Hazel O’Brien

Among the angels in our midst is Hazel O’Brien, whose modest annual gifts to the San Juan Preservation Trust never foretold of her final generosity to help protect the San Juan Islands into the future.

Hazel, who grew up in the London area during World War II, fulfilled a dream 20 years in the making when she and her husband, Tom, retired to Orcas Island. What she wanted at their first Orcas home—a converted barn—was a garden, and her vision included all the lovely plants she remembered from her English childhood.

Years later, evidently she was asked if she had created an “English garden.” She described in an article for the Orcas Garden Club how she painstakingly transformed a grassy meadow slowly, and by hand, and she was rewarded for her efforts by finding “lovely moss-covered rocks, native ferns, occasional calypso, spotted coral root and rein orchids and a few wild anemones. … I do grow many of the flowers of my childhood, but there are also stately Douglas firs, elegant madronas and a backdrop of salal and mahonia. This isn’t England, and I now realize, working with what is here, that it shouldn’t try to be. It is Orcas, and mine is an Orcas garden.”

We thank Hazel for tending to her beloved Orcas gardens with their native jewels, and for continuing to help us tend to other special island places.