Meerkerk Garden End of Year Update


Don Lee
It's a pleasure for me to write to you as we wind up 2016 - a very eventful, upbeat, and as I now estimate, balanced budget year!

A few of the highlights at Meerkerk Gardens this year:

  • The addition of a Garden Manager to our staff, namely Frank Simpson, an experienced landscape architect, who hit the ground running and who has made a great impact in our redesign of the gardens.
  • The addition of three excellent new members to the Board: Pat Sasson, Stephanie Rodden, and Re McClung. All three are longtime supporters of Meerkerk Gardens and bring a wealth of gardening knowledge and enthusiasm to the organization.
  • A very successful fund raising Gala last May at one of our local wineries. Plans are already underway for the 2nd Annual Gala at the Dancing Fish Winery on May 20th in 2017. Mark you calendars!
  • The summer was filled with our signature events which saw an increase in overall attendance. and, due to our advertising and PR efforts, we significantly increased visitation this year.
  • A special thanks to our garden angel & anonymous donor who generously offered a matching pledge for all donations to Meerkerk Gardens for the last half of 2016. It's not too late to add a little more to the matching fund drive if you can!
  • We broke ground on the garden redesign (with emphasis on the former Test Garden area). A new crushed stone garden path network is underway which will open up new vistas for all our visitor's enjoyment.

Well, that's about all the room that Kathryn has given me. By the way, she has been a super Executive Director& leader for Meerkerk Gardens over the past year and a half.

I and the Board of Directors appreciate all the garden clubs, businesses, donors, community members, and volunteers who support and contribute to Meerkerk Gardens each year.
Spring is coming fast and we are looking forward to and expecting a spectacular Peak Season of rhododendron blooms.Everyone at Meerkerk Gardens wishes all our Friends and Supporters a joyful holiday season. 

Happy Gardening Everyone!
Don Lee
Board President


With all the rain in October and November, the color of late summer and fall seems like a long time ago. Besides keeping swales from clogging up with leaves and making sure drains are functioning, we started work on a new walkway in what used to be called the Hybrid Test Garden
The new walkway is the first phase of a total reconfiguration of this area of the garden where crushed stone walkways will meander through massed planters connecting visitors to featured Rhododendrons, specimen trees and to other parts of the gardens. 

The overhaul will include a new assembly area to better facilitate tour groups and small events. Among the objectives guiding the design is to make the new garden more accessible to individual visitors and to small groups. 

Work on this first phase of the project will continue through March 2017 when we will add new trees, rhodies and companion plants.. Two further phases of work will be continued later in the fall of 2017. 


Throughout the winter months, drainage and swale management within Meerkerk Gardens become a priority. The surface drainage through the Big Leaf Valley is substantial, therefore maintaining, pruning, and clearing brush is crucial during this time of year.

 Thanks to the American Rhododendron Society - Whidbey Island Chapter, Meerkerk Gardens can rely upon volunteer work parties who recently volunteered on Saturday December 3rd and cheerfully set to work pulling brush and weeds and raking out swales. A big thank you goes to ARS Members Sally Cahill, Mark Walljasper, Barb Douglas, Don Lee, and Paul Louden!

Originally, in 1999, Carl "Jake" Jacobson undertook the creation of the Big Leaf Valley with the assistance of Don Kohlenberger, Dennis Gibberson, and other members of the Whidbey Island ARS Chapter. The objective of the garden area was to plant large-leaf, arboreal-type rhododendrons along the sides of the valley.   The Big Valley is a low lying garden bounded on two sides by steep east and west facing slopes. The 'big leaf' refers to large leaved rhododendron species that are more tree-like in habit. 

Ferns abound in this area and compete for space with the emerging rhodies. The work party tackled both ferns and blackberry, crawling under and clearing around the drip line of the plants to allow for easier management later in spring and summer. (Gardeners in the PNW will know the value of having this done ahead of spring when the demand on our time is relentless). 

We made great progress before we assembled at the volunteer cottage for a hot lunch. Thanks to Paul, Sally, Barbara, Don, Mark and Susie for braving the weather and getting it done. One more session is planned for the New Year to finish up what is left of the weeds and to update missing plant labels.

Big Leaf Valley Path .


We are so pleased to announce that with the financial support from Island Thrift, Oak Harbor, Meerkerk Gardens has purchased a golf cart. 

"This will make a huge difference during events at the gardens. We always have visitors who need transportation from the parking area to the Presentation Grounds. This will provide a comfortable and safe way to bring visitors through the gardens all year long," says Board President Don Lee.

Island Thrift funds have also supported the installation of crushed stone paths within the garden to aid in providing visitors with wider walkways. 


In addition to the 50+ volunteers who faithfully bring their time, energy, and talents to Meerkerk throughout the year, we are fortunate to have and ever grateful to several business sponsors, garden clubs, and organizations which support the gardens financially through grants, gifts, and donations. 

Garden Clubs
Greenbank Garden Club, South Whidbey Garden, Club, Oak Harbor Garden Club, Coupeville Garden Club, Island County Master Gardeners.

Coupeville Lions Club, Rotary Club of Whidbey - Westside, Island Thrift,.Island County 2% Grant Program, Whidbey Island Chapter of ARS, Seattle Rhododendron Society.

Business Sponsors
Toby's Tavern, Corey Oil & Propane, Greenbank Metalworks, Craig Holmquist Earth Moving Services, Whidbey Telecom, Dan Breedlove Tree Services, Greenbank Grille, John Deir Photography, Pat McVay Sculptor, Heritage Bank - Coupeville, Walmart, Payless Food Store, Frank Fujioka, and Quinn Glass - Oak Harbor.

And finally...thanks to everyone who donated to the Give Big Program, renewed their Friends of Meerkerk membership, gave to the Matching Gift Program, and supported our End of Year Rainbow Appeal. Because of your generosity, our anonymous donor will be matching over $21,000. 

Happy holidays and happy gardening to everyone!

"The winds will blow their own freshness into you, 
and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves." 
-John Muir