City Hall garden helps Langley become edible

The Langley Garden Initiative dedicated the Langley Centennial Garden on May 28.

The Langley Garden Initiative dedicated the Langley Centennial Garden on May 28.

The group spent a few months laying seed to what will be an edible garden in front of Langley City Hall.

Mayor Fred McCarthy was present and thanked the group of gardeners and artists for their hard work.

In its centennial year, Langley is transforming itself into an edible garden town. The hanging baskets that line the streets of downtown Langley are also filled with edible plants this year. Those where hung last week and will bear tomatoes and other tasty offerings.

Under the auspices of the Langley Main Street Association program, with support from the Whidbey Island Garden Tour, South Whidbey Garden Club, Log House Plants, and Renee’s Garden Seeds, as well as the weeding talents of the Main Street interns Laura and Erin Hilton and the hard work of volunteers, the new public garden at Langley City Hall is nearly finished.

Most recently the metal artwork was added on the side of city hall.

Cathy Rooks, a gardening expert and one of the creative forces behind the project, said among the highlights are a “pollinator pathway promenade,” a bean teepee and other visually, yet practical groupings.

The design includes sculpture by artists Nick Lyle and Jean Whitesavage and a winter evergreen framework. A bright chartreuse-colored bench invites people to sit and enjoy the plantings and adds a punch of color, Rooks said.

The group installed raised beds, structure and planted plants that will provide year-round interest.

“Then in summer it will come alive with vines, peas, scarlet runner beans, strawberries and raised beds of carrots and greens,” said Janet Ploof, one of the gardening volunteers.

It’s part of the garden initiative effort to design a citywide landscape that showcases Langley as a garden town and invites tourists and locals alike to take a bite out of the landscape, quite literally.

Inspired by Pam Warhurst’s TED talk about her northern England town which transformed itself into the Incredible Edible Todmorden, growing food in every square inch of green space, volunteers will plant berries, beans, tomatoes, edible flowers and other blooming and fragrant foods.

“It’s edible and pretty. Rhubarb looks like a big jungle. Artichoke, spiky and wild. Strawberries in red and bright yellow. Cherry red tomatoes and sunny orange pear tomatoes. Handfuls of blueberries with pretty red evergreen stems. Snap peas for kids to pick and fresh produce for our neighbors or even the food bank,” Ploof said.

An edible landscape could also be another attraction for visitors, as Warhurst referred to the idea as vegetable tourism.

The group of volunteers started working on a garden around city hall earlier this spring. As the summer progresses the designers hope that the idea will spread into other green spaces and flower baskets around town.

Warhurst describes her organization’s work as centered around three spheres: community building, education and local business. They engage schools in the growing process and artists from around town help create signs to inform residents and visitors about the program.

This concept appealed to a group of gardening experts in Langley, who have been involved in various initiatives to green the town, Ploof said.

Furthermore, the Todmorden project has had success beyond its initial goals.

Local farmers have seen a marked increase in sales, as the movement has sparked a lasting interest in local food and attracted visitors from around the world.

“We think that makes sense in Langley where we are surrounded by farms, gardens and vineyards and where we have a summer-long farmers market on Second Street,” said Ploof, who also serves as the president of the Langley Main Street Association.

The project is funded by a grant by the Whidbey Island Garden Tour and the South Whidbey Garden Club, funds from the Langley Main Street Association and donations. Representatives of those groups also attended the dedication.

It’s not just about growing food; it’s also about growing community.

“Planting organic strawberries that anyone can pick reminds us that the city belongs to its citizens,” Ploof said.

Valerie Easton, a weekly gardening columnist, author and one of the creative forces behind the project, continues to chronicle the progress on her blog at

“It’s just the first garden of many we hope to bring to life with flowers, shrubs, fruit and vegetables to enliven and beautify Langley for both its residents and visitors. Vegetable tourism? We hope so,” Easton said.