Early Rhododendrons Blooming at the Washington Park Arboretum

February 28th, 2012 by UWBG Horticulturist

cuttings photo
1)  Rhododendron arboreum hybrid

  • The earliest, longest blooming rhododendron in the Arboretum (November-March!)
  • Due to its floriferous nature, even in the coldest winters when it sustains bud blast from a deep freeze, it usually never fails to flower afterwards.
  • Located in Witt Winter Garden, this rhododendron is worthy of naming and becoming a WPA plant selection.

2) Rhododendron ‘Cilpinense’

  • Hybrid between parents of two Chinese spp., Rh. ciliatum and Rh. moupinense
  • Compact, low-growing rhododendron that blooms in late February into March
  • Nice grouping located in Winter Garden, bed F

3) Rhododendron mucronulatum ‘Cornell Pink’

  • My personal favorite harbinger of spring rhododendron
  • Species is native to Korea, a.k.a. Korean rhododendron
  • Can’t miss ‘em beginning to flower at north end of Azalea Way, x from GVC

4)  Rhododendron ririei

  • Large rhododendron, best in partial-shade for vivid magenta-purple color to show
  • Native to Mt. Omei, W. Szechwan and flowers late February – early March.
  • This specimen is located in Loderi Valley, southwest bed with hemlock cvs

 5)  Rhododendron strigillosum

  • Rare, rich red flowering rhododendron in late February – early March
  • Stiff, bristly leaf-stalks and narrowly-oblong leaves provide added texture and show

Several new specimens located in Witt Winter Garden.

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February Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum:
“Excellent Evergreens”

February 23rd, 2012 by Pat Chinn-Sloan
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum for February 2012

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (February 13 - 27, 2012)

1) Eucalyptus pauciflora ssp. niphophila    (Alpine Snow Gum)

  • Known for distinct blue-green foliage
  • Slower growing than other Eucalyptus species
  • Located north of the Pacific Connections Garden, east of the Lookout parking lot

2) Lithocarpus densiflorus    (Tanbark Oak)

  • Native to California and southern Oregon, easily grown in Seattle
  • Highly susceptible to Sudden Oak Death
  • Found north of Rhododendron Glen

3) Maytenus boaria    (Mayten Tree)

  • Known for fine textured foliage
  • Native to Chile
  • Located near Rhododendron Glen and the Camellias

4) Quercus suber    (Cork Oak)

  • Corky bark harvested for wine corks and dartboards
  • Native to Spain and Portugal
  • Found near along Arboretum Drive near the Giant Sequoias

5) Sycopsis sinensis    (Chinese Fighazel)

  • A relative of the witch hazel
  • Extremely rare in Seattle
  • Located near Pacific Connections Australia Entry Garden
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UWBG Goes to Cuba!

February 22nd, 2012 by Sarah Reichard

I was a very small child during the Cuban Missile Crisis but I was old enough to know that my parents were quite upset about something. I knew what “bomb” meant and when I heard that word I was very frightened. It is, in fact, one of my earliest memories. I am from the generation that grew up with families installing bomb shelters and in school we used to have drills where we “ducked and covered” in the hallway (I am not sure just how that was supposed to help in case of a nuclear bomb).Cuba image

But even as a child, I knew that there was more to Cuba. Its history is fascinating, with stories of the original inhabitants, the Arawak people, emerging from their villages in 1492 to greet Christopher Columbus with gifts of thread and parrots. Sadly, his log also notes on October 14th that they apparently had little notion of fighting and he was able to capture seven to bring to back to Europe.

Cuba then became a Spanish colony for hundreds of years until the Spanish-American War lead to withdrawal of the Spanish in 1898 and the establishment of an independent government in 1902. It is interesting that the United States fought for Cuban independence but then just a few decades later, became completely estranged amid hostilities. It just underscores the complicated nature of our relationship with our close neighbor to the south.
As a forbidden place, it holds allure. We hear stories about the classic old cars still in use because new cars are not an option. In school we learned about the Cuban revolution, Batista, Castro, and “Che” Guevara. There have been air and boat lifts of refuges in the news periodically. The country seems beautiful, mysterious, adventurous, and tragic all at once.

