1996 Garden Plan

History of the Gardens

The gardens were first designed to surround the Visitors Center in 1996 by Russell Link, landscape architect and wildlife biologist. The gardens have grown to an acre in size and are joined together by gravel paths that border a meadow, coastal forest, and the park’s six-mile trail system.

Read more about the history of Carkeek Park from the The Seattle Times archive, or from the city archives, Don Sherwood’s Park History Sheet on Carkeek Park.  

Major renovation 2012–2014

In 2009, Deborah Phare, horticulturist and volunteer, discovered the gardens in neglect, and together with Drexie Malone, an Extension Master Gardener, started the renovation in late 2012 based on a three-year “Adopt an Area Stewardship” contract with Seattle Parks and Recreation. Here’s Deborah’s account now on Parkways, Seattle Parks and Recreation Blog, first published in the 2015 Summer issue of Pacific Horticulture.

Later Deborah wrote about the short season between the “closed-fist grip of deep winter and the gentle touch of early spring” in The Whispering Season

In 2015, it became the largest Demonstration Garden in the WSU Extension Master Gardener Program, a teaching resource for Extension Master Gardeners and horticulture students for clinics, workshops, and field trips. 

Since that renovation, the garden’s mission has continued to help home gardeners envision their own backyard wildlife habitat. The garden volunteers work and plan according to the WSU Extension Master Gardener vision, mission, values, and critical issues

Our small crew of volunteers follow the ever-changing gardening and environmental stewardship needs defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington State University Extension Service, and the Pipers Creek Watershed protections. With extended summer drought, drenching rains in fall, winter, and spring, and unexpected freeze-thaw periods, we continue to adapt to these changes.

Washington State University Extension

Plant selection

Our plant palette consists of a wide variety of plants that thrive in Pacific Northwest climate conditions, and our specific coastal forest microhabitat. Our plant diversity helps support migratory bird populations and pollinators by providing food, shelter, and nesting materials.

A large percentage are natives that support the forest and are compatible with the existing soil conditions. Other plants are regional natives or non-native plants that can adapt to our lengthening drought periods (USDA Zone 9a). Some natives are in decline and we are watching trends and weaknesses carefully. Along with diversity, repetition is used to provide design continuity throughout the gardens.

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