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WSU Discovery Garden

Program Contact: Alex duPont, Master Gardener Program Coordinator
360-395-2367 •
The WSU Discovery Garden is located at the WSU Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center, 16650 State Route 536, Mount Vernon, WA and is open to the public from dawn to dusk seven days per week.

Thanks to the WSU Master Gardener class of 1994, the vision for the Demonstration Garden was born. 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.

The goals of the garden are:
  • 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.


Different styles and types of gardens represented include:


Entrance Garden

1. Entrance Garden: 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. Entrance Garden plant list updated July 2018


2. Shade Garden: 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. Shade Garden plant list updated Sept 2018


DG_Cool Color_edavis_2015
Cool Color Border. Photo by E. Davis

3. Cool Color Border:  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. Cool Color Border plant list updated July 2018



4. Pollinator Garden: 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. Pollinator Garden Plant List updated October 2018


Japanese Garden. Photo by J. Nelson

5. Japanese Garden: 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. Japanese Garden Plant List updated October 2018


Photo by E. Davis

6. Easy Care Garden: 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. Easy Care Garden plant list updated Sept 2018


Photo by N. Crowell

7. Four Seasons Garden: 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. Four Seasons Plant List updated April 2018


Photo by N. Crowell

8. Fall and Winter Garden:  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. Fall & Winter Plant List updated April 2018




9. Doc’s Arbor: 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. Doc’s Arbor Plant List updated July 2018


Ornamental Grass Garden. Photo by N. Crowell

10. Ornamental Grass Garden: 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. Ornamental Grasses plant list updated Sept 2018




WWI Monument in Rose Garden

11. Rose Garden: 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. Rose Garden Plant List updated July 2018




Rhododendron Garden. Photo by S. Nelson

12. Rhododendron Garden: 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. Rhododendron Garden plant list updated September 2018



Heather Garden. Photo by N. Crowell

13. Lloyd Eighme’s Heather Garden:  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.




Iris Garden. Photo by N. Crowell

14. Iris Garden: 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.

Iris Garden Plant List updated July 2018




Ground Covers. Photo by N. Crowell

15. Ground Covers: 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. Groundcovers Plant List updated July 2018



Photo by N. Crowell

16. Succulents: 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. Succulent Garden Plant List updated July 2018



Photo by N. Crowell

17. School Education (DIG-IT):

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.  DIG-IT Garden Plant List updated August 2018



Photo by N. Crowell

18. Composting Area: 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.




Photo by N. Crowell

19. Small Fruits: 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. Small Fruit Plant List updated July 2018



Photo by Nancy Crowell

20. Cottage Garden

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.  Cottage Garden Plant List updated July 2018

Photo by J. Nelson




21. Fuchsia Garden: 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. Fuchsia Garden plant list updated Sept 2018



Photo by N. Crowell

22. Vegetable Garden: 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.



Photo by N. Crowell

23. Herb Garden: 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. Herb Garden plant listed updated August 2018


Photo by N. Crowell

24. Children’s Garden: 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. Children’s Garden Plant List updated July 2018


Plant House. Photo by N. Crowell

25. Plant House This is where master gardeners propagate and nurture perennial plants throughout the year for the Plant Fair each May.






Photo by N. Crowell

26. Greenhouse: 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.




Naturescape Garden.

27. Naturescape: 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. Naturescape plant list updated July 2018



Enabling Garden. Photo by N. Crowell

28. Enabling Garden: 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.

Enabling Garden Plant List updated July 2018


Joe’s Place. Photo by N. Crowell

29. Joe’s Place: 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 favorites plantings reside here—primroses, fuchsias, fig tree and ferns. Joe’s Place Plant List



Photo by C. Butz

30. The Pavilion: Master gardener work party lunches are held in this sheltered gathering place. The pavilion is also used for public educational activities, seminars and workshops.