April ~ 2023



April greetings! 

Although Spring officially began on March 20th, the weather continues to be a bit cool and wet. We're all anxious to get our tiny plants nestled out in their garden beds, but the soil feels chilly and damp and temps can still be pretty cool at night. We're getting an opportunity to practice patience perhaps.

Don't forget that on Wednesday, our presenter will be Lynn Johnson, who will be talking about bringing the wild inside -- houseplants! Plants we can tend and enjoy NOW and all year long.

But, while we wait for those warmer days, here's this month's newsletter packed full of interesting, fun, and educational articles. Learn about what fellow gardeners are doing on their properties here on Orcas -- gorse wars, escaped pigs, growing rhododendrons from seed, and fairy houses extraordinaire. Whip up one of Helen's One-Dish Winner Winner recipes and while it bakes, browse through Jenny's suggestions for gardening books and read about Perri's encounter with gnomes in the garden. Read about last week's Skagit daytrip for members and learn about upcoming Member Events that you can sign up for.

And there's so much more ..... so grab your hot cup of morning goodness and dive in !!!!

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!!!

APRIL 19 Garden Club Program

Orcas Island Garden Club




Bringing the Wild Inside

April 19 @ 10:00 am

Madrona Room or via Zoom

Please join us on Wednesday, April 19th at 10:00 am for the Orcas Island Garden Club Hybrid meeting featuring LYNN JOHNSON

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.

Lynn will dive into all things houseplants, including plant selection, care, placement and propagation. She will demonstrate propagation methods such as cuttings and air layering to help you keep your plants healthy and grow your collection. Lynn loves to share her passion for cultivating indoor green spaces. Plant parenting offers us the chance to practice mindfulness and the satisfaction of caring for living things while bringing our indoor spaces alive and into alignment with our nature-craving selves.

Lynn Johnson is a plant enthusiast and earned her Master Gardener certification in Iowa in 2014. You can often find her behind the front desk at the Library, where she’s lucky enough to work with both books and plants, two of her favorite things. She’s parent to three boys and, according to her kids’ latest count, about 150 houseplants.


OIGC PROGRAMS -- 2022/2023

April 19 Lynn Johnson -- For the Love of Houseplants: Bringing the Wild Inside

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.

June 24 & 25 ~ No Garden Tour This Year

July 1 -- Community Parade


Thank you to Hosts Extraordinaire Lynn & Chris Thomerson for providing overnight housing for last month's presenter Lindsey du Toit (pictured here).

Lynn says: "Not only is it a great pleasure to host a Garden Club presenter, it is the marvelous acquiring of deeper knowledge of the background and subject of that person. The wonder of the garden world is forever broadened by this experience."

If YOU are interesting in being a host for a speaker in the future, please get in touch with us HERE and we'll put your name on the list. You won't regret it !!!




at the March 15th meeting.

She took home a lovely spider plant

donated by

Lorna's Driftwood Nursery.


has won the Raffle Spin

for the book


Turning Pieces of Mother Nature

into Works of Art

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!!!


May 17th at 10:00 a.m.

Madrona Room or Live Zoom


Caring for Native Trees

in the San Juan Islands

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. Following his presentation Kevin will be available to sign copies of his book.

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. 


Here are a couple of opportunities to celebrate your membership in the Orcas Island Garden Club. We're excited to be able to gather together again as a gardening community. Hope to see lots of you at the picnic and the parade.

If you are not a current Garden Club member and want to participate in these activities, please become a member NOW! It's easy to join or renew from our website: CLICK HERE

We hope you'll join us at these events to have fun and get to know your fellow club members just a little better.

  • APRIL 29 -- TURTLEBACK FARM OCPA POTLUCK : 1 - 2:30 p.m. Join the OCPA team for a potluck at their farm and learn about what they're doing there. R.S.V.P. HERE to attend.

  • JUNE 14 -- MEMBERS' ANNUAL POTLUCK / PICNIC : West Sound Yacht Club from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. No RSVP necessary.

  • JULY 1 -- 4TH OF JULY PARADE : Would you like to help plan and participate in a Garden Club entry in the parade with other Garden Club Members? R.S.V.P HERE



By Kate Yturri

What a beautiful respite from clouds, rain and wind we had on Friday, April 14. The day was “National Gardening Day.”  

