September ~ 2022



Nita Couchman

Welcome to the 2022-2023 season of the Orcas Island Garden Club!

September is known as the Harvest Month, the time to gather up harvest and prepare for winter months, with the equinox falling on Sept. 22 marking the first day of Fall. 

As we gather up our Garden Club harvest, we are thankful for last year's array of splendid speakers who gave us all so much inspiration and opportunities to grow -- both our gardens and our knowledge of how to be better stewards of our gardens. The year closed out in June with a fabulous Garden Tour during the first real summer weather, bringing out record numbers of visitors to view the gardens. We definitely ended the Garden Club season with a bang!

And now we turn forward to the upcoming season, preparing ourselves for the Fall and Winter ahead. Our Program Committee has lined up another exciting roster of presenters, beginning on Wednesday, Sept. 21st at 10:30am via Zoom with Thor Hanson. The program will be recorded for later viewing if you can't Zoom with us on Wednesday. 

The Zoom link to attend the live programs is included in the newsletter below and can also be found on our website at

Our programs will continue to be offered in the virtual (Zoom) format for the time being, with the Board monitoring the health protocols and safety advisories to determine when we might resume in-person meetings. We all miss seeing one another!!!

We also send out a little nudge to those of you who haven't renewed your membership yet. You can join or renew from the coziness of your own comfy chair by going to You can complete and submit the membership form as well as pay your membership dues with a credit card. It's easy, and we appreciate each one of you who supports the Garden Club through your membership.

In the meantime, we hope you'll savor the goodness in this month's newsletter which covers a broad range of topics, and that the upcoming programs will feed your gardeners' souls during the days of rest, renewal, and waiting for next year's gardening work to begin.

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!!!

SEPT 21 (Weds.) @ 10:30 am via ZOOM

The Orcas Island

Garden Club

. . presents . . 



Hurricane Lizards

and Plastic Squid

Read more about this Presentation.

OIGC PROGRAMS -- 2022/2023

At present, we will be continuing with virtual presentations via Zoom.  Programs 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     Eliza Habegger ~ Creative Rewilding with Native Plants

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     Peter Guillozet ~ Planned Competition, Intentional Messiness, & the Role of PNW Native Plants in Landscaping

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

June 24 & 25  ~  ANNUAL GARDEN TOUR





Thor Hanson's book

Hurricane Lizards


Plastic Squid

copies available

at Darvill's Bookstore









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!!!





The San Juan County Conservation Land Bank has announced that the native wildflower plant sale for the Salish Seeds Projects is happening NOW. For more information about what's available and how to place your order, go to 

Reserve plants online September 13 – 19, then pick them up on Saturday, October 1 at locations on San Juan, Orcas, Lopez, Shaw, and Waldron islands.

All plants are produced locally by the Salish Seeds Project, a joint program of the San Juan County Conservation Land Bank and the San Juan Preservation Trust. The sale opens online at 9am on Tuesday, September 13 on the Land Bank’s website at

Quantities are limited. Early shopping is recommended to avoid disappointment.


What's the Gray Stuff on our Big Leaf Maples?  by Julia Turney .... READ MORE

Did your garden produce more than you can use

Consider donating to the Orcas Island Food Bank.  



by Sally Hodson & Laura Walker 

During the last weekend in June, hundreds of islanders and visitors enjoyed exploring the six lovely gardens featured on our 2022 “Let’s Grow Together” Garden Tour. We were delighted this year with the best ever attendance.


Thanks to the generosity of the garden owners who so graciously opened their gardens to all of us, we had the opportunity to learn how different gardeners create a beautiful living canvas of plants that thrive in different locations in our island environment.

Our sincere thanks to:

  • Laura Ludwig
  • Patricia Flores
  • Will Rubey at Crazy Crow Farm
  • Stefanie Susol
  • Alex Tamayo-Wolf at the Christian School Garden
  • Lydia Dennee-Lee and Colleen Stewart at the Orcas School’s Farm to Classroom garden

We also offer our gratitude to the ukulele players and little musicians, our San Juan County noxious weed expert, the Master Gardeners and the Orcas garden artists who shared their skills and expertise to enhance our garden tour.

