December ~ 2022



Nita Couchman

As the end of 2022 is near at hand and winter's chill breath is nipping at the back of our necks, the time seems right to take stock of where we've been and what's ahead.

Read Lene's delightful recap of 2022 programs, check out the gardening "bright spots" of OIGC board members, and chuckle to yourself as you read Helen's December story and decide which of her recipes you're going to try out.

Find a quiet moment to get cozy and virtually visit the Christmas display at The Butchart Gardens recommended by Perri. Join Cindy Morgan's virtual presentation on Weds. at 10:30 to get inspired about flower arranging for the holidays.

Read Laura's articles on winter care and TLC for hummingbirds, outdoor plants, and your own hands!

And don't stop scrolling through the newsletter until you reach the end and delight in Helen's exuberant holiday poem!

And now for looking ahead! We've heard from many of you that you're missing having in person meetings and can't wait for them to resume. I have good news for you! Beginning in January, our meetings will again be at the Orcas Center as well as offered virtually through Zoom. The details are all below.

I'll let you go so you can enjoy the December newsletter, but on behalf of the Board and all the volunteers who keep our Garden Club going, we wish you all a lovely holiday.

Be well! Be safe! And we hope to see you in the New Year!

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!!!

DECEMBER 14 (Weds.) @ 10:30 am via ZOOM

The Orcas Island

Garden Club

. . presents . . 



Flower Arranging

for the Holidays

Read more about this Presentation.

OIGC PROGRAMS -- 2022/2023

The December 14, 2022 meeting will be a virtual presentation via Zoom. The program will be recorded and posted on our website for later viewing as well. 

Meetings begin at 10:30 am and are hosted through the Orcas Public Library's Zoom.

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 ~ Flower Arranging for the Holidays

Jan. 18     John Christianson ~ Selecting & Growing Roses in the Pacific NW

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

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

April 19   TBA

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

June 24 & 25  ~  ANNUAL GARDEN TOUR







( Spathiphyllum )



Driftwood Nursery

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!!!



We have all been anxiously awaiting the day when we could finally announce that the Garden Club will resume IN PERSON meetings at the Orcas Center. We're happy to announce that this will begin with our January 18th program with John Christianson. 

Meetings will be hybrid -- so you may attend in person OR you may still attend virtually via Zoom. It's your choice! Do whatever feels best for YOU.

Meetings will continue to be recorded and posted on our website for later viewing or re-viewing.

Please note that beginning in January, the starting time for our meetings will be 10:00 a.m. instead of 10:30 a.m.  

The OIGC Board has been monitoring the CDC and Health Department advisories which are still recommending that masks be worn at indoor events to protect against both acquiring and spreading infections. With that in mind, we will try to minimize risk for those who attend in person meetings with these measures:

1. Masks are recommended indoors. We'll have masks available if you'd like one.

2. At this time, refreshments will NOT be offered after the program.

We look forward to seeing you in January! Happy New Year!!!!

John Christianson will be our January 18th program speaker

On January 18, 2023 at 10:00 am, John Christianson, from Christianson's Nursery in Mount Vernon, will give a presentation titled SELECTING AND GROWING ROSES IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST. Following John's presentation, he will have a selection of roses for sale.

This will be our first "hybrid" meeting -- you can attend the meeting in person at the Orcas Center OR virtually through the Zoom link (thanks to hosting by Orcas Island Public Library). The recorded program will be available for viewing approximately a week later. 

PLEASE NOTE: the meeting will begin at 10:00 am as we resume our traditional starting time.


Feb. 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.


The Workshop will be a hub of activity with two days of focused classes, themed sessions, hands-on learning and a gardening marketplace. The program will explore the theme of gardening for Beauty, Bounty and Benefit.

Keynote Speaker will be Donna Balzer. Gardening is Donna’s career, but it is also her passion, her hobby, and her life. A greatly sought-after speaker, she is widely known for her talent to make complex ideas relevant and simple, to engage others in gardening, or to improve their existing skills.

Registration opens early January, 2023.

Click HERE for more details


Peter Guillozet, our scheduled speaker for the April 19th meeting, has had to cancel this engagement. We hope to be able to reschedule Peter for a later date. Be assured that our Program Committee is hard at work selecting another speaker for April, and we will post news about that as soon as it is available.


A joyful moment or first time learning experience. Discovery of a new skill, time with loved ones or inspiration that is worthy of sharing. Read on in delight and smile while you learn about the personal bright spots of your club leadership.

Nita's Bright Spots

These beauties were pulled out of the garden in November. Simple to grow, but patience pays off. I enjoy harvesting sweetness well past the summer splurge of garden treats.

