Welcome to the December issue of The Island Gardener.

Yes, it is the darkest month of the year, but by month's end we'll celebrate Winter Solstice as the light begins journeying back to brighten our days, warm our soil and bring spring's hope once again.

In the meantime, we've packed this issue full with offerings of goodness: from Emmy Gran's presentation on wreath making on Wednesday, Saturday's program about soil and its important role, and opportunities to study and further your gardening knowledge including a piece about hops. We offer things to delight: Helen's always-yummy recipes and stories, book recommendations for younger gardeners, Perri's book review, as well as her report on her family outing to the Garden D'Lights in Bellevue (you'll want to go too!).

We have much to celebrate as 2021 comes to a close. Our membership numbers have grown, our newsletter is reaching more readers than ever, we continue to bring you speakers who share their knowledge and love of gardening with us, and we were able to offer an absolutely fabulous Garden Tour last June for everyone's enjoyment. In spite of the difficulties and challenges of 2021, the Orcas Island Garden Club is healthy and thriving -- thanks to all of you who care about gardening and support your club.

To wrap up this issue and end the season with a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel, you can read about a new member's first successes with gardening, and then you'll find Bright Spots -- moments of 2021's gardening joy reported by Garden Club board members.


Until we meet again,
Nita Couchman, President
DECEMBER 8 @ 10:30 am
December 8 @ 10:30am
via ZOOM

The Orcas Island Garden Club
and the Lopez Island Garden Club
present . . .


Creating a Seasonal Wreath
Using Foraged & Dried Materials

Emmy Gran will demonstrate using locally foraged and dried materials, as well as evergreen branches, to create a seasonal wreath.

Emmy Gran is the farmer-florist owner of Fabled Flora -- https://www.fabledflora.com/ -- on Orcas Island. Fabled Flora is committed to stewarding the land through no-till and regenerative farming practices. Robin Wall Kimmerer’s statement -- “To love a place is not enough. We must find ways to heal it.” -- guides Emmy’s work. Emmy's arrangements grace island weddings and are available at Lum's Farm Stand from July through October.

This presentation is co-sponsored by the Orcas Island Garden Club and the Lopez Island Garden Club and will be recorded. 
THE DIRT TRILOGY -- Saturday, December 11, 2021 at 11:00 am --
via Zoom ~ with Anne Biklé and David Montgomery
The DIRT TRILOGY tells the tangled story of humanity's relationship with two of nature's greatest wallflowers--soil and the microbial world. Among the topics covered will be the historic impact of farming on soil and how the regenerative methods of farmers, ranchers, and gardeners can bring soil back to life. They'll also highlight the new science of microbiomes and how it links well-being in crops and people, and what this means for how we think about and practice agriculture and medicine. READ MORE...

Did you remember to renew your OIGC membership?

Wouldn't you like to become a member?

It's easy! You can print a membership form from the button below. 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 -- www.OrcasIslandGardenClub.org/membership.html and fill in the online form and pay your membership fees through PayPal.

As an added bonus, we'll continue entering names of new and renewing members in our monthly raffle drawing.

If you have any questions or comments, you can email:
Perri at gibbgroup@aol.com OR Karen at khiller333@yahoo.com
Individual: $25/year
Couple: $35/year
Members as of Oct. 31 -- 135
Renewals (Nov 1 - Dec 1) -- 3
New members (Nov 1 - Dec 1) -- 4
TOTAL MEMBERS - Dec 1 -- 142


Old Farmer's Almanac



Indoor Grow Kit

Seasonal Wreath
created by
Emmy Gran
in December 8th
Send in your membership renewal now to be eligible for next month's great raffle prizes.
JANUARY PROGRAM - January 19 at 10:30 am


Growing Vegetable Crops from Seeds

January 19, 2022
10:30 am ~ via Zoom
Carol Miles will discuss growing various vegetables from seeds. Her presentation will include timing of planting and caring for the seed crop, and some general garden techniques that lead to success in the garden. READ MORE . . .
Upcoming OIGC Virtual Programs
Jan. 19, 2022 ~ Carol Miles
Feb. 16, 2022 ~ Jennifer Harris
Mar. 16, 2022 ~ Emily Aring
Apr. 20, 2022 ~ Margaret Payne
May 18, 2022 ~ Linda Gilkeson
June 25 & 26 ~ GARDEN TOUR
MASTER GARDENER TRAINING: Sign up for the WSU San Juan County Master Gardener training program. Application deadline extended to December 10th. Classes begin via Zoom on January 25.
WHIDBEY GARDEN WORKSHOP: March 4-5-6, 2022 -- Registration opens January 9, 2022.
by Perry Gibbons

If you love sparkly Christmas lights and gardens (and who doesn’t?!) make plans to visit the Bellevue Botanical Garden and enjoy their Holiday display. I rounded up some kids and grandkids and we headed out on a road trip.

