February ~ 2021

Wow! Hasn’t this been an interesting weather week -- from bitter cold, to carpets of snow, and now a warming and rainy trend? That’s February in the PNW for you. Hope you’re all staying safe and warm.

Before we get started, don’t forget that our February Zoom meeting is Feb. 17th at 10 am (tomorrow) where we’ll be having a little tea party to warm us up. It’s going to be lots of fun, so please join us. The link is listed below. The featured recipe of the month is Helen’s Shortbread. You might want to test that recipe right away so you can sip tea and nibble your shortbread during the Zoom program.

We’re very excited about this February newsletter filled with some great garden-related information. In the featured webinar you can learn about historical gardening and wildlife harvesting in the San Juan Islands; then you can read about how the folks at Island Thyme are using products from their own farm here on Orcas Island today to create healthy products. There are gardening tips for February, an update on Garden Tour plans for June, a book/movie recommendation, information about mason bees, and two great articles about a couple of local gardeners. There’s something here for everyone.

As always, we welcome your suggestions and comments. If there's a topic or idea you'd like to see covered in the newsletter, we’d love to hear from you. 

Until we meet again!
Nita Couchman
Wednesday, Feb. 17
@ 10:00am

OIGC Zoom Tea Party


Bring your favorite cuppa and cookies and join Laura Walker, Helen Huber, and Emmy Gran for a delightful time of tea and company.


Russel Barsh
Chocolate lily, Iceberg Point meadow, used with permission from Russel Barsh. Retrieved from
In The Land We Stand On, Russel Barsh describes the rich history of gardening in the San Juan Islands before, during, and shortly after European settlement. He emphasizes that there is ample evidence of pre-European agriculture and wildlife harvesting on the islands. Barsh begins by introducing the sources of data for his conclusions. His focus is on forestry, cultivation, and wildlife harvesting by the Coast Salish. He describes the textiles the Coast Salish made from cedar, willow, nettles, cattails, and dog hair, and how the textiles were used for clothing, sails, baskets, tents, and as nets to catch fish and birds for food.

Barsh also describes rock-walled gardens that enclosed Camassia leichtlinii (great camas), Perideridia gairdnerii (Indian carrot), Lillium columbiana (Columbia lily) and Fritillaria affinis (chocolate lily); salt water marshes that were enlarged to support clam gardens and salt tolerant food plants; nets and weirs used for catching salmon, in part to feed large flocks of dogs kept for their hair; and fires that aided in maintaining a mature cedar forest. He concludes with a discussion of how the Coast Salish practices differ from current practices. 

Russel Barsh is the Executive Director of the Kwiaht Center for the Historical Ecology of the Salish Sea. He conducts field research about bats, pollinators, and nearshore marine food webs.

This previously recorded webinar, The Land We Stand On, was hosted by the San Juan Island County and is available on YouTube: This program is 70 minutes long.
Submitted by Lene Symes
Washington Native Plant Society
March 4, 2021 at 7:00 PM
Free. Pre-Registration required.
Thursday, March 4, 2021
9:00am - 3:30 pm
$30 - registration required
This month we want to welcome NEW members Aimee Beveridge, Melinda McGee, Tessa Ormenyi, Teresa Webster, and Christina Wolfe, and thank RENEWING members and donors Mariann Carrasco. Thank you all for your support. Names of new and renewing members and donors are included in our monthly drawings.
Island Thyme has donated a lovely basket to our club for the February raffle.  It features 4 products each with a significant connection to their garden. 
  • Calendula Goat's Milk Soap - the calendula is from the garden and the goat's milk is from their Nigerian Dwarf goats
  • Herbal Super Salve - Eliza's original product full of herbal extracts 
  • Calendula Comfrey Cream - one of Island Thymes original creams. Truly amazing for dry skin infused with calendula from their garden.
  • Orcas Lavender Soap - their most popular soap, originally created as a favor for their wedding in 1999.
  • A little bouquet of lavender tucked in 
Our special thanks to Chris & Eliza at Island Thyme for their generous gift. 


C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S !!!
A lovely gift basket of goodies donated by Island Thyme.
We've Made it Easier for You to Become a Member

We are happy to announce that memberships and donations can now all be done directly from our website at . We have added an electronic membership form and a PayPal option. For those of you who prefer to pay by check, you may still print and fill out a form and mail it to us with your check.

To renew your membership, become a member, or make a donation, please select whichever method works best for you. YOU could be the next lucky winner!!!!


Click on the button below to email our Membership chairs and find out.
Little things can become big things...
This is a story of a business that blossomed from a strong partnership and a little gift!