Without the wonderful assistance of our dedicated volunteers, the garden tour would not have been possible. Our sincere thanks to our captains and docents, our communications/PR specialist, our talented ticket designer, our signs & parking experts, our succulent caretaker and all who helped assemble the charming raffle baskets.


Each year, the money raised from the Garden Tour helps fund our year-round schedule of gardening presentations as well as to fund grants to help community non-profit organizations with garden projects. 


Garden Tour Captains play a vital role in the success of the Garden Tour. They partner with owners and with docents to show each unique garden at its best, and they work to make the guests' experience a smooth and memorable one. 

Some of our Captains shared memories from this year's Tour, and we hope it might inspire readers to volunteer next year. 

Join us in appreciation for ALL our Garden Tour Captains! 


One of the best parts of helping with the Garden Tour was the mini-tours that enabled those of us working at a particular garden to get to know one another and the garden owner. The social interaction that the Garden Club provides is one of the big reasons I joined. What could be better company than other folks interested in plants and dirt? And, by the way, Laura and Sally did such a good job of organizing. Thanks again, Sally and Laura.


What fun it was to discover the new iPhone plant identification app. The bunch of us, many Master Gardeners, were running around taking pictures of Stefanie Susol’s plants to try it out. And, it worked pretty well.

You can check it out too:


I love gardens. My own, of course, but others too! I volunteer for the Orcas Island Garden Tour because the gardens are unique and different, and each one inspires me with new ideas for my gardens. I also enjoy meeting gardeners, answering their questions and hearing their thoughts about the gardens. Gardeners are hopeful and enthusiastic, especially in a beautiful garden.

I will remember this year in Stefanie Susol’s garden for the bird nests we protected. The visitors were curious, but respectful. It was heartening to see the care everyone felt toward the mother bird and her chicks!


Serving as a garden captain is an enjoyable way to perform a community service. At the Orcas School garden there was a query about two unusual plants in the greenhouse in a patch labeled "tomato." I remembered seeing them in a previous year and told the tour visitor that they were castor beans.

There were a lot of tomato plants around the label. The castor beans were "volunteers" that popped up from seeds from previous years.


I enjoy being a garden club captain because I get to know a wonderful new garden, meet new people (garden owners, docents, and tour guests), and make new friends among those people. I especially admire the Christian School garden for its mission of teaching permaculture to students and donating the garden's abundance to the community. 

The highlight for me was watching fifth-grade students leading tours of the garden, teaching adults about permaculture. I have hope for the future!


Photos from this year's Garden Tour are now posted on our website. We hope your visit to the website will remind you of your wonderful weekend of visiting the gardens, meeting gardeners, and enjoying the  beauty we are fortunate to be surrounded by.

Photo credits and thanks to a variety of folks, but especially to Steve Smith and Sara Hennessey. THANK YOU so very much.

Check out the Garden Tour Photos
Reviewed by Perri Gibbons

I'm a huge Hanson fan, but have to admit I was a bit reluctant to read another depressing book about climate change. I should have had more faith. Hanson acknowledges climate change challenges, and refers to other books to learn more about it, but this book focuses more on how plants and animals are adapting NOW to the changes they face. 

"When faced with a climate challenge, species don't simply give up -- they do all they can to adjust. Some succeed and some fail, and taking the time to learn why gives us new insights into our own reactions."

We live in an incredibly complex world interacting and evolving in real time. It's heartening to know we are learning more about how factors such as resilience/rigidity, migration/less mobility and specialist/generalist modify eco-systems.

Climate change is a justifiably dark subject, but I was glad to read something that gave me some hope. I'm very much looking forward to his presentation to the Garden Club, September 21st. We're lucky to have an award-winning writer, engaging speaker, and all around nice guy join us!