Poinsettia Tree has 11,000 lights and took 350 volunteer hours to create. 
OIGC TOTE BAGS FOR SALE -- only $20 each
Proud to belong to the
Orcas Island Garden Club ???

Who wouldn't be ???

Spread the word as you carry around your very own tote bag --- or buy bags as gifts for your gardener friends far and near.
  • sturdy 12 oz. canvas
  • 14" H x 18" W w/huge 7" gusset
  • Snap closure at top
  • Front pocket with OIGC logo
  • Cotton-bound inner seams
  • 22" handle
GATHER follows the stories of natives on the frontlines of a growing movement to reconnect with spiritual and cultural identities that were devastated by genocide. An indigenous chef embarks on a ambitious project to reclaim ancient food ways on the Apache reservation; in South Dakota a gifted Lakota high school student, raised on a buffalo ranch, is proving her tribes native wisdom through her passion for science; and a group of young men of the Yurok tribe in Northern California are struggling to keep their culture alive and rehabilitate the habitat of their sacred salmon. All these stories combine to show how the reclaiming and recovery of ancient food ways is a way forward for native Americans to bring back health and vitality to their people.

GATHER is available to watch on Netflix and is also available for free with your library card on Kanopy through the Orcas Island Library (https://orcaslibrary.kanopy.com/video/gather).

Health with Hops featuring Erika Harlow
by Laura Walker
Erika remembers being just a 5-year-old kid when her interest was piqued by medicinal herbs. She grew up in Seattle and spent most of her summers, vacations and holidays at the Breitenbush Hot springs in Oregon, a beautiful homestead nestled within nearly 80 acres of raw forest land and featuring natural hot springs where people would bathe and drink of its water for health benefits. 

Erika was a working member of the community during summer breaks from college. Having a vast background of farming, her family understood what it took to produce and grow organic vegetables and herbs. Her aunt, Rebecca, was the herbalist and midwife caring for the alternative living community there and became Erika’s mentor. “I got lucky. My aunt was at my birth. I didn’t seek out a teacher; I was born with one,” reflected Erika. 

Continuing to embrace herbal medicine into her adult life, Erika was grateful to have her friend, Stephanie Iverson, make all the tinctures and medicines for her herbally-assisted pregnancy. Additionally, her aunt who brought her into the world was even present to assist Erika as she gave birth to her own child. Midwife Jackie Stratton, who had taught Erika so much during those years, was with her as well. Jackie has continued to work with herbs and healthcare for Erika’s son and herself well into his adolescent years. Though her degrees were in philosophy and women’s studies, Erika’s upbringing continued to lead her back to herbology. Erika said, “I recall asking my aunt what would make an apothecary good. She responded it would just be the quality of the herb, how they were treated and where they were harvested.” 

Disclaimer ~ While the Orcas Island Garden Club shares information about using essential oils, natural oils, and herbs, these items are not regulated by the FDA. The content included in these monthly medicinal features are for those who are looking for alternative ways to lead a more natural lifestyle. You must not rely on the information in these articles as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor, healthcare provider, or other professional.
IN REMEMBRANCE . . . Rosemarie Altberg

We are sad to report the passing of Garden Club member, Rosemarie Altberg, an avid gardener and talented artist. Born in Bremen, Germany, Rosemarie relocated to Orcas Island from Berkeley, California in 2002. On Orcas she was known as an enthusiastic gardener and flower arranger for the Chamber Music Festival, as well as a talented artist whose work ranged from turned wood bowls to watercolor paintings. She was often seen walking with her beloved Wilfrid, her large Airedale Terrier. Our sympathies go out to her family and friends.
The Orcas Island Garden Club promotes a love of nature and gardening. These gift books and activities are recommended for all the young gardeners of tomorrow. We encourage you to support our local independent bookstore, Darvills, which can special order any title not in their inventory. Local libraries are another way to share and enjoy gardening goodness while promoting a lifelong love of reading. This list was created by Helen Huber, former librarian, current literacy educator, and Communications Chair for the Garden Club.
"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home."
~~ Edith Sitwell

