January ~ 2023



And here we are already halfway into the first month of a brand new year!!! And didn't 2022 go out with a bang?!? Rain, snow, freezing temps, and power outages. I'd say that was pretty dramatic. I'm still cleaning up windfall from that wild weather spell. But now we look ahead into 2023. It's a transition time for many of us. A time when we focus on plans for change and renewal.

Our newsletter topic this month rings true to that concept as we learn about the hows and whys of managing noxious weeds on our island, and turn our focus to replacing them with more desirable native plants. Our speaker on Wednesday is JASON ONTJES, the Noxious Weed Control Program Coordinator in San Juan County, and then the Master Gardeners' Native Plant Sale begins soon, so the two work beautifully together. Out with the old; in with the new.

This is also a time of new beginnings as we will have our first hybrid meeting this month -- you may attend in person in the Madrona Room at Orcas Center or you may participate through Zoom and attend virtually. Join us Wednesday at 10 am -- either in person or virtually -- to learn how to become a noxious weed warrior.

I hope you'll enjoy browsing through this newsletter issue, that you'll find things that spark your interest, that you learn from, or that just purely delight.

Hope to see you soon,

Nita Couchman

OIGC President

CLICK HERE to send us your comments, questions, photos, gardening stories, and newsletter ideas. Tell us how we’re doing. We are eager to hear from you!!!

JOHN CHRISTIANSON, who was originally scheduled to be our January speaker, had a conflict and had to cancel. We are delighted that JASON ONTJES has agreed to be our January speaker. Thank you, Jason!

JAN. 18 (Weds.) @ 10:00 a.m.

In Person in the Madrona Room or via ZOOM

The Orcas Island

Garden Club

. . presents . . 



How to Be a

Noxious Weed Warrior


OIGC PROGRAMS -- 2022/2023

Beginning in January, 2023, we will be holding HYBRID programs -- attend in person in the Madrona Room at Orcas Center

or attend virtually via Zoom.

Meeting start time will now be 10:00 am.

Whenever possible, the meetings will still be recorded and

posted for later viewing.

Wearing a mask at the in-person meetings is not required but would be very much appreciated as we continue to be mindful of the health and safety of one another. 

We will not be resuming the social hour with hot drinks and snacks at this time,

but hope to be able to do so in the future.

Click HERE to Join Zoom Programs

Sept. 21   Thor Hanson ~ Hurricane Lizards & Plastic Squid

Oct. 19   James Most ~ Growing Fruit & Nut Trees in the San Juan Islands

Nov. 9   Paul Spriggs ~ Cracks and Crevices: The Art of the Crevice Garden

Dec. 14   Cindy Morgan ~ Holiday Arrangements

Jan. 18   JASON ONTJES ~ How to Be a Noxious Weed Warrior

Feb. 15     Marisa Hendron ~  Seed Stewardship for Locally Adapted Plants

March 15     Lindsey du Toit ~ Principles of Plant Disease Spread & Management

April 19   Lynn Johnson ~ Indoor Plant Care

May 17     Kevin Zobrist ~ Caring for Native Trees in the San Juan Islands

June 24 & 25  ~  ANNUAL GARDEN TOUR

WINNERS of Cindy Morgan's holiday centerpieces


Betsy Louton

Carolyn O'Day

Chris & Sam Wolfe

Sara T. Moore

Bruce Spiller & Sandra Bonetti

Lynn & Chris Thomerson

David & Geri Turnoy

Stefanie Susol

Lisa Poitras

Myla Sherburne

Names of new and renewing members are automatically added to the raffle list each month.  If you haven't already done so, send in your renewal soon to get in on the fun!!!


MARISA HENDRON will be our February 15th speaker. 

On February 15th at 10:00 am, Marisa Hendron, custodian of the Seed Library at the Orcas Public Library, will give a presentation titled SEED STEWARDSHIP FOR LOCALLY ADAPTED PLANTS.