If you look closely, you'll spot the baby figs, promises of exciting goodness in future seasons. This started out as a tiny offshoot from a friend's fig tree, and after quite a few years, this summer it finally showed signs of life-to-come. I can't wait to taste figs from my own tree! 

Gorgeous and fragrant, this is from a climbing rose, Strawberry Hill, given to me by Karen Hiller. It seems to love my southern exposure and put on a lovely show this summer.

Kate's Bright Spots

My 2022 gardening bright spot was learning that shade cloth really extends my garden produce through really hot days. I am still eating Asian greens and lettuce which got us through our hot August and September under shade cloth.

Tony's Bright Spots

Autumn colors of the anise hyssop.

I did some "tip layering" of the Goji berry and hope to have a few plants to contribute to the Master Gardener plant sale next spring. Tip layering is a form of propagation and can be observed by how the invasive Himalayan blackberry spreads.


My Goji berry did not bear fruit until the third year.

The Crepe Myrtle is a staple of Southeastern gardens and this one was purchased from a vendor in South Carolina. Glad to see it bloom out here.

My peach tree in October.

The vibrant fall colors of a chokeberry.

Margaret's Bright Spots

My great pleasure this gardening year was carrots! The improvement in flavor between home-grown and store-bought is remarkable. Carrots are easy to grow, fun to harvest, and convenient to store. Grandkids, especially, have fun digging them. Carrot seeds are notoriously small and challenging to sow, so I used "Mokum" pelleted seeds from Territorial, which I could easily plant in rows.

Laura's Bright Spots

I was delighted to use the squash that I grew to make delicious soup!

With the help of Master Gardner, Julia Turney, I learned how to divide mature plants such as this Hesperantha coccinea 'Coral". These late blooming new little starts are destined for the Master Gardeners Spring sale.

This was the first year that I grew spinach in November and it was tender and flavorful!

I harvested Calendula, Rose and Lavender petals from my garden and learned how to properly dry them to make skin care products as gifts this year.

Helen's Bright Spots

I'm playing with dahlia placement. I've tried growing them in pots on the deck, in terraced beds against a rock wall, and this year in raised beds. From July through early November, it was always dahlia time.

Perri's Bright Spots

Has a Garden Club presentation influenced how you garden? Do you take more time to watch for changes in the pollinator and bird populations in your garden after hearing Thor Hanson’s presentation? Perhaps, like me, you are expanding your reasons for gardening.

Following a dismal winter and a rainy spring, our glorious summer lasting well into fall was the highlight of my year. Bountiful veggies.

Stunning floral displays

And extra time with my Grand Kids!

Carol's Bright Spots

What was I thinking??!!

Karen's Bright Spots

After many years of thinking about putting in a Veggie Garden, in 2022 it FINALLY came to fruition! For many a season I tried to figure out a way to make it happen--we live on a very steep, rocky hillside with many fir trees, whose roots love to encroach in the garden, a level plateau downhill that would need deer fencing, and would be hard to get to, as well as getting water to the plot!! In my usual if-there's-a-will, there's-a-way attitude, I finally came up with a solution!

I already had a SMALL, nearly level area that was bordered and fenced, on the east by my Original garden area, and on the South by my North garden area, so I would ONLY have to fence two sides; water access was very nearby, NOT having to negotiate the steep hillsides!! Drawbacks were its small size (approximately 12' x15') and keeping the fir roots at bay!

Our solution was to build in raised beds elevated on legs, on the East fence, designed to house, in succession, a tall blueberry bush, two Indeterminate tomato bushes (which grow upward instead of outward), a strawberry planter, and another planter for carrots & beets. Along the south fence we built a cedar planter (again raised on legs) and covered to keep out Douglas Fir squirrels, to grow lettuce. The rest of the garden area contains three metal planters, two that are 3 x 4', one for peas & beans that grow on a tee-pee trellis.

In addition, we built a 3' x 4' container for my husband's favorite vegetable, asparagus, and 3' x 6' planter to grow 2 different cabbages, a purple cauliflower and a broccoli plant that was hybrid to grow upward instead of outward!

Growing veggies has been a challenge that has reaped many benefits -- my 2022 success!

Sally's Bright Spots



During the long dry spell this fall, our plants and trees were in desperate need of moisture. As smoke from fires to the south drifted up to our island, I began worrying about how our trees and forest ecosystem were coping with the stress of the drought. While walking among the trees, I remembered the “mother trees” and how they enhanced the resiliency of the forest.

All around us are large, old fir trees who have lived through hundreds of summers. Identified as “mother trees” by ecologist Dr. Suzanne Simard, these elderly survivors are part of a large and interconnected underground community composed of their own seedlings and trees of other species. These trees communicate with one another through chemical messages and share resources, such as carbon, water and nutrients, with each other through an underground mycorrhizal network. 

