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Reclaiming the Demo Gardens

by Marcie Katz

After a three month hiatus due to the COVID-19 stay at home order, the GEM’s slowly returned. It was a sight for sore eyes for sure; we had visions of how we left them, all neat and tidy, pathways clear of weeds and grass, spring bulbs

, hellebores and wind flowers all in bloom.  We knew things would be overgrown, but Mother Nature detests empty spaces, and so she populated our gardens with WEEDS! Lot’s of WEEDS! Six and seven foot tall WEEDS! Every weed known to the PNW found a new home!

They especially liked the rose, daylily and dahlia gardens where the soil is like fine wine, pure and 

painstakingly developed over the years with organic amendments. You could barely see the flowers for the weeds. The Waterwise Garden completely lost its pathways, the Children’s Garden grew thistles, and blackberries and foxtails abounded in every path, nook and cranny.  It was overwhelming. 

So,  you just have to start somewhere, pick an area and go to work. Not all the GEMS came the first week, and the students weren’t invited back as yet. Slowly they returned, and then students and other Master Gardener helpers came, and by the end of each consecutive week order was returning.

In four short weeks (three days a week, three hours a day, all the time we are allotted), the gardens are lookin

g beautiful again and we completely filled a new compost berm and the burn trailer with our rejects! Granted, we missed some very pretty plants that bloomed while we were away, including the corpse plant in the Wanda Hauser Garden. (Pretty to look at, horrible to smell!) 

It was a very good lesson about garden density and use of mulches. Some gardens didn’t have many weeds at all! The Birds, Bee, Butterfly Garden0 had nary a weed because it’s packed to the brim with happy, fragrant, plant

s of all sizes. Doug and Char’s Perennial Garden lost a few plants (critters?) but had few weeds, and those they had were easy to mitigate because Doug brought in some superior, heavy wood chips that did their job!  Marsha and her helpers had a huge area to tackle and now the daylilies are thanking them with their beautiful blooms. The Rose Garden was overwhelming for Eileen and her crew – full of blooms with roses falling over. The prickly lettuce was taller than most of us, 

After many, many wheelbarrow loads, you can smell the roses and see them again. Monette has done an amazing job cleaning out the Waterwis

e Garden, where there are now pathways to walk on. Lynn K. had a huge job, transplanting hundreds of baby native plants into bigger pots and moving all the plants that no longer had irrigation in the back area. Helpers new to some gardens did their best, not sure what plants a

re in the garden, but taking a risk of pulling things that looked like weeds. The GEMS and workers came for the entry, herb, succulent, native, wildflower and rain gardens and have been busy as bees. The Garden Enhancement Committee worked every Thursday to

 clear the pathways, our first project being to weed our Entry Sign Garden we had just planted before the shutdown. Joe even has a new helper to clean up the orchard in areas where the tractor can’t fit. 

Literally hundreds of hours already have been logged. 

It is sad to see that the Children’s Garden and the Kitchen Garden empty. We

 will clean them up and make ready for next year, hopefully we will be back to “normal” or a “new normal” by then. We had plans, we had goals, and we had lives that are much different now. So, taking a 


cue from our beautiful gardens, as the song goes, “we will survive!”


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