Open to the public from dawn to dusk daily
Signage throughout the garden introduces and explains the plantings and growing techniques used.
- To interest, inspire and educate the public
- To develop a garden for community use and enjoyment
- To enhance the quality of the environment of Skagit County
In 1994, the WSU Skagit County Master Gardeners had a vision for a Demonstration Garden. It took two years to plan the garden, then in the fall of 1996, the first structure trees and fences were established. Over the next two years, with the help of many committed WSU Master Gardeners and the community, the garden was planted.
View the 20th Anniversary videos:
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This year when you visit the Discovery Gardens, you will benefit from new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible paths winding the way through splendid examples of Pacific Northwest gardening. In under two years, the Skagit County Master Gardeners have added over 600 feet of 4-foot-wide gravel walkways to the 2 1/2 acre demonstration garden in Mount Vernon. Budget permitting, another 500 feet of paths are planned in 2020 to complete the project.
Plans for the demonstration garden started in 1994 converting a tract of farmland into what is now a lush green oasis adjacent to the Memorial Highway. Much of the garden is subject to flooding during periods of heavy rainfall and sections of the garden become inaccessible both to the public and the Master Gardeners maintaining the grounds. Some plants and trees have been lost over the years due to standing water. In 2012, Brian Wolfe and Tricor donated their labor to correct the worst of the storm water drainage problems. They installed multiple drains and a pipe system from the Plant House to the ditch along Memorial Highway north of the Rose Garden.
In 2018, the Master Gardeners had a vision to improve garden accessability and extend the drainage system, helping both plants and people. The designs improved access to the garden year-round for people with limited mobility while enhancing off-season maintenance access with wheelbarrows and carts. A final benefit is reduced weeding, allowing gardeners to spend more time in the gardens and less on the paths.
The planning team prioritized which paths could be improved by balancing the need for access against maintaining natural areas in the gardens. The decision to use a semi-permeable material for the paths benefits the soil while offering a good compromise in cost, functionality, and aesthetics. Drains were incorporated into the design, and the paths now wind through the garden with defined edges and decorative drain covers. The project proves that gravel walkways don’t have to be ugly.
Master Gardeners initially planned to hire a contractor to complete the project; however, when bids came in at $35-40K, they decided to do the heavy lifting themselves as a volunteer project. Current expenditures to complete 60% of the paths stand at $5,320. The Discovery Garden is funded by proceeds from the WSU Skagit County Master Gardener Plant Fair held annually on the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend at the county fairgrounds. This year an additional $1,109 was received through a grant from Skagit County. The path planning and project oversight are a labor of love by husband and wife team, Bill and Janine Prichard. Dozens of Master Gardeners have volunteered their labor to make the project a reality. The final stage of the project is planned for 2020.
The small gardens fronting the fountain and lining the path to the pavilion greet visitors with plants having year-round interest. Easy-care, layered plantings are chosen for the Pacific Northwest climate.
The Pollinator Garden is planted with an assortment of both native and non-native shrubs and perennials. Plants chosen are known to be nectar and pollen sources for diversity of pollinators.
Year-round interest with minimal care are key to maintaining this diverse mixed border garden. A rail fence, trees and shrubs form a backdrop for perennials, vines and biennials punctuated by running ground covers. Annuals and bulbs add a pop of seasonal color. Evergreens and foundation specimens anchor the garden’s silhouette.
Grasses mingle well with perennials and shrubs. These selected varieties offer screening, provide texture or create a relaxing atmosphere. Grasses for different growing conditions provide many options to consider.
Under renovation. With year-round interest, something is in bloom every month in this garden. These varieties show growth patterns from ground covers to tree forms.
Hens and chicks, sedums and stonecrops are easy to grow and are hardy in this area. Available in a wide variety of textures, shapes, sizes and colors, succulents are drought tolerant and easy to propagate. They are low-maintenance plants requiring well-drained soil and full sun for optimal growth.
Berries, Berries, Berries! Exhibited here are Heritage, Willamette and Blackcap raspberries along with three types of strawberries. Thornless boysenberries, triple crown blackberries, black and clove currants and rhubarb round out the other small fruits.
Raised, no-till garden beds and easy access pathways are featured in this garden. Old favorites and new varieties are showcased in a home-style garden fit for our Pacific Northwest maritime climate. Techniques demonstrate maximizing micro-climates within the space, show various trellising styles and produce a wide range of vegetables and flowers in an attractive setting.