“Mother trees” help to maintain the biodiversity and resiliency of the forest, benefiting plants, animals, birds and fungi, especially during periods of stress. As gardeners, we provide water and nutrients for our garden plants, so we share a kinship and a common mission with these “mother trees.”  

When the rains finally returned, I again thought of the “mother trees” and felt a profound gratitude for these old trees who were quietly caring for our forest community.  

Lene's Bright Spots

These are the plants and insects that delight me.

The bees collecting abundant pollen from the native columbine and the nodding onion were very welcome this spring when I had fewer insect pollinators than usual.

It was the second year that the chocolate lily (fritillaria lanceolata) bloomed - such a beautiful native bulb.

The common red paintbrush is bigger each year. It is planted with goldenrod (Solidago). 

The cammas is either a common camas or, more likely, camas leichtlinii. I think its visitor, also very welcome, is a syrphid fly.


by Helen Huber

My dream was to bring excitement and a passion for learning to this two-room stone schoolhouse built in the mid-1800s. For the next three months, I’d be student-teaching here. This isolated school sat alone, over a mile from its nearest building in this rural Michigan community.


Snow frequently blanketed fields as far as the eye could see. Children arrived completely covered from head to toe with snow pants, snowshoes, snow jackets, hats and gloves. The classroom was always cold and damp, even with the heat turned up.


We were studying colonial America and examining the ways folks preserved food when there was no refrigeration. My lesson was on the ways that spices were used to preserve food, so I brought a couple dozen oranges, wooden toothpicks, and whole cloves into the fourth-grade classroom. I showed the children how you could draw a pattern on your orange, then use your toothpick to poke small holes along the design and insert whole cloves into those holes. The kids were enchanted. This was fun! The room and small hands smelled fabulous!


We left the orange-clove pomander balls on a newspaper-covered table at the back of the room before a three-day weekend. Upon our return, we found that the spices had not worked their expected magic. In fact, all of the oranges had turned a putrid green with mold that flourished in the damp cold over the long weekend, transforming my classroom into a massive petri dish. Several kids started to wheeze or sneeze. Two had to be sent home. I was told by the powers that be to avoid “projects” for my remaining time teaching.


Sometimes life just goes that way—the best of intentions turn moldy and plans must be adjusted. This holiday season, I’ve included some delightful gifts you (and youngsters in your life) can make and share. I hope your efforts mesh with the best of your intentions and something enchanting and festive results.


-Helen Huber

December Recipes


by Laura Walker

Anna’s are spending their winters in the San Juans. Anna’s in particular overwinter in the San Juans because they have a slightly larger body, can regulate their energy, devour, in addition to nectar, spiders and other insects as well as sap from trees.

Luckily, our gardens offer them ornamental and native shrub blooms nearly year-round. This underscores the common theme you’ve seen about letting your fall and winter garden be for the birds. 

I am trying to help my Anna’s get through this cold period. Pictured is my prolific hardy fuchsia sustaining them. Feeding hummingbirds in the winter is possible, although it requires a commitment on your part. Don’t begin feeding them as the weather turns if you are unable to consistently do so. They will move on to another yard 

Here’s how you can help your hummingbirds survive:

  • Have two sets of feeders so that you can have one clean set available to use immediately in order to reduce health concerns for the birds. Clean and sterilize and rotate each time.


  • Bring your feeder in at night, hummers do not feed at night, and rehang in the morning with warm solution. If hummers drink ice cold nectar they can experience what humans experience as ‘brain freeze’ and can possibly faint.


  • Hang the feeder in a protected spot out of the wind.

  • Use an external heat source to keep the feeder from freezing. Options include a hummingbird heater, heater pad or even old-fashioned Christmas lights that will keep the solution warm.



by Lene Symes, Programs Chair

Has a Garden Club presentation influenced how you garden? Do you take more time to watch for changes in the pollinator and bird populations in your garden after hearing Thor Hanson’s presentation? Perhaps, like me, you are expanding your reasons for gardening.

I still garden, to paraphrase Doug Tallamy, primarily for life in abundant forms, but now I am exploring growing vegetables from seeds, encouraged by Carol Miles, and planning for year-round vegetable harvests in years to come, thanks to Linda Gilkeson.

Have Emily Aring and Margaret Payne’s presentations inspired you to consider the changing forms of your plants over seasons and years? Are you reconsidering the mediums you plant in, thanks to presentations by Jenny Harris and Paul Spriggs? -- are sand and gravel and crevices for you?

