November Color Arrives at CUH

November 30th, 2010 by Pat Chinn-Sloan

Selected cuttings at the Center for Urban Horticulture for November 2010

  1. Acanthus spinosus
  2. Echinacea purpurea – Purple Cone Flower
  3. Iris foetidissima – Gladwyn Iris
  4. Astilbe chinensis v. pumila – Dwarf false spiraea
  5. Polystichum setiferum ‘Divisilobum’ – Divided Soft Shield Fern

Complete details.

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November Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum
(Part II)

November 30th, 2010 by Pat Chinn-Sloan

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum for the 2nd half of November

  1. Cupressus arizonica var. montana (Sierra San Pedro Mártir Cypress)
  2. Euptelea polyandra
  3. Sorbus commixta (Mountain Ash)
  4. Sorbus forrestii
  5. Viburnum tinus ‘Gwenllian’ (Laurustinus)

Complete details.

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Winter Plant Protection in Pacific Connections Gardens

November 22nd, 2010 by UWBG Horticulturist

"Straw Tepees" in New Zealand entry garden

No, aliens haven’t invaded the arboretum. The “straw tepees” (left), as Kyle Henegar, PCG gardener, aptly coins them, are to protect the newly planted Phormiums and other marginally hardy New Zealand plants make it through this cold spell that’s hit Seattle. It just wouldn’t seem fair to let these plants try to make it on their own since they were just planted late last summer and have yet to get their roots established.

The new Chilean Gateway garden also has several box structures dotted along the rockery hillside (bottom right). These wooden frames enveloped w/ shade cloth are protecting our new Chilean wine palms that are indeed cold sensitive.

Box over palm

Sundstrom, Gateway contractor, has also treated the palm’s crowns w/ a copper-based pesticide, to help inhibit the colonization of bacteria and fungal crown rots. If you look inside the structures, you’ll notice straw has been used to blanket the trunks and crowns as well.

Let’s all hope that these extraordinary winter protection measures pay off. We won’t know for sure until late spring or even early summer in some cases. And no, you needn’t worry about alien invasions in the arboretum.

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November 2010 Plant Profile: Osmanthus fragrans v. aurantiacus

November 14th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

In the three years I’ve expected it bite the dust, this plant has survived our winters and we’ve enjoyed the fruity scent from this form of Sweet Olive every autumn. Osmanthus fragrans is a popular shrub/small tree in the warmer regions of the United states (USDA Zone 8 +) and in China, where it is highly revered and its scented autumn blossoms are used to scent and flavor tea. This orange flowered form aurantiacus is not as common in the United States and it’s also not known to be as hardy. So, it was surprising to me that our two large specimens in the Fragrance Garden are thriving. Perhaps the fact that we started with large specimens, are enclosed by other plantings and are against a southwest facing wall contributes to their success OR I’ve even began to wonder if this isn’t aurantiacus, but a selected named cultivar of O. fragrans that is truly hardy and well worth propagating to see if it’s something we can recommend to gardeners in the Puget Sound region. We can grow straight O. fragrans, but it really requires a protected location and benefits from the radiated heat from a nearby building or paved surfaces. Instead, I’ve recommended gardeners seek out a cross known as Osmanthus x fortunei to plant in their gardens. It is very much like O. fragrans, but with broader, darker green leaves and larger, more profuse flowers with the same apricot-like scent. You can read more about it here. For now, just follow your nose during your next visit to CUH and admire this plant in person.

Common Name: Sweet Olive
Location: Fragrance Garden
Family: Oleaceae
Origin: China
Height: 12-20ft.
Spread: 4-6ft.
Bloom Time: Late October throughout November.
Bloom Type/Color: Axillary flowers arranged fairly densely throughout plant.
Straight species is a creamy yellow, but this a rare orange form and supposedly not hardy selection of this species.
Water/Soil: Well drained, moderately moist.

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CUH Update – November 2010: Color and Winter

November 12th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

It’s been a cold nippy November and we’re taking a little extra time to put on a few extra layers before heading outside to work. Temperatures are dropping and it’s really time to start thinking about winter. The plants are on their last legs and the last of the tremendous fall foliage we’ve been blessed with this autumn are carpeting our grounds and exposing an occasional clear blue sky above. Indian summer has been frequent and we’ve all been soaking it all in.

