Who are the G.R.O.W. participants? A profile of Nathan Hale students

April 29th, 2011 by Barbara Selemon
greenhouse image
hanging baskets lined up in greenhouse

Students in Jessica Torvik’s Horticulture/Ecology classes meet in the Nathan Hale High School greenhouse on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.   The new site for horticulture classes is a few minutes’ walk from the main school building,
across the street and up the hill.  As they arrive, the students take the initiative to begin doing tasks assigned to
them in their working groups.   This day, they were also preparing to start making hanging baskets for their upcoming plant sale.  As an observer of the greenhouse activities,  I wanted to know why students signed up to take this class and what it is about gardening that they like.

For some, there is a connection to family.  For Colin, his mother was the impetus for him
to take the class since gardening is a major hobby of hers.  He finds that plants are a way for them to bond. For Emmy, her grandparents, who are members of the American Rhododendron Society, passed along  their interest in plants to her.  She sees herself working with plants in the near future, possibly having a small garden of her own at college.

For others, the class is fun to take.  For Michael, it is a break from being inside of a classroom.  He enjoys deadheading  the plants because it is easy and relaxing. Chris is taking the class because it is fun and accessible.  He especially likes working in groups and is the leader of his table group.

Farin and Andy are taking the class because they like the teacher.  In fact, many  tudents told me that their friends had taken the class and that is why they signed up as well.  A few students mentioned that working with plants was special to them in other ways.  For  Jasper, he likes watering plants in the greenhouse because he can experience a change in the environment when there is water in the atmosphere and on the floor.  Felisha enjoys working with  nature and not doing a lot of writing in class. Her favorite task is transplanting plants.  Faye believes that horticulture class is great for many students, since the learning is both visual and tactile and reaches those who learn in a different way.  Richard and Kenny are taking the class a second time around.  Richard enjoys learning the names of plants and says that there is an endless amount of knowledge to learn still about plants.  For Kenny, he’s hoping to grow watermelons and grapes in the school farm, but will settle for
the lima beans which were one of his favorites last year.

Green house image
Daily watering tasks

The UW Botanic Gardens is partnering with Nathan Hale horticulture classes as well as with students at Nova High School, Ingraham High School and Garfield Teen Center in the area through the Garden-based
Restoration and Outreach Workshops (G.R.O.W.) program.  The Nathan Hale students will undertake a
transformation of an empty site outside of the greenhouse into a farm where
they will grow vegetables.  Site prep and planting have begun and will continue throughout the spring semester.

Nathan Hale Horticulture will be selling their organic hanging baskets, vegetable starts, and bedding plants at their greenhouse site located just north of Jane Addams K-8 School (11051 34th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98125) next month at the following days and times.

May 4 & 5 (WED AND THURS)–2 PM to 6 PM
May 6 (FRI)–1 PM to 6 PM
May 7 (SAT)-9 AM to 1 PM

Plant Sale Season Now in Full Swing

April 28th, 2011 by Tech Librarian, Tracy Mehlin

Trillium chloropetalum

  • FlorAbundance at Warren G. Magnuson Park, Building 30 Saturday, April 30, 9 am to 5 pm Sunday, May 1, 10 am to 2p m Benefits the Washington Park Arboretum
  • Master Gardener Foundation Plant Sale at the Center for Urban Horticulture, Saturday,  May 7,  8 am to 5 pm and Sunday, May 8, 10 am to 3 pm
  • Hardy Fern Foundation’s Fern Festival 2011, Center for Urban Horticulture, Friday, June 3, 1 pm to 6:30 pm and Saturday June 4, 10 am to 2 pm

For a complete list of plant sales all over the Pacific Northwest (especially Washington) check out the Miller Library’s Garden Tours & Plant Sales Calendar!


April 28th, 2011 by UWBG Horticulturist

Purple Martin Condos

Condos at CUH by Constance Sidles

 Yesterday the UW Botanic Gardens staff installed some new condominiums west of the greenhouses near the Center for Urban Horticulture. Oh, not for people, but for purple martins.Purple martins, you see, are our largest swallows, and they have been in decline for a long time. They nest in holes, and they like to live together in a colony. Natural habitat that suits them has vanished from our area, and for a while, so did the martins.

Then about ten years ago, one man — a water quality expert and biologist named Kevin Li — began to install houses for purple martins all over Puget Sound. He put up natural gourds for the birds among the pilings near Ray’s Café in Shilshole Bay, at Fort Lawton,  in Edmonds, and many other places. Birders began to see purple martins again in the skies over Seattle.

Before he died in a diving accident in 2006, Kevin tried twice to install gourds at UBNA. Both times, the gourds were stolen by vandals. After Kevin’s death, no one tried again. 

