Mandi Johnson/staff photo

Mandi Johnson/staff photo

Visit the splendor of Orcas gardens

  • Thu Jun 17th, 2021 1:30am
  • Life

Submitted by the Orcas Garden Club.

After a year of struggling to live our lives under the threat of the COVID-19 virus, we’re all delighted to be outdoors and able to spend time in our gardens. Since the dark and difficult days of last winter, the Orcas Island Garden Club has been working to create a Safe Garden Tour that we can all enjoy together to celebrate our love for plants.

The 2021 Orcas Island Garden Tour is Saturday, June 26 and Sunday, June 27 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

This year, we have designed a special garden tour with five lovely gardens and a variety of fun activities to share. As you visit our tour gardens, you will discover how each of these garden owners has created a unique vision for their garden that reflects the personality of the owner and their location on the island.

Two of the gardens are open on Saturday, one is open both days and two different gardens are open on Sunday.

• Garden A and B (Margaret Payne and Martha Kramer) are open only on Saturday

• Garden C (Catiya Gainor) is open both Saturday & Sunday

• Garden D and E (Kaj Dawg Farm & Doe Bay) are only open on Sunday.

Tickets for the tour cost $20 (your ticket is good for both Saturday and Sunday) and can be purchased at Darvill’s Bookstore and Driftwood Nursery, online at or on the tour days at the gardens.

The Orcas Island Garden Tour is sponsored by the Orcas Island Garden Club. With the help of over 60 volunteers, the annual tour attracts over 250 visitors from our island, other islands and the mainland. The money raised from the garden tour helps to fund the gardening programs that bring experts to present at our monthly meetings throughout the year. Each speaker shares knowledge that we can use to raise beautiful flowers and shrubs, healthy veggies and fruit, care for native plants and attract bees, birds, and butterflies to our gardens. Some of the funds are also used to award community grants to help other Orcas organizations preserve the natural beauty of our Orcas environment.

Margaret Payne’s cottage garden offers a delightful blend of different plant habitats, ranging from sunny and dry to wet and shady, allowing her to nurture a wide range of plants through three different seasons. Focusing on perennials, Margaret’s garden offers colorful lilies, crocosmia, lupine, roses, columbine, and clematis. Tucked throughout are different garden rooms featuring ornamentals, herbs, native plants, vegetables, a variety of fruit trees and different berry patches. Don’t miss the outdoor kitchen, greenhouse and charming garden art featuring vintage tools and a display of different state license plates.

Tucked on a picturesque hillside, Martha Kramer’s lovely garden offers expansive views of Victorian Valley. In the garden are a variety of fruit trees including cherry, apple, plum, peach and pear as well as lots of veggies, including lettuce, tomatoes and beans. The hillside garden offers a charming gazebo set amidst an English flower garden featuring many flowering shrubs and perennials that attract birds, bees and butterflies. If you have time, go on a guided walk across the road to visit the Victorian Chapel, the site of many summer island weddings and wander through the adjacent meditation garden. Our thanks to Sara Smith for sharing this lovely space with our tour guests.

Seaview Far, Catiya Gainor’s garden, offers a wide range of interesting features that include an extensive fenced garden, a large greenhouse, a charming sauna and an outdoor kitchen. Inside the fenced garden are a variety of fruit and nut trees, many different kinds of berries, a grape arbor, an herb spiral and numerous beds of all kinds of vegetables including artichokes, broccoli, leeks, lettuce and asparagus. Scattered throughout the garden are flowers and shrubs that attract birds, bees and butterflies. Another interesting feature is the composting method used by the garden owner to create rich soil to nourish the garden.

Located in Crow Valley, just north of Turtleback Mountain, Kaj Dawg Farm is a gorgeous farm with an inspiring story. Created in 2014 by a group of visionary islanders who created the project and provided the infrastructure and expertise, the garden is a model of Community Participatory Agriculture. Laid out like a quilt in a beautiful setting of field, forest and pond, the farm supports people in growing their own food. This community garden provides participants with abundant organic vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers as they work together throughout the growing season. The outdoor kitchen offers another opportunity to share and learn about food processing and canning.

Doe Bay Garden offers over an acre of garden beds and fruit orchards that provide a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers for the Doe Bay Café and Resort. Following methods of sustainable, organic gardening, Doe Bay uses seed-saving, crop rotation and composting to ensure the health of the produce and the soil. Tour the large greenhouse and don’t miss visiting the chickens, housed in a large enclosure, who will provide delightful entertainment as they consume leftovers with gusto.

To help us all enjoy our Safe Garden Tour experience, we’ll be offering different fun activities that are scheduled at each garden throughout the tour. A few of the extras include a self-guided meditation walk through a woodland glen, a sift and soil block demonstration, WSU Master Gardener information tables, a scavenger hunt, live music with local musicians, floral displays and bouquets for sale, art exhibits, a compost and soil building demo, new OIGC tote bags for sale, AND … a chance to win one of three fabulous raffle baskets.

In accordance with the latest CDC guidelines and San Juan County directives, we have updated our safety guidelines for the garden tour. Masks and hand sanitizer are available at the entrance to each garden. Since the garden tour is an outdoor venue, wearing a mask is optional inside and outside the garden. If you haven’t been vaccinated or your immune system is compromised, we recommend that you wear a mask when you are near other people. The number of visitors allowed inside each garden at a time will be based on the size and layout of the garden. Since the tour is outdoors, the need for social distancing is dependent upon your vaccination status. If you are vaccinated and know you are interacting with other vaccinated people, you don’t need to socially distance.