The Lagerstroemias this year have had wonderful fall color to make up for its lack of prolific flowers this summer and the Parrotia persica in the Soest Garden have exhibited the best color yet in the three years I’ve overseen them. All of the fall blooming stars never fail to hit their queue and some of the regular summer bloomers have hung around for a little encore. Geranium ‘Rozanne’ continues to churn out blooms along with salvias, chrysanthemums, and various asters. Of course, the grasses are hitting their stride and are looking spectacular and I’m finding that more and more people are catching on and are willing to try them out in their gardens because they are so eye-catching and easy to maintain.

Panicum virgatum 'Northwind' illuminated by an autumn sunset

November is also a time when we prepare the nursery for the winter and our cohorts over at Washington Park Arboretum have helped us put up the plastic covering on our hoophouses and brought our container stock into a bed of sawdust where they overwinter.


The key is to prevent the rootballs of these otherwise hardy plants from freezing and thawing and by having them in sawdust, it’s almost like having them directly in the ground where the soil temperatures stay relatively even so the top few inches of sawdust can freeze, but the whole rootball itself is perfectly fine underneath.

October and November are very busy planting times for us and rather than overwintering the whole inventory, we’ve been working on finding permanent homes for some of the plants in stock. We are looking forward to the bloom of a generous donation of Hellebores from Ernie and Marrieta O’Byrne of Northwest Garden Nursery who have bred the fabulous “Winter Jewels” series. Paying them a visit last summer to pick up these plants was such a treat. Their gardens are some of the best I’ve ever visited and their breeding program was so fascinating to learn about.

So, look for these Hellebores peppered throughout CUH in the winter time and look for “Winter Jewels” at your local nursery!!

T & L Nursery also came through with another donation to us this year with a nice assortment of new ornamental grasses and some classic perennials such as Siberian Iris and herbaceous peonies that we’ve never had in the garden before. They will be a fabulous addition to the wonderful assortment of perennials we have.

McVay Courtyard after later leaf drop

If you ever have any questions about the grounds and landscapes here at CUH, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We aren’t always out in the garden to greet you, but we hope you’ll enjoy your visit.

Cheers,

Riz
Soest Perennial Display Garden
rhr2382@uw.edu
206-897-1434 (voicemail)

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Bioblitz: Mushroom Edition re-cap

November 5th, 2010 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan

Last spring, the University of Washington Botanic Gardens hosted a bioblitz to take a stab at identifying the myriad organisms for which Washington Park Arboretum is home.  Last week, we continued this effort but with a focus on fungus.  During Bioblitz: Mushroom Edition, Puget Sound Mycological Society members teamed up with over 60 citizen scientists for a full day of mushroom hunting that by sundown netted approximately 500 specimens.

The folks from PSMS had been with us in the spring for the all-taxa bioblitz, and had expressed a desire to come back in the fall during prime mushroom season.  The mushroom people I’ve met in Seattle are like that – deeply passionate, and genuinely enamored with their quarry.  As for the 60 more or less random people that showed up on this predictably drizzle October day, they were almost as diverse as the mushrooms that were collected.  (I say almost because everyone smelled pretty good; the same cannot be said for the mushrooms.)  But what is it about mushrooms that so captures our collective curiosity?  It’s a difficult question to answer because the answer differs depending on who you ask.

I participated in all three of the 2-hour hunts, and attended Marian Maxwell’s presentation on “The Role of Mushrooms in the Ecosystem”, and so I had the chance to mingle with a good number of attendees.  I hunted briefly in the afternoon with Alex, a recent transplant from California where he worked as an environmental educator – a man after my own heart.  Alex likes the way mushrooms force one to slow down and really look at one’s surroundings, even under one’s surroundings.  He used to do this on hikes with kids in California.  I’ve done this with fieldtrip groups at the arboretum, and I can verify the mesmerizing power of fungi.  Alex and I agreed that anything with the power to keep a group of 4th graders captivated for any real span of time borders on miraculous.

That being said, often times kids make the best mushroom hunters.  The Allgood family, with their two young daughters, joined us for much of the day (including the lecture), and contributed dozens of carefully collected specimens to our total.  The Allgoods are avid P-patchers who believe that the healthiest food is the food you grow yourself.   The desire to learn more about a potentially free, natural and local food source is what brought them out.

With the “eat local” movement gaining momentum and food security conversations becoming household, being able to forage for ones food is in vogue and mushrooms are poster children, and why not.  They’re abundant, extremely varied, the right ones are delicious, and you’re simply harvesting a fruit much like any other (but without the maintenance), so there’s no harm done. The trick of course is finding the right ones.