This is where master gardeners propagate and nurture perennial plants throughout the year for the Plant Fair each May.
The six raised beds and ergonomic tool display illustrate ways to garden for those with limited strength, energy and physical ability. Scented, colorful, textured plants are featured in the raised beds, some of which offer sitting ledges.
Does your garden have a “shady” personality? This garden suggests alternatives to sun-loving plants so that even a shady garden can bask in color, texture and smell.
There are five distinct types of Japanese gardens: hill and pond, dry landscape, tea, courtyard and stroll. Ours is of the stroll design. Odd numbers of plants and stones are used in groupings and spaced unevenly. Dry rock beds symbolize rushing rivers; large rocks represent mountains. Not surprisingly, water features are an integral part of Japanese gardens.
Featured here are plants that perform from September to March. Fall-blooming perennials, bright berries and brilliant foliage give way to bare branches and beautiful bark. Evergreen foliage, winter blooms and early bulbs make way for the onset of spring.
Master gardeners assumed care of this garden from the local rose society in spring 2006. The garden, also the site of the Skagit County WWI monument, is currently being renovated and re-designed.
The iris plantings display different species and their bloom cycles from early spring throughout the winter. Rocks create “rooms” for companion plantings that provide interest while the irises are resting.
Master gardeners host day-long field trips for Skagit County 2nd and 3rd graders. DIG-IT, one of six activities during the day, gives students hands-on gardening experience in the style of the Three Sisters garden—beans, corn and squash—a planting technique used by native cultures.
This somewhat whimsical garden dates back to the 1300s when space was limited around each home. Ornamental and edible varieties were commonly planted together to maximize every available inch.
Skagit Valley’s climate is perfect for herbs. The typical English herb garden’s structure, history, purpose and order have been interpreted for Northwest living. Different hedging materials surround the formal design creating a room-like feel with themed gardens informally planted within.
Master gardeners start seeds and take cuttings for new plants that are used in the Discovery Garden or sold at the Plant Fair. Public classes on plant propagation and seed starting are also held here.
The large anchor at the entrance is in memory of Navy veteran, Joe Dupré, an early graduate of the Master Gardener Program. Some of Joe’s favorite plantings reside here—primroses, fuchsias, fig tree and ferns.
State Route 536 in Mount Vernon, Washington was designated Memorial Highway in 1931 in memory of fifty men from Skagit County who died during WWI.
Are you needing to feel cool and relaxed? This border creates a cool-feeling border by including plants with texture and shades of blue, green, purple, lavender, silver and white.
Once their root systems are well established, plants in this garden require little maintenance. In the fall, we clean and mulch to add nutrients to the soil and keep weeds down. In the spring, a bit of weeding is needed, but by summer, the foliage is so dense that very few weeds appear. Watering can also be kept to a minimum except during periods of drought.
Dr. Richard Hoag (“Doc”) was one of a small group of WSU Master Gardeners who had the vision to start this garden. Before Doc passed away, he and his wife gave the first “seed” money donation. This arbor is created in his memory. Doc grew grapes and made many different kinds of wine.
Begun in 2007, this garden is designed to provide a harmonious space to view the wide variety of rhododendrons that can be grown in the Pacific Northwest climate.
Ground covers can be used to smother weeds, fill in areas under trees, stabilize hillsides, soften the edges of pathways and reduce evaporation. Showcased here are commonly available shade- and sun-tolerant plants.
Magic happens here! Throughout the growing season, the sorted and chipped prunings, browns and greens are combined and turned. Mother Nature does her part and gives us nutrient-rich compost in a year.
Originally planted by members of the North Cascade Fuchsia Society, all the varieties in this garden are hardy enough to survive Skagit County winters. Even in the shade of the pavilion, the garden blooms in beautiful colors from early summer until frost.
In this garden parents and children share the pleasure of gardening and find ideas for their own yards. The entry through a weeping mulberry is a perfect place to play hide-and-seek. Visitors enjoy a snack with Alice and the Queen of Hearts at the picnic table. A game of checkers, a splash in the water, or helming the boat are also possibilities. Kids of all sizes can exchange a book at the Children’s Garden Lending Library.
As the largest of the mini-gardens, Naturescape is a quiet place to contemplate the natural surroundings. Perennial native and non-native plants attract numerous birds, butterflies, small mammals, amphibians and reptiles. A treed windbreak, meadow and pond accent the plantings.
Master Gardener work party lunches are held in this sheltered gathering place. The pavilion is also used for public educational activities, seminars and workshops.