When the pandemic lockdown began back on spring of 2020, the Garden Club board went into warp speed mode to figure out how we could keep the Garden Club vibrant and meaningful for our members in spite of all the restrictions we were facing.  We needed to find new ways to nurture a sense of community, to provide continuing programs, and to explore ways to keep the gardening goodness alive.

Our first move was to begin publishing a monthly newsletter which we continue producing for your reading pleasure.  Next we addressed the options we might have to provide programming, and that's where the Orcas Public Library proved to be a perfect partner for us.  From the beginning of our virtual programs, the Library has helped us by providing Zoom support to host, record and post the recorded presentations.

As a token of our appreciation, the Garden Club recently made a $500 donation to the Library which will be used toward plant identification signs that will be placed throughout the landscaping. 

We also donated seeds toward THE GREAT SUNFLOWER PROJECT -- a pollinator study where participants take seeds or plants home and later observe the numbers of pollinators visiting the flowers.  If you took some of those seeds home last summer, it's not too late to record your observations here:

All this is to say -- we love partnering with the Orcas Public Library. THANK YOU!!!


And Now It's September,

     BY Barbara Crooker

and the garden diminishes:  cucumber leaves rumpled

and rusty, zucchini felled by borers, tomatoes sparse

on the vines.  But out in the perennial beds, there's one last

blast of color:  ignitions of goldenrod, flamboyant

asters, spiraling mums, all those flashy spikes waving

in the wind, conducting summer's final notes.

The ornamental grasses have gone to seed, haloed

in the last light.  Nights grow chilly, but the days

are still warm; I wear the sun like a shawl on my neck

and arms.  Hundreds of blackbirds ribbon in, settle

in the trees, so many black leaves, then, just as suddenly,

they're gone.  This is autumn's great Departure Gate,

and everyone, boarding passes in hand, waits

patiently in a long, long line.



from Ingrid Mattson, Library Director

The Orcas Island Library grounds made a big impression on me when I interviewed for my position as the director of the library. It was clear the community cared about the library, and the library staff cared very much about the community. Now that I live on Orcas, I see it firsthand every day I’m at work.

One phase of the library grounds transformation was completed ten years ago, when Emily Aring of Kabloom Design volunteered her time to design a landscape that would be deer-, drought-, and wind-resistant. A team of volunteers (Phil Heikkinen, Margaret Payne, Pierrette Guimond, Joan Pedrick, Ladd Lindholm, Anita Holliday, David Hughes, and Michelle Barach) executed the plan. 

When the library’s addition was completed in 2017, Kabloom Design once more provided design services, and Kabloom has continued with regular maintenance of their plantings. But, as I am sure you’re all aware, landscapes take work. Notice in the trifecta of challenges I noted above that the grounds are intended to withstand (deer, drought, and wind). I didn’t include weed-resistance. If any of you know the secret to weed-resistant landscapes, please let me know! 

In the meantime, I’d love a volunteer or two to help me and the rest of the still-being-formed landscape committee make plans for the grounds, weed (or procure and manage weeding volunteers), and generally steward this beautiful community location for the decades to come, or at least the next year.

Please contact me ( if you’d like to lend a hand or just get to know the library and its landscape better. We’re always adding to our collection of gardening books and would love your suggestions.




by Helen Huber

As I was growing up on Long Island, NY, my mother believed in preparing healthy foods for her ravenous family. We ate freshly steamed broccoli and green beans, along with two types of “leafy” greens. The first showed up at most dinners in a blue ceramic bowl of pale green iceberg lettuce—the only type of lettuce I ever saw until I was in my twenties.

And then there was spinach. Fresh (from the can), military green, bitter, and to be avoided at all costs. Our spinach intake was upgraded after my innovative mother started buying bunches of sand-gritted spinach in our bustling Hicksville grocery. And so, she came to appreciate, rinse, and include spinach as a dark leafy green, one of many greens I eventually added to my own recipe repertoire (no can opener required).

It took some years, but over time, I began to see leafy greens featured in and around really good food I didn’t prepare myself. With time and practice, I learned how to cook greens to maintain both their color and flavor.

