May ~ 2023



Doesn’t it feel like the weather has finally turned and the cool, wet days of spring are behind us? My garden beds are full of tender plants on their way to producing lovely things to eat this summer. The rhododendrons are riotous with lush blossoms and the fig tree leaves are unwinding themselves from the ends of branches. Excitement is in the air!!!

This newsletter reflects the increase of activities and energy that goes with the season. See pictures from our participation in Earth Day activities and from the Turtleback OCPA potluck/picnic. Read members’ stories about the challenges and successes of working on their own properties. Learn more about other gardeners and land stewards in our island community.

Join us this Wednesday, May 17th, when Kevin Zobrist will speak about caring for our native trees. Read Perri’s review of his book to get you started. Then consider the contrast between Black Elk’s advice about trees and Dorothy Parker’s statement of annoyance with birds and plants. Delight in Helen’s story and her meatball recipes.

The Annual Picnic is happening at last!!!! June 14th at the Yacht Club. Bring something to share in the potluck and, if you can find it, please wear your OIGC name tag. We’d like to see how many variations of the name tags are still out there.

And, as always, enjoy your garden time. Be on the lookout for those tiny miracles to be found every single time you get down close to the earth.

See you soon!

Nita Couchman

OIGC President

It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives. Nourish it then, that it may leaf and bloom and fill with singing birds.


MAY 17 Garden Club Program

Orcas Island Garden Club



Caring for Native Trees

in the San Juan Islands


May 17 @ 10:00 am

Madrona Room or via Zoom

Native trees are in evidence all over our island; we live in the Evergreen State, after all. As residents and caretakers of our trees, we notice when our trees are healthy and thriving as well as when they are stressed and need some extra TLC.

To learn more about how to give our trees the support they need, we've invited Kevin Zobrist to share some of his knowledge and experience with us.

Please join us on Wednesday, May 17th at 10:00 am for the Orcas Island Garden Club Hybrid meeting featuring KEVIN ZOBRIST

Kevin will cover underlying principles of healthy trees and forests, common pests and pathogens, what’s normal vs. when to worry, and promoting resilience in a changing climate.

Kevin Zobrist is a Professor and Extension Forester in the Washington State University Extension Forestry. He serves several counties, including San Juan County. He is the author of Native Trees of Western Washington: A Photographic Guide

Following the presentation, Darvill's will have copies of Kevin's book available for purchase which Kevin will happily sign for you.

You may attend the presentation in person in the Madrona Room at Orcas Center OR click HERE to participate via Zoom. The meeting will be recorded and available for viewing on our website approximately one week after the program. Meetings are free and open to the public.


LAST MINUTE SPECIAL!!! Seedlings at Wednesday's meeting

Following Wednesday's meeting at the Madrona Room, there will be seedling starts available that are remaining from last Saturday's Master Gardener Spring Plant Sale.

Seedlings were all grown locally by Master Gardener / Garden Club members Tony Suruda, Julia Turney, Laura Walker and Kate Yturri.

Another OIGC Member perk!!!

VIEW Recording of Lynn Johnson's Houseplant Presentation

OIGC PROGRAMS -- 2022/2023

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

June 14 -- Annual Members' Potluck/Picnic at the Yacht Club -- 11:30 - 1:00 p.m.




at the April 19th meeting.

She took home a lovely Euphorbia

donated by

Lorna's Driftwood Nursery.


has won the Raffle Spin

for the book

Native Trees

of Western Washington

donated by

Darvill's Bookstore

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!!!

IT'S ALMOST PICNIC TIME ~ Save the Date ~ June 14

Please wear your OIGC name tag if you have one.

Put on your Garden Club name tag and join us for a picnic !



Wednesday, June 14

11:30 to 1:00 pm

West Sound Yacht Club

525 Deer Harbor Road

Please bring a potluck dish to serve eight.

Plates, cutlery & cups will be provided.

To add to the picnic fun, we'll have an activity table set up with instructions and materials to create a floral headpiece.

Come and plan to have a fabulous time!!!

We'd love to get an idea of how many folks to expect at the picnic. If you get a chance, please R.S.V.P. below with a Yes, Maybe, or No.

R.S.V.P. is not required for attendance, but is appreciated.




