When I wandered into the Medicinal Herb Garden in 1992, I was looking for ideas. My housemates and I had carved out a large vegetable garden on a vacant lot and we wanted to add an herb garden. The day I arrived, I could see the place could use some weeding, so I decided to volunteer. I looked for who was in charge and quickly found Doug Ewing, manager of the UW Botany Greenhouse.
Doug and a large group of volunteers known as Friends of the Medicinal Herb Garden (FMHG), had been maintaining the garden since 1983. Before that there had been two gardeners who managed the collection and the seed exchange program. When the Pharmacy Department pulled its funding for the gardeners in 1979, the garden went into steady decline. Though the Botany Department assumed management of the garden, they had no additional funding for a garden manager. That responsibility fell on the shoulders of the greenhouse manager who already had a full-time job. It was an impossible situation.
But the prolonged efforts of Doug and the many volunteers of the FMHG saved the garden from disaster. Doug made the greenhouse available for volunteers to meet, help him and his greenhouse staff propagate plants for the garden, run the international seed exchange program and even to use some of the cramped office space.
In 1996, Doug convinced the Grounds Maintenance Department to hire me as a seasonal employee in the garden. By 1999 I was looking for a full time job and Doug lobbied for me here at the UW. I was hired in 2000 and I can honestly say I wouldn’t be here without Doug’s tireless efforts.
Yesterday was Doug’s last day at the UW. His sudden departure, much too soon for all us who know him, has left holes in our hearts. The UW just lost one of the best people it’s ever employed and will be the lesser for it. I can’t count the number of times I’ve arrived at the greenhouse after a stormy night to find Doug sleeping in the office, taking no chances that a flood or snow would keep him away. And there was never a worry about interrupting Doug with a question during his lunch break. He would put down his plate, head off to a far corner of the greenhouse with whomever and explain in great detail the natural history or the best horticultural practices for a particular plant, often forgetting to return to his lunch. His detailed knowledge of botany, horticulture, natural history and all of the intricate electrical and plumbing systems of the greenhouse, not to mention his endless inventory of corny jokes will not be seen here again. Alas.
Bravo, Doug; I’ll never match you and your limitless enthusiasm and preternatural dedication to the job but I’m a better person for having worked with you these many years and I hope some of your magic wore off on me. We miss you already.
Here are some pictures of Doug’s fan club who ambushed him before he could escape on his final day.
Doug often joked that he would make his final exit from the greenhouse in a wheelbarrow.
outside, cold winds blow
but in this sheltered haven
plants you raised live on
See you in the garden, Doug.