Learn from the masters of gardening this winter

Eric Studebaker found the love of his life in high school.

He strayed, once, after college.

But he went back, and for the past 25 years has stayed faithful … to gardening … so he could be near his beloved Japanese maple trees.

“It’s what I call the perfect small tree,” Studebaker said.

“They have great branch structure, beautiful foliage, a multitude of colors and adapt to Northwest gardens very well. They are really a lot of fun.”

He’ll talk about his love of Japanese maples at the Sustainable Gardening Winter Speaker Series sponsored by Snohomish County Master Gardener Foundation.

Studebaker, 48, a Whidbey Island nursery manager, joins a roster of eight renowned experts, such as Ciscoe Morris. The Friday morning lecture series runs January through April at Mukilteo Presbyterian Church Social Hall. Cost is $85 for all eight sessions.

The lecture series raises money for the foundation and gives gardeners a winter fix. Topics include pruning, outdoor living spaces, ferns, vines, butterflies and plant marriages.

“Everyone has a different interest. We try to bring that diversity to our speakers, so it isn’t just targeting one area of gardening,” master gardener spokeswoman Bernie Wojcik said.

“You get to meet fellow gardeners, with like-minded interests. They trade information. There’s never a right or wrong way. They learn a new way.”

Studebaker’s Jan. 18 session, Growing and Loving Japanese Maple Trees, is the second in the series.

“The trees are so prominently planted throughout the history of the Northwest,” he said. “The diversity is a fun thing, especially when you grow things from seeds. It is so exiting,”

Studebaker, a buyer and manager at Bayview Farm &Garden in Langley, started his career at Swansons Nursery in Seattle during high school.

That’s where he met the first Japanese maple tree of his dreams.

After college, he got an office job, but went back to the garden biz.

“It was funner than what I was doing in a suit and tie,” he said.

He likes taking his work home with him.

“My front yard is about as small as a Ballard yard, and I have 14 different trees,” he said. “There’s just stuff growing everywhere.”

Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com.

Gardening lecture series

What: Sustainable Gardening Winter Speaker Series sponsored by Snohomish County Master Gardener Foundation.

The series features eight celebrity gardeners, authors and experts.

When: 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Fridays, January through April

Where: Mukilteo Presbyterian Church Social Hall, 4514 84th St. SW, Mukilteo

Cost: The entire lecture series is $85. Includes refreshments

Single lectures are $20 at the door.

Tickets: gardenlectures.com/ buy-now.html

More information: garden lectures.com

Jan. 4, Marty Wingate:

Color Through the Year: Great All-Season Gardens from Flowers and Foliage, Stems and Bark

Jan. 18, Eric Studebaker:

Growing and Loving Japanese Maple Trees

Feb. 1, Ciscoe Morris:

Transform Your Garden into a Bird and Butterfly Haven

Feb. 15, Meghan Fuller:

Plant Marriages That Don’t End in Divorce: Design Tips for Successful Plant Combinations

March 1, Cass Turnbull:

How to Prune and Renovate the Overgrown Garden

March 15, Polly Hankin:

Extend Your Living Space Beyond the Backdoor: Comfortable and Functional Outdoor Rooms

March 22, Judith Jones:

Garden Ferns: Procrastinator’s Delight

April 5, Dan Hinkley:

Trees, Shrubs and Vines for Year Round Interest in a Pacific Northwest Garden

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