Annual Whidbey Gardening Workshop grows online this year

The island-wide gardening event is back this year after it was cancelled due to the pandemic.

An island-wide gardening event that had to be cancelled last year because of the pandemic is coming back with a virtual flair this year.

Organizers and instructors were gearing up for the 32nd Whidbey Gardening Workshop back in March 2020 when the pandemic started to gain momentum, shuttering nonessential businesses and cancelling events.

Nearly a year later, instructors who were supposed to teach classes at the workshop will be able to do so via online video conferencing, the new format that the Whidbey Gardening Workshop is taking on March 6.

Barbara Schmitt, who coordinates marketing for the event, said this year’s workshop will have 27 online classes to choose from. Instructors will be teaching live with the use of Zoom.

In years past, the workshop has been held at Oak Harbor High School, with 450 to 500 participants in attendance. Field trips and a marketplace were also hallmarks of the event, although those parts will be cancelled this year.

This year, participants will be able to watch recordings of all 27 classes after the event is over. From now until Jan. 20, an “early bird” discount is available for tickets priced at $45. The ticket price is $55 after that date.

For an additional $20, participants will have access to all the recordings of the classes for up to three weeks after the event.

Keynote speaker Richie Steffen, the executive director of the Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden in Seattle, will speak on vivid combinations of plant selections that enhance the garden during a time of shifting climate and adaptive gardening practices.

Classes range from beginner to expert levels and include garden design, pruning, winter gardening, plant pathology and disease diagnosis and more.

The Whidbey Gardening Workshop runs from 10:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 6, with ample breaks in between classes. Classes are in blocks of one hour and 15 minutes. Lunch break mini-events will include a Master Gardener Plant Clinic and a video about gardening pain-free presented by a physical therapist.

Carole Matthews, the chair of the event, said that between the workshop’s team and its instructors, about 50 people have worked together to make the Whidbey Gardening Workshop 2021 possible.

“It’s really been an extraordinary undertaking this year, because it’s just a new path that we’re kind of forging with these virtual classes,” Matthews said.

Both she and Schmitt agreed that they have seen an increase in the popularity of gardening during the past year. Schmitt said she has heard people are growing more foods, rather than flowers.

To register for the Whidbey Gardening Workshop, visit whidbeygardening.org/

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