Sunday, June 7, 2015

CSI for Bees- FREE classes throughout Seattle this summer and fall!

If you'd like to learn more about how to identify, monitor, and help protect our native bees in your own yard, there is a good series of free classes happening now through a partnership between Seattle Parks, the NW Pollinator Initiative, Seattle Tilth, and myself!

Here is the official press release:

Seattle Parks and Recreation is pleased to announce a FREE citizen science course on pollinator and native bee identification. This course, taught by Elias Bloom, a WSU entomologist, and Emily Bishton, a local gardening and nature educator, will emphasize native bee monitoring, but will also include information on flies, wasps, true bugs, beetles, spiders, and butterflies. The goal of this course is to create a group of citizen scientists who will watch bees in their gardens and report to our online forum. You will receive hands-on tools during the course to identify pollinators, record, measure and track your pollinator observations over time!
Children age 8 and older are welcome to join their parents in the class too! You can sign up online at the Seattle Parks SPARC website or by contacting the individual community center by phone.  

Note from Emily: I am co-teaching all of the classes except for the Seattle-Tilth sponsored classes on June 13th and Sept 26th.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

PNW Native Plants: Beautiful and Sustainable!

The longer I garden here in the Puget Sound (37 years and how time flies), the more I have come to know and love plants that are native to this region.   So many of them have features that are beautiful in all 4 seasons of the year, thrive in multiple types of soil and sun conditions, and require little pruning to keep their structure pleasing and well-suited for a typical-size garden. Here are a few of my favorites:

Red-twig Dogwood thrives in so many different garden conditions, from sunny and dry to moist and partly-shaded. Here it is in my parking strip in early fall, as its leaves begin to turn brilliant colors while it's still in flower and fruit!

Evergreen Huckleberry also thrives in sun or part-shade, with a reddish tinge to it new leaves and winter foliage, plus tasty berries for you and the birds every fall!
Sword Fern is such an under-rated plant!  It thrives in multiple garden conditions too, and when it matures into its  4ft x 4ft glory, it gives an almost-tropical touch to your garden.  Fringe Cups (Tellima grandiflora) is one of our many native perennials that Hummingbirds love to visit!
Low Oregon Grape (Mahonia nervosa) is an evergreen that blooms each March with beautiful fragrant yellow spires, then produces berries for the birds.  Once its roots are established it will even grow in dry shade!
Wild Ginger (Asarum rubrum) thrives in moist shade (which I have a lot of in my garden), and its semi-evergreen foliage and deep red flowers smell just like tropical ginger
Want to learn more?  
Join me at my next class for the UW Botanic Garden: "Native Splendor in the Garden"

Class Description:
Many of our native plants have very ornamental branch structures, flowers, leaves, and berries, making them ideal for incorporating into an established landscape or using as the foundation for a new garden. Native plants are already adapted to our wet winter/dry summer climate and acidic soils, and do not require much fertilizer or supplemental water once established. Adding native plants to your landscape is a great way to increase its year-round beauty without increasing the amount of time and resources you use to maintain it.

This class will provide you with tips for determining which native plants will fit best into your landscape, which plants will also attract birds and beneficial insects to provide natural pest control in your garden, and planting methods for bare-root or containerized natives.

The class will include an indoor presentation with live plants and samples, plus an outdoor tour of mature native plants at the Center for Urban Horticulture!

When: Wednesday, May 13, 2015, 6:30 – 8pm
Where: UW Botanic Gardens - Center for Urban Horticulture, Douglas Classroom (3501 NE 41st St, Seattle, WA 98105)
Contact Information: 206.685.8033 or
Cost: $20.00

Register Online, or by phone (206-685-8033)

Friday, January 9, 2015

Happy New Year and Thanks for a Great 2014!

Thanks to you, 2014 was a wonderful year for me, filled with a cornucopia of activities: teaching hundreds of adults about sustainable gardening throughout the Puget Sound region, teaching hundreds of children and adults about gardening and nature at Magnuson Park and other nearby locations, peppered with a healthy "dash" of in-person garden consultation and design work! 
I am so grateful this year to have had new teaching opportunities come my way, most notably the Sand Point Elementary school garden program and the Seattle Public Library.  I am also very grateful for continued work from the municipalities and other entities that have been the mainstay of my public education for adults and children for the last several years!
Roses are red, violets are blue,

I love my work, thanks to you!
When I began this journey back in 1995 after many years in the world of remodeling and rental property consulting (and a lifetime of home gardening), little did I know that it would lead to where I am today... or how much fun the journey would be!

