Arwen Norman comes to Meerkerk after spending the last eight seasons on vegetable farms in Western Washington.  Originally from the suburbs of Portland, OR, Arwen came up to Seattle to attend the University of Washington, where she earned a degree in Biology with a focus on ecology.  

While in school, she helped with marine ecology research on the Olympic Peninsula and in Willapa Bay, and was a student leader in the early days of the UW Farm. After graduation, Arwen started learning about farming via internships. She came to Whidbey Island three years ago to farm with a friend and fellow ecologist at SkyRoot Farm in Clinton.

Arwen loves plants and has been gardening since elementary school.  Many of the memories of the first house she lived in are of the garden, including the hedge of rhododendrons that grew along the garage. She is fascinated by the range of rhododendron shapes and sizes on display at Meerkerk and excited to learn more about rhododendrons in a goat-free environment (the rhododendrons outside her window at home are on probation because of the farm goats).  

Though most of her recent focus has necessarily been on crop plants she has maintained an interest in flowers and other ornamentals, including keeping a portable lily garden in pots that she could move from farm to farm. Arwen is looking forward to seeing all the seasons at Meerkerk Gardens.

Please join the Staff and Board in welcoming Arwen to the Meerkerk team!

Installing New Sales Area
MARK YOUR CALENDER'S! Nursery Manager, Susie Reynolds is getting the nursery sales areas ready for the Opening Sale on March 18 & 19th

Susie says, "There is going to be more inventory to choose from this year - so come early!"

Early in February, the nursery stock will begin to arrive. Several raised beds have been removed and new weed cloth will be laid down in preparation for an expanded sales area.  There are also plans to reconfigure where the native plants, large rhodies, and mature hybrids will be staged for easy viewing by eager buyers.

A new octagonal sitting bench is being built by Meerkerk volunteer carpenter, Blaine Sorenson. "This is a beautiful addition to the nursery and will provide much needed seating for visitors as they peruse the rhodies for sale," says Susie.

And lastly, upgrades to the nursery irrigation system has begun which will provide expanded outlets for better coverage for the entire area of the nursery sale beds and growing field.


February 22 - Rhodie Fundamentals - FREE
Meerkerk Residence 
Presented by Meerkerk Gardens & Whidbey Island Chapter American Rhododendron Society
Nationally known Rhododendron Hybridizer, Bill Stipe will discuss the basics of rhodie cultivar. Learn from a local expert!

March 11 - Native Plant Class - $10.00 Class Fee
Meerkerk Residence  10:00 am to Noon

Master Gardener Don Lee will share his knowledge of NW Native Plants and how to incorporate a wide variety into your garden.
Call 360 678.1912 to register

March 22 - Bats in the Garden - FREE
Meerkerk Residence 
Presented by Meerkerk Gardens & Whidbey Island Chapter  American Rhododendron Society
Bat expert, Sarah Schmidt will share her knowledge about our local bat species and how they are crucial to sustaining a vibrant ecosystem here on Whidbey Island.

Susie Reynolds in the New Red Truck
Long time supporters and Friends of Meerkerk, Mike & Lori Simmons generously donated their F150 Ford truck to Meerkerk Gardens. 

The garden staff are delighted to have a truck that has a deep truck bed for hauling soil, mulch, and sand. "This truck will allow us to efficiently transport materials around the Garden  and we can quickly order and pick up a yard of organic materials when needed," says Garden Manager, Frank Simpson.

Thanks Mike and Lori for your continued support of Meerkerk Gardens!
--Garden Manager Frank Simpson

Magnolia soulangeana
The month of January came with mixed blessings. As gardeners, we welcome the cold snap that kills off overwintering pest and diseases but it also halted the project that has been the major focus of our work over the past two months: the redesign of what was previously the Hybrid Test Garden. 

The program of 'testing' new hybrid rhododendrons will no longer be formally observed in the garden and this section of the garden will now be known as the Entry Garden and will be devoted to display of our favorite rhododendrons and companion plants. Specifically, the work that was halted by frozen ground is the completion of Phase One improvements that include a new walkway, assembly area and new planting. 

Franklinia Altamaha
Overall, the work has resulted in quite a disturbance and as the ground becomes workable again, we are moving ahead to make way for coming season of flowering by "capping off" the Phase One improvements with grading and planting scheduled for completion by early March. 

Phase Two will begin in August with the addition of two more walkways. The completion of these two phases will result in greater accessibility for visitors to the gardens. 

Forest Prince serviceberry autumn color
We will be adding  more trees to this section of the garden to add to the ones already established here - Gingko biloba, Sorbus aria 'Lutescens', Magnolia soulangeana, Enkianthus campanulata and Crypomeria japonica. 

The  Entry Garden trees will contribute to the overall framework of the new design. I favor the idea of broadening the season of interest beyond rhodendrons to include some fall color. Forest Prince serviceberry, Amelanchier ×  grandiflora 'Forest Prince' and Franklinia Altamaha , Franklin tree would make a good start. At ground level we are looking forward to adding companion plants both woody and herbaceous to provide ground cover and added color. 

"What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness. "
--John Steinbeck