"Always maintain a kind of Summer,
even in the middle of Winter."
~~ Henry David Thoreau

"Every gardener knows that under the cloak
of winter lies a miracle."
~~ Barbara Winkler

"Anyone who thinks gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year; for gardening begins in January with a dream."
~~ Josephine Nuese
"Nature looks dead in winter because her life is gathered into her heart. She withers the plant down to the root that she may grow it up again fairer and stronger. She calls her family together within her inmost home to prepare them for being scattered abroad upon the face of the earth."
~~ Hugh Macmillan
GETTING TO KNOW YOU . . . Teresa Webster
Webster Flower Gardens 2021
by Teresa Webster, new member in 2019/2021

My flower gardening experience started in January 2021 with a goal to garden with color, selecting flowers that attract hummingbirds and bees when possible. Like much land on Orcas, our property poses many gardening challenges. We live on a rock, shaded by Douglas Firs, with deer politely awaiting the opportunity to cull anything green. Fortunately, I had much help from my engineering husband, who worked hard: building planters, bringing in soil, building fences, and setting up multiple drip systems, while I comfortably researched on the computer. I didn’t get my fingers in the dirt until March.
We developed three gardening areas. The rocky “driveway garden” has Lavender, a lilac tree, Rhododendron, and Calla Lilies. I also grew Lobelia, Lilies, Geraniums, Impatiens, Salvia and Black-Eyed Susan’s in a six by three foot planter. Bleeding Heart, Fuchsia, Tuberous Begonia, and more Lobelia flowered in second “shade garden.” The third “deck garden” is a container garden where I splurged on whatever bright flowers caught my interest.
This first summer of flower gardening provided surprises, delights, and learning experiences. I dug out all but one of my Dahlia tubers on May 22nd because they had not sprouted in three weeks. The sole tuber, whose life I spared, exploded with flowers in October, teaching a lesson in patience. I planted Dwarf sweet peas, which grew to five feet tall, choking off the other flowers in the pots. Can someone explain this? The tuberous begonias in the shade garden grew so tall I had to stake them. I planted Cosmos seeds under the bird feeder, where the birds happily harvested all of the tender seedlings. I love the humble Pansies that bloomed continuously from March to October. I bought a hanging planter, (“mixed sun tropical punch”) from Driftwood Nursery which grew exponentially in August, sucking down a gallon and a half of water a day, and grew too large to be hung (pictured above).
I will end by thanking the Garden Club and many expert gardeners on Orcas who patiently answered my pesky questions through this period. I can’t wait to garden in 2022!
by Helen Huber
My husband is the second oldest of his large midwestern family. He was a junior in high school when his youngest brother Patrick was born. There wasn’t a lot of money, but everyone exchanged gifts at the holidays. Youngest brother adored his oldest brother but had no source of income as a five-year old. And so, Paul was surprised when Patrick handed him a package wrapped in a page torn from his coloring book. Inside was a lifeless AA battery. “Do you like it?” he asked hopefully. And Paul certainly did, keeping it on his desk for decades as a reminder of the true nature of gift-giving.

This month’s offerings are all gift-worthy crafts and variations on a hummus theme that have some element of the garden within. We may not receive a special but well-spent battery, but we can all still share gifts of the heart.
This hummus is superior to most packaged ones. Customize. Amaze yourself and other eaters. Try a variation. Choose another. Serve with torn pita bread, or pita chips, or steamed veggies or sliced, peeled jicama. Serve this as a holiday rainbow of dips.
Perri Gibbons
The only seasonal tie-in for this book is the title, Merry Hall, and that name comes with the estate. Or perhaps, if you like a bit of Scrooge in your holiday, Beverley Nichols' curmudgeonly personality certainly qualifies.

He's opinionated: "Begonias are not flowers, they are a state of mind, and a regrettable state into the bargain." 

He's judgmental: “Long experience has taught me that people who do not like geraniums have something morally unsound about them." 

And he's an avid gardener: “For a garden is a mistress .... and if it is not the death of me, sooner or later, I shall be much surprised.” 

