Plant Amnesty and Master Gardener Pruning Workshop

Seventeen Master Gardeners attended the four-hour workshop led by three instructors to promote correct pruning practices—April 6, 2024.

Christina Pfeiffer and Cynthia Welte, Edmonds College horticultural instructors, led the group, with Doreen Gillespie, from Master Gardeners of King County Plant Programs Manager, organizing the site, volunteers, and students. Mary Machala assisted from Plant Amnesty.

There was an hour introduction to pruning techniques; then a pruning demonstration of several plants; then a clinic where students were directed to select and prune a plant to practice newly formed skills. The instructors then toured the pruned plants, with students showing what they did and why they made their choices.

The Carkeek Park Demonstration Gardens were on display this day, with the beginnings of spring growth. The Lead Gardener, Drexie Malone, provided a brief history of the Gardens and accompanied the instructors as students worked on their projects.

We can compare before and after photos for several plants that were pruned by students and instructors. Plants were chosen for:

  • Lowering height
  • Reducing volume, increasing ventilation
  • Aid plant health and improved aesthetics

Before and after pruning

Salmonberry after pruning

This Salmonberry was growing beyond the boundaries of the path and into the other plants in the location. Students cut out the largest and oldest stems, leaving the younger stems to grow freely. No before photo was taken.

Cedar next to path
Cedar after limbing up
After, from the opposite direction

The Cedar tree growing close to the path is “limbed up” periodically as the tree grows up and out. One limb was removed to allow a 8-foot height limit for the path.

Mahonia at split rain fence before pruning
Mahonia after pruning

Mahonia nervosa located near the path and fence was growing into other plants; stems were removed both to limit its width and to open up the close growth inside the plant.

Snowberry before pruning
Snowberry after pruning

Snowberry in a small grove of same plants was minimized to allow a view beyond the multiple plants into the next garden.

Rhody being pruned
Rhody after pruning

A Rhody, growing underneath large, heritage Rhododendrons (planted in 1953) was minimized and dead wood removed to allow growth in an encroaching environment.

February pruning workshop at the Demonstration Gardens 

By Drexie Malone, Lead Gardener

Christina Pfeiffer brought eleven students from her Edmonds College Horticulture class for a four-hour pruning workshop on February 20, 2024.

Christina was provided a list of priorities, and together we determined what pruning was needed based on previous maintenance, the health of the plant, goals of pruning, and time available. 

These trees and shrubs were pruned (or not) for these reasons

Parking island trees

The branches of the two Callitropsis nootkatensis (Yellow Cedar) were limbed up, or arborized, to meet the eight-foot height requirements of the path and to lessen the dense growth, allowing a sight line through the island and more light for understory.

Cedars before
Cedars after

The instructor declined to prune the lower branches of the Acer glabrum (Rocky mountain maple) competing with the branches of the Acer circinatum (Vine maple), given the evidence of scarring and stress.

Visitors Center gardens

In the concrete retaining wall bed on the east side of the building, the Lonicera fragrantissima (Winter honeysuckle) was pruned to de-tangle branches and limit the height and width of this large shrub.

The Mahonia aquifolium (Tall Oregon grape) was leaning towards the Visitors Center awning. The students pruned out the tallest and oldest stems and reduced the size of the shrub and its encroachment. Visitors can now see the bulletin board on the side of the building from the entrance, and the pathway feels less like a tunnel.

Mahonia before
Mahonia after

At the entrance to the Gardens in the bed with a split rail fence, another Mahonia aquifolium was very large—tall and wide. The class removed stems to limit the height and to a lesser extent the width, to allow a view into the Gardens from the entrance ramp.

Ethnobotany Garden

The ancient Corylus cornuta (Hazelnut) may be the largest in the Gardens. Its old branches grow horizontally, blocking the sun and space from other plants. The good news is there are many young, strong vertical branches emerging. The class wasn’t able to prune through the large stem bases with hand saws, so they trimmed up other partial cuts made a year ago, allowing the tree to look “untouched” and a small amount of light gained toward the north.

The Symphoricarpos albus (Snowberry) growing around the Hazelnut tree tends to spread into the path, with shoots emerging in all directions. The class dug out the roots of the small stems and cut the larger stems at the base.

A Vaccinium ovatum (Evergreen huckleberry) grew here, with many siblings, too tall to see into the garden; the class brought the height down.

North Garden

The Spiraea stevenii (Steven’s Spiraea) represents a group of shrubs that is difficult to prune because of its many small branches. For that reason it’s common to see them sheared in landscapes. Repeated shearing shortens the lifespan of the plant.

Since the goal is to support the plant as long as we can, the class used a rejuvenative technique by taking out large, horizontal-growing or tallest stems to minimize the spread of these shrubs and encourage new growth from the base. After the shrub flowers, it can be deadheaded to further shape the shrub and allow for a second bloom.

Spirea before
Sprirea after

Carkeek Park Earthkeepers Nature Day Camp is Back!

We’re Back! Earthkeepers Summer Nature Day Camp is back at Carkeek Park after two years. Registration begins Tuesday, April 19th. Space is limited.  Here are the dates and themes of the 8 weeks of camp this year:

  • July 5-8  Nature Detective
  • July 11-15 Tidepool Exploration
  • July 18-22 MicroWorlds
  • July 25-29 Carkeek Survivor
  • Aug 1-5 Passport to Puget Sound
  • Aug 8-12 PNW Time Travel
  • Aug 15-19 Outdoor Exploration
  • Aug 22-26 Fur and Feathers

For more information about the camp and scholarships as well as links to the registration site and scholarship sites, please visit our Earthkeepers page

Salmon Fry Release 3/19/2022

Saturday, 3/19/2020 at 6pm, Carkeek Watershed Community Action Project volunteers will release the first batch of 35,000 fry from the Les Malmgren Imprint Pond and into Venema Creek. We will gather at 6pm and pull the plug, releasing the fry at about 6:15pm. Come on down to wish the fry a safe journey to the Sound and eventually Alaska, and back to Piper’s Creek in 3 to 4 years.

For more information, visit the CWCAP website (Upcoming Salmon Fry Release 3/19/22 – Carkeek Watershed Community Action Project).

Salmon celebration 2019

On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, 11/24 from 11am until 2pm, all ages are invited to Carkeek Park for activities to welcome the salmon home. Celebrate with food (donuts, coffee, cider, and mandarin oranges), music, an appearance by Bert the Salmon, Salmon Jeopardy, a kid-friendly salmon scavenger hunt through the park, a salmon dissection and other information tables. Volunteer Salmon Stewards and CWCAP volunteers will be on hand to answer questions.