CUH Update – Sprimmer 2011: There is NO summer!

August 2nd, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Things certainly ramped up since my last post on here hence the absence of updates, but it’s been a busy past few months here at the Center for Urban Horticulture Grounds. There are several exciting new projects underway and our regular summer regiment is in full swing with regular volunteers that have helped what is now a two person crew to oversee all of CUH Grounds since our third colleague left. It’s been stressful, at times disheartening, to see colleagues leave or hours cut because our budgets are whittled down to the point where “do less with less” is the new mantra.

Like I’ve said before, plants and nature move on and grow and so we should do the same. There’s so many beautiful things in the garden right now such as our bizarre and highly unusual “Plant Profile” for August, but the weather has been so variable and relatively cool as things are incredibly late this year. Comparing photographs from previous years, we’re easily three, even four weeks behind where we were last year. We wonder if our late season bloomers will ever mature in time as leaves are sort of beginning to change color and gardeners joke that we could have frost as soon as tomorrow! Slowly things are catching up, but that doesn’t mean we’re ahead either. Weeding has been constant and certain areas just have to sit until we are able to get to them. My thanks to those who have left neat little piles of fireweed and thistle for us to pick up. =)

The number of projects we have is certainly overwhelming, but at the same time, very exciting and much anticipated! One of those projects is certainly an exciting endeavor that will hopefully get the UW Community more involved. A site just Northwest of the main CUH complex is being prepared as an expansion of the current Seattle Youth Garden Works site as a partnership between Seattle Tilth and the UW Farm. Seattle Youth Garden Works has been farming at CUH for almost 10 years  and recently teamed up with the UW Farm to expand production.  With its humble origins along the Burke-Gilman trail adjacent to the UW Botany Greenhouse in campus, the UW Farm been encouraged to expand in the hopes of growing the program and having a far greater impact not only for those taking part, but for the surrounding communities that would benefit from their hard work producing organic, sustainably grown produce. You can purchase produce from the site at the Seattle Youth Garden Works booth at the U-District farmers market. For more information on the partnership between Seattle Tilth and the UW Urban Farm, please contact Robert Servine, SYGW Farm Coordinator – robertservine@seattletilth.org or (206)633-0451 x102 and Michelle Venetucci Harvey, UW Student Farm – michelle@uwfarm.org

Just north of their site is the run-down “Soundscapes” Garden that has received very little attention over the years. Once a demonstration garden, it has been overtaken by blackberries, horsetail and other unwanted weeds. Some of the original woody plants still add structure , but it is in dire need of a revamp as it is essentially the  front door to the center. A few months ago, the newly formed Hardy Plant Society of Washington proposed to take over the site to design, install, and regularly maintain the garden. A group of plant savvy, highly passionate gardeners is required to refurbish that site and it will be no easy task. Negotiations are underway, but we are all anxious to give this part of CUH a much needed face-lift.

Speaking of face-lifts, these prominent gardens will see some dramatic changes in the next couple of months:
The McVay Courtyard is undergoing a re-design by the original designer, UW landscape-architect professor Iain Robertson. He aims to have more architectural elements and much needed color interest. Like any large project, it will be done in phases and it will depend a lot on events scheduled and, of course, the budget.

Artists painting watercolors of the Soest Garden on a rare sunny day this summer.

The Soest Garden will see one of its large Parrotia persica trees removed this fall to be replaced with a different species. The trees have outgrown their space in the raised beds. Its been overdue for a revamp because the original plan was to replant shade trees every ten years to showcase different species that serve the purpose of providing shade to  perennials growing underneath.


On a smaller scale, we have another project installed and through the 1st phase of its completion and that’s the rain garden at the base of the south-facing Stormwater slope. Students and volunteers have prepared the site and have begun planting natives to take advantage of an ideal situation to collect excess stormwater and by having plants there, they improve the water quality of surrounding bodies of water by reducing the amount of potential pollutants flowing through. For more information on this project please contact David Zuckerman
Neighborhood support and involvement has also grown as Friends of Yesler Swamphave had several work parties these past few months. A Union Bay East Basin development grant is in progress and is currently in a design phase.

A lot going on and a lot to look forward to, that’s for sure. Please take some time to visit us and witness our slow progress and if you’ve got some time to share your expertise, there are volunteer opportunities both here and at Washington Park Arboretum.

I hope everyone has a great “sprimmer” and we’ll catch up again come Autumn!

Cheers,

Riz (and Tracy…thanks for the links and edits!)

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August 2011 Plant Profile: Eucomis bicolor

August 2nd, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Pineapple lilies are gaining popularity as gardeners are finally giving them a chance! Though somewhat marginally hardy and very tropical in appearance, a handful of species and hybrids do quite well here in the Pacific Northwest given that they receive excellent drainage (especially during the winter) and regular watering during the growing season. Eucomis bicolor is one of the more common and easily sought after species as it truly showcases why this genus is known as “pineapple lily”

Eucomis bicolor about to flower in late July

The strappy foliage, sometimes mottled in purple on the undersides, is attractive by itself, but emerging from the center is this alien-like creature about to invade.

Common Name: Pineapple Lily
Family: Asparagaceae
Location: Soest Garden Bed 8
Origin: South Africa
Height: 12-15″
Spread: Can form a clump 2-3 feet wide after many years
Bloom Time: Late July-August
Bloom Type/Color: Cylindrical raceme on stout stems with
cream white florets streaked in purple and unpleasantly
scented observed up close. Green bracts on top that create a “pineapple” look.
Exposure/Water/Soil:Full sun/part shade in well-drained soil. Regular irrigation.

An immature inflorescence of E. bicolor

A stem of E. bicolor in full bloom last summer in August.


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