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December 22, 1997

Home & Garden

Ways to learn more about your garden

  Winter offers us a good time to take stock of our gardens, and think about improvements. Where can we, as gardeners, improve, not the soil, but our gardening minds? Gardening in the maritime Pacific Northwest is definitely one of the livelier arts, with knowledgeable teachers and excited amateurs offering plenty of places to learn more. As we frequently note in this column, Washington State University Cooperative Extension, with offices in western Washington counties, offers good gardening bulletins and handy advice on specific subjects.
   WSU-trained Master Gardeners answer phone lines in Pierce County Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 253-798-7170. If you call to speak to a Master Gardener, you'll get help from a person with experience and training. In King County, call 206-296-3440 Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It often helps to talk directly about your question, and the gardeners can refer you to a relevant publication for more information. Gardeners staff phone lines year round except on holidays.
   Also in King County, an unusual resource is the Center for Urban Horticulture, part of the University of Washington, a teaching center for graduate training of horticulturalists. It's located off campus near the golf greens at 3510 N.E. 41st Street. The Center has the largest horticultural library north of San Francisco, the Elizabeth Miller Library. It's open Monday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday--Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., closed holidays. Browsing among thousands of garden books, picking up reference sheets on books for particular topics, and looking over their large periodical collection is both inspiring and helpful. Their phone number is 206-543-8616. Most of the books and periodicals don't circulate, but donations have provided a shelf of books that can be checked out. The Center for Urban Horticulture offers frequent classes. Call them at 206-685-8033 to receive their quarterly bulletin listing various opportunities to learn!
   Look into joining or visiting a local arboretum or botanical garden. The Snake Lake Nature Center in Tacoma (253-591-6439,) and the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle offer walks, and classes. Membership in the Seattle Arboretum provides a newsletter with class listings, and a handsome quarterly bulletin. Your membership also helps with the conservation and maintenance of the Arboretum. Call 206-325-4510 for more information about the Washington Park Arboretum. A membership in a local arboretum would make a great holiday gift for a gardener. In Bellevue, the Bellevue Botanical Garden (425-451-3755 for information) also offers classes and has intriguing landscaped grounds to visit. A rockery, woods garden, perennial border, and water-wise landscape offer ideas to gardeners and enjoyment for family walks.
   Still want to learn more? Check into the schedules for a local community college. In King County, Lake Washington Technical College (425-739-8100), and South Seattle Community College (206-764-5300) offer comprehensive horticulture programs. In Snohomish County, check out the classes at Edmonds Community College. Many classes are offered in the evening.
   Crank up the Internet. WSU has a useful site "Gardening in Western Washington," at http://www.gardening.wsu.edu, which also links to a garden site for eastern Washington. If your interest is native plants, check into the Northwest Native Plant Society at http://www.televar.com/donew/wwnps.html. Dozens of other sites offer information in amazing quantities.
   Visit nurseries and garden centers. Many have regular classes, often without cost. Walk around with gardening friends and listen to what they know. Join a specialty society! Keep checking the "Almanac" section of the Seattle Times for listings of individual classes and excursions. Pick up Stephanie Feeney's Northwest Gardeners' Resource Directory (7th edition, 1997 Cedarcroft Press) for a comprehensive list of more resources! Western Washington is a great place to be a student gardener. Most gardeners, actually, consider themselves students all their lives!