Until now. A couple months ago, Friends of Yesler Swamp  were brainstorming about how to improve bird habitat in the swamp (the easternmost section of UBNA). Kevin’s efforts were mentioned, and everyone immediately realized: Purple martins belong here.

Within days, the word went out to the birding community: We need money to buy purple martin gourds. Birders responded immediately, donating enough to buy eight state-of-the-art gourds. These gourds are specially designed for purple martins. They are molded from real gourds but made of UV-resistant white plastic to resist mold and reflect the hot sun, so baby birds can stay cool inside. The gourds have a little porch for the birds to perch on, and an entrance hole that is ridged so starlings and other pests cannot enter to take over the nest.

In the course of our brainstorming, David Zuckerman of UW Botanic Gardens remembered  seeing an unused cedar log at the Arboretum which could be repurposed to make a perfect stand to hold the gourds. Jerry Gettel of the Friends offered to assemble the gourds when they arrived from the manufacturer, and make a cedar arm for each one, with cordage to raise and lower the gourds so they can be cleaned when nesting season is over. 

Two weeks later, a small group of staffers gathered near the greenhouses to dig a post hole by hand. When it was deep enough, they hefted the 13-foot post with sheer muscle, and lowered it into the hole. Then they hung up the gourds carefully, one by one. We were all thrilled when the pole went up and the gourds started swinging in the breeze. Inside each gourd are clean cedar chips, waiting for a martin passerby to take note and move in. 

When (not if!!) the purple martins establish a colony at our site, we expect you will be able to see them all summer long, coursing over the waters of Yesler Cove in the heart of Yesler Swamp.  Martins love to hunt for insects over water,  and our site is perfect for them: far enough away from possible predators, close enough to a reliable food source, and within sight of comforting people (martins like us to be nearby). 

All together, our community has created a work of art that will, we hope, bring purple martins back to UBNA and Yesler Swamp. No one of us could have achieved this alone. Like everything else here in this special place, our project succeeded because we all helped, because we all respect nature, and most of all, because we try as best we can to balance the needs of people and wildlife.

As human beings, we each have within us the power to create much of our own environment, at least the cultural parts. What we choose to create is up to us — as individuals, but also as people working together. I hope when we each make our choices about how to act in both our natural and cultural worlds, that we choose to better our environment and bring out the best in each other. 


Purple Martin In Flight

• They catch and eat insects on the fly.

• Native Americans have provided nesting gourds for purple martins for centuries.

• Eastern purple martins like apartment-style houses best; western martins prefer gourds.

• Purple martins like to be around people. They are very gregarious.

• Martins are noisy birds with several different songs and calls. Males have a special song they sing at dawn.

• Males look black in dull light and deep, iridescent purple in bright sunlight.

• Females can lay up to five eggs in one gourd.

• Once eggs are laid, they take only a couple of weeks to hatch. Babies are ready to fly a month after that.

• Purple Martins spend the winter in the Amazon Basin.

• Before they migrate, they get together in large groups and then fly south together.

• Thousands of martins used to sit on the powerlines around Green Lake before their population crashed.

Perennial Plant Trials: Blooms of Bressingham Report 2009-2010

April 27th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes


2009-2010 Blooms of Bressingham Plant Evaluation Profiles

A little introduction:

Since 1997, the Center for Urban Horticulture (CUH) has been the recipient of plants from one of the most prominent names in the perennial plant industry. Blooms of Bressingham (referred to simply as “BLOOMS”) has been a source of the world’s finest perennial plant introductions for many years. Based in the UK with headquarters in North America, they’ve partnered with gardens all around the United States to evaluate the performance of their plants. Each year at CUH, samples are acquired, grown on and planted out in three island beds just west of Merrill Hall and, in recent years, container displays at Washington Park Arboretum. What looks like an extravagant perennial border is actually a test plot where the performance of each variety is scrutinized. Then recommendations and feedback are given back to BLOOMS.

For the 2010, season, we’ve decided to bring back the evaluation program after a few years hiatus. With the assistance of knowledgeable volunteers, BLOOMS has been consistently getting us new plant material and we’ve become a showcase garden for both new and older varieties for people to see before they head out to a local nursery and find these varieties for their own landscapes.

With the gardens changing each growing season with new plants and deletion of older varieties that are no longer performing as well as they should (often times being surpassed by improved selections), our maps are updated regularly and copies can be found at the reception desk at Merrill Hall.

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

April 26th, 2011 by Pat Chinn-Sloan

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum for the 2nd half of April 2011

  1. Chaenomeles x superba ‘Knap Hill Scarlet’
  2. Magnolia ‘Elizabeth’
  3. Malus x purpurea ‘Lemoinei’
  4. Rhododendron augustinii
  5. Viburnum carlesii (Koreanspice viburnum)

Complete details.