It was a beautiful sunny afternoon on the fifth Saturday of April. Members of the Orcas Island Garden Club were invited to experience the Orcas Community Participatory Agriculture operation at Turtleback Farm. As we approached the farm, program participants were on their knees, sweaters and coats thrown to the side, working in the soil, planting up strawberries and chatting amongst themselves. 

We were warmly greeted with smiles and familiar faces. Our hosts, Patrick Bennett and Lauri Racicot shared an overview of the program for those unfamiliar with their charter and the latest exciting progress on current farms. Sixteen members of the Garden Club joined the OCPA team for a delicious local island potluck. Everyone brought healthy homemade dishes with some even featuring home-grown ingredients to share. Children were running around, laughing, and snatching tastes of foods, unable to wait until the official start of the potluck. Picnic tables and grassy knolls were the perfect spots to sit while enjoying the delicious food as we met new people and caught up with those we hadn’t seen in a while. 

Vala, Tyrus & 'the Big Deal'

Laurie, Patrick & Laura

Brett and Suzette

Members enjoying the event

As a garden club, we are proud of our support for the OCPA and in fact, a few of our club members are current participants in the program. During this event, some of our members shared interest in getting more involved. There was much appreciation for the coordination of the experience and folks enjoyed donning their new flower pins, our little thank you gift for attending. Keep an eye out for more member events on the horizon!

Never yet was a springtime, when the buds forgot to bloom.

~ Margaret Elizabeth Sangster ~


Garden Club & Master Gardeners

Participate in Earth Day Activities!

The Orcas Island Garden Club and Orcas Master Gardeners joined with other community groups in the Earth Day celebrations on Saturday, April 22 on the Eastsound waterfront.

We gave away dill starts (thank you, Tony), we had a free raffle, we sold tote bags, signed up new members, we offered Vala Ross's garden for folks to tour (thank you, Vala), and we handed out lots of information about pollinator-friendly plants and native bees.

Kate, Laura & Sally -- garden talking.

Sally, Nita & Dianne greeting visitors.

Walker Farm's outdoor cookstove.

Maria Bullock's braided willow retreat.

Patrick Bennett shares the "dirt" with Perri Gibbons.

Stunning flower art by Jill Bliss.

But the most satisfying and rewarding benefits were the people connections that were made that day. We are part of such a vibrant community, and it was wonderful and energizing to be around others who care so deeply about the glories of gardening that are so important to Garden Club and Master Gardeners members.


"TREES": Art Exhibit

Trees inspire us, poems are written, paintings are created, furniture is built from their branches and trunks, photographs are taken for us to remember their beauty, and their fruit is cooked into pies and jams.

Come on by Orcas Senior Center May 7 - July 26 to view an artistic tribute to trees. Open Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. If you would like to participate in the show, please contact Sue Lamb at 360-298-1030.

From Orcas Senior Signal, May 2023, Page 5

WSU EXTENSION: REwilding Workshop with Jessi Bloom

May 30, 2023

7 to 8 p.m. via Zoom

In this workshop be prepared to look at your garden from an ecological perspective with award winning ecological landscape designer and author, Jessi Bloom. With climate changing, learn ways to make your garden more resilient and naturally beautiful, while minimizing your impact and use of valuable resources. We’ll explore lawn alternatives and what it takes to create wildlife habitat.

Register in advance HERE. You must have a (free) Zoom account to participate. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. There is no charge to register for and attend this event.

This event is put on in conjunction with Clark County Public Health – Solid Waste Outreach, Green Neighbors Program. Contact: or 564-397-5738.

Monarch Butterfly

by Ted Kooser

For a creature with stained glass windows

for wings, she's wonderfully light on her feet,

prancing from blossom to blossom on toe shoes,

rehearsing, we're told, for a debut appearance

in Mexico. But how can that be possible,

when this one has taken an entire afternoon

just to make it from one end of the garden

thirty feet to the other, flouncing along,

touching each leaf that she wants to remember?


by Helen Huber

My mom was the master of the kitchen. My sister, dad, and later my baby brother and I were allowed to be in the kitchen, but we were invited guests, able to claim certain foods, and leave the space as we found it, ready for my mom’s next culinary creation. 

Although she grew up wanting for nothing, with abundant food on the table for every meal, mom was surprisingly stingy when anyone wanted to sample a matzo ball, a single piece of shrimp toast, or the most favorite of tasty items simmering away, the meatball.

