Master gardeners tour offers a harvest of ideas

  • By Jackson Holtz Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, June 20, 2012 6:44pm
  • Life

A kaleidoscope of color fills the compact, beautifully arranged garden in Maxine and Bill Mitchell’s back yard.

Mr. Lincoln red roses stand tall. A purple clematis accents the wood fence. The pale green of a 6-foot-tall artichoke plant dominates a raised bed.

Every inch of available soil is planted with an array of ornamentals and edibles.

Potted flowering hellebores fill the stoop. A blooming dogwood tree shades a corner. Brilliant yellow roses provide a spot of color. Soon, ripe strawberries will be in abundance.

“I’m only going to plant the stuff we like to eat,” Maxine Mitchell said. “I love strawberries.”

Mitchell’s yard — her passion, her hobby and her pride — is one of eight gardens on view during this year’s Snohomish County Master Gardeners annual Garden Tours.

A $25 ticket buys entrance to all the gardens. Four gardens in Everett and south Snohomish County are scheduled to be open Saturday. The remaining four in Lake Stevens and Snohomish are scheduled for touring July 14.

“That’s where I get all my ideas, is by going on the tours,” Mitchell said.

Master gardeners are specially trained volunteers. They go through hours of training to learn which plants work in which climate, how to manage pests, what soil is best, how to cultivate and more.

Then the master gardeners give back to the community by answering a gardening hotline, giving clinics at fairs and farmers markets and hosting the annual tour.

Unlike some garden tours, the master gardeners often are available to answer questions about their home gardens, Mitchell said. Thanks to their training, they’re able to research and find out even obscure information.

“We don’t know it all, but we know where to get the answers,” Mitchell said.

The gardens also are meant to inspire people with ideas.

When the Mitchells moved to Edmonds two years ago from Vancouver, Wash., to be closer to children and grandchildren, their new yard was spare. Photos show few plants and lots of mulch. Today, hardly any mulch is visible through the dense foliage.

Many plants have been relocated around the yard.

“As a gardener you’re always removing things that don’t work,” Mitchell said. Moving, replanting and experimenting. “That’s the fun of it.”

Old window frames hang along the fence. Photos of grandchildren fill several panes and small window boxes full of flowers adorn the bottom. Mitchell saw a similar concept on a master gardener tour, then embellished it. Adding the photos was her husband’s idea; she liked the window boxes.

Of her plants, she’s especially fond of the podophyllum, or kaleidoscope plant, in her shade garden. The big-leafed ornamental typically grows in the forest. The plant proves the master gardener philosophy of “right plant, right place,” she said.

If Mitchell is busy helping someone else on Saturday, it’s easy enough to find the special plant behind the dogwood tree. Each plant in her garden has been carefully labeled with its scientific and common name.

“This is my hobby,” Mitchell said. “This is what I do.”

Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3447; jholtz@heraldnet.com.

Master Gardener Tours

The garden tours are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and July 14.

Tickets are $25 and can be purchased from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the McCollum Park Extension Office, 600 128th St. SE, Everett.

For more information, call 425-338-2400 or see the website, www.snomgf.org/garden-tours.html.

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