THE GARDEN BEGINS
The Kruckeberg family grew to six in 1957 with the birth of Mareen’s first child, and soon they were looking for more living and gardening space than was afforded by their Capitol Hill home. Mareen discovered property for sale in Richmond Beach, about two miles uphill from Puget Sound. In love with the potential of the property for a garden, legend has it that she agreed to buy without even looking at the house itself. Mareen and Art’s new purchase was about one acre in area, with a two-story house and a separate two-car garage. The house had been built in about 1904 as a farmhouse, then remodeled in 1938.
The first settlers had arrived in Richmond Beach only about 70 years before, and in the late 1950s the property on 15th Avenue NW was still more rural than suburban, with much nearby pasture land and even a log cabin to the east. Old, late-successional Douglas fir dominated much of the landscape. It was a place where Art and Mareen could realize a shared, passionate ambition to create a garden in which the native landscape would be preserved, but complemented with rare and unusual woody and herbaceous plants from other lands.
Mareen’s father, Grandpa Schultz, soon purchased the property that bordered Art and Mareen’s acre to the east. That land, mostly lower lying, had been a strawberry field, and it wasn’t long before it became pasture for the children’s horses. In 1963 a fifth child joined the Kruckeberg family. In the 1960s the original farmhouse was remodeled again, and Grandpa Schultz converted the garage into a cozy cottage for his wife and himself.
Mareen’s interest in plants led to construction of her first greenhouse, completed in 1970. By then she was known in horticultural circles as an expert in growing and caring for plants, both native and exotic. When Mareen realized that the occasional sale of plants to friends and neighbors was “extra-legal,” MsK Rare Plant Nursery was born and certified with a business license for which she paid the grand sum of $1.00. A second greenhouse was added in January 1976, and the Nursery continued to grow and thrive.
Meanwhile, both Art and Mareen had been busy introducing a wide variety of trees, shrubs and herbs to the property, including the lower pasture after the family interest in horses subsided. They brought some plants with them in 1958, including a four-foot giant sequoia tree. Generally, though, growth of the garden depended less on collecting than on cuttings and seed from their own established plants and seed from various botanic gardens and seed exchanges. The resulting landscape is a mix of native species with choice specimens from other lands, mostly China and Japan. The fruit of the Kruckebergs’ labor is a park-like botanic garden that, almost 50 years later, has gained regional significance.
A GARDEN PRESERVED
In 1998, friends and neighbors formed the Kruckeberg Botanic Garden Foundation (KBGF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the Garden and providing assistance with maintenance and events.
On October 14, 2003, Art Kruckeberg signed a Grant Deed of Conservation Easement that protects the property in perpetuity from development. The citizens of Shoreline approved a Parks, Open Space and Trails bond in 2006, which enabled the City of Shoreline to purchase the Garden from Art Kruckeberg in January 2008. The KBGF and the City have formed a partnership charging the Foundation with running the Garden and the on-site MsK Nursery.