Gathering (Virtually) to tour Washington Native Plant Gardens

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Hundreds of gardeners, plant lovers, and interested citizens will meet online this week and next for tours of native plant gardens in eastern and western Washington, marking the first Native Plant Appreciation Month and the 15th anniversary of Native Plant Appreciation Week.

“By bringing together new and experienced gardeners and plant lovers to hear from experts in our state, we’re providing forums for information sharing, networking, and fun, that are vital to helping us navigate this coronavirus spring,” said Denise Mahnke, business manager of the Washington Native Plant Society (WNPS), sponsor of the webinars. 
“Even though we can’t meet in person, we can still enjoy our state’s beautiful flowers and plants, and learn how to use them effectively in our gardens.”

All presentations are free and open to all. They will be recorded for future viewing on the Washington Native Plant Society website.

“I’m encouraged that 15 years after the first Native Plant Appreciation Week, our celebration has grown to a whole month of events. 
"While the global pandemic has disrupted our ability to hold plant sales and field trips, we can still learn and share good garden ideas and practices,” said Van Bobbitt, president of the board of the Washington Native Plant Society.

The series kicks off on Saturday, April 18, 2020 at 10am with an online talk by Heather Wendt, who will present on Heritage Gardens: Promoting Native Plants through Community Partnerships. Wendt, assistant manager for both the Benton and Franklin Conservation Districts, co-created the Heritage Garden Program with Donna Lucas of the Columbia Basin Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society.

The Heritage Garden program is designed to honor the cultural and natural heritage of the Columbia River Basin by using sustainable gardening practices. 

Heritage Gardens are landscaped areas that promote the use of native plants, especially those of cultural significance and that demonstrate low-water-use landscaping and efficient irrigation methods. Wendt’s presentation will cover how the program was developed, how it has grown and will offer a virtual tour of established gardens.

A companion book Plant Selection Guide: Heritage Gardens of the Columbia River Basin was published and released earlier this year by the Benton Conservation District. 

The guide helps users select native and low-water-use plants that will provide long-lasting color and texture in Columbia River Basin gardens.

In his forward to the book, award-winning writer and naturalist Jack Nisbet writes that “…this book provides a vision for the kind of expansive gardening that can reach from your back yard deep into the essence of the shrub steppe.”

The series continues with two online events focused on gardens in western Washington.

On April 18, 2020 at 4:00pm, Marcia Rivers Smith will present Fundamentals of Gardening with Native Plants in Lowland Western Washington. Smith, the originator of this popular presentation, will discuss the advantages of using native plants in the home landscape and how to choose the right plant for the right spot. She will cover assembling a garden and caring for it, in many different types of situations: sunny or shady; clay or sandy soil; wet or dry. Smith has been actively involved with the Washington Native Plant Society for almost 30 years.

The series concludes on April 23, 2020, at 7:00pm, with a panel discussion, Three Native Plant Gardens Up Close. Washington Native Plant Society members and native plant and gardening experts, Rita Moore, Clay Antieau and Dr. Julia Bent, will present slideshow tours of their home gardens on Mercer Island, in Ballard, and in Lake Forest Park. They will compare and contrast the challenges of these different micro-climates while covering the choices they made, their successes and failures and lessons learned.

The webinar series is hosted by the Washington Native Plant Society. The Washington Native Plant Society is a 501©3 nonprofit organization, founded in 1976, with approximately 2,000 members statewide. Its members share a common interest in Washington's unique flora, with the mission to promote the appreciation and conservation of Washington's native plants and their habitats through study, education, and advocacy.

Governor Jay Inslee proclaimed April 2020 as Native Plant Appreciation Month in Washington State.

  • Registration for the Columbia River Basin Heritage Gardens presentation is here.
  • Information about the Columbia River Basin Plant Selection Guide is here.
  • Registration for Gardening with Native Plants in Lowland Western Washington is here.
  • Registration for the Three Native Plant Gardens Up Close is here


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