WSU Discovery Garden

WSU Discovery Garden
A magical pocket garden in Mount Vernon, WA

 By Linda Kissam

At some point during your time in the beautiful Northwest, you’ll be headed off to Anacortes, WA to ride the ferries.  On your way to/from the ferry docks, take the time to stop at the WSU Discovery Garden in Mount Vernon.  About an equal distance from the freeway to the ferry docks (20 minutes) or from the ferry docks to the freeway, this magical “talking garden” is looking forward to spending some time with you.

Whenever I think about my garden travels, I find my favorites tend to be the smaller ones with more of a personal feel.  Often called “pocket gardens” for their size and feel these are the ones that I take my time walking through without feeling like I have to hurry in order to see the entire garden. You can quickly go through this one in an hour, or relax into the experience and spend many more.

This small garden is run by Washington State University.  The WSU Discovery Garden was designed and is maintained by volunteer master gardener. It is divided up into multiple smaller-themed gardens filled with imaginative elements that change annually. The goals of the garden are to interest, inspire and educate the public; to develop a garden for community use and enjoyment; and to enhance the quality of the environment of Skagit County.

The Master Gardener Program was started in Washington State in 1973. Thanks to the WSU Master Gardener class of 1994, the vision for the Demonstration Garden was born. It took two years to plan the garden, then in the fall of 1996, the first structure trees and fences were established. Over the next two years, with the help of many committed WSU Master Gardeners and the community, the garden was planted.

Records show that 120 Master Gardeners from King and Pierce County Extension were trained in the first class. They served more than 7,000 clients in their first year. Today there are more than 3,000 Master Gardeners serving in 28 of the 39 Washington Counties serving more than a quarter of a million clients each year. The Master Gardener program is now operating in 46 states and four Canadian provinces.

There are 30 areas to enjoy. For a complete list click here  .  Among my favorites are the Cottage Garden, Iris Garden, Hot Color Borders, and the Rhododendron Garden. That being said I am a stout proponent of teaching children the pleasures of gardening, so I was especially interested to explore the Children’s Garden.

The gateway to the garden starts the visitor down a ‘yellow brick road’ through an archway of weeping mulberry, creating the impression of entering through a green tunnel into a land of make-believe. A curved pathway runs down the center of the garden and includes the game of “hopscotch.”  I followed my impulse to hop down the pathway bring backing back memories of playing hopscotch in my childhood.

The Discovery Garden is open to the public year round (including holidays) from dawn to dusk.  Signage throughout the garden allows for a self-guided tour…BUT if you see one of the master gardeners stop and chat. You’ll be engaged and delighted by what they have to share.

WSU Discovery Garden
16650 State Route 536 (Memorial Highway)
Mount Vernon, WA

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