It was 1996. Eliza started selling her flowers at the Orcas farmer’s market and created Island Thyme as a winter time extension of her herb and flower farm. Fun fact - her very first product was the Herbal Super Salve. Eliza noted, “she was amazed that the salve was selling as well as the flowers'' so she began making more. 

Chris, being a thoughtful and supportive partner, found Eliza a unique book on making soap using herbal ingredients which was quite novel in the 90’s. He gave it to her for their anniversary and that small act proved to be a catalyst for her business. Delighted, she experimented a bit and ended up making some soaps for the Artisan Faire that winter. 
Over the following years Chris helped on and off. His first full time stint at Island Thyme was in 2002, when their daughter Linnea was born. Eliza needed help keeping up with her growing business as well as balancing the responsibilities of a full-time mom. Island Thyme was invited to join the Orcas Artworks Cooperative, and before long, their product offerings grew to include salves, oils, creams, lotions, lip balms and more. In that period the seeds were planted and Chris' interest grew steadily. 

By 2015 he was ready to leave his work as a design build contractor and dive into Island Thyme fully. Today they have a thriving business and you can find their products in natural markets and specialty stores throughout the Pacific Northwest.
The pandemic has impacted many businesses, especially the small. Fortunately Island Thyme has remained vibrant throughout the past year. Their loyal customer base throughout the PNW, and beyond, and their broad line of natural personal care products helped them stay stable. If anything, demand for their healing and heart warming products only grew as their customers navigated these tough times. They even stepped up to the challenge by supporting local Seattle PCC Markets in Seattle with a multitude of cases of Island Thyme’s own carefully formulated hand sanitizer, filling the orders as quickly as they could. At this point their website is nearly 50% of their business and allows them to stay connected with customers all over the United States and they have stories of their products being shared as far away as Germany, Greece, Australia, Nigeria and India. They are grateful to be a little handmade island-based company which connects deeply with customers next door and across the globe.
Wonderful news of future plans includes the Spring launch of a dedicated store in the former space of the Jillery with hopes to display the journey and mission of Island Thyme inside the store. They will continue to develop new products such as candles, bath products and natural perfumes…AND expand their line of Island Thyme Goat Milk Soaps! 

Additionally, when it’s safe to do so, they look forward to the prospect of offering Island Thyme Farm tours and classes. How Exciting!
The successful couple prides themselves in growing and utilizing many of the items they grow on the farm such as lavender, calendula, chamomile and cucumbers. Their delightful goats even get involved in the action by offering their luscious milk for soap. They also use ingredients such as Arnica Montana, St John’s Wort and Balm of Gilead exclusively wildcrafted from the Pacific Northwest. 

But perhaps what Eliza and Chris are most passionate about is personally connecting with customers about their products. They love sharing them with others and hearing back on how they use them and enjoy them. Chris gets his energy from hearing customer’s stories, listening to their feedback and then consequently expanding their offerings. “We love doing things directly with people. It’s the heart of our business”.

Visit Island Thyme’s website to learn more!
In the Maritime Northwest, we typically enjoy a lot of precipitation during this time of year. Though we might find ourselves tempted on a cold sunny day to grab a shovel and start working with our soil, we must be careful not to cultivate overly saturated soil. Doing so can damage the structure and seeds are less likely to germinate in cold, wet soil. 

So do a quick test to see if the timing is right for you and your garden. Dig down 6-8 inches, and gather a handful of soil, gently compressing it in your hand. Form a ball and then give it a toss about 6 inches into the air and catch it in your open palm.  If it breaks apart easily into crumbles you are good to proceed.  
And now is the time to start sowing those seeds!

Directly sow these outdoors flowers such as Larkspur, Nigella, Alyssum, Gypsophila, Lupine, Sweet pea, Phlox, Poppy, Bachelor’s Buttons, Johnny Jump Up

Sow inside and transplant when ready flowers such as Begonia, Mallow, Bee Balm, Stock, Wax Flower, Black Eyed Susan, Chamomile, Yarrow, Verbena

Source: maritime northwest garden guide by Tilth Alliance
Vicki’s gardening experience began in Asia as she participated in the mountains with tribal groups in growing local foods. She says she provided great entertainment for the locals watching her. The land she eventually purchased on Orcas Island had only one place clear of standing trees, weather having blown down many in that spot leaving logs that were eventually used for the garden.
With family help, in March of 2011, they began creating their garden space, and by September -- 6 months later -- they had fenced about 100 x 50 feet. The spot is surrounded by trees on all sides and has at most 6 hours of sun during the summer months. That first year, about half the fenced space was planted, mainly with vegetables, but flowers have found their way in and spread joy over the years.
Log Pile
6 months later
After the garden was initially established, Vicki has been in charge of the garden’s care and growth with occasional help from her husband. Slowly each year more space has been cleared and by 2020, those original logs used to outline the garden are now rotten and need replacing. A small orchard, two trellis, and a picnic table have been added over the years as well.
Without the time or finances to do everything she dreams of doing, Vicki welcomes the challenge of figuring out how to use what is available. One of her biggest challenges has been that there is no water piped to the garden area which means hauling it to the site in gallon containers during the summer months. 
Vicki enjoys gardening, finding it brings much joy to her as well as to others. Her garden is a place of peace and beauty, and a challenge for her and the others who take a spot in it to try their hand at growing.
Vicki learned about the Garden Club from friends. Unable to attend monthly meetings prior to COVID quarantine, she is now able to enjoy Garden Club news and information through the online newsletter and webinars. 

