Spring forward to planting season and Mountlake Terrace Garden Club flower baskets

In this file photo (prior to the pandemic) Mountlake Terrace Garden Club members gathered for a group photo. (Photo courtesy Erin Murray)

The Mountlake Terrace Garden Club will soon be springing back into action, preparing sites throughout the city for planting and also selling its flower baskets for Mother’s Day. The organization is also looking for new members who don’t mind getting their hands dirty to join its ranks.

Long-time member and former club president Bonnie Mercer said the group of volunteers didn’t hold regular meetings last year amid the pandemic but were still able to participate in most of their usual outdoor activities, albeit at a masked distance. Those included cleaning and maintaining six planting locations throughout the city and its annual fundraising flower baskets sale.

She said that as a nonprofit service organization, the club’s purpose in planting and maintaining its garden sites “is to make the city look inviting.”

The club typically cleans up its six sites throughout the city in April and May in preparation for installing each year’s plant selections in June. Plantings include a mixture of flowers, shrubs and bushes, some of which are perennial varieties that help the club save money because those can then continue to grow year after year. Members also participate in weeding events at the gardens approximately every other month during the summer and into early fall.

Garden site locations include one each near the Mountlake Terrace Senior Community Center in Ballinger Park, in front of the Mountlake Terrace Library, near the county line on 48th Avenue West and 244th Street Southwest, and at Firefighters Memorial Park; along with two gardens at the Evergreen Playfield Complex. Two additional garden site locations were lost due to light rail expansion efforts, although Mercer is hopeful one of those plantings can be reestablished when construction work is finished at the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center on 236th Street Southwest.

Club members at work. (Pre-pandemic photo courtesy Erin Murray)

The club’s yearly sale of Mother’s Day flower baskets helps fund the flowers and vegetation planted in the summer. Baskets are sold by preorder and people are then able to pick those up at Mercer’s house on the Friday before the holiday is observed.

Two types of hanging baskets are offered each year, one that does better in the sun and another for shadier locations. The shade baskets have a begonia in the center surrounded by approximately five to six varieties of plants around the outside, which typically hang over the container’s edges. Sun baskets have a geranium in the middle and a similar number of various plants on their outer edges. Baskets that are maintained can usually sustain their plants until colder fall weather arrives. Some people even bring them indoors over the winter and are then able to coax their inhabitants back to life again the following spring, Mercer said.

The club has 120 baskets for sale, which cost $29 each. Flowers for both the hanging baskets and club planting sites are sourced from a long-time supplier in Monroe. For the Mother’s Day baskets, “He gives them to us at a discount so that we can earn money on them to help fund the flowers to plant around the entrances to the city,” Mercer said.

 

The sun basket sold by the garden club.

The garden club works in conjunction with the City of Mountlake Terrace which helps to maintain the sites with water over the course of each growing season. “They help us and we just throw in all of the volunteer work,” Mercer said of the partnership. Club membership usually numbers between 10 – 13 people, she added.

Mercer has been a member of the club for more than 20 years, joining a few years after it was first established in 1995. Shortly thereafter, she even convinced her husband Dave to join, and he has also previously served as club president.

Mercer said that club is looking for volunteers, especially since two members who have been heavily involved are moving out of the area this year, Membership costs $10 annually and the organization normally holds its meetings every other month, along with both a summer picnic and a winter holiday get-together when not in a pandemic. Regular meetings, which help members learn more about gardening techniques and plants, have in the past also featured guest speakers.

The regular cleaning and weeding events also serve another function by helping club members to socialize and catch up with one another, Mercer said. People of different age groups belong to the organization and some members even bring their children along to help out, she said.

During coronavirus restrictions, Mercer relied on calling people to coordinate the club’s garden maintenance, admitting she is “kind of technically challenged” when it comes to hosting meetings online.

In addition to welcoming new members who may be able to add some tech savvy to the mix, the club still needs people who like to get their hands in some dirt.  “We’d like a little younger crowd because some of us are getting older and it’s hard to bend over,” Mercer said. However, even those who have trouble getting on their hands and knees can participate and are invited to help in other ways.

Mercer said she is looking forward to the return of regular club events outdoors. “It’s a fun group, because we just like to get together and make the city beautiful and it’s just good times,” she said, adding with a laugh, “Our motto is ‘butts’ up.’”

Those interested in joining the Mountlake Terrace Garden Club or purchasing hanging flower baskets for Mother’s Day can contact Bonnie Mercer either by email or phone at 206-910-0406. The club also has a Facebook page that can be viewed here.

— By Nathan Blackwell

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