- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 2, 2014

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Just inside the foyer of the Governor’s residence is a display of fresh flowers. It’s easily a $50 bouquet. Taxpayer funded? A gift from someone seeking political favors?

None of the above. They’re the flowers that Washington first lady Trudi Inslee grows along the driveway leading up to the stately mansion.

“Every once in a while someone will bring us flowers. But we supplement,” she explains as she walks a visitor past the border brimming with sky-blue delphiniums, pink penstemons, feathery astilbes, cosmos, sage and hostas.

Before the flowers were put in, the space was used as a potato patch. But the potatoes were moved to a new vegetable and fruit garden the first lady and Gov. Jay Inslee created in a sunny section of the residence’s grounds. The Department of Enterprise Services says eight 16-feet by 3-feet raised beds were added in 2013.

The garden was created to provide food, but it also serves to educate and demonstrate how easy and beneficial home and community gardening can be.

“This has been a learning process,” Trudi Inslee says. “Every year is going to be a learning process.”

A few selections from last year have been dumped - kohlrabi (a vegetable that looks like Sputnik with bunny ears) and broccoli were deemed space hogs - and new ones added.

“We’re focusing on plants that give us the most bang for the buck, as far as space goes,” she says.

The raised beds were built using nonpublic funds. In fact, everything about the garden from seeds to labor is donated or paid for by the Inslees. The soil was purchased by the Inslees in 2013, but this year it was supplemented by compost donated by Cedar Grove.

Labor has been provide by AmeriCorps, Kiwanis, students from Olympia’s GRuB (Garden-Raised Bounty) program, state employees and everyday citizens.

“We put out a come one, come all,” Trudi Inslee says.

The boxes hold tomatoes, strawberries, garlic, corn, kale, beets, chard, spinach, carrots, rhubarb and rows of butter lettuce so perfect it seems a shame to harvest them. But harvest they have.

The all-organic garden has already sent 50 pounds of greens to the Thurston County Food Bank this year. The garden’s production has exceeded what Inslee imagined it would, she says. In 2013, the garden provided 500 pounds of food to the food bank, the Salvation Army community kitchen and the Rainier Valley Food Bank.

Puyallup seed purveyor Ed Hume and his family have donated most of the seeds and starts. Hume advises on planting selections and layout.

“It’s pretty low maintenance,” Inslee says as she eyes the boxes. The 3-foot-high structures deter slugs, don’t require adults to bend over and give children an eye-to-eye view of the plants.

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