Garden-based Restoration and Outreach Workshops (GROW Program): An Introduction

April 19th, 2011 by Barbara Selemon

I am excited to announce that the UW Botanic Gardens received a grant from the Jiji Foundation that has made it possible for the Education staff at the Washington Park Arboretum to reach high school students, an audience currently underserved by our environmental education program.  Thanks to this generous gift this school year, the Garden-based Restoration and Outreach Workgroups (G.R.O.W.) Program was launched in January, 2011 and is actively engaged with three high school classes and one after school teen center program.

The Washington Park Arboretum conducts programs at the Arboretum through their Seedlings and Saplings Program for elementary and middle school students.   As a subset of the newly designed Spruce Program, which focuses on high-school learning, the G.R.O.W. program reaches out to students at their school in recognition that the high school schedule doesn’t allow much time for field trips.  Therefore, the program coordinator visits the school sites and works as a resource manager for each project in the making.

Currently, students in Jessica Torvik’s Horticulture/Ecology classes at Nathan Hale High School are involved in creating a farm to produce organic vegetables on a site surrounding their newly built greenhouse.   Susan Barth’s horticulture class at Nova High School is involved in enhancing a site next to their raised vegetable beds that will invite students to sit down and enjoy the sights and smells of the garden.  Students enlisted in Maggie Rose’s horticulture classes at Ingraham High School will be working on a storm water/rain garden installation at the Center for Urban Horticulture under the guidance of Lisa Haglund, who is utilizing this site as her senior project in completion of a degree in Community, Environment and Planning.  Garfield Teen Center is a public afterschool program that offers a variety of classes to teens, such as music composition and comic book illustration.  Students here will be planting a water farm indoors to grow vegetables for harvest and enjoyment.

As Program Coordinator, I visit each school group and work with them on an individualized plan to learn basic horticulture and specific knowledge related to their projects.   I act as a resource for them to help design and create their garden and to select the right plant for the right place.  Field trips are being planned to the Center for Urban Horticulture and the UW Farm on upper campus during which time the students will partake in a service project as well as tour the sites.   Meanwhile, students will be working on site assessments, soil analyses and plant selection and installation throughout the spring.  By mid-June, projects should be going strong or have had a very good beginning.

By Barbara Selemon

GROW Program Coordinator

Buy a Beautiful Book and Support UBNA

April 18th, 2011 by UWBG Communication Staff

Marilyn Smith Layton has created a book of images called Seasons of Life in the Union Bay Natural Area, and she is donating the profits from the sale of the book to projects in UBNA. The cost of the book is $60, and $20 of that will go to help the natural area.

You may purchase a copy in the Miller Library (cash or check only). If you would like to purchase by mail, please send a check (written out to Marilyn Smith Layton) to:

Marilyn Smith Layton
c/o UW Botanic Gardens
Box 354115
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195

Please include an additional $6 for postage and your mailing address. Books will be sent via USPS.

Seasons of Life has emerged from years of photographing the Union Bay Natural Area:  a sanctuary of renewal and inspiration within the UW Botanic Gardens.

A resident of the nearby neighborhood since 1968, Marilyn walks with camera in hand to capture the lives and light that are forever shifting. When her husband Richard Layton was recovering from a near fatal brain disease in the summer of 2009, they measured his progress by how much of the path he could cover. Slowly he came to walk its full circle again.

Both Marilyn and Richard Layton have close ties and loyalty to the University; Richard graduated in the fifth class of the UW Medical School (1954) and for many years directed a residency program in Family Medicine at Providence Hospital for the university, receiving the 2001 Alumni Service Award from the school. Marilyn completed her doctoral coursework in the UW English Department but a full-time teaching contract from North Seattle Community College prevented her from completing the degree, a choice she has not regretted.

For 40 years until her retirement in December 2008, Marilyn taught writing and literature in the Humanities Division at North Seattle. She continues to serve the college as an executive board member and presently vice-chair of its scholarship-granting Education Fund, and as the secretary of the Seattle Community Colleges Foundation. As an active faculty member, she authored three books, a number of articles, and presented workshops on many topics at
conferences around the country, as well as teaching for short periods in India and Argentina. She has participated in photography and art shows, and a few of her paintings still hang at the college.

Years immersed in a natural history class with science colleagues launched her passion for capturing in photographs the life she observed. She and her husband began to travel widely to wild places like the Antarctic and the Galapagos. Those travels have helped focus her love on what is so close to home: the Union Bay Natural Area.

Proceeds from this book will provide financial support for this well-loved place.