“It is a day of encouragement, a day created to give gardeners a shove and a shovel so that they can begin their gardening journey.” 

The Orcas Island Garden Club picked the day for a field trip for members to visit the Skagit tulip fields. We also visited the Skagit County Master Gardeners’ demonstration garden called the Discovery Garden. It is the 50th Anniversary of the Master Gardener Program and the garden is spruced up for a celebration there on July 13, 2023. The Master Gardener Program was initiated in 1972 in Seattle, Washington in response to the intense public demand for information about plant problems and to educate gardeners about the use, but mostly misuse, of pesticides. They are now located in almost all US states and Canadian provinces.

The tulip fields were amazing. Some of the tulips had been open for a while and showed their full, flat petal faces to the sun. Many were just opening with their saturated colors bright. Some were closed but flashing their dramatic and unique foliage. The tulip fields delighted us with their stripes of bright colors dramatically accented with snow capped Cascade mountains in the background, and the sun and a few clouds above. Garden vignettes of different varieties of tulips and daffodils in assorted colors were blooming with graceful old trees and shrubs in the Roozengaarde display gardens.

The Master Gardener Discovery Garden was inspirational. Even with our still cold and dreary spring there were blooming plants, shrubs and trees. Variegated plants of different hues of green and gold and varied textures were also there to motivate us. Garden paths made the different areas of the garden accessible and a delight to visit. A children’s garden, vegetable garden, and herb garden among others, were in different stages of growth. The Northwest Fruit Foundation shares a field with espaliered fruit trees and the Washington Native Plant Society also has a presence. There was so much to see and appreciate.

We are planning other OIGC “Member Events”. Please consider joining and participating. We all had fun. We made new gardening friends and came home with renewed hope for our future gardens.


Happy Gardening!



The Orcas Island Garden Club and Orcas Master Gardeners will be participating in the Earth Day celebrations on Saturday, April 22 on the Eastsound waterfront. Our table will be staffed 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

  • Stop by the Garden Club and Orcas Master Gardeners table at the Episcopal Church courtyard in Eastsound and pick up a free dill start in a neon-colored pot....while they last.

  • Sign up for our free raffle -- an OIGC totebag, set of garden hand tools, and a pair of garden gloves.

  • We'll also have OIGC totebags and clings for sale.

  • One of our members' gardens will be open to visitors between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

  • Orcas Master Gardeners will have information about pollinator-friendly plants to choose for your garden, a few potted native plants with identification tags, and information about native bee pollinators and native mason bees. 

For more information about what's planned and a schedule of events, visit the San Juan Makers Guild website HERE.


By Carol Wetzel

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

Originally, I intended to title this post, “Inbreeds Start a Farm,” but a year out from borrowing five of Geddis’ adopted Mangalista pigs-- a result of a brother and sister's get together -- to till and fertilize our depleted soil, my greatest fear is the pigs will get out and root up every orchard tree, grape or flower in sight! Or go for a swim, or worse, slide down the new pond liner into the depths of our pond, which leaked like a sieve, and is now under major construction.  

Allan and I are the crazy pair, directly across from Inn at Ship Bay, toiling away on The Little Farm on Olga Road, an edible oasis. You may have seen us and Frank Gates -- nothing happens without Frank Gates -- busy fencing, digging, weeding, earth moving, irrigating, building and, finally, planting! When we bought this property, our intention was to “simply” return the decades old non-productive hay field back to a habitat for birds and native bees. Allan and I can’t simply do anything simply. We worked with Alex Wolf and Emmet Woods to create a rather complex permaculture plan that includes a pond for irrigation, glass greenhouse, hoop houses, barn, fields, and a well, all in the hopes of becoming the go-to place on Orcas for specialty grapes, berries, fruits, veg, and my latest passion, cut flowers.  

Our soil reports told the tale. All farming ventures start with soil and our soil was severely depleted. As I watched two of Geddis’ pigs root and poop their employee garden into a veritable Garden of Eden, I just had to have some of that. I called Geddis and he replied, “That’s so weird you should call. I just happen to have five accidental piggies that need a home!” 

