Tobey Nelson glues tiny pieces of a succulent plant on a bundle on wire to create botanical jewelry. Nelson specializes in floral arrangements for special occasions and she teaches floral jewelry classes. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

Tobey Nelson glues tiny pieces of a succulent plant on a bundle on wire to create botanical jewelry. Nelson specializes in floral arrangements for special occasions and she teaches floral jewelry classes. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

Gardening workshop in full bloom

30 years of digging the dirt

Tobey Nelson carefully snips a tiny green leaf, dabs it with a bit of glue and presses it down with her thumb on a bundle of wire.

She does the same with a bud of ranunculus, a bright orange flower.

Snip, glue, thumb, press.

“There, let it dry. It’s already beautiful,” she said. “You can’t really mess it up.”

Nelson is a landscape horticulturist with decades of experience. Green thumb? Definitely. But what she’s demonstrating at Venture Out, a nursery in Clinton, isn’t typical gardening fare.

She specializes in making floral jewelry. Think much fancier and much more stunning versions of boring carnation boutonnieres.

Brides wear her necklaces, bracelets, even headdresses of fresh and dried flowers. Some pieces are made strictly from the spikes and slopes of succulents.

How to make floral jewelry is one of numerous new classes added to this year’s Whidbey Gardening Workshop happening March 3 at Oak Harbor High School.

In addition to teaching about botanically focused wearable art, Nelson will lead a workshop called “Pots with Pizzazz.” She’ll explain what elements to consider when selecting plants and flowers for a container and how to “dazzle with design” year round.

“Choosing a container that’s too small and letting it get too dry between watering are the most common mistakes people make,” she explained.

The all-day workshop features 53 classes, a keynote speaker, vendor marketplace and a raffle. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the event put on by the Island County Master Gardener Foundation. It oversees the WSU Extension of Island County Master Gardener Program.

Over the years, it’s grown in popularity. Participation has more than doubled since 1997, when 221 people registered.

This year, registration was cut-off at 450. Tickets cost $45.

“We were going to close registration Feb. 25 but we sold out early,” said Loren Imes, WSU Extension coordinator of master gardener, farm and food systems programs.

“We are taking names to put on a waiting list. We’re thrilled to be sold out.”

Other new topics covered this year: how to consistently grow high-quality fruit trees in your yard, how to prune tomato plants for a better harvest, Japanese garden design and how to outsmart pests without pesticides.

Keynote speaker is Dan Hinkley, who created Heronswood, a large woodland of rare plant species on the Kitsap Peninsula.

Instructors and participants are increasingly coming from off-island around the Puget Sound region, said C.J. Nielsen, chair of the event.

“I think we’re hitting our stride,” she said. “With growing interest, you can attract more instructors. There’s really nothing else quite like the Whidbey Gardening Workshop. We have so many classes, a vendor marketplace and a chance to get to know growers.”

Classes are small and hone in one specific subject, and they’re geared with all skill levels in mind.

“One class is dedicated to one flower — peonies,” Nielsen said. “Now that’s targeted.”

About 45 of Island County’s 77 active master gardeners volunteer to help during the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. event.

“And they are all smiling,” said Nielsen, in her fifth year at the helm. “We get to spend a happy day in a building full of so many happy gardeners learning and growing.”

Nelson, one of 38 instructors, said she’s looking forward to presenting for the first time at the workshop.

She offers various gardening classes and creates floral displays at weddings and other events under her business moniker, Tobey Nelson Events and Designs.

“The floral jewelry classes are popular,” she said. “I love to see how people start with the same collection of stuff and end up with different designs.

“And the jewelry will last,” she added. “Keep the succulents cool, it could last two to three months. With gentle handling, dried flowers will last indefinitely.”

Want to become a Master Gardener? Applications for the 2018 training must be received by March 17. If there is sufficient interest, the training will begin in early April every Saturday for 11 weeks. Call Loren Imes at 360-678-2343 with questions.

For information visit extension.wsu.edu/island/gardening/mg/

Tobey Nelson arranges a variety of plants and flowers into a large pot at Venture Out, a nursery in Clinton. Nelson, a horticulturist, is teaching the class “Pots with Pizzazz” at the March 3 Whidbey Gardening Workshop. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

Tobey Nelson arranges a variety of plants and flowers into a large pot at Venture Out, a nursery in Clinton. Nelson, a horticulturist, is teaching the class “Pots with Pizzazz” at the March 3 Whidbey Gardening Workshop. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

Cold glue is used to hold succulent leaves onto a wire bundle.

Cold glue is used to hold succulent leaves onto a wire bundle.

Floral necklaces for brides are a specialty of Tobey Nelson Events and Design. Photo provided

Floral necklaces for brides are a specialty of Tobey Nelson Events and Design. Photo provided

Elements of color, texture, size, shape and foliage figure into container gardening.

Elements of color, texture, size, shape and foliage figure into container gardening.

A finished botanical bracelet created by Tobey Nelson. Photo provided

A finished botanical bracelet created by Tobey Nelson. Photo provided

More in Life

Molka Xete, a new restaurant in Greenbank, specializes in street-style tacos that are five for $10. They make all the food from scratch, including sauces, tacos, tortillas and chips.
Center of island buzzing with new businesses

‘Molka Xete’ opens while store, deli and pot shop get ready

Anderson at the parade.
Marching, waving, saluting, singing … because it’s fun

As soon as I moved to the Rock nine years ago, friends… Continue reading

Nudibranch Whisperer of Deception Pass

Sea slugs cast a spell on me…and it all began with fake… Continue reading

Sketchers draw Whidbey’s world

Open a journal of one of the Whidbey Island Sketchers and details… Continue reading

New look for familiar frozen treat

Whidbey Island Ice Cream gets a modern makeover

Photos provided.
                                Land Claims Founders Sculpture by Richard Nash is both visually striking and educational.
New public art honors Oak Harbor’s pioneers

Land Claims Founders Sculpture honors three explorers

Historic sheep barn repurposed

Tucked away on the Pratt Loop Trail, a formerly dilapidated 1930s sheep… Continue reading

Tunnel vision: Time for ‘Golden chains’

Crowds gather at Bayview nursery for annual display

‘Art with a Message’

Students worldview a kaleidoscope of visions

A rainbow of rhodies awaits visitors this weekend at Meerkerk Gardens. The sanctuary of paths, woods, water views and hundreds of rhododendrons and other flowering plants hosts its annual Mother’s Day concert Sunday. Tickets: $10.
Mother’s Day at Meerkerk Gardens

Rainbows of rhodies spring forth for annual concert

Changing lives with home repairs

A decade under the tool belts of Central Whidbey Hearts & Hammers helpers