Omy/Dad and Helen

These were all small items. My dad and I only wanted a taste, no carving or marring of her culinary presentation required. And yet, having a small taste was a big problem. But why? There were always leftovers. A lot of leftovers. And she would always shoo us away saying we could have some after the dinner. Why would anyone want a cold piece of shrimp toast when there was enough to feed at least double the number of dinner party guests? There were certainly enough meatballs to keep us in leftovers for days. It didn’t make sense. 

READ MORE . . . .



By Carol Wetzel

Join Garden Club members Carol Wetzel and Allan Tone as they share their farm project progress through this mini series.

Well -- Mark Sawyer

Aside from the pigs building up our soil, water and irrigation is central to farming. The Little Farm on Olga Road is on Eastsound water, which we all know is an expensive proposition. We were fortunate to get a permit and Mark Sawyer to dig us a well. Digging the well is a whole other article but, we needed it, we got it, and it’s a gusher. But where does one store all that water for irrigation? We have several large tanks for storage, but a pond became an essential element. Our desire was to have the pond function like a giant tea composter to both nourish and hydrate our newly planted orchard, berries, veg beds, and flowers. We also wanted it to serve as habitat for us, native frogs, insects, fish, and birds to enjoy.  

Starting with a loose “design,” we would dig and use the soil to build tiers for grapes on the back side of the pond. The pond included interior tiers as well, for plantings and places for fish to hang out. Last October, you may recall, was very dry. We wrangled up a crew and started digging, hitting nice clay. Naively thrilled as our pond filled, I blasted ahead with planting the backside tiers with a variety of wine grapes.  And then, things started to unravel.

Pond before remodel

Leaking murky mess

Allan setting up electrical for pond pump

The pond proceeded to leak -- like a sieve. It leaked down our driveway and seeped through the terraces, drowning the grapes.  Owner of Inn at Ship Bay, Geddis, came over and stood with me as we pondered what would happen if the pond bank failed and flowed out on to Olga Road. Geddis smiled and asked how much liability insurance we had. We tried soilfloc, a plant-based polymer, an interesting goo that did, in fact, plug the pond. For a week. And then it continued to leak. We called a geologist. Yep, that pond was going to leak. Forever, if we didn’t do something. But no, it would not flow out onto the street, blocking traffic and destroying homes and businesses. Then I met Pat Boehme, an Orcas local, who just happened to be a retired pond specialist. 

I nearly fell to my knees and begged Pat to come look at our pond. Pat was not impressed with our poorly dug, poorly designed, leaking gigantic hole. Pat shook his head and delivered the bad news: drain it; dig out all the goo and rocks; install felt liner to protect the main liner; build interior shelves on the head-scratching, too steep, interior tiers to support plant life; install custom bio-filter and pump; build waterfall for further aeration and circulation; dig and plant bog; rock spillway so that it will actually spill water and not wash out the bank; in fact, rock the heck out of the entire pond – interior and exterior; cut and tuck liner; and finally landscape. 

Liner and shelving going in

This pond project has been a mind-blowing and expensive project but, in the end, it will be beautiful, fun, and functional.  We are so thankful we met Pat and as always, my mantra: nothing happens, especially pond projects, without Frank Gates!  

Don’t go anywhere.  More fun to come in the Fall!


The Great Gorse has ended

By Suzette Lamb

Join Garden Club members, Suzette Lamb and Brett Lensing, as they share their garden project progress through this mini series

The Gorse War had finally ended. A tough enemy that dug in (rooted) well had finally been defeated by our persistence and tools. 262 bundles of uprooted gorse had been dragged away and burned. What remained looked terrible, like the war zone it was. Disturbed soil, exposed rocks, tree trunks that had not felt sunlight in many years. Like all war-torn areas, it needed rebuilding.

We assessed the hill for sun vs shade and soil depth while Taja developed lists of native plants to combine into planting guilds. We set plans to seed, fertilize and create living mulch which we’d then cover with the rich stable litter our goats had provided for months. We ordered from the Salish Seed Project, and Taja began to cultivate seedlings for us to use during the next planting season. But we also needed more structure to give re-plantings the best chance. For what is nurture without structure? 

