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WSU Discovery Garden

Program Contact: Alex duPont, Master Gardener Program Coordinator • (360) 428-4270 ext. 227

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:
The three separate gardens that greet visitors were planted to show a Pacific Northwest theme, an easy-care layered garden, and a garden that has featured plants for each season. Entrance Garden plant list updated July 2018


DG_Cool Color_edavis_2015Photo by E. Davis

Cool Color Border: It’s fun to experiment with plants. This border takes cool colors and creates a border by including texture and shades of blue, green, purple, lavender and silver to create a cooling feeling. Cool Color Border plant list updated July 2018



Hot Color Border: This garden uses annuals, perennials, and bulbs in “hot” colors like red, orange and yellow. The cheerful border can be used to spice up any sunny area. Hot Color Border Plant List


DG_JapaneseG_jnelson_2015Photo by J. Nelson

Japanese Garden: There are five distinct types of Japanese gardens: hill and pond, dry landscape, tea garden, courtyard and stroll. Ours is of the stroll design. Japanese gardens have several things in common, including areas for quiet contemplation and reflection of the world beyond the garden. Dry rock beds are used to symbolize a rushing river and large rocks resembling mountains. Odd numbers of plants and stones are used in groupings and plants are spaced unevenly. Water is an integral part of any Japanese garden, including areas for quiet contemplation and reflection of the world beyond the garden.  Japanese Garden Plant List updated April 2018



Ornamental Grass Garden: Ever thought grasses could make an interesting garden? The chosen varieties can screen an area, provide texture, or create a soothing spot as the wind rustles through them on a summer’s night. Ornamental Grasses Plant List



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


DG_Fall&Winter_ncrowell_2015Photo by N. Crowell

Fall and Winter Garden: In the Pacific Northwest we are able to enjoy our gardens year round. In this climate there are many wonderful plants that show their true colors from September until March. This garden, with selections made for fall color and winter blooms, spotlights but a few. Fall & Winter Plant List updated April 2018

DG_SmFruit_ncrowell_2015Photo by N. Crowell

Small Fruits: Berries … berries … berries … this garden displays summer and fall bearing varieties of raspberries; Black Caps; and three types of strawberries. Notice the special technique used to support the weight of the raspberry vines. Small Fruit Plant List updated July 2018


DG_Cottage_ncrowell_2015Photo by Nancy Crowell

DG_Cottage_jnelson_2015Photo by J. Nelson

The Cottage Garden is a combination of ornamentals, vegetables, herbs and fruit. This type of garden goes back as far as the 1300s when space was limited and families needed to supplement their diets from small garden spaces around their homes. Every available inch was planted and everything was mixed together. It has a delightful and somewhat whimsical appeal. Cottage Garden Plant List updated July 2018



North Cascades Fuchsia Society: This garden was planted by our local Fuchsia Society and is maintained by the WSU Master Gardeners. All the varieties you see are hardy enough to survive our winters, and provide beautiful colors from early summer until frost. Fuchsia Garden Plant List


DG_Veggie_ncrowell_20150617Photo by N. Crowell

Vegetable Garden: Each year, our vegetable gardeners try new varieties, new vegetables and different ways to grow them. It is fun to see the creativity this group uses as they experiment with vegetables grown for this area.


DG_Groundcovers_ncrowell_62015Photo by N. Crowell

Ground Covers: Don’t like to see bare dirt? Need to cover and area or keep a hillside from eroding? These are all reasons to plant ground covers. This garden presents some common and creative ideas using ground covers. Groundcovers Plant List updated July 2018


DG_Iris_ncrowell_62015Photo by N. Crowell

Iris Garden: The Iris plantings show the many different species of Iris and their bloom cycle, from early spring throughout the winter. Rocks are used to create “rooms” for plantings that show off the Iris. Companion plants were incorporated to give interest while the Iris are resting. Iris Garden Plant List updated July 2018


DG_Heather_ncrowell_2015Photo by N. Crowell

Heather Garden: Our heather garden is a year-round place of interest; this garden is in bloom each month of the year. The heather/heath have been chosen for their growth patterns from ground cover to tree forms. Heather Garden Plant List


DG_DigIt_ncrowell_2015Photo by N. Crowell

School Education (DIG-IT): WSU Master Gardeners work with teachers and students in the local classrooms. After the curriculum is incorporated into their lessons at school, the students come to the garden for a day of learning and planting.



Photo by N. Crowell

Skagit County Master Composters: Magic is done here! The composters, a division of Skagit County Public Works, take our clippings, let Mother Nature do her part, and we get great soil back in a year.


