Margaret McKenny’s Home and Wild Flower Garden

Photo courtesy of Washington State Archives

In 1915, when she was about thirty years old, Margaret built her own home on Water Street and 22nd Avenue. It was a two-story modest bungalow that housed herself and her mother and had the ground floor space dedicated as a classroom for her private school. There she taught local children using the Montessori philosophy and methodology mixed with healthy doses of nature study, her signature contribution.

That part of Olympia was sparsely built at that time; development was scattered and all around her were woods, a view of the Deschutes River and the distant Black Hills. She had only a few neighbors and lots of room to enjoy the wildlife just beyond her doorstep. She had managed to squeeze her house into a standing grove of Douglas firs and accompanying tangle of under-story bushes. Being an avid botanist, however, she went on to collect and nurture a noted wild flower garden that added beauty and colorful interest to the towering firs.

In a letter to a friend, she proudly listed her glorious bounty of that April:

The trilliums in my wild garden have been so beautiful this spring. It is wild woods all around my house, trilliums, bleeding heart, Solomon’s plume, fairy bells, corydalis, Thalictrum, Vancouveria, Vanilla leaf, wild ginger, all growing as in the original woods.

This list is a blueprint for anyone’s native plant garden!

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