Tune in next fall when our story returns to find out how we used the land to strike a natural balance. Enjoy your summers and happy island gardening!


Reviewed by Perri Gibbons


by Kevin Zobrist

As a newcomer to the Pacific Northwest, I was enamored with Madrona trees. I know I’m not alone in admiring the curling bark, startlingly smooth trunks and adventurous quirky shapes. But now, as a 20 year resident of the Evergreen State, I’ve broadened my appreciation for native trees. The Big Leaf Maple may not show the brilliant color changes of Red Maples, but who can’t be impressed by those massive forms and monster leaves? Conifers are starting to differentiate themselves. I easily recognize the graceful sweeping branches of the Red Cedar. I’ve learned Washington’s only native oak, the Oregon White or Garry Oak, produces an acorn vital to wildlife. So, Zobrist’s book is the perfect gateway to better understand the beauty and diversity of what is perhaps Western Washington’s greatest resource.

Zobrist says in his introduction that this is NOT a botany book or identification guide. Rather, he focuses on the forestry aspect of native trees with key features, location, and notable features. Each tree highlighted includes a map of general location and tree photographs showing bark and leaves. I especially liked the common traditional and modern uses listed for each specimen. For example, Madrona leaves were used by Native Americans as medicinal infusions for colds, while modern use includes firewood and flooring.

The Garden Club is delighted to welcome Kevin Zobrist as a guest speaker on our cherished native trees. Darvill’s Bookstore will be on hand to sell copies of this book at the presentation. It’s also available in their store and at the library. I know I will be getting a copy for my leisurely reading pleasure!


by Laura Walker

Growing…tending…learning…harvesting…cooking…eating…preserving…sharing and getting to know Taja.

She is a problem solver who finds creative ways to use the resources available. She notes that sometimes, “the problem is the solution.” She is a keen experimenter and strives to grow many varieties of crops to identify which ones grow best here. She is a grateful student who holds the greatest respect and appreciation for the Bullock family who have ‘welcomed and taught countless minds, inspiring thousands over the last 40+ years.’ She is a project manager who maps out her gardens in advance, keeps a planting calendar and documents what has worked and what hasn’t. She is a lover of botanical names, the original meaning behind them and the little-known uses of many plants.

She is a committed seed saver and is very excited about ancestral seeds, and the power of growing seed to seed. She recommends cilantro, lettuce, and most flowers as the easiest seeds to begin saving. She is a landscaper, designer and teacher whose objective is to empower people to design a productive system that considers people care, land care and biodiversity as resilience. She is an innovative cook and preserver, utilizing the food she’s grown and the experience she's gained from learning to cook with her father to make wonderful food for the people she loves. 

She is a land steward who is dedicated to mimicking nature's design, ensuring soil regeneration, clean water, diverse ecosystems, and abundance to be shared. She describes tending the land as a relationship that she didn’t know she could have but had always needed.  She is thrilled that she is going to learn something new each day for the rest of her life.

Extending the growing season is a current focus for her as she loves to eat off the land year-round. She strives to understand the biology behind gardening and then share her learnings with others in a way that can be understood because she believes all gardeners are scientists. 

When asked what advice she would give to new gardeners, she enthusiastically proclaimed, “talk to your elders and look at the people who have success and ask lots of questions. Start by growing what you will eat and hope to make many mistakes in your garden. Your garden will change from year to year and it’s important to understand your microclimate.” She reflected, “There are so many ways that we can follow our passions. The ripple effect of their (Bullocks) giving taught me that all it takes is one person to make big changes.”  

Oh, and Taja is a dog trainer too.  She has successfully taught Nettle, her young dog, to let the chickens be. He keeps her entertained as he frequently goes swimming in the lake, chases voles and rolls on his back on a sunny day.

From Christianson's Nursery & Greenhouse May newsletter:


"Every year, back comes Spring, with nasty little birds yapping their fool heads off and the ground all mucked up with plants."

~ Dorothy Parker ~


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

165 Members as of May 15

Renewals ------------123

New Members ------- 28

Lifetime Members --- 8

Comp Members ------ 6


PRESIDENT: Nita Couchman


TREASURER: Tony Suruda

SECRETARY: Margaret Payne

PROGRAMS: Lene Symes & Kate Yturri


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