The “Welcome to Washington” display along Interstate 5 in Vancouver became an indirect pandemic casualty last summer, and the Evergreen State-shaped flower bed is going to have to wait another year before it can return to its former glory.
The flower bed is normally replanted each spring by volunteers from Washington State University Extension’s Master Gardener program, but the initial COVID-19 lockdown prevented the event from happening during the May 2020 planting window.
The same issue occurred this year, according to Washington State Department of Transportation spokesperson Tamara Greenwell; too few people had been vaccinated when the planting window opened.
And there’s an additional problem: Crews working on I-5 late last year inadvertently cut a water line that runs under the freeway to feed the welcome display. The boxwood shrubs that form the outline of the state around the garden died as a result.
The boxwoods have been replanted, Greenwell said, but it didn’t make sense to fully replant the garden until the water line can be repaired. WSDOT is focusing its efforts this summer on keeping the new generation of boxwoods healthy with weekly watering visits from a maintenance truck.
A full replanting of the flower bed is now planned for spring 2022.
“We are really looking forward to getting back to being able to partner with the Washington State University Master Gardeners to get plants in,” Greenwell said. “We recognize it’s a beautiful way to welcome people to Washington state.”