These days, leafy greens take up substantial real estate in my garden. And perhaps, like me, you’ve planted a decent amount of kale, collards, chard, spinach, or any leafy plant that is now over-abundantly producing.

Before it all starts flowering (and getting bitter), try harvesting, blanching, shocking, and prepping your greens for a future of healthy eating. For a relatively small investment of time, you can set yourself up to enjoy ready-to-go future greens, even in the dead of winter. The secret is blanching, shocking, chopping, and properly freezing your greens.

Here’s how to prep, followed by what to do with those greens. 

READ MORE .... Prepping
READ MORE ... Recipes


Tetrapanax papyifera ‘Steroidal Giant’

Welcome to our first ‘plant of the month’ feature! Our news team is always on the lookout for new and informative topics to keep you intrigued and inspired. We hope you enjoy this new addition.

Tetrapanax papyifera ‘Steroidal Giant’

This plant offers it all. Deer resistant, drought resistant, boasting versatile lighting requirements from full sun to part shade, and an all-around lovely perennial shrub. This giant touts a potential height from 10 – 20 feet, with a width of 6 – 15 feet. Though you feel as if you’ve stepped into a Hawaiian garden, this beauty grows well within the zones of 8a – 11 and it’s growing in the garden of one of our board members.

This variety is a larger form of the already big Japanese Rice Paper plant. The leaves can span an enormous 3 feet wide and the plant is covered all over in what looks like brown fur, especially the leaves. Be careful as these tiny hairs when rubbed off or disturbed can cause skin irritation in some people. 

It’s fast-growing with roots travelling underground like a bamboo. The more root disturbance, the more errant suckering. Allow it plenty of room to flourish. It is, however, easy to pull the suckers by hand. You can look forward to white blooms each autumn. 


Fun fact: According to Harvard University Herbaria:

Pith paper is not the same as "rice-paper". The smooth, bone white paper is made from the pith of the Tetrapanax papyriferum plant, which is a member of the Araliaceae (ginseng) family. It is native to Southern China and Taiwan, but was not investigated by Western botanists until the early and mid-nineteenth century. Pith paper has been used to make artificial flowers and decorative hairpins in China for centuries, while in the 1800s it became extremely popular as a surface for painting with watercolors and tempera.

If you are interested in a cutting,

please email Helen Huber directly at

Special thanks to Helen for sharing her interesting

plant thriving in her Orcas backyard! 


by Stefanie Susol

Stefanie Susol’s garden featured over one hundred dahlias emerging in her backyard, but due to the timing of the garden tour, we were unable to enjoy their gorgeous colorful blooms. We followed up with Stefanie to share with you what’s been happening with her collection and give you a peek at what her flowers look like now.  


Stefanie explains, “The Dahlias are almost in full swing! Some have been doing good for a month now, others just starting and some that may not even bloom:  I have some that are fairly tall and some that are still only a foot and a half I would guess. Our very wet spring did not help! I also have had some earwigs eating away at some of the blooms as well, which didn’t happen at all last year.” 

“However, guess what is blooming the best?! I have some seedlings that made tubers last year so it has been fun to watch them open as they are all surprises. It will be interesting to see how they did making tubers with the “off” weather we had when I dig in November. I am contemplating some changes to my lay out for next year as well. Happy digging and planting!”

Stefanie enjoying her blooms!


On September 1st, six folks joined OIGC Board Member Tony Suruda in the Community Room at the Library for a trial run of a mini workshop on flower pressing. Special presses were used in a microwave to dry and press the flowers in just a few minutes. The dried flowers were placed between laminating sheets which were then cut to make lovely bookmarks.

Everyone had a great time, mounted some flowers, and took dried flowers to work on at home.

We are hoping to have more mini-workshops like this for members in the future, so be on the lookout for announcements in upcoming newsletters.  If you have ideas for workshop topics, please let us know:



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

91 Members as of Sept 15

Renewals --------- -- 67

New Members ------- 9

Lifetime Members -- 8

Comp Members ----- 7


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