Written by Deborah Phare, Seattle Parks and Recreation Volunteer
Public demonstration gardens begin with idealism, hope, and the best of intentions. In the mid-1990s, a small but ambitious project was undertaken in Carkeek Park, a 216-acre public park in north Seattle. With the help of many volunteers, a few Parks and Recreation department employees, and funding from two generous grants, gardens beds were installed adjacent to a meadow in a large open area behind the park’s administration buildings. The goal was to show the diversity of plants that could easily and successfully be grown in the Pacific Northwest without the use of fertilizers, insecticides, or pesticides, and with little-to-no supplemental water. Each bed focused on different soil and growing conditions that challenge gardeners in our region. Eights beds demonstrated a variety of plantings including a kitchen garden, woodland shade, a rain garden, a blue garden, and various plantings for pollinators and of Western natives.
But maintaining a garden requires attention and resources. And, as often happens with projects fueled primarily by volunteer effort, over time the demonstration gardens suffered from want of care and, eventually, neglect. Occasionally, staff would prune large shrubs and small trees to clear pathways, but no weeding was done. The garden beds became overgrown and many plants died. [Read more…]