We were all in, except Allan very astutely asked, “Geddis, can’t they be your pigs, but we take care of them?” Agreed! With nothing in the ground this last year, the pigs have been moved from plot to plot doing their thing. We planted the orchard and 50 wine grapes. During the last full moon, the pigs got out and had a party. The next morning, Allan and I replanted what the pigs rooted up and flung across the field. It was a scene. Until the harvest truck arrives, we now diligently check the fence morning, noon, and night. This week, 115 sweet peas are getting planted in a rich row of dark pig poop. Let’s hope the inbreeds don’t get out. 



by Cindy Burman-Woods

Imagine the hundreds of plants and seeds collected by early explorers and plant hunters, each plant propagated, cultivated or hybridized. Rhododendrons can be propagated by layering, starting from seed, grafting or by cuttings.

There are a myriad of new and historical articles describing how to grow these plants from seed; for example, USDA pamphlets from 1928, and 1949 articles from the Arnold Arboretum Bulletin at Harvard University. While a great deal has been learned about the process today, much of the historical information holds true. There are excellent Master Gardener articles available on the subject. An ARS 1994 article, “How to Grow Rhododendron from Seed”, describes these plants as a fairly simple process, “if one remains conscious of their physical needs, e.g., light, warmth, fertilizer and moisture.” (American Rhododendron Society (ARS), Allan and Shirley Anderson, Journal ARS Article, Vol. 48: No.1: Year 1994)

On Orcas Island, Frog Hollow is host to over 75 Rhododendrons, a large pond, and beautiful gardens and trees, not to mention a few frogs and ducks. Oh, and finally, home to Bruce King and Priscilla Prescott, both Orcas Island Garden Club members.

There are two beautiful 42-year-old rhododendrons providing a welcoming canopy to the home’s entrance. Bruce, the ever so curious one, and Priscilla, supporting his endeavors, decided to grow Rhododendrons from seed. As he said to me, “I’m sure someone is more knowledgeable (and experienced) about the process.” However, Bruce, an avid researcher was determined to harvest and nurture his seeds to fruition.

READ MORE in Bruce's own words and pictures . . .


Planting for display and ways to nurture

by Laura Walker

Important: please note that the following information is one of many approaches that can be used. Please do your own research before committing to planting.

Your seedlings have hardened off and are ready to plant. Test the soil temperature and lay out your garden bed. I have decided on an alternate pattern. Plant these new plants into their permanent bed and give them a fertilizer to help them with the transition. 

We’ve invested a lot of time and effort in nurturing our seedlings. As your baby plants grow, give them the best chance of success by adopting two techniques to keep them healthy and thriving.

Pinching is a technique that can shape certain plants. I recommend sharp small scissors for a clean and succinct cut. Each time you pinch a plant, you delay its flowering, but overall this practice can increase production, determine the size of blooms and fruit, and can even lengthen the bloom time of your plants. Many herbs respond well to pinching. For example, Basil, tarragon, oregano thyme, and sage keep you with a constant supply throughout the summer. To pinch, look for the base of the leaves where they connect to the stem. You should see a new set of leaves forming in tiny pairs. Pinch just above that point as close to the leaf node as possible but being very careful not to cut the tiny buds below. This will encourage bushing and spreading, and in flowers, this means more blooms and color from your garden or pots. Flowers that also benefit from pinching are zinnias, cosmos, dahlias, marigolds, sweet peas, snapdragons, amaranth and phlox.  

Thinning addresses overcrowded seedlings and ensures that your plants have plenty of room to grow. If your seedlings are too close together, they will eventually end up competing for resources and as they mature, their growth will be stunted. This is a common situation with vegetable crops such as carrots. Choosing your survivors may be difficult but if faced with two or more seedlings in the same space, decide which is the best healthiest candidate and remove the others at the soil level. This will allow only one plant to live on. It is possible to separate seedlings and replant, but their roots may be entangled and there may be risk to both plants.  


Denise Seghesio Levine, U.C. Master Gardener of Napa County

Meadow Family Farm


The Great Gorse Campaign

By Suzette Lamb

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

Yes we can!

Gorse s'mores anyone?