The Orcas Island Seed Library, home to approximately 147 seed varieties, was created to make seeds of locally adapted plants available freely available to all islanders. Marisa Hendron will describe borrowing from and contributing to the Seed Library, emphasizing the role of the Seed Library in building a resilient seed stewardship community.

Marisa is the Orcas Island Public Library seed librarian. She will talk seeds with you all day long if you want to.

Recording of CINDY MORGAN's Program is now available

For those of you who missed our December 14th program with Cindy Morgan about holiday arrangements, you can now view the recorded program. Ongoing thanks to the Orcas Island Library for partnering with us on these recordings. ENJOY!


FEBRUARY 15 - 19, 2023

Seattle Convention Center

Purchase tickets before February 15th for the Early Bird rate of $21 per day.

Click HERE for more details.

Stranger's Corner, by William Herbert Allen (1903)

H-E-L-P : Your Garden Club Needs YOU !!!

by Nita Couchman

It's time for some new folks to take a turn at helping to keep our Garden Club going and growing. The current board members have been serving you all to keep good programs coming your way, to make sure you get your monthly newsletters, to plan Garden Tours and "members only" events. Now it's your turn to step up and help out.

Many of the tasks can be done just once a month (Sept. through June) and could be done in an evening or two or on a weekend afternoon.

We need someone to take on the role of Communications Chair which is a board position and involves overseeing member emails, publicity emails, postings to Facebook and Instagram, and working with the President and Board to keep info on our website up-to-date. (We have a webmaster, so you wouldn't need to actually do the work.) There is one board meeting each month via Zoom (the 3rd Monday of the month at 10 am).

We have other areas where we need help as well, so please get in touch if you'd like to find out how YOU can pitch in and help.

If you have the skills and interests that fit with this role or ANY role, or if you have any questions or ideas, we would love to hear from you. Tasks can be shared with friends if there are two or more buddies who would like to work together. We're open to your creative ideas. Training is available for ALL of these tasks.

Please email Nita Couchman at and we'll set up a time to get together. We look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for taking this next step toward supporting YOUR Garden Club.


Thanks to Kate Yturri, President of Master Gardener Foundation of San Juan County, for spearheading the replacement of the sign at the Native Plant Garden in the Orcas Public School gardens.


We're still . . . LOOKING FOR ORCAS GARDENS FOR 2023 TOUR....

Please help us scout out some lovely gardens for our 2023 Garden Tour.  

Our 2023 Garden Tour will be on Saturday, June 24th and Sunday, June 25th with all gardens open from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm on both days.

Some things we look for :

  • Interesting plants (annuals, perennials, fruit trees, veggies, natives, shrubs, bird/insect friendly, deer resistant)

  • Creative design ideas that fellow gardeners would enjoy seeing and might like to use in their own gardens

  • Unique features (greenhouse, pond, rain catchment, berry cage, raised beds, drip watering, garden art)

Gardens must also be accessible to cars coming & going, have some parking area, and pose no hazards. 

If you know about any great gardens that might be suitable for our tour, please let us know and we’ll contact the owners to see if they’re interested.  

Email Ideas to : Sally Hodson OR Laura Walker



by Ted Hughes

Against the rubber tongues of cows and the hoeing hands of men

Thistles spike the summer air

And crackle open under a blue-black pressure.

Every one a revengeful burst

Of resurrection, a grasped fistful

Of splintered weapons and Icelandic frost thrust up

From the underground stain of a decayed Viking.

They are like pale hair and the gutterals of dialects.

Every one manages a plume of blood.

Then they grow grey like men.

Mown down, it is a feud. Their sons appear

Stiff with weapons, fighting back over the same ground.


