By Lila Johnson, Mill Creek Garden Club Publicity Chair.
On a chilly but sunny March morning, twenty-three Mill Creek Garden Club members hopped into carpools for the short drive down I-5 to the Kruckeberg Botanic Garden in Shoreline. Nestled in a wooded residential area, this garden is a bit of an undiscovered natural gem.
We were met by the Garden Director and our personal Tour Guide, Joseph (Joe) Abken. Formerly a longtime employee of Sky Nursery, Shoreline, Joe is effusive and passionate about his job and the garden. We left thinking he brings great vision, wonderful expertise and an enthusiasm for nature to his Garden Directorship.
The Kruckeberg Botanic Garden, four acres of native plants and unusual exotics in a woodland setting, began life in 1958 as the “farmhouse” for renowned University of Washington Botany Professor Dr. Art Kruckeberg, his second wife Mareen and his three children.
He was the science-guy professor, and Mareen, one of his students, was the lover of plants and horticulture. When their family expanded to six, they came to Shoreline and resided in the farmhouse built in 1904 where together they created this woodland garden.
That house still stands on the property and the owners lived here until their deaths: Mareen passed in 2003 at the age of 78 and Dr. Kruckeberg reached the age of 96, passing in 2016.
There are no formal lawns, or manicured flowerbeds; this is indeed a natural, walking in the woods on winding dirt trails garden. We meandered by a man-made pond with two floating Mallards who were not afraid of us; spotted a tiny hummingbird nest made of lichen and admired some early blooming ephemerals on the forest floor.
Joe commented social media is spreading the word about Kruckeberg as events and tours are filling up beyond his wildest dreams. Yes, the power of things going viral on the Internet! He shared his plans and dreams for expanding an area in the lower garden as a children’s space.
A generous donation from a “friend of the garden” has enabled the Foundation to set aside funds earmarked for the purpose of developing a children’s play and teaching garden and hopefully creating an ADA boardwalk for wheelchair access.
As we wound our way back up the trail to “Mareen’s greenhouse” near the Garden entrance, shopping for plants awaited us. There were lots of interesting ferns and such making their way back to Mill Creek.
It wouldn’t be a Garden Club outing without lunch together and our Excursion Committee found a good one: Hill’s Neighborhood Restaurant, Richmond Beach. They accommodated all of us and served up a delicious lunch, providing much needed warmth and sustenance for the drive back to Mill Creek.
By the way: Every Thursday, 1-3 pm, there’s a Weekly Volunteer Work Party at Kruckeberg Botanic Garden. Visit their website for details: www.kruckeberg.org.
A blooming Rhododendron amongst the tall trees. Photo courtesy of Mill Creek Garden Club.