UW Hydrology Study Underway In Holly Collection

April 15th, 2011 by UWBG Horticulturist

Soil test pits indicated by color push pins on map

If any of you have visited the north end of our holly collection in Washington Park Arboretum recently, you probably observed what appears to be a developing wetland. As you may well imagine, standing water where we’re trying to grow healthy hollies just don’t mix very well. See Chris Watson’s post on “Spring Pruning in the Arboretum“.   Why all the standing water? Well, we don’t know.  However, thanks to a collaboration with our School of Forest Resources hydrology professor, Susan Bolton, we may soon have the answers we seek. SFR undergraduate student, Traci Amico, has taken on this investigation as her senior capstone project.  Once we know the source of all the water, we will then be able to plan a viable drainage system that will move the water away from our cherished hollies.  Below is notice for project and will also be posted at site:

  • Notice:  10 soil pits will be dug around the site and monitored on a weekly basis in an effort to determine the source of  flooding in the area.
  • Location:  UW Arboretum, Holly Garden, Lake Washington Blvd and Boyer Ave E
  • Timeframe:  April-May 2011
  • Safety:  Soil pits will be covered and marked with cones

Study Parameters:

I. Soil Pits

a) Data collected from the soil pits will assist in determining soil types and hydrology of the site.

b) After careful consideration of other monitoring processes, soil pits were chosen as the best method for the site because of they are a minimally invasive and relatively inexpensive method of data collection. The pits can be dug with a hand held spade or auger so no heavy machinery will be on the site to further compact the soils. Pits will be dug to no more than 16 inches  and 12 inches in diameter.

c) Pits will be marked with flags and securely covered with plywood to ensure the safety of humans and pets.

d) Exposing soil horizons via soil pits will allow for the visibility of water levels, to ascertain its depth and exposure soil horizons. Monitoring will be done once a week.

e) Suggestions for soil pit locations at the site are below. Google Earth imagery was used.

II. City of Seattle

a) The City of Seattle IT Department has generously offered to let me study   their GIS imagery and plans. With these I will be able to determine the locations of any buried pipes or irrigation and assess the vegetation and hydrology patterns over the years.

III. Google Earth and Aerial Images

a) Google Earth and aerial imaging are both valuable tools in assessing previous vegetation and hydrological patterns at the site due to the historical and 3-D images and ‘real time’ views provided.

Science, Services and Performance of Sustainable Sites

April 15th, 2011 by Tech Librarian, Tracy Mehlin

Date: Wednesday May 18, 2011
Time: 9 am to 3:30 pm
Location: NHS Hall at the Center for Urban Horticulture
Register online.

CUH Dry Stream BedThe Washington Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects and the University of Washington
Botanic Gardens present this symposium on issues surrounding the Sustainable Sites Initiative. This day-long
event will dig into the science behind and intent of the Sustainable Sites Initiative with a focus on how the SITES guidelines can transform our urban ecosystems, horticulture industry, and design and construction practices. Educational sessions and small group dialogue will identify the current obstacles and brainstorm ways to hurdle them. The day will build cross-disciplinary relationships, with focused discussion among horticultural specialists, landscape architects, nursery industry representatives, arborists, planners, scientists, landscape maintenance contractors and city staff.

Keynote address: Urban Ecosystem Services and Their Value by Kathleen Wolf, Ph.D.  Dr. Wolf is a Research Social Scientist with the College of the Environment, University of Washington, and has a joint appointment with the USDA Forest Service Pacific NW Research Station to help develop a program on Urban Natural Resources Stewardship.

  • The What and Why of Sustainable Sites Initiative by David McDonald. Mr. McDonald is a biologist and environmental scientist with Seattle Public Utilities, focusing on soil science and environmentally friendly landscape design and development practices. He serves on the technical core committee of the national Sustainable Sites Initiative.
  • Salmon Safe Program: Local Performance Demonstrated by Ellen Southard. Ms. Southard, Honorary AIA, is the Outreach Coordinator for Salmon Safe and Stewardship Partners. She is a trained community engagement facilitator with 20 years experience advising on low impact development and preservation.
  • Urban Design and Sustainable Sites: Dual Performances or Dueling Performances? by
    Brice Maryman. Mr. Maryman is a landscape architect with SvR Design Company.  His work focuses on making urban systems that are humane, ecologically-responsive, healthy and equitable.
  • Can Nurseries Meet the Objectives of SITES? by Tom Quigley.  Mr. Quigley is the owner and manager of Olympic Nursery in Woodinville, a retail/wholesale nursery and landscape installation firm specializing in trees, and past president of WSNLA.
  • Breakout group discussions and reporting on solutions and next steps

Cost: $75, lunch included.
Available credits: LAs, WSNLA, APLD WA, ISA
Contact: Jean Robins at 206-685-8033.

Symposium flyer and print registration form.

April Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

April 14th, 2011 by Pat Chinn-Sloan

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum for April 2011

  1. Berberis buxifolia (Magellan Barberry or Calafate)
  2. Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’/li>
  3. Magnolia x soulagiana ‘Rustica Rubra’
  4. Prunus x yedoensis (Tokyo cherry)
  5. Prunus x yedoensis ‘Akebono’

Complete details.