Washington’s first declared noxious weed is the Canada thistle, a spindly purple-flowered weed native to southeastern Europe. It likely came to North America in the 1600s in a batch of contaminated seed or in the ballast of a ship. Its roots can spread up to 12 feet a year, each plant can produce up to 5,000 seeds, and seeds can survive for 22 years. It creates dense clusters that crowd out native plants and crops. In 1881, Washington’s territorial government passed its first noxious weed law, to try to control the spread of Canada thistle. Today, this plant is a class C noxious weed which basically means that it is found everywhere with no ability to fully eradicate the plants.


NOXIOUS WEEDS of San Juan County

Collected by Helen Huber

What are noxious weeds?

“Noxious” is a legal term referring to non-native plants that are highly destructive, competitive, and difficult to control by normal cultural practices. Aggressive growth patterns and lack of natural enemies allow these species to become highly invasive. Preventing the spread of noxious weeds is critical to the economic and ecological health of the county.

To view a color poster of noxious weeds frequently seen in San Juan County, click HERE.

For a complete list of noxious weeds in San Juan County, click HERE.

What should I do with the noxious weeds I gather?

San Juan County allows residents to bring up to 300 pounds or approximately six 32-gallon trash cans of noxious weeds (including the roots) to the transfer station located at 3398 Orcas Road. Check in at the cashier window first and you’ll receive a short form to complete. This free disposal program is only for noxious weeds, not household garbage or other debris mixed in.

At present, all weed species on the current San Juan County Noxious Weed List will be eligible for free disposal except the following:

  • Himalayan and evergreen blackberries (Rubus bifrons and R. laciniatus);
  • Reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea)
  • English and Irish ivy (Hedera helix or H. hibernica)

To participate in the free noxious weed disposal program, the participant must provide the following information to the transfer station staff (on the form given at the booth):

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Species of noxious weed(s)
  • Location of control site (street address or general location using common landmarks

Noxious weed loads brought in for disposal:

  • should be removed by the roots and bagged or covered with a tarp enroute to prevent weed seeds or propagules from spreading along roadsides
  • should not have rocks, dirt or other debris with the load: just noxious weed plant material, preferably flowers and/or seeds
  • should be dry prior to visiting the transfer station, reducing the cost of disposal
  • If time allows, participants are urged to separate and bag flower heads and seeds for disposal, leaving other plant parts such as stems or roots behind if they do not pose a threat to further spread. These other parts should still be bagged in plastic bags. 

What can you do to prevent and deal with noxious weeds?

  • Learn to recognize noxious weeds. If you find an infested area or unfamiliar plant, contact the SJC Weed Program staff at (360) 376-3499  
  • Use weed-free seed, forage, compost, and soil
  • Carefully select garden plants, choosing native species or non-invasive ornamentals in your landscapes
  • Do not share aggressive plants with your neighbors
  • Never empty your aquarium into ponds or streams
  • Check and clean your boats and trailers for any plant fragments
  • Wash mowers and other equipment when moving from a weed-infested site to clean site 
  • Volunteer with The Land Bank, The Preservation Trust, the County or State Parks, Noxious Weed Program or other local agencies for weed removal

How do noxious weeds affect you?

Noxious weeds:

  • can poison humans and livestock
  • decrease biological diversity by displacing native vegetation and wildlife
  • can lower land values
  • clog lakes and ponds
  • reduce crop yields and increase agricultural costs
  • destroy intertidal ecological communities

The Mission of the San Juan County Noxious Weed Control Program is to focus on education, prevention, technical assistance and control of noxious weeds through voluntary compliance with RCW 17.10 . It offers:

  • early detection and rapid response
  • educational materials and programs
  • noxious weed identification and inventories
  • site-specific control recommendations
  • assistance to individuals, organizations and other agencies in controlling noxious weeds; the loaning of weed wrenches for Scotch broom. 

On Orcas, contact Jason Ontjes, Program Coordinator for the Noxious Weed Program, at 360-376-3499 (Email: to arrange to borrow a weed wrench. 


Watch this short video to learn how and why it's important to control Tansy Ragwort in San Juan County.



