JARS v47n2 - The Gardens of Marshall Majors

The Gardens of Marshall Majors
Dave Thompson
Bainbridge Island, Washington

There are many reasons to visit Marshall Majors on beautiful Bainbridge Island: the rhododendrons (1,300 or so), the rock garden, Barney, the soft-furred, friendly dog, and most especially Marshall himself.
Marshall and his new bride Edna moved to Bainbridge Island in 1934 from West Seattle where they had rented a duplex. Purchasing a four-acre parcel with a large, beautiful house and 90 feet of waterfront for $18,000, they got interested in rhododendrons after Marshall presented Edna with 'Pink Pearl' and 'Unique' he purchased for 98 cents each. One thing led to another, and another, and more, and soon the entire basement was under fluorescent lights. Most of the 1,300 rhododendrons around the garden are from cuttings and seeds that they started in the basement.
Edna loved plants, many kinds, and was active in the Hardy Fern Foundation, heading up the spore exchange. Keep an eye out for interesting ferns among Marshall's rhododendrons.
Edna became fascinated with rock gardens, and in 1982 enlisted Tad Sakuma of Bainbridge Island to help her put in the extensive rock garden in front of their house. Tad painstakingly arranged the rocks, and left. Edna and Marshall put in many alpine rhododendrons and other plants where the plants would be happiest, not necessarily where they would compliment the rocks best. Marshall said, "When Tad came back a year later we asked him how he liked the garden. Politely, Tad said, 'I like the rocks.'"
Edna passed away three years ago, and Marshall's daughter Anne and her husband Roger live with him now. Grandchildren visit often. "That's my grandson Craig," Marshall said on one visit, pointing to a garden worker. "He's in college majoring in deadheading."
We asked Marshall what his favorite rhododendron was. He responded, "That's like asking, 'Which is your favorite child?' Well, now," he said reluctantly, " souliei for a species, 'Hotei' for a yellow and 'Loder's White' for a white."

Marshall Majors' garden, 
Bainbridge Island, Washington.
Marshall Majors' garden,
Bainbridge Island, Washington.
Photo by Neal Nunamaker

These are magnificent specimens in Marshall's garden: 'Loder's White' as tall as the two-story house; a 'Hotei' that looks like a 10-foot Christmas tree; a 25-foot high 'Mother of Pearl'; 8-foot high, 6-foot diameter 'Bow Bells'. Many specimens are in semi or full shade, so you can see how plants do in forested conditions.
How did he acquire so much knowledge? "By going down to the Rhododendron Species Foundation for several years and noting the blossoming time for each plant." Marshall has been active in fund raising within our chapter for the Apprentice Program of the RSF - typical of Marshall, donating his time and energy (and cuttings!) most generously so that others can benefit.
Come visit the garden, rock garden, Barney, and most especially one of North Kitsap Chapter's favorite members: Marshall Majors.
Marshall Majors' gardens will be visited during the AKS 1993 Annual Convention.

Dave Thompson is a member of the North Kitsap Chapter.