Growing Concerns: Whidbey Gardening Workshop remedies spring fever, plant lust

Technically, it’s still winter, but an unseasonably warm spell early this month brought crocus, snowdrops, and miniature iris into exquisite bloom. Flowering cherries sprinkled their pink confetti on lawns and sidewalks, and for a few days, at least, an epidemic of Spring Fever swept over Whidbey Island.

Spring Fever is contagious, and among gardeners in particular, can cause serious side effects. Chief among them is the dreaded Plantus lustius, which results in impulse purchases of supermarket primroses and uncontrollable drooling over plant and seed catalog photos.

Island County WSU’s Master Gardener Association is offering a feel-good cure for Spring Fever, with its annual Whidbey Gardening Workshop Saturday, March 12, at Coupeville Middle School. Doors open at 8 a.m. and close at 3:30 p.m.

More than 30 gardening-related classes will be taught, and vendors will offer plants, garden art, accessories, and books for sale. Several island nurseries are participating, as is the Whidbey Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society. The vendor section of the workshop will be open to the public all day.

There will also be educational displays in the vendor area, and Oak Harbor High School’s Wildcat Catering will furnish lunches for $7 (advance orders only).

Keynote speaker Mary Robson will kick off the day’s events with a pictorial journey through “Northwest Garden Treasures,” unique gardens in Washington and Oregon that are open for public viewing.

Robson, who writes gardening columns for the Seattle Times and the Everett Herald, was horticulture agent for King and Pierce counties from 1995 until her retirement in November 2004. She worked with WSU Cooperative Extension for more than 16 years, and coordinated King County’s Master Gardener program from 1987 through 1995. A former horticulture instructor at Edmonds Community College, she continues writing and speaking on gardening-related issues. She and garden writer Debra Prinzing co-authored “Gardener’s Guide to Washington and Oregon,” which was published last December. Robson will also teach a class entitled “Sane Garden Choices: Gardening to Make a Difference” at the Whidbey Gardening Workshop.

Those who have attended past Whidbey Gardening Workshops know you must sign up early for the best class selections. Several new classes have been added to this year’s roster, and others have been brought back by popular demand.

New classes include a morning session on fruit trees, taught by Roy Engle, owner of Rockin’ Apple Ranch, Oak Harbor. This veteran orchardist will also host a fruit tree pruning field trip in the afternoon.

Another new entry is organic vegetable gardening, taught by a pair of Whidbey’s finest farmers, Frank Parente and Sally Nelson of Gourmet Organics.

Flower lovers have many classes from which to choose, including “Survivor Pacific Northwest: Hardy Fuchsias,” “The Cutting Edge” (cutting gardens), “Natural Floral Arranging” and “Lovin’ Lavender.”

Serious propagators shouldn’t miss “Building a Misting System for Plant Propagation.” For fungi fanciers, there’s “Adding Mushrooms to Your Garden Landscape.”

Learn about the birds, bees and butterflies with “Let Your Garden Take Wing,” “Orchard Mason Bees 10l” and “Orchard Mason Beekeeping 102.”

There are many more classes than I’m able to list here. For the full schedule, go to To register, call 240-5527 or e-mail Cost for the workshop is $20 in advance and $25 at the door, if space is available.

Mariana Graham writes this bi-weekly column as part of her volunteer efforts as an Island County Master Gardener. Contact her

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