By Valle Novak
Three years ago, local herbalist and plantswoman Lois Wythe established the Kinnikinnick Chapter of the Idaho Native Plant Society along with some 90 enthusiastic area residents.
"I reasoned that forming a native plant group could be the first step toward creating an arboretum," Wythe said. The group set their sights on Sandpoint's Lakeview Park, at Ella and Ontario, and its veritable forest of mature, all-native trees.
Certified Landscape Architect Kirk Johnson of Sandpoint helped develop a comprehensive design, and the Sandpoint City Council gave it unanimous acceptance. Work began in the spring of 1999 and continued through the five months of gardening season.
The group accomplished some mammoth tasks: mapping, identification and labeling of existing trees (more than 160!) in the arboretum section of the park; a medicinal herb garden around a historic log cabin; an alpine rock garden; a shade/fern site among the cedars; a small aspen grove; a border-planting of syringa, the Idaho state flower; a native rock wall; a dry stream bed; and a complex system of paths. All plants and shrubs were identified by markers providing the Latin and common names of each species.
This year's work is ongoing through the summer: a native wildflower meadow, another rock garden, a memorial/meditation garden, a larch grove and planting borders around the dry-streams.
Though much remains to be done, the arboretum is already a visitor destination. Several arboretum managers, botanists and horticulturists from other areas have joined tourists in enjoying the completed and in-progress gardens.
For more information, locate the "straw boss," who is a member of the Arboretum Committee, at the Arboretum Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., or call Lois Wythe at (208) 263-8038.