We send out a warm welcome to Vicki. Thank you for joining us!
After almost a year of struggling to live our lives under the threat of the COVID-19 virus, we’ve had to postpone many holiday celebrations, birthdays and group activities that we all enjoy in order to keep ourselves and others safe. 
But now, with the help of safety procedures and vaccines coming, we’re finally able to see some hopeful possibilities beckon to us by next summer. In that spirit, we are planning a Safe Garden Tour for all of us to celebrate our love for plants. We’ve already contacted garden owners and their response has been terrific! We have found six lovely gardens for our tour in June.
As always, we’ll need your help to make our garden tour a success, especially this year. Every year, our volunteers work with garden owners to welcome guests, share information about plants and help them enjoy their visit.  Each garden has a captain who coordinates activities with the garden owners and works with docents to schedule them and assign tasks at the garden. Docents welcome guests, check tickets, coordinate parking and help guests learn about the garden.
This year, things will be a little different to ensure safety for garden owners, volunteers and guests as we enjoy the beauty of our island gardens.

Three gardens will be open on Saturday, June 26, and three different gardens will be open on Sunday, June 27. Tickets will indicate the names and locations of the gardens open for the tour on each day. 

Masks and social distancing will be required, all gardens will have one-way path and a limited number of visitors will be allowed inside each garden at a time.

Each garden will have signs and posters explaining the guidelines, a safety equipment kit and training for volunteers so they can help visitors understand and follow the safety guidelines.
All our volunteers and garden owners will receive a free ticket so they can enjoy visiting the other gardens. This year, since each garden will only be open for one day, our garden captains will only need to be available for one day (either Sat or Sun) when their assigned garden is open. Our docents will sign up for either an AM or PM shift on whichever day (Sat or Sun) that their assigned garden is open. 
Because of the COVID-19 virus, we can’t have a Pre-Tour this year. But to help us all enjoy our Safe Garden Tour experience, we’re exploring the possibility of offering different fun experiences at each garden, such as: free plant starts, music, raffles, garden art for sale, prepackaged snacks and a guided walk to a meditation garden.

We hope you’ll join us as we create a wonderful garden tour this year for all of us to enjoy. If you’d like to volunteer for the garden tour or if you have a recommendation or resource for anyone willing to play music, demonstrate a craft, display art, etc. please contact us!

Sally and Laura
A BOOK and A MOVIE: The Secret Garden
From the Book:

I read The Secret Garden as a youngster and credit it with bolstering my emerging reading and gardening passions. The idea of finding and nurturing a secret garden really sparked my imagination. It seemed written just for me and I have to admit some disappointment, when I found out it was so widely read and loved! But, anyone can appreciate the healing power of the nature and friendship theme.
 To The Silver Screen
(or rather your computer monitor):

I recently rented the 1993 film adaptation on Amazon and lost myself in the sumptuous photography. I own up to leaking a few tears at the end. The child actors were fabulous and there's the incomparable Maggie Smith as the crotchety Mrs. Medlock. I haven't seen the 2020 version at the library , but you can't go wrong with this adaptation. Pop some corn and take a magical journey into this beautiful tale with some hankies close by!
Submitted by Perri Gibbons
If you’ve been to our Garden Club meetings, you probably know Jean. She’s the one with the encyclopedic knowledge of plants who sometimes seems to know more than our speakers! She often provides the gorgeous centerpieces at the social hour spread. We’re so lucky to have her as a longtime member of our club.