The Great Gorse Campaign began in October and would take a full 6 months. Initially, our foe repelled us off the steep slope, proving far too stubborn and thorny for our ordinary cutting and safety equipment. Determined, we returned dressed and tooled like someone filming a low budget horror movie. Covered in layers of protective clothing and eyewear and armed with digging bars, pick-axes and chainsaws, we re-engaged this tough enemy. Gorse roots are a wonder of the natural world and it was not uncommon for us to cheer and catch our breath after prying a tough one from the ground. Piles of gorse began to form over the days that followed. Although we’d likely spread gorse seeds in the process, we decided to physically remove every bit of it from the hillside, and burn it in a safe location – which sadly was 100 yards away.

Suzette & deep roots...

Brett making progress!

We gathered as much gorse as we could physically drag up the hill and began counting those leg and cardio-blasting trips. 236 trips in all over the six months. The piled gorse and intermittent ocean spray that we hauled out took up so much space it would have filled the upper and lower parking lots at Ray’s Pharmacy in six to eight feet of gorse.

Early in 2022, we had reached our property line, and with the blessing of our neighbor, pushed forward another month to clear another 100 feet along her shoreline slope. Spring rains softened the ground and we were able to pull the remaining small plants out by hand, until not a single gorse remained. We almost couldn’t believe it was all cleared. The hill indeed looked like a war had been fought there, even after raking up all the thorny litter left behind. It was time to start Phase II, where we would re-make and replant the hill so that gorse would not simply reclaim it. Our ever-wise permaculture consultant Taja Wicks was notified, and she drove out to see the results and hatch the new plan.



by Helen Huber

It is July 3 -- the day before the Burns Avenue School Pre-Fourth of July Parade. Students can ride their decorated bicycles, and prizes will be awarded for a variety of holiday themes. I’m going for Most Patriotic, and I’m already a step ahead because my new (and first) two-wheeler is already blue. I have all day to beautify my blue Schwinn and gather red and white accessories for the big win. I’ve color-coordinated my clothing and it is clean and waiting for my ride to victory. 

The day before, my friends and I had spent several hours gliding our bikes repeatedly through a large, deep mud puddle. My bike was now caked with mud, so clearly the first step for Most Patriotic was getting it to gleam again. My dad was in the driveway and had just finished washing the Pontiac. 

“Dad,” I began, “how can I clean all the mud off my bike?”

“You’re welcome to use the hose and some of this soapy water.”

At this point Dad had started to wax the car with stuff-in-a-can. 

“Dad, once my bike is clean and dry, can I wax it?”

"Oh Helen, it takes more than wax. You’ll also need elbow grease.”

“Do you have any I can use?”

“I’m fresh out of elbow grease, but why don’t you ask Howie Purnick if he has any he can give you.” I missed the smirk and headed next door. Hooray! It was Saturday. Mr. Purnick was home and answered the door.

“Mr. Purnick, I’m getting my bike ready for the contest and I already have wax, but my dad is out of elbow grease. Do you have any I could borrow?”  

He smiles in such a friendly way. “Hold on a second while I check.”


"Winner, Winner, One-Pan Dinner" Recipes



by Cindy Burman-Woods

Meet Lady Cynthia, she is nearly 120 plus years old. Prior to a 2018 storm, Lady Cynthia was a 25 ft x 30 ft. rhododendron shrub. In full bloom she’d carry about 4,000 pink spring blossoms. She resides on the east coast of Vancouver Island in Ladysmith, B.C. but was badly damaged in a 2018 storm. Cynthia lost two large branches; she was left with one main branch. Members of Rhododendron societies are working to propagate Cynthia to preserve her lineage should she succumb to the damage.

Old Cornish Red is one of Britain’s widest single-stemmed rhododendrons, 30 ft high x 40ft wide, approximately 120 years old. After traveling the world collecting plant specimens, Victorian explorer Frederick Du Cane Godman planted Old Cornish Red in the Horsham District. The history of plant discovery, new species, and countries of origin is varied. Rhododendrons have a great diversity in size, color, flowering periods, and foliage. Enthusiasts of these plants claim to know of the oldest, largest,tallest, and widest from locations around the world, the ever-changing observations of plant explorers.



We asked Jenny from Darvill's Bookstore if she could share recommendations for a few gardening books that members might want to add to their personal collections. Here's her list for your consideration, although she said it was hard to stop once she got started. Thank you, Jenny!