In light of that, I want to personally acknowledge and thank all the people who have been a big part of my journey so far:
  • Teacher Terese Metz, for inviting me to volunteer as a garden teacher in her classroom at Dunlap Elementary School back in 1995 (which turned into a 9-year collaboration), for mentoring and encouraging me, and continuing to be a great role model and dear friend ever since;
  • Former WSU/King Co. Extension Master Gardener Program staff Mary Robson, Joan Helbacka, and Anza Muenchow for inviting me to begin writing about my experiences in gardening with children and to teach adult gardening education classes in the late 1990's, and current MG Coordinator Elaine Anderson for her support in encouraging each year's incoming interns to volunteer with Magnuson Nature Programs;
  • Landscape designer Cindy Hazard and horticulturist Christina Pfeiffer, for their tremendous design ideas and leadership of Magnuson Children's Garden, which inspired me to jump in with both feet to help sustain this beautiful garden (aka my home-away-from-home) for the past 10+ years;
  • Retired Edmonds Community College instructors Walt Bubelis and Polly Hankin, for teaching and mentoring me on so many aspects of horticulture and garden design;
  • Seattle Public Utilities resource conservation staff Carl Woestwin (retired) and Liz Fikejs, former Seattle Tilth staff Colleen Quinn and Andrea Cummins, Cascadia Consulting's Gwen Vernon, and Seattle Dept. of Neighborhoods' Kenya Fredie, for giving me opportunities and referrals that began and/or nurtured my teaching and writing work for Puget Sound municipalities and other entities that has continued to grow each year;
  • 70th and Sand Point Child Care Center director Mary Jo Dostal, for the opportunity and privilege of working with their wonderful preschool teachers and students for the past 8 years at Magnuson Park;
  • Magnuson Community Center coordinator Karla Withrow, for the opportunity and creative freedom to grow Magnuson Nature Programs from a 2-week summer day camp for preschoolers into a mainstay of year-round public education and stewardship programs with dozens of camps, classes, nature walks and more, plus two demonstration gardens. Her 10+ years of steadfast mentoring, support, and patience has made a tremendous impact of all the success.
  • And last but certainly not least, to all the wonderful clients who've welcomed me into their gardens and their lives since 2002, and to the thousands of children, adults, and families who have given me so many delightful and meaningful teaching experiences for the past 20 years. I have learned so much because of you all, and none of the experiences listed above would have been possible without you too!

And I really can't end this note without expressing my gratitude to my late parents, who taught me how to grow food and flowers, plant little saplings and watch them grow into trees, and gave me the freedom to play as much as I wanted in the backyard, creeks, and farm fields, and in the sun, rain, and mud... Without them, this journey truly would not have begun!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summer News and Notes

Even the plainest Day Lily is a glorious sight
A Tiger Swallowtail makes an Escallonia shrub even more beautiful

Another day-another park exploration!
Spring in Puget Sound has been a dual between the rain and sun, with our gardens reaping the rewards!  The bounty of blossoms on flowering trees and shrubs has been a real show, and the summer perennials are coming on super strong now too.  Everything is so green and colorful, from parks to parking lots, gardens to alleyways. It's a beautiful time to be outside in nature!

Much of my spring has been spent outside at Magnuson Park again this year, and my work in the nature programs there continues to increase. I feel very lucky that in a day's work I experience Eagles and Ospreys, Sparrows and Hummingbirds,  Frogs and Garter Snakes, as well as the kids and parents excited to see them all.  I have also had many happy days teaching garden education classes at Sand Point Elementary and Jane Addams K-8.

I also feel fortunate that over the years, I have had many opportunities to work with clients who are motivated to create beautiful gardens that also provide habitat for songbirds and other wildlife.... and the chance to share my gardening knowledge with groups of homeowners and professionals through classes and workshops throughout King and Snohomish Counties.  It's now been over 12 years since I began Green Light Gardening as a garden design and consulting business, and little did I know that this road would lead to so many other wonderful places!

As with all roads, sometimes a person has to stop and ponder which fork to take, and it's especially hard to choose when they all look so inviting... but I've finally faced the fact that I can't be in two places at once, doing everything that I wish I had time to do...  so I will be focusing all my future energies on teaching children and adults about sustainable gardening, and the art and science of observing nature in all its tiny and gigantic glory!

Garden art at home

The art of stalking (Cardinal Meadowhawk dragonfly at Magnuson)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Spring is Almost Here!

