By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus.
When the Center for Urban Horticulture was established in the early 1980s, one of the programmatic goals was to create and carry out a comprehensive public outreach program into the community for gardeners and professionals. The University of Washington is not part of the federal land grant system and thus receives no federal or state monies for such programs, as is the case for Washington State University. Thus any resources and programs developed had to be self-supporting.
Private funds were found to assemble the buildings on the UW East campus, which were built from 1984-1987. The addition of the Graham Visitors Center in 1986 at the Washington Park Arboretum added an additional site for Arboretum focused programs. As programs grew, so did the staff to support them. In the late 1980s and 1990s, the annual total number of participants in classes, facility inquiry visits, tours, school programs, telephone inquiries, public open houses, library visits, as well as community lectures and tours at both the Center for Urban Horticulture and Washington Park Arboretum reached into the thousands.
The addition of Washington State Master Gardening clinics, classes and lectures greatly expanded both community gardening and professional landscape and nursery programs. The school programs increased at the Washington Park Arboretum. Both programs became year round. In the 1990’s, we often boasted that we were “second” in UW community outreach numbers, although quite some distance behind the UW Athletic events.
Since the beginning and continuing today, these programs have been lead by a talented group of staff. Many people have started their careers with us and then gone onto “greener pastures,” making their mark throughout the country.
In thirty years, there have been changes in the horticulture outreach environment: public budgets have decreased; there is now a plethora of gardening information on the internet; and there is increasing emphasis on environmental, conservation, and restoration issues. The baby boomer generation is retiring and today’s consumers have less interest in large gardens although they are more food and environmentally conscious.
Annual reports of specific numbers and program themes are archived in both the Miller Library and UW Archives. The included photos are one glimpse of the continuing education and outreach staff taken in December 1992.