Are you more confident about caring for your fruit trees thanks to James Most? Are you anticipating being inspired by our final presentation of 2022, Cindy Morgan on Flower Arranging for the Holidays. 


by Laura Walker

Plants can adapt to gradual change, but extremes are hard on them. Both unusually high and low temperatures along with increasing storm intensity and wind can put our plants at risk. Here are a few tips to prepare your garden for freezing temperatures:


When considering plants that are going to be kept outside in containers, research the growing zone associated with those plants. A good rule of thumb is to select plants that are hearty to two zones cooler than ours to reduce the risk of losing your plants to cold. Elevate the pots to promote good drainage.


Use fleece, old plastic, tarps, blankets, or sheets to protect plants in pots and their delicate roots. Even old-fashioned Christmas lights that give off a bit of heat help. Place pots next to walls and gather pots together to reduce wind chill impact. Consider storing them in a garage or planting them temporarily in the ground. As a last resort, bring plants into your home temporarily into the best available light.  

Protect your soil by mulching, which will provide good insulation in the winter. Properly prune to reduce wind damage. Shelter vegetable gardens with plastic, fences, and hedges. If possible, move plants into a cold frame or greenhouse. Wrap delicate trees with burlap starting at the soil level and moving up the trunk as far as possible.



Within the islands there are significant variations in temperature, wind and precipitation so relying on standard weather reports may not give you the information you need. Risk from late spring and early winter frosts catch plants off guard and may kill them. Monitor the temperature by setting up an outside thermometer.  Consider installing WINDY, a free phone app that provides detail wind, temperature, and precipitation forecast for very specific locations. The app also provides forecast and real time data. 


Many of the concepts above are derived from Linda Gilkeson’s Preparing our Gardens for Winter and Resilient Gardens in a Changing Climate presentations.

Over Wintering Potted Plants by Eric Vinje


Christmas at The Butchart Gardens

Reviewed by Perri Gibbons

I've been to The Butchart Gardens in the spring, and I've promised myself I WILL go again at a different time. But for many reasons, probably not during the Christmas season. If you're the same, I invite you to take a 15 minute virtual trip with me. 

Please follow these instructions for maximum enjoyment:

  • Bake some cookies ... classic sugar, gingerbread or my personal favorite, chocolate chip. Leave the oven door ajar for maximum fragrance. Bonus if you make some hot cider using Helen's recipe in the November issue.
  • The music is fine, but I would mute the sound and play seasonal music of your choice
  • Turn out the lights and watch on the biggest screen available
  • Crack a window open and cuddle with loved pets or people under a cozy blanket. 

Enjoy . . . and the happiest of holidays to you and yours

Click here to view:  Christmas Season at The Butchart Gardens


by Laura Walker

As gardeners, we demand a lot from our hands, so treat yourself and others to a soothing scrub and give your hands some of the much needed TLC they deserve. Here's how to make a hand scrub that will gently exfoliate and leave your skin feeling hydrated and moisturized.

  1. Collect and dry your favorite flower petals, ideally from your own garden. I used Calendula, Rose variety Just Joey and Lavender.
  2. Chop or grind your petals and combine all other ingredients. Then add essential oils - I used bergamot, orange, lime, grapefruit & lemon. Mix well.
  3. Spoon into small sterilized jars. I found mine at the local coop.
  4. Share!


  • 12 c. dead sea salt
  • 1 c. almond oil
  • 1 c. coconut oil, melted
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1/4 c. lavender petals
  • 2 T. rose petals
  • 2 T. calendula petals
  • Essential oils ~ whatever inspires you!


by Helen Huber

‘Twas December on Orcas, when all through the isle

Not a green thing was growing, or would be for a while

The gardening catalogs were marked up with care

So past the last frost date new plants would be there.

The stalks and the seed pods hovered over their beds

While visions of springtime dance in our heads. 

And mom in coveralls and I in my wellies

harvested the last of the produce to fill hungry bellies. 

When out on the treeline rose such a clatter

I sprang from the table to see what was the matter. 

Away to the window like an eagle I flew—

And what I saw then made me feel mighty blue. 

A seventy-foot fir had roots loosened by rain

It fell on the woodpile and then split again

When what to my wondering eyes did appear

but my neighbor with chainsaw and four black tailed deer!

With a yank of the starter cord, the saw came alive

and frightened deer fled just like bees from a hive. 

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And cut me a woodpile; then turned with a jerk,

After we chatted and sipped some hot tea

Discussing the greatness on Orcas for gardeners like me

With a climate that’s perfect for many a crop

At some point soon, this poem has to stop—

So I will exclaim for all Orcas to hear

Happy holidays and gardening for all of the year!

Happy Winter Solstice

* * * *

Celebrate the return of the light !!!


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

146 Members as of Dec. 12

Renewals -----------115

New Members -------17

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