Spring is right around the corner, and FREE Garden Classes to help you get yours off to a great start are "sprouting up" too!  Below is a list of the classes that I'll be teaching this spring, all sponsored by our local water districts and offered free of charge.  They are organized by class topic, then listed in order of date. All classes except one do request or require pre-registration, and each listing includes info on how to register.

I hope to see your smiling face at one or more of them, and please forward them on to any gardening friends who may want to attend also- thanks much!

If you are thinking of adding child-friendly plants to your garden this spring, check out my March and June 2009 blog postings in the right hand column for some detailed guidelines!

Native Splendor in the Garden 
Learn about Pacific Northwest native plants that are beautiful, easy to care for, and thrive in our unique climate and soil conditions! 

Thursday March 20th from 7:00 - 8:30 PM                                                                      
Skyway Water and Sewer District                                                                                             
6723 South 124th Street, Seattle                                                                                                      Sponsored by Cascade Water Alliance | Register here 

Saturday March 22nd from 10:00 - 11:30 AM                                                                       
NW Arts Center, Studio B                                                                                                         
9825 NE 24th Street, Bellevue                                                                                          
Sponsored by Cascade Water Alliance | Register here

Getting Plants off to the Right Start
Join me to learn about right-plant-right-place choices, the "scoop" on bare-root, ball-and-burlap, and container plants, and smart watering info.  This class also includes a hands-on demonstration of proper planting and mulching techniques!

Saturday March 22nd from 1:00-2:00 PM
City People's Garden Store
2939 E. Madison St, Seattle
Registration is required by calling the store at 206-324-0737.

Wildlife-Friendly Gardening for Beauty and Sustainability
Welcome songbirds, butterflies, and beneficial insects into your yard while conserving natural resources at the same time!

Saturday March 15th from 10:00 - 11:30 AM                                                                 
Tukwila Community Center                                                                                                    
12424 42nd Avenue South, Tukwila                                                                                               Sponsored by Cascade Water Alliance | Register here

Thursday March 27th from 7:00 - 8:30 PM                                                                      
Tibbetts Creek Manor                                                                                                                  
750 17th Avenue NW, Issaquah                                                                                                      Sponsored by Cascade Water Alliance | Register here

Saturday April 5th from 9:30 – 11:00 AM                                                                  
Sammamish Plateau Water & Sewer District                                                                            
1510 228th Avenue SE, Sammamish                                                                                
Sponsored by Cascade Water Alliance | Register here
Wednesday May 14th from 6:00 - 8:00 PM                                                                            
Federal Way City Hall
33325 8th Ave S, Federal Way 
Sponsored by the City of Federal Way Surface Water Management Division 
Pre-register by calling 253-835-2700

Saturday June 7th from 1:00-2:00 PM
City People's Garden Store
2939 E. Madison St, Seattle
Registration is required by calling the store at 206-324-0737.

Simply Lovely: Great Plants for Northwest Gardens
Join me to learn about plants that are at home in Northwest gardens, featuring favorites that provide structure, foliage and/or flowers during our wet winters and dry summers. Find out more about how to match the right plants with your yard’s conditions so you can grow beautifully with ease - while being easy on the environment!

Sunday April 6th from 1 - 2:30 PM 
McLendon Hardware
440 Rainier Ave. South, Renton, WA 98057
Sponsored by the Savvy Gardener Program. No registration required

Sustainable Garden Design  
Join me to increase your understanding on how to make sustainable design choices for new or existing gardens, that make wise use of resources, reduce waste, work in harmony with the natural systems already in place on your site, and can be successfully maintained with IPM strategies.   

Wednesday April 9th from 6:00 - 8:00 PM                                                                           
Federal Way City Hall
33325 8th Ave S, Federal Way 
Sponsored by the City of Federal Way Surface Water Management Division
Pre-register by calling 253-835-2700

Incredible Edibles: Grow Your Own!
This class will cover what you need to know to grow your own vegetables and fruits successfully! Learn how to choose a good garden site, prepare your soil, maintain healthy fertility, and effective watering and maintenance practices - plus simple crop rotation and other natural pest control strategies. You will also learn ways to incorporate food crops into your existing garden beds. 

Saturday April 26th from 10 - 11:30 AM 
Woodinville Water District, Building A
17238 Woodinville-Duvall Rd. Woodinville, WA 98072
Sponsored by the Savvy Gardener Program. To register contact Woodinville Water District at (425) 487-4100 or