This is the story of the restoration of a house and garden in England. More accurately, the restoration of a garden with a house attached. It's sort of The Secret Garden for grown-ups as Nichols battles overgrown shrubs, stagnant ponds, weeds, and rubble to recover the promise of beauty. He neglects repairs to the house and failing appliances because he's found the perfect urns. The ones which bring just the right touch of grace to his pillars, welcoming visitors with color and charm. I can relate to the search for that which brings you joy. I hope for an urn myself this Christmas, and hope you get one too. 

This book is available to borrow from the Orcas Island Public Library.
2021 Bright Spots from the Board
For this last edition of our 2021 newsletter, each of our board members share one of their happiest gardening moments this year. We hope this warms your heart, inspires and encourages you and gives you a positive energy in the midst of a challenging year.  Please enjoy our bright spots!
"Some of my favorite garden memories are the times I spend with my wild neighbors who share the garden with me. One afternoon, as I sat on the ground pulling weeds from flower beds, I watched butterflies tasting nectar from delphiniums, listened to a tree frog singing his love song and spotted a family of nuthatches searching for bugs and seeds. Nearby, a garter snake had curled up to nap on a sunny ledge beside me. Mi casa es su casa!"   
~~ Sally Hodson

"On Thanksgiving Day two Mary Washington asparagus plants in a raised bed put up fresh spears. Did that mean Spring was only six weeks away?"

~~ Tony Suruda
"What immediately comes to mind for me as a perennially happy garden moment is the David Austin rose, "Munstead Wood." Each spring, it sends me into a delirium with its essence-of-love perfume and blood-red cabbage bloom. "Munstead Wood" is a rose as profound and mysterious as the human heart, with such an abundance of bloom that the bush can't hold the weight of it. Now that's some rose! Blooms from late May well into July. And super hardy too."

~~ Margaret Payne

"One of my happiest memories this year is spending time in my garden with my grandson. I discovered he was listening very closely to my casual conversation and remembering. He proved surprisingly helpful at finding hidden squash, weeding and removing tomato suckers. But the joy came from the connection, and I believe those are what makes life more meaningful."

~~ Perri Gibbons
"On a hot sunny day this past summer, I remember taking the rare opportunity to just sit and appreciate all the hard work and transformation I’ve made this year in my garden. I heard a familiar buzz-whistle-chirp melody and was delighted to watch several hummingbirds dodge in and out of a rotating sprinkler. I was mesmerized by these playful little creatures enjoying their new habitat. I love sharing my garden with these magical creatures. I have personally designed my flower garden to help them thrive and survive. In return they trust me and I am able to experience their friendship and beauty in the garden. Build a garden for nature and they will come."
~~ Laura Walker

"We had the brussel sprouts I’ve lovingly tended as part of our Thanksgiving festivities."  

~~ Helen Huber
"One of my happiest gardening memories of 2021, is that, in spite of the many challenges that face me with my gardening site, with its fir root encroachment & water issues, I was able to overcome them and have one of the best gardens, I've had since we moved here almost 24 years ago!  Many of my beloved roses rebounded, my fig tree rejuvenated itself and my hydrangeas survived the scorching heat, all from putting a barrier between my garden areas and the fir tree roots and our plans to add another rain catchment tank...success!  My advice to New Orcas Gardeners, don't give up, tenacity pays off!"
~~ Karen Hiller
"Last summer I was able to plant and grow more veggies successfully in my new elevated beds away from encroaching tree roots. How satisfying it was to carry my salad bowl out to the garden and fill it with lettuce, carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers. Yes -- it did taste better!"

~~ Nita Couchman
"Among my many happy garden memories of this year was an interaction with a hummingbird. I was cutting bee balm (Monarda) when a hummingbird came to a stalk with flowers I was holding, began to take nectar and then startled, seemingly realizing I was there, and darted away about three feet before pausing to hover and look at me. Apparently deciding I was not a threat, the hummingbird returned to the flower stalk in my hand and took more nectar. How fortunate we are to be part of this amazing world!"

~~ Lene Symes

SANiTA and the Garden Club Board send you fruitful, abundant and bountiful greetings!!


PRESIDENT: Nita Couchman
PROGRAMS: Lene Symes
MEMBERSHIP: Perri Gibbons & Karen Hiller
GARDEN TOUR: Sally Hodson & Laura Walker
SECRETARY: Margaret Payne
TREASURER: Tony Suruda
Orcas Island Garden Club
P. O. Box 452
Eastsound, WA 98245

Newsletter Editors: Nita Couchman & Laura Walker