In the early to mid 1990s, after the collapse Cuba imageof the Soviet Union, Cubans entered their “Special Period.” This time may illustrate the resilience of the Cuban people more than almost any other time in their tumultuous history. Without the input of petroleum from the Soviet Union, and faced with hunger and enormous deprivation, Cubans demonstrated their resourcefulness. They learned to live with reduced transportation and completely overhauled their agricultural systems, using fewer tractors and fertilizers produced from petroleum products. They developed a creative organic agricultural system that included not only fields of crops, but urban agriculture in vacant lots and rooftops.

When President Obama lifted some travel restrictions, allowing U.S. citizens to visit Cuba on a special license, and when a representative of Holbrook Travel, the company that UWBG worked with last year to offer atour of Chile, mentioned that they were able to organize these tours, I jumped in! I applied to the U.S. Department of Treasury for one of their “People to People” licenses and, after waiting, providing more information, and waiting some more, it was granted.

Holbrook has planned a wonderful trip for us. We will be visiting botanic gardens, meeting their staff and scientists and consulting with some of the urban farmers in Havana to learn how they make the most of every square inch they farm. I am really looking forward to our visit to the Zapata National Park, which is part of UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, where we will be guided on a walk by a professor from the University of Las Villas. In addition to the great plants and animals we will see, I am looking forward to the walking tour of Old Havana, seeing those old cars (and maybe a ’56 Mercury Monterey – my grandmother’s car that I drove in high school!), and maybe going out to hear some Cuban music.

I am not expecting to be able to send emails from Cuba, so I won’t be able to blog from there, but when I return in early March I will describe some of our adventures. So don’t go too far!

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Where in the Arboretum is this?

February 22nd, 2012 by Sarah Heller, Community Programs Coordinator & Fiddleheads Forest School Director

The Washington Park Arboretum is full of quiet nooks, unusual plants, and hidden groves where our imagination can run free and our curiosity is hooked.  Bring your family and come find this special spot!

Sequoia trees in the Pinetum collection

Who are they? This is a grove of sequoia trees, also known as:

 Giant sequoia – Sierra redwood – Sequoiadendron giganteum – big-tree – mammoth-tree

 

Did you know?

These giant trees are all more than 70 years old and the tallest is 139 feet tall and 13 feet and 11 inches round.

The word “sequoia” contains all five vowels.

This quiet grove of sequoia trees is a favorite destination of our school groups and summer camps. We might play meet-a-tree or hide-and-seek, or eat our lunch in their shade or discover how trees grow and reproduce, and act out a tree’s life cycle.

 

To find this place you have to cross this:

Photo of the wilcox bridge

 

And walk to the left of this:

 Photo of the play structure

 

Why don’t you come and visit these friendly giants? You could:

  • Play hide and seek
  • Feel their bark and find a cone
  • Have a picnic underneath these mysterious mammoths
  • Find out how many humans it takes to wrap around one
  • Read a story sitting against one of their trunks (all available at CUH’s Miller Library)
    • The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
    • A Grand Old Tree by Mary Newell DePalma
    • Ancient Ones: The World of the Old-Growth Douglas Fir by Barbara Bash
    • A Tree is Growing by Arthur Dorros

 

  • Act out the life cycle of a tree!

Become a seed (curl up in a tight ball) – Now sprout! (Uncurl and kneel) – Grow a branch by sticking out one of your arms – Grow another branch, stick out the other arm – Grow leaves (wiggle your fingers) = Grow tall (stand up, feet together) – Grow roots (spread your feet apart) – Grow rootlets (wiggle your toes) – Oh no! You are being attacked by insects and fungi (start scratching all over – Lose a limb to lighting (make a loud noise and put your arm by your side) – Become a home for wildlife (smile!) – Woodpeckers looking for insects start exploring your dead wood (make a knocking noise) – You are blown down (make a creaking noise and fall down) – Become a nurse log, a new seed sprouts from rotting wood (stick one arm up).

 

  • Play a game!

I Like Trees

One person stands in the middle and everyone else finds a tree to stand in front of. Have each person mark their tree by putting a bandana, backpack or other visible item in front of it. The person standing in the middle (not next to a tree) says “I like___” and fills in the blank with something they like (could be about trees, or anything!). If other people like that thing too then they leave their tree and have to find another tree to touch (one with a marking in front of it). The person who called out “I like ____” also tries to find a tree to stand in front of. One person will be left without a tree and then it is their turn to stand in the middle and say “I like___” about something. Keep playing until everyone has had a turn in the middle.