DG_HerbG_ncrowell_20150617Photo by N. Crowell

Herb Garden: Skagit Valley’s climate is perfect for herbs. We have taken the typical English herb garden’s structure, history, purpose and order, and shown how they can be adapted for the Northwest garden. Different hedge materials show how an outdoor room can be created. The overall structure of the garden is formal, but the planting is not. An herb garden can be modified to fit anyplace. Herb Garden plant list


DG_Planthouse_ncrowell_20150617Photo by N. Crowell

Greenhouse: In 2002, we added a greenhouse. Each year, the Master Gardeners hold a Plant Fair that provides funding to support the WSU Discovery Garden. The greenhouse is also used to hold workshops on starting seeds and plant propagation.


DG_Children's_ncrowell_20150617_2Photo by N. Crowell

Children’s Garden: The main purpose of this garden is to educate children. It is a place for parents and children to rediscover the pleasure of gardening and get ideas for their own yards. Features include the ABC garden, fairy garden, waterfall, sunflower house, bean teepee, tulip bed and the maze. Children’s Garden Plant List updated July 2018


DG_Naturescapes_ncrowell_62015Photo by N. Crowell

Naturescape: The Naturescape corner of the garden includes a native and non-native plants that attract a variety of birds, butterflies, small animals and reptiles. It provides a quiet place to sit, observe and contemplate the natural surroundings. The simple form makes it an easy garden to create. Naturescapes plant list


DG_Enabling_ncrowell_20150617_Photo by N. Crowell

Enabling Garden: This area shows many different ideas for people who need alternative gardening methods including: square foot, raised beds having many different functions; a garden with fragrance; and unusual textured plants for the sight impaired. All the raised beds are wheelchair accessible. Enabling Garden Plant List updated July 2018


DG_Joe's_edavis_2015Photo by E. Davis

Joe’s Place: Joe’s Place: In 1973, the first WSU Master Gardener training program in the nation was started in King County. Joe Dupre, a Navy Chief retiring in Anacortes, was in one of the first graduating classes. This garden is a place for education adjacent to the Pavilion. Many of Joe’s favorite plants from primroses to fig trees have been used in his garden. Joe’s Place Plant List


DG_Pavilion_cbutz_2015Photo by C. Butz

The Pavilion: Part of our program includes ongoing education. The Pavilion hosts many seminars and workshops throughout the year. These programs are always open to the public for education and enjoyment.


Shade Garden: This garden unique collection of plants which thrive in low light, a condition prevalent in many gardens across the Pacific Northwest.  A tree and shrub canopy not only captures light above but also pulls nutrients heavily in the root zone.  Consequently, shade-tolerant plants not only thrive with less light but often must adapt to reduced soil fertility and root competition.  We’ve chosen plants for the Shade Garden that are up to the task.  They light up an otherwise dim and forbidding understory with texture, color and form that make it absolutely delightful and cozy. Shade Garden Plant List



Photo by E. Davis

Waterwise Garden: For folks who wisely conserve this precious resource yet care to create a pleasant environment. Once the “Easy Care Garden”, it became the Waterwise Garden when we wanted to discover plants capable of surviving both a wet winter and a dry summer. Many of our Waterwise plants originate in the Mediterranean regions of the world, which also experience hot, dry summers. Planting a garden with low-water needs is not only environmentally friendly but also less work. Waterwise Garden Plant List


DG_FourSeas_ncrowell_20150617Photo by N. Crowell

Four Seasons Garden: This area beckons visitors who approach the Discovery Garden from the parking lot in any time of year.  A long narrow strip of exciting ornamentals, this mixed border of evergreens and deciduous shrubs and trees, perennials, annuals and bulbs line a peaceful pathway along the northeast boundary.  It’s a wonderful place to stroll. Four Seasons Plant List updated April 2018


Rhododendron Garden: This garden began in 2007 with a selection of species and cultivars that collectively provide bloom twelve months of the year and that illustrate the range of distinct foliage color and shape within the genus.  Currently we have 37 rhododendrons whose size varies from just a few inches tall to over twenty feet in height and whose light tolerance ranges from moderate to full sun. Rhododendron Garden Plant List updated April 2018


Rose Garden: Originally planted by the Skagit Valley Rose Society but turned over to the Master Gardeners in 2006, our Rose Garden began a renovation two years ago.  There are now 4 garden areas:

  • the Rose Companion bed contains roses among neighboring shrubs, perennials and annuals;
  • the Experimental area is where we field test trends in rose care.  We set up two identical 8’x20’ beds, one a “control” in which roses receive an accepted standard of care, the other a test bed where new methods or theories can be trialed;
  • the Central Rose beds with separate displays of species roses, hybrids, Old Garden roses and modern roses;
  • the Memorial Rose Bed with a World War I veteran monument, a tribute and gift to all men and women who have served and lost in defense of our nation and our independence.
    Rose Garden Plant List updated July 2018

Succulent Garden: Easy to grow and maintain given well-drained soil and full sun, this new collection of hens and chicks, stonecrops and sedum is testimony to the wide variety of color and form hardy in our area.
Succulent Garden Plant List updated July 2018

Trees Plant List by Garden