By Suzette Lansing

We’re new to Orcas. Residents of just over two years. The pandemic afforded us the chance to reconsider how and where to live. I’d like to say we had a grand plan, but it was more about timing and opportunity, with some daring and real luck added in. 

During a 10-day Pacific Northwest scouting trip with just 48 hours on Orcas, the search ended at Buck Bay Shellfish at sunset over a fresh crab and orange wine. (Context can be compelling!) We suspected that we’d found what we were looking for: a true community where people help each other, immersion in nature, and land with privacy.

So began our adventure which included joining the Orcas Island Garden Club as novice gardeners so that we could begin to learn how to develop and maintain a beautiful space and grow our own food. This column will share the story of how we are building our life here as stewards of the land with the help of local experts, good neighbors, and plenty of sweat equity, trial and error, humility and gratitude.



Reviewed by Perri Gibbons

10 Weeds You Can Eat !

By Urban Edibles

I found this cute little zine at the Orcas Library. If you’ve never heard of a zine, I encourage you to check out the collection located across from the magazines. Zines are inexpensively produced, self-published, often underground-type publications. They cover an astonishing gamut of material and I often pick one at random just to be surprised and educated by a topic. 

This zine is created by Urban Edibles, a cooperative network of food foragers based in Portland, Oregon. Their mission is to create awareness about what is available in our own neighborhoods, and to re-establish the connection between people, environment and food. 

The first instruction is IF IN DOUBT (about a plant identity) DON’T! and I’ll repeat that in capitals. But most of the weeds listed are familiar even to a casual gardener: dandelion, plantain, red clover … each plant has a description, a black and white illustration and harvest advice. We read what parts of the plant to use and how to prepare them. I learned that the boiled, sliced roots of the Bull Thistle can be prepared like potatoes, the peeled stems as a celery substitute and the young leaves for salad greens!  

You know the old saying: If you can’t weed’em, eat’em! 

Life is bristling with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to cultivate one’s garden.



by Laura Walker

Mother Nature will quickly find a way to fill open garden space once invasive or noxious weeds have been removed, so it’s best to have a plan. If you’re not quite ready to plant, consider mulching to protect your hard work.  

Ideally, this is the perfect opportunity to incorporate more native plants into your garden. Many native plants are beautiful ornamentals like this Nootka rose and have adapted to our Pacific Northwest climate of wet winters and dry summers. Once established, natives require less water than non-natives and are better able to resist native pests and diseases. In addition, the native garden habitat nurtures and supports wildlife.  

The Audubon Society describes the importance of native plants as “the ecological basis upon which life depends, including birds and people. Without them and the insects that co-evolved with them, local birds cannot survive. For example, research by the entomologist Doug Tallamy has shown that native oak trees support over 500 species of caterpillars whereas ginkgos, a commonly planted landscape tree from Asia, host only 5 species of caterpillars. When it takes over 6,000 caterpillars to raise one brood of chickadees, that is a significant difference.”

Get creative with different kinds of gardens such as:

  • Rain gardens filter and collect polluted stormwater runoff. 
  • Butterfly gardens are a sustainable habitat for butterflies and caterpillars. 
  • Meadow and wildflower gardens provide food and shelter for native wildlife. 
  • Shade gardens minimize evaporation in the summer, which helps save water. 
  • Rock gardens save water and require little maintenance.
  • Water gardens provide a habitat for aquatic organisms, and the sounds of water help reduce stress. 
  • Bog gardens are an excellent environment for moisture-loving plants. 
  • Succulent gardens are visually interesting and help save water. 
  • Moon gardens offer beautiful scenery at night and invite nighttime pollinators. 

The key to landscaping with any plant including natives, according to the Washington Native Plant Society, is threefold: plant the Right Plant in the Right Site and Conditions for its Mature Size. Before you plant, test your soil for fertility and evaluate its composition of sand, loam or clay. Assess your lighting needs and exposure to weather including wind. These steps will set you up for success.

