Mareen Kruckeberg first opened the Garden to the public for a plant sale on Mother’s Day weekend in 1987. Over the past 25 years the MsK Nursery, the Garden, and their founders Art and Mareen Kruckeberg have influenced thousands of lives and gardens. In honor of our 25th annual Mother’s Day Plant Sale next week, we’ve been collecting stories about these colorful characters, the Sale, and the Nursery. We’ll have them on display at the Sale, May 11-13. Read on to enjoy a selection of these stories!
Do you have your own stories you’d like to share? Please do! Post them as a blog comment, or attend this year’s Mother’s Day Sale and add them to the story board on display. We’ll have blank submission forms available.
“Once Mareen was visiting our garden… Just at the end of a long visit we were looking at a collection of mountain hemlocks. I knew they had gotten overcrowded. She said to just remove the middle one. I was delighted and immediately got the saw and removed it. Then I remembered that my husband would likely be upset. In those days he got so bothered if I took out a plant, and here I was with the evidence in my hand. With a twinkle and no hesitation she took it from me, threw it in the back of her truck and said, “I bet he’ll never notice.” And off she went, taking the incriminating trunk with her! She was right, by the way. To this day he has never missed it.”
Margery Ziff, Kruckeberg family friend
“Mareen was crazy about all things miniature. That includes plants. When making her boxes she would include anything tiny. The garden used to have a Jonquil no bigger than my little finger; I still have them growing in one of the first boxes she ever gave me.
My fondest memory of the plant Sale is on Sunday night after the Sale was over we would gather in Mareen’s little house, drink wine, eat some dinner, and talk about the weekend. Swap stories, discuss what went well and what we would do differently next year. The night ended with relief and sadness the Sale was over for another year.”
Wendy Kay, Kruckeberg family friend and long-time Sale volunteer
“Every Mother’s Day I admired the elegant yellow tree peony growing alongside the Kruckeberg’s entry walkway, always in bloom on that weekend. Who could resist a seductive plant like that? Mareen provided me the seedlings that I planted along our back deck and now, 15-20 years later, three mature peonies remind us of Art and Mareen when they are in full bloom on Mother’s Day — faithfully year after year.”
Dr. Bob Hauck, Richmond Beach neighbor
“About 12-15 years ago, as I was developing our garden, I harvested some Himalayan tree peony seeds and put them in pots to see if I could grow them. Come spring, nothing happened. Due to sloth mostly, the pots just sat there all summer and didn’t get dumped, even though the seeds didn’t germinate. Sometime that fall or winter, I was visiting Art and Mareen and I explained that I had failed to grow the tree peonies from seed. Mareen smiled and said, “just wait.” Sure enough, just about every seed emerged the next spring. I had no idea they required two winters of vernalization (over-wintering).
We moved into our house in December 1995. Some of the earliest plants that went into our garden came from the MsK Nursery. In that first year (1996) we planted the following from the MsK Nursery: Calycanthus occidentalis, Cornus stolonifera, Holodiscus discolor, and Philadelphus lewisii. And the latest (March, 2012) are Lonicera myrtilloides and Sorbus prattii.”
Dr. Richard Olmstead, former student of Art Kruckeberg’s
“One of my favorite plants is my vine hill Manzanita (Arctostaphylos densiflora). I bought it from the Nursery three years ago as a tiny plant, only a couple of inches tall, and it has now grown to a foot tall and wide. It flowered prolifically this year. Its parent, a beloved specimen in the Garden, is unfortunately declining and will likely die soon. It pleases me to think that it has hundreds of clones planted around the region. Thanks to the Nursery, it will never actually be dead!”
Sarah Baker, KBG Garden Director
“When I was 19 I moved away from home to San Francisco. At that time, the Nursery was only open by appointment and it was known best to plant enthusiasts and friends of my mother’s. Eight years later I moved back to Seattle. For Mother’s Day, Mom wanted some help at her plant sale. I came strolling down the driveway and so many plants had been arranged in the drive. I was blown away. It looked magical. I guess I’d always seen the plants in their usual hideaways…not set out to be showcased.
We had so many people come through the Garden that weekend and all of them were so excited to have the Garden open to public for an entire weekend.
You have to understand that in high school I wanted my family to just be like a normal family. Living in a botanic garden was hardly that. I was a little embarrassed to come home and find soil sterilizing in the oven when I was hoping for homemade bread to offer my friends (Mom was a phenomenal baker!). When I walked down the driveway that very first Mother’s Day Sale I was so very proud.
I love the way my mother’s nursery and garden have touched so may people’s lives and gardens. It would make her very happy to know the tradition of the Mother’s Day Sale has continued and grown.”
Enid Kruckeberg-Kriewald, daughter of Art and Mareen Kruckeberg
“We had just moved to Shoreline in 1985 when a friend invited us to the Mother’s Day Sale at the Garden. That visit began a long relationship with the Garden, with Mareen, and with Art. Our new home needed lots of TLC, not to mention ground covers, shrubs, and trees. Both Art and Mareen were invaluable in helping us pick out specimens that would work best for us.
Over the years before the Garden was open to the public, we called the Kruckeberg’s house many times and were always invited over to receive expert advice. Today, we’re the beneficiaries of their wisdom as we look out at a 30-foot-tall korean dogwood (our favorite), evergreen huckleberries, tree peonies, arctostaphylos, several varieties of smilacina, many hebes, white and blue anemones, trilliums, rhodies, and a carpet of vancouveria throughout our woodland garden. In the front yard is a slow-growing oriental spruce, now about four feet tall, that Art recommended as his favorite spruce. (Look for it in the meadow and you’ll see why!) One day, it will fill our street side and shade the house.
We were also fortunate to have taken field trips with Art through the North Cascades Institute, tooling around in the “Botany” VW van to Mt. Adams and the Teanaway River valley in Eastern Washington.
We are so thankful to have the Garden in Shoreline and to have benefited personally from Art and Mareen’s botanical wisdom.”
Claire & Paul Grace, Shoreline residents
These stories were edited slightly for length. Apologies to the contributors!