The edibility and lure of foraging for ones food was a common tie among many who came out.  Colin, a UW freshman only months into his college experience, is already tiring of “dorm food”.  While the Arboretum cannot be considered a place to go harvesting ‘shaggy parasols’ (it’s illegal to take anything out of this Seattle treasure), Colin was very pleased to rescue the handful we collected from their immanent fate in the compost pile and eager to get out into the mountains to find his own secret spot.

That’s what my wife likes about mushroom hunting – the hunting part.  The idea of going home with something tasty to eat is secondary to the thrill of the hunt.  Having a mission to focus on helps to quiet her ADD brain and allows for a much more enjoyable hike with a husband who is perfectly happy wandering aimlessly through the woods.  This example speaks to an indirect medicinal property that mushrooms hold, but there are some mushrooms such as the Agarikon (Fomitopsis officinalis), which only grows on old growth, that are being researched by pharmaceutical companies for their anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and possibly anti-cancer properties.

Of course there are others who are less interested in the potential for mushrooms to heal the body and more interested in the potential for mushrooms to heal the mind.  David, who I met during the morning hunt, though “out there” by conventional standards, is a deeply spiritual man who loves everything about mushrooms, including the ability of some to alter reality.  The hallucinogenic properties of mushrooms are well known and well documented in cultures around the world.  In many of these cultures, only the most revered members of the society – the shamans, medicine men and mystics are allowed to meddle with these powerful substances.  After all, these seemingly innocuous forest dwellers can kill you and every year even experienced mycologists die from eating mushrooms they believed to be safe.

Marian touched on the toxicology of some mushrooms during her talk, describing it as a self-defense mechanism and a way for one mushroom species to stake out turf over another.  Often times, but not always, these mushrooms with toxic properties are categorized as parasites – the potentially harmful group that steals nutrients from host plants weakening and eventually killing them.  Unfortunately, an example of this group, the Honey Mushroom (Armillaria mellea), was found living on some of our trees.  But that’s part of why we do these bioblitzes, to better know our 230 acres and how to manage them.

Marian also talked about a group of mushrooms called symbionts.  These are mutualists that actually benefit their associated host.  Examples include some of the more highly sought after mushrooms such as chanterelles and truffles.  This group is extremely difficult to cultivate because the symbiotic relationship between tree and mushroom takes several decades to form.  Once formed, however, the mushroom benefits by obtaining some of the sugars produced by the tree, and the tree benefits because the intricate mycelial network inhabiting the root zone greatly expands the trees ability to take in water and nutrients (as well as fight off potentially harmful diseases).

I envision roots wrapped in wooly sweaters wicking in the good stuff and keeping out the bad.  The really cool part is that specific mushrooms are associated with specific trees, and so once the relationship is established you can go back to the same tree year after year and expect to find the same type of mushroom.  This is dependent of course on time of year, weather conditions, and assuming you’ve gotten there first!  I think this is what I really like about mushrooms – they so beautifully illustrate the interconnected nature of nature.  If you know the tree you’re looking at, you’ll know what mushroom to look for, and maybe even what kind of bird or other critter to expect nearby.  A balanced forest ecosystem is like a well choreographed dance, each dance playing an indispensible role and strengthening the overall composition.

The third group of mushrooms that Marian talked about was the saprophytes.  These are the forest recyclers that obtain their nutrients by breaking down decaying matter.  By doing so, these nutrients are made available to be taken up and used again.  This group was by far the best represented of what we found owing to the time of year and abundance of decaying matter (fallen leaves and mulch).  Because of this, there are already murmurs among our PSMS partners to come again next year, but a little earlier in the season in hopes of finding different species.  So stay tuned, and regardless of what it is about mushrooms that tickles your fancy, come join us next time and take part in this ongoing citizen science experiment to see what we can find living in this wonderland of urban nature that is the Washington Park Arboretum.

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November Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

November 5th, 2010 by Pat Chinn-Sloan

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum for November 1-14, 2010

Highlighting Plants in Mixed Shrub Border Below Maintenance Yard

  1. Ligustrum delavayanum
  2. Ligustrum ovalifolium ‘Argenteum’
  3. Liquidambar acalycina
  4. Morella californica (California wax myrtle)
  5. Osmanthus fragrans (Sweet Olive)

Complete details.

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