Young Garden Sprout : It’s not too surprising to learn that Jean developed an early love of gardening growing up on a 5 acre commercial flower nursery outside of Seattle. Some of her favorite flowers -- peonies, phlox and lilacs -- are fragrant remembrances of that time.
In her 20s, Jean moved to the San Juans and lived on a subsistence farm where she grew a lot of her own food, eventually relocating to Orcas to start a weatherization program for Opalco. There, she began tending other people’s gardens, increasing her knowledge and experience with plants. Always a natural gardener, she broadened her understanding by seeking out professional books and resources. Jean’s daughter, Kerissa, also a GC member, learned gardening at her mother’s knee. So, the generation of women gardeners in the family carries on!
Projects on Orcas : If you’ve been back behind the Orcas Center, you may have noticed Jean’s influence on the garden. The fenced Memorial Garden features some lovely roses. The Chamber Music Garden outside the fence is in full glory during the Music Festival, but Jean’s goal is to have flowers blooming year round. Jean’s current project is redoing the garden in front of the Historical Museum with heritage plants of historic value from around the island. For example, near one corner of the museum is a lilac transplanted from the Episcopal Church when they rebuilt the Parish Hall. The GC has awarded the Museum a grant to help with this project.
Advice for Novice and Beyond : Jean says Orcas is a wonderful place to garden with cool winters for plants to achieve dormancy, yet mild enough for tender perennials in protected areas. We can grow so many plants with fencing. Without fences, the most deer resistant plants are rosemary and lavender, with Shasta Daisies, German Iris, and Foxglove as other possibilities. Jean suggests gardeners think about goals -- such as food production, beauty, or native plant preservation -- and then develop a plan. New owners with established gardens might want to wait a year to see what’s already planted. And, of course, all gardeners can benefit and learn through GC membership.
We look forward to seeing Jean and her lovely flower arrangements when we can meet in person again! Thank you, Jean!!!
Win Nesting Materials for a Native Pollinator and Some Bee Cocoons

In March the Garden Club will offer cocoons and a mason bee home kit as a raffle prize. Most wild bees such as bumble bees nest in the ground. Mason bees and their cousins, the leaf cutter and alfalfa bees, nest in cavities. Along with bumble bees, the mason bees are important Spring pollinators in our cool coastal climate.  They will fly and pollinate plants in temperatures too cool for honey bees to be active. The bee home kit will be shipped in March. We'll send the cocoons in April when it's time to put them out. A former board member will donate the cocoons. 
Mason bees are not a stinging hazard and no protective gear is needed to work with them. Because of the way they gather pollen, they are excellent pollinators of fruit trees. The Master Gardeners place cocoons and mason bee nesting materials at the Orcas School each April for the students to observe and enjoy. In September, the fifth graders harvest the bee cocoons and prepare them for winter storage.  The kids usually find a few leaf cutter bee cocoons in the nesting materials along with mason bee cocoons.

by Tony Suruda, OIGC Treasurer and Master Gardener
If you'd like to learn more about Mason Bees, here are a few helpful links:

U.S. Forest Service -- Blue Orchard Mason Bees

CrownBees -- products and information

BEEdiverse -- products and information. (The type of bee viewing home shown on this site will be attached to the shed at the Orcas School garden come April)

Winter garden,
the moon thinned to a thread,
insects singing.

~ Matsuo Basho

1970. I had just become a teenager and was sitting at the kitchen table, looking through the Signal Hill School Family Cookbook, a compilation of recipes shared by families in the school where my mom was the reading teacher. And there it was -- a recipe for shortbread, a cookie I had never tasted. It looked achievable...and maybe delicious. I made the cookie, not knowing the various ways I would come to finesse the recipe, and the ongoing joy that would come from years of making, adapting, and gifting this simple and glorious cookie. I hope you enjoy making, baking, and eating this classic buttery delight.

—Helen Huber, Communications Chair and baker-at-large
We're still looking for old Garden Club photos and stories: We'd love to include your old Garden Club stories and old photos in our upcoming issue on the Garden Club's past. You can send them by snail mail to P.O. Box 452, Eastsound, WA 98245 OR email them to us at

PayPal now available for membership dues and donations: We're pleased to announce that our website now gives the option of using an electronic membership/donation form with PayPal for receiving your payments. Snail mail is still accepted as well.

Non-Profit status: The Orcas Island Garden Club is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit with the IRS. This makes us a tax-exempt, charitable organization and donations to the Club can now be tax-deductible.

BBQ, Anyone????
Lisa Boyd accepted the challenge of Arizona gardening and has put her old BBQ to good use as a planter.

Got anything laying around your place just begging to be repurposed?
And now it's YOUR turn.
Tell us what you think about the newsletter.
How can we make it better?
Your ideas? What would you like to read about?
Nita Couchman
Lene Symes
Perri Gibbons
Karen Hiller
Sally Hodson
Laura Walker 
Jan Jacobson
Tony Suruda
Helen Huber
Linda Armstrong
Email Nita
Email Lene
Email Perri
Email Karen
Email Sally
Email Laura
Email Jan
Email Tony
Email Helen
Email Linda
Orcas Island Garden Club
P. O. Box 452
Eastsound, WA 98245

Newsletter Editors: Nita Couchman & Laura Walker