Finally, get excited about your plan. Now that you’ve removed unwanted aggressive plants, you have a blank canvas ready for paint. As you educate yourself about ways to incorporate native plants, inspire your neighbors and friends by sharing your design. Reflect on what you learn as you go and celebrate your commitment to preserving biodiversity, increasing all the different forms of life in your own backyard. 

Sources and More Information:

Audubon Society:

Native Plant Guide from King County Hazardous Waste site :

Native Plant directory from Washington Native Plant Society :

Looking for native plants?! The San Juan County Master Gardener Foundation Native Plant sale begins Jan 28th! 

Click here for more information.


Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum)

~ Sylvia McKenney

Chocolate Lily (Fritillaria lanceolate)

~ Dianne Macondray

Ocean Spray (Holodiscus discolor)

~ Lene Symes

Nodding Onion (Allium cernuum)

~ Laura Walker

Kinnickinnick or Bearberry

(Arcostaphylos uva-ursi)

~ Leslie Hutchinson

Calypso Orchid (Calypso bulbosa)

~ Natalie Herner, Julia Turney

& Kate Yturri

Red Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum)

Nancy Forker, Dray Longdon

& Anne Garfield

Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii)

~ Tony Suruda

Pacific Dogwood (Cornus nuttallii)

Pacific Rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum)

~ Vicki Leimback


by Helen Huber

My mom did all the inside cooking except on Sunday mornings. Dad would break out his mother’s round stovetop griddle. He’d mix up Aunt Jemima’s pancakes from the box. My sister and I, and our beagle, Princess, would wait with growing anticipation. We knew what to expect when Mom cooked: delicious food with no cooking excitement. Dad was a different story.

Mixed ingredients all had rhyming names. Orange and grape juice was a Helen-roony-toony. Aunt Jemima pancake mix with vanilla extract was a Susie-pancakey-awakey! Although Princess didn’t have anything named for her, she knew what she could expect. And she was never disappointed.

Dad would get batter onto the greased griddle. It would sizzle and Dad would explain what the pancakes were saying. He alone spoke Pancake and could translate and cook… at the same time! We were so proud. But the best was yet to come. At some point the pancakes needed to turn and Dad would dramatically flip them in the air. 

Decades later, I reflect on why it happened this way every Sunday, but at the time we waited patiently. The pancakes would leave the griddle. Princess would be perched and ready, recognizing her moment of glory just ahead. Normally squat and lumbering, the beagle would transform at the exact moment the pancakes were in the air, leaping and grabbing a pancake, then quickly running behind the couch where we couldn’t reach her until the pancake was gone. We would scream with delight and Dad would pretend to be indignant. She only ever got one and, in retrospect, it certainly must have been hot. But the airborne pancake and beagle connecting is an image I’ve held for over six decades.  

These quick bread recipes may or may not be less dramatic in their production. But I hope something memorable is left for you and yours.

Pumpkin Choc Chip Muffins

Corn Pancakes

Batter Scones


It’s easy to join or renew! 

Click HERE to print a membership form. Fill in the form and mail it with your check to OIGC Membership, P. O. Box 452, Eastsound, WA 98245.

OR . . . you can go to our website and fill in the online form and pay your membership fees online as well.

As an added bonus, names of new and renewing members are automatically entered into our monthly raffle drawing.

Membership Fees :
Individual : $25 / year
Couple : $35 / year

150 Members as of January 15

Renewals -----------118

New Members -------18

Lifetime Members -- 8

Comp Members ------ 6


PRESIDENT: Nita Couchman


TREASURER: Tony Suruda

SECRETARY: Margaret Payne

PROGRAMS: Lene Symes


MEMBERSHIP: Karen Hiller

GARDEN TOUR: Sally Hodson & Laura Walker

Orcas Island Garden Club
P. O. Box 452
Eastsound, WA 98245

Newsletter Editors: Nita Couchman & Laura Walker