After two years of planning and hard work, the dedication of Memorial Lane was held on Monday, August 14. KGC President Donna Robinson welcomed over 60 members and family of the past members being honored. Past President Bunny LaDuke explained the renovation of the garden area that involved removing dead trees and old shade plants that needed replacing (see below for her presentation). New trees were planted along with new native sun varieties to line the walkway. Many KGC members were involved in the process organized by Linda Derfiny, current KGC Treasurer, and Joann Wespinter, Council House Grounds Chair. Everyone agrees it is a beautiful addition to the grounds of the Kalamazoo Garden Council house.
A Garden of Remembrance by Bunny LaDuke
We thought you might like to hear a little about the background of this property and the trees and gardens that have led us to today.
The Morris Markin property was acquired by the City of Kalamazoo in 1970. By invitation of the City, in 1971 the Kalamazoo Garden Council moved from Lilac Cottage to this house and property of Morris Markin who had established Checker Motors. In 1980 the City closed the adjacent Maple Glen Park as result of vandalism and upkeep expenses. In 1986 Kalamazoo Garden Council established a fund and an initiative to investigate the possibilities of purchase by the County. Kalamazoo County purchased the property from the City of Kalamazoo for $1.00 in 1988. The Fund established by the Council was the forerunner to that of the Kalamazoo County Parks Foundation.
In 1994 KGC held an Arbor Day celebration to recognize the progress of tree planting on Council House grounds. A portion
of the tree planting is along what has been called Memory Lane – 11 crabapple trees were planted along the sidewalk from back of house to the Markin Glen Park parking lot. Over the next several years other trees were planted in different areas around the house.
I’d like to read from that 1994 tree celebration event program…
Trees continued to be added and located around the grounds in addition to eleven along Memory Lane. In 2005 another Arbor Day ceremony was held when more trees were planted. At that time, we believe there were at least 17 trees that had been planted in honor of people.
The Kalamazoo Garden Council Tribute Fund was established in 2016 to help offset costs for landscaping around the Council House. All donations are accepted, and significant donations in honor of others are added to the ongoing list of people to be honored or remembered.
The Council began to recognize that there was an abundance of trees on the property and that some of the markers were growing into the trees. So, we gathered all the markers and made a list of the names and information for historical purposes.
In 2018 the Grounds Committee noticed the crabapple trees were not looking very healthy, and Joann Wespinter, Grounds Chair, called in an arborist to see if the trees could be saved. Some steps were taken to heed his advice, but in the following years the trees were not improved. The sparse foliage, loosened bark, and falling branches are indicative trees in decline.
By the summer of 2020 the crabapple trees in Memory Lane were completely bare of leaves. The trees had reached the end of their lifespan. Working through the County Parks and Trees Director, KGC was able to have a contractor remove the dead crabapple trees in late 2020.
After a great deal of research, it was decided to replace the trees with eight Kwanzan Flowering Cherry Trees. According to ArborDay.org, although these trees are not native, Kwanzan cherry trees have been growing in the U.S. for well over 100 years. They are low maintenance, have three season appeal and do not bear fruit, thus not attracting deer to the Memory Lane area.
The clubs belonging to Kalamazoo Garden Council at the time each contributed at least $200 toward the new Kwanzan cherry trees which were added to Memory Lane by Mulders Nursery. Additional donations to the Tribute Fund also helped to financially support the costs of installation of the new trees.
In 2021 KGC decided to initiate plans to edge the Memory Lane Gardens with bricks and to remove all the shade plants which would not survive in the now sunny garden locations. A contractor was engaged at discounted price to add 200+ landscape bricks as edging around both of the Memory Lane Gardens. With the leadership of Linda Derfiny from Grow & Show Garden Club, Garden Council volunteers and friends removed all the shade plants from the approximately 1,700 sq ft gardens.
The new gardens are about 71’ long and 12’ wide. It was determined that the slope of the gardens would require some terracing, so landscape rock walls and timbers were added to the gardens by Council Members. After plants were removed and soil smoothed, both beds were covered with black plastic for about 3 months, killing the plants and weeds beneath.
In September 2022, with a grant from the Nancy Small Memorial Fund and donations to the Tribute Fund, 570 native plants were purchased and delivered from Hidden Savanna Nursery. Linda Derfiny and Patti Oakland created a “waves” or “drifts” design, and many Council members planted the 570 native plants. Six shrubs were also installed.
This dedication is the culmination of all those efforts from the past few years to continue to honor and remember those who have contributed so much to this organization and to this property. We have had a sign created, intended to be installed here in the garden, which contains the names of all who have been honored over the years and will be expandable.
I would like to thank all the Council members who have worked on these and the other beautiful gardens around the house and especially those who have worked on this event: Carol Beckius, Linda Derfiny, Pat Hansson, Kathy Lesman, Margaret McAllister, Amy Nelson, Donna Robinson, Andrea Stork, Rosemary Wade, and Joann Wespinter.