual:
Place the bathtubs end to end = 61.55 miles (Whidbey Island  is 51 miles long).

If it takes 7 bathtubs to fit into one parking lot space at the Alderwood Mall then 65,000 bathtubs would fill 9,285 parking spaces. The Alderwood Mall only has 6,300 spaces.

Lynda McCormick - Rhody Raffle Winner
On September 7th, the winning "Name the Rhody" ticket was drawn and Lynda McCormick won the rights to name the Meerkerk rhododendron. 

Lynda is an active volunteer at Meerkerk. She helps deadhead rhodies every Thursday, helps with many of the yearly events, and works Saturdays throughout Peak Bloom as a Gatehouse Greeter.

 "Lynda has been an avid supporter of Meerkerk in so many ways - it was a treat to tell her that she won the raffle," says Executive Director, Kathryn Hurtley.

After some thought she decided to name the rhododendron in honor of her grandmother, Grace. The name will be: Meerkerk Morning Grace.

Lynda said, "My grandmother was an amazing woman. She raised 7 children on her own, in the early part of the last century. This is a wonderful way to pay homage to her." 

"Meerkerk Morning Grace" in Bloom
The rhododendron will now be formally registered with the Royal Horticulture Society and Meerkerk's Nursery will propagate the rhododendron so that other rhody lovers can purchase the Meerkerk Morning Grace rhody.

--Frank Simpson, Garden Manager

Euonymus europaeus
As the days get shorter, we are seeing the plants getting ready for winter dormancy. Warm days and cool nights trigger a change as they prepare for dormancy. 

Summer annuals and perennials follow suit and need to be cut back in the cultivated sections of the plant or left for foraging wildlife. An extra heavy mast of seed on some plants like holly and madrone suggest a hard winter ahead.   The m adrone, laden with clusters of red fruit is a lovely sight when the sun lights it up. 

The Katsura trees are turning a wonderful spectrum of color from yellows to apricot.  The reddest of our foliage so far comes from the sweetgum (Liquidamber sp.) but one or two vine maples are showing good color already. 

Cornus kousa

While you are out and about in the garden, you might see the bright red fruit of the dogwood. This one is  Cornus kousa, which is a beautiful medium-size tree that is smothered with white flowers early in thsummer.  

The ripe fruit looks like an over-sized raspberry and is said to taste like melon. 

Another plant with interesting fruit is Euonymus europaeus. It's one of those plants you take no notice of until one day when it is back-lit with sunlight, you notice the light red seed pods characteristic of Euonymus.  Meerkerk's Euonymus is located by the Volunteer Cottage and although it is not fully ripe, it is showing good color.

Callicarpa bodinieri

The purple berries of Callicarpa bodinieri are coloring up and telling us that it deserves to be featured more in the garden. I am sure we will be adding to the three plants we have at present.

Among the nice features in the garden are the tree stump gardens. The stumps play host to many plants but it's usually a colorful blend of mosses, lichens, and huckleberry. Once you get up close to them in the sunlight you can't help but gaze at the fine fabric of texture and color.

One of the many stump gardens at Meerkerk

"Autumn...the year's last, loveliest smile."

--William Cullen Bryant