In its 34th year, an annual gardening event still finds a way to germinate new ideas.
This year’s Whidbey Gardening Workshop follows the theme “Gardening with Purpose: Beauty, Bounty and Benefit” and takes place March 3-4. In a first for the workshop, three garden pros will offer their unique perspectives during sessions that adhere to different parts of this theme.
South Whidbey landscape horticulturist and floral designer Tobey Nelson plans to serve as a panelist for the first themed session, titled “A Purposeful Approach to a Pollinator Garden.” She will also be an instructor for a class focusing on eco-gardening, a practice that works to build a climate-resilient garden.
“Climate change is upon us, and everyone needs to do everything in their power,” Nelson said. “It’s a lot easier to shift how you garden.”
Nelson is also the buyer and lead educator at Venture Out Nursery in Langley. Eco-gardening, she explained, involves keeping things in mind like careful use of resources, minimizing pesticide use and taking care of a garden in a way that makes it friendly to wildlife and pollinators, among other things.
The main workshop event runs 8:30 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 4 at Oak Harbor High School. The workshop follows a hybrid format this year, meaning people at home can livestream some of the classes and have access to the recordings afterwards for a few weeks. There are three themed sessions and a total of 28 classes, four of which participants will have to choose. Classes include topics about marine and shore plants, bats, cultivating mushrooms and more.
Keynote speaker Donna Balzer, a Vancouver Island resident, will speak about her experience gardening in the Canadian prairies of Alberta. Previously, she served as the horticulturist at the Calgary Zoo Botanical Garden and as an instructor on horticulture at Olds College.
Throughout the day, attendees can visit the garden marketplace, which offers garden-related items from a number of different vendors, from bulbs to plants to books to baskets to furniture. The Master Gardener Plant Clinic runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the marketplace. Questions for Master Gardeners can be asked in advance by emailing [email protected].
The day before, on Friday, March 3, people can choose to attend practical sessions in the morning and afternoon. Practical sessions are field trips around locations on Whidbey and Camano islands, such as Meerkerk Gardens and the Organic Farm School.
Practical sessions are an additional $20 cost on top of workshop registration. This year, registrants for the workshop have a choice of three different packages – one that covers on-site classes for $75, one that covers livestreamed classes for $55 and one that covers both for $100. Early bird pricing, which ends Jan. 22, sets those prices at $60, $45 and $85, respectively.
Barbara Schmitt, marketing coordinator for the workshop, said about half of its participants come from off-island.
“I think people appreciate the intimacy and the smallness of the offering of the classes at Whidbey and Oak Harbor,” she said.
Cathy Lofton-Day, the chairperson for the event, said last year’s workshop was attended by 240 people on site at the high school. A little over 200 joined the workshop virtually.
Both organizers agreed that gardening continues to experience a growth in popularity, especially when it comes to growing food.
“I think people came to realize during the pandemic what a comfort spending time in the garden and nature can be,” Nelson said.
For more information, visit whidbeygardening.org.
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