The Maritime Northwest Garden Guide/ Tilth Alliance

This book is an invaluable guide for year-round organic gardening. The second edition, which has been completely revised and updated, is designed as a month-to-month gardening calendar, outlining when to plant vegetables, herbs and flowers. In addition, it features information about the principles and techniques essential to year-round organic gardening. I've owned several copies as by the end of the year my copy is often dirty and well used. $18.95

The Plant Lover's Backyard Forest Garden: Trees, Fruit & Veg in Small Spaces.

This new guide is by Pippa Chapman, an RHS trained gardener, who designs, plants and maintains abundant, biodiverse, edible and beautiful forest gardens. Color illustrations and photographs throughout. Chelsea Green Publisher, $22.95.

The Pacific Northwest Native Plant Primer: 225 Plants for an Earth-Friendly Garden by Kristin Currin.

This new sourcebook profiles 225 recommended native wildflowers, grasses and grasslike plants, ferns, shrubs, and trees. Kristin Currin is the cofounder of Humble Roots Nursery, a native plant nursery in the Columbia River Gorge. Lots of color photos. Timber Press. $24.99

Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest by Arthur Kruckeberg

The classic resource to almost 1000 native choices of trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, and grasses for diverse terrain and conditions. Illustrated with 948 color photographs. University of Washington Press. $39.95

Floret Farm's Cut Flower Garden by Erin Benzakein

First volume in the beloved Floret Farm books, Erin has written an awesome guide to growing, harvesting, and arranging gorgeous blooms year-round. Erin's inspiring book combines lush photography of magnificent flowers and breathtaking arrangements organized by season. Chronicle Books. $29.95

Here are sweet peas, on tip-toe for a flight:

With wings of gentle flush o’er delicate white,

And taper fingers catching at all things,

To bind them all about with tiny rings.

~ John Keats


by Cindy Burman-Woods

In the late 1960s, Bill Wolverton was heading a test center in Florida that discovered swamp plants could eliminate Agent Orange that entered local waters. He was then “tasked” with using plants to clean wastewater at the NASA Center, which led to research using plants to improve air quality.

Our homes and offices put off toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde, benzene and other irritants or chemicals. Wolverine found that plants absorb airborne pollutants as part of their normal “breathing” process through a pumping action that pulls contaminated air to their roots, where “microbes feed on and detoxify them.” Plants need about two weeks to detect the pollutants and build enzymes to metabolize them.  

Some plants are better at this than others. For example, those in the study that did a better job of scrubbing the air of a variety of compounds are:

* Peace Lily (Spathphyllum “Mauna Loa”)

* Golden Pothos (Scidapsus aureus)

* Mother-in-Laws Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata “laurentii”)

* Spider Plant (Chlorophytun elatum)

* Gerber Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)

There were many other plants in the study, all beneficial and some better at scrubbing certain types of VOCs.

Keep in mind that the NASA air quality experiments were done in sealed chambers. To fully remove all VOCs in an enclosed 1500 sq. ft. home you would need hundreds of plants. So, best case scenario, open a few windows and have several plants in each room. 

Plants can also reduce stress and anxiety. They can increase mood due to cytokines released by garden soil. And they add oxygen to the air we breathe. My grandsons each have a plant next to their bed, so they (and I) can sleep better at night.

FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE :: Gnomes on Orcas Alert !!!

Reviewed by Perri Gibbons

How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack

By Chuck Sambuchino

I’ve long had my suspicions, but now they’re confirmed.

Feeling of being watched? … check

Dogs barking for no reason? … so much

Tools misplaced or missing? …. I knew it wasn’t me!

Friend or Foe ???


He moves at night?

Oh, there are my . . .

Wait a minute !!!

Thank goodness for this handy survival guide from the Orcas Public Library. In it, I’ve learned to assess, protect and defend my property. True, moats, quicksand and trap doors may seem extreme, but consider what we’re dealing with!

Disposal presents unique challenges. I can’t in good conscience give him away to unsuspecting humans. Burying or burning would be toxic to the environment. I’m going to try a new, controversial technique of coexistence. If you don’t see me around, it’s been nice gnoming you.

Editor’s Note: Please share stories or photos of your encounter with an Orcas Gnome. We are currently Gnmapping hot spot locations where caution is advised.



Credit photo: Jen Krajicek




Driftwood is open

Spring fever’s set free

Good gardening wishes

From the O.I.G.C. 


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

160 Members as of April 17

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

New Members ------- 23

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