Through the Garden Gate by Alice Bell (1994)
Jessie Kaune told me how Mukilteo Way Garden Club began. Coming from Missouri early in the century, she and her husband Quentus bought properties in Everett and eventually built their home at 2009 Mukilteo Boulevard (where Jean Spencer lived).
They were fascinated by the way things grew in Washington, contrasted with their former homes. She planted flowers and vegetables and he took charge of the trees, some of which still flourish. Being a friendly person, Jessie was soon acquainted with their neighbors, who came to admire the Kaune plantings. Eventually the women met regularly as a depression era group called the Darlington Home and Garden Club. Their first (organizational) meeting was September 9, 1933. That group helped organize Everett Garden Club, Evergreen District and Washington State Federation of Garden Clubs. Helen Jensen and Freda Craft were leaders there.
As the club grew to include many residents away from Darlington area, the ladies felt they needed a name indicating a larger region. Mukilteo Boulevard being newly improved, they chose Mukilteo Way Garden Club, descriptive of their extended interests.
They cooperated with Rose Point Garden Club and Everett Garden Club in flower shows and in Evergreen District activities. The Rose Point and Mukilteo Way clubs, together, for many years, cared for the Fowler Pear Tree at the site of Mukilteo’s beginning. Finally, Mukilteo Way had the entire responsibility for the site, and made contact with Barbara Brennan Dobro, Fowler heir and owner of the property, and received her thanks and permission to “Do whatever you like at the place”.
They cleaned up the grounds and made a little park around the tree, planting a barberry hedge for protection and many azaleas as memorials to deceased club members. The seat around the tree was made and installed by George Hempler, Eleanor’s husband. Helen Astlund’s husband, Torchy, made a handsome sign for “Fowler Park” to honor Mukilteo’s founder.
As is apparent from Alice Bell’s history, the Fowler Pear Tree Park has been an important project and stewardship for the Club. The City approached Mrs. Dobro in 1977 to donate the land surrounding the Tree and in the early 90’s it was finally accomplished. No matter the ownership of the land, members of the Club have volunteered many hours to maintain the Park’s plantings and care since the 1950’s but also be concerned with the long term health of the Tree. Several storms over the years (1993 in particular) damaged the Tree and concern for its wellbeing resulted in the Club’s securing an analysis of the Tree by a certified arborist in 2011 (Scott Baker/ Tree Solutions, Inc). The Tree was declared healthy and pruning and professional maintenance advice was provided. In 2012, cuttings were taken to grow three saplings that are genetic matches of the 150+ year old Tree. The graftings were accomplished by Bill Davis, Horticulturist at Edmonds Community College and were presented to the City in 2013 for planting on public property (two at Rosehill Community Center and one at Pioneer Cemetery) and provide a long term legacy of the Tree for the community.
Beginning in 2007, the Club embarked on a new fundraising project by collaborating with the Mukilteo Lighthouse Quilters to present the ‘Mukilteo Garden and Quilt Tour’. Every two years 6 or 7 gardens in the Mukilteo area are chosen and on a weekend in mid-July are opened to the public. Some funding is secured through County and City grants but the volunteered time and energies of the members from each of the groups has resulted in the event being recognized regionally as a smooth-running, successful and ‘must see’ event. The profits from the Tours provides funds for each group’s educational and community projects. In particular, MWGC has presented scholarships to students attending Edmonds Community College in pursuit of Horticultural studies each year since 2008. Now a 501(c) 3 organization, the Club continues its financial support to other community groups such as the Mukilteo Community Garden, Japanese Gulch Group, Evergreen Arboretum and Gardens and more due to the Tours’ successes.
In 2011, with a new Community Center planned at Rosehill, a garden area opposite the front entrance was designated for the Club’s care. In recognition of the ongoing success of the Mukilteo Garden and Quilt Tours, a ‘quilt garden’ was designed and planted by Club members that year and is constantly maintained by them. Named ‘Crossing Paths’, the garden’s design includes red bricks and criss-crossing black mondo grass to suggest stitches and the forming of friendships between the two clubs. Plantings are chosen with various species, mix of colors and textures to mimic the variety one would find in a favorite old quilt. The garden is a welcoming and colorful area to enhance the Center’s entrance.
The Club could not have thrived for more than 80 years without dedicated and loyal members such as Jean Spencer with more than 50 years’ membership. She encouraged changes in the Club’s formal meeting structure to reflect the 60’s and have members identify themselves as individuals and other than as a ‘Mrs.’. Diane King maintained the Club’s strong ties with the District and State. Numerous new project ideas that bring community attention and respect to the Club occurred under the leadership of Jean Skerlong. Besides creating a logo for the Club, it was her foresight to pursue the grafting of 3 sapling clones of the Fowler Pear Tree, secure professional analysis of the Tree’s health and create the Quilt Garden at the new Rosehill Community Center. Her untiring work to lead members in making the biennial Mukilteo Garden and Quilt Tour a success assures that annual scholarships for Horticultural studies at Edmonds Community College are ongoing.
Through the ongoing dedication of all club members, the history of the Mukilteo Way Garden Club continues.