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Plants in Power with Lori Fowler

At the foot of North Cascades National Park, sits the Skagit Hydroelectric Project, an essential power generating facility for Seattle City Light. Its unique location spans 42 acres, providing a natural passage of beauty into the area. City Light’s Senior Gardener, Lori Fowler, maintains the numerous gardens around the company towns of Newhalem, Diablo, and three powerhouses and dams that make up the project.

During the weeks of shut down, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Lori was able to work but the effects of social separation took a toll.

“I went to work every day, but I was alone. I was separated from my family, friends, crew, and Skagit was empty without seasonal tourists. It had an affected on my wellness,” Lori shared. “I went online and realized others in the horticulture community were experiencing the same, and through online forums, were connecting with each other across the world. This inspired the birth of Plants in Power.”  

With considerable community interest in starting a “garden club” for residents and employees, Lori researched and registered the Plants in Power Society with the state of Washington and the National Federation of Garden Clubs. Plants in Power officially launched in early summer 2020 with its virtual format offering numerous ways to participate through social media, blogs, and newsletters. The virtual channels have expanded the group’s membership with the goal of building community, raising environmental awareness, and promoting the power of gardening to heal the earth and promote human wellness.

Historically, gardening at the Skagit Project, was a community wide activity. “Residents used to have competitions for the best front yard!” Lori said. There was never a formal gardening club, but there was a holistic feeling that everyone was invested in gardening and enjoyed the task. In fact, when the project first began, the first superintendent of City Light, JD Ross, encouraged spouses and families of those who worked for Seattle City Light to volunteer work in the gardens. Plants in Power serves as a tribute to these activities and hopes to further the gardening connection with Seattle City Light and beyond.

Starting the club was no easy feat, but Lori used some of the best resources around her to launch the project – her family!

“I tapped into the expertise of my family to help with the club’s initial soft launch. My husband Bruce, who is also a horticulturist, oversees the finances and helped me put the website together, while my daughter, Leslie, assists with social media, photography, and graphic design. I’ve also contacted local nurseries and others in the industry who are established, and they have been a huge help in spreading the word,” Lori explained. “Currently we have 58 registered members from Washington, California, Illinois, even Canada, and hundreds of followers! Plants in Power is very much in its infancy, but we are proud of everything that we have accomplished in such a short time period. It’s very exciting.”

Among the club’s featured programs is a running blog series. “Our topics range in content geared for those in the horticulture field and master gardeners, naturalists and conservationist, and also, information of interest to the beginning or hobby gardener,” Lori said. “I am open to covering any gardening topic our audience is interested in and encourage our readers to submit their ideas and/or content that they would like to see covered in upcoming editions!”

The future is well lit for Plants in Power. “If we end up creating instructional videos, that’d be great, just as long as I don’t have to star in them!” Lori mused. “Annual events like attending a flower show or hosting a lunch meet-up at Skagit, post COVID of course, would be a fun possibility! It would be awesome to participate in Family Day and bring programs in for children, maybe even expand that into local schools.”

Lori envisions Plants in Power continuing beyond her time at the utility. “I would love to, from my retirement, see Plants in Power carried forward and grow within our utility and beyond.”

“The club offers an opportunity for people to come together whether they’re a gardener, manager, or electrician – it’s another way for us to connect. It’s also a way for people to heal and to reconnect with the world around them and live in the moment,” Lori explained. “I encourage everyone to join; it might open a new world for you and tap into a passion you didn’t know you had for gardening, permaculture, conservation and nature – or a connection, shared interest, and education for one you already have. Absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain from the fellowship of Plants in Power.”

A huge thank you to Lori Fowler for sharing about Plants in Power! If you are interested in learning more and joining the Plants in Power club, check out their website, follow them on social media, and be sure to contact Lori with any questions or content suggestions.