 

Tree Tag

This is a great game for younger kids. Have each kid pick a tree. Maybe encourage them to get to know their tree a bit before the game starts. When you say “tree” or “sequoia” (or whatever word you decide to be the “go” word) the kids run and touch another tree. Do this over and over and the kids will love running from tree to tree and waiting for you to call out the word. Mix it up a little and say other words to help build the anticipation before you say your “go” word.

 

Resources:

Jacobson, A. L. (2006). Trees of seattle. (2nd ed., pp. 362-363). Seattle: Arthur Lee Jacobson.

 

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Student Capstone Experience in Habitat Restoration at Union Bay Natural Area

February 17th, 2012 by Caitlin Guthrie
Yesler Swamp Student Restoration Team

Yesler Swamp student restoration team at a habitat restoration work party. Photo by Lewis E. Johnson.

One of the many engaging courses offered to the undergraduate and graduate students at the Center for Urban Horticulture is the Restoration Capstone Sequence. In this course, students of different academic backgrounds work together to complete a local ecological restoration project. Students plan, design, install, and monitor a restoration project while working in teams over the course of eight months, beginning in fall of each year.

Clients in the community, including local governments, utilities, non-profits and private firms, submit RFP’s (requests for proposals) to the UW Restoration Ecology Network concerning restoration opportunities. This year, students are working on projects at Pierce College Lakewood Campus, Cotton Hill Park, North Creek Forest, Richmond Beach Saltwater Park, Ravenna Park, Yesler Creek (near Burke Gilman Trail) and Union Bay Natural Area.

Yesler Swamp Map

Map of the restoration site from students’ Work Plan. Pie charts show the initial relative cover of invasive plant species. The upper left hand portion of the map is the SE corner of the Center for Urban Horticulture’s parking lot.

A seven-student, multidisciplinary team is partnering with Friends of Yesler Swamp to restore a portion of the Union Bay Natural Area to native Puget Sound forest. The site was highly disturbed and much of it was dominated by invasive plant species, specifically Himalayan blackberry.

For the past few weekends, the team has been hard at work, coordinating and executing habitat restoration volunteer events to remove the invasive plants. Many of their volunteers to date have been undergraduate students with little to no previous exposure to natural systems and the field of restoration ecology.

After completing site preparation, the student team will cover much of the site with organic wood chip mulch and plant a structurally and biologically diverse suite of native forested wetland and upland plant species.

To keep up to date on the Yesler Swamp student restoration project and to join in future volunteer habitat restoration events, check out the Restore Yesler Swamp Facebook page.

For more information on the innovative and award-winning UW Restoration Ecology Network:

UW Restoration Ecology Network Website

Article in Science Magazine on the Restoration Ecology Network capstone program

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February 2012 Plant Profile: Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’

February 14th, 2012 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn' in the Fragrance Garden at CUH

This month’s plant profile showcases one of the showiest and most reliably fragrant, winter blooming shrubs. According to Great Plant Picks, it is a “tough shrub grows best in full sun to light or open shade. It prefers well-drained soil, but will tolerate sandy sites or clay if the drainage is adequate. It is drought tolerant once established, but flowering will be more profuse if it receives occasional water during dry weather. Little pruning is needed to maintain an attractive plant.”

A close up of the fragrant winter flowers of Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn'

Common Name: Bodnant Viburnum/Dawn Viburnum
Family: Adoxaceae
Location: CUH-Fragrance Garden
Origin: Garden Origin: Bodnant Gardens in Wales, UK.
Height and spread: 8ft. high and 10ft. wide.
Bloom Time: Winter

This is a lovely shrub for the urban garden as it works wonderfully as a background plant during the growing season with its dark green, bronze foliage that have a rugged texture. It simply lights up in the winter time as it flowers and on a warm day, the delicious scent of warm sugary vanilla and lilac wafts in the air. Truly exquisite and, as mentioned, a reliable shrub for the Pacific Northwest.

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The value of getting kids outside

February 8th, 2012 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan

I had the pleasure of attending the NW Flower & Garden Show Preview Gala last night, hosted by the Arboretum Foundation in partnership with Seattle Audubon. It was a good time and I was given the honor or saying a few words to drum up donor support for the UWBG Education & Outreach Program here at the Arb. One of the questions that Dick, the emcee, fired my way had to do with the value of getting kids outside into places like the WPA. I fumbled a bit, but said something about how being in nature can at once calm the mind while stimulating it, and how volumes have been written about the benefits associated with being outdoors.
I thought about this question some more on my bike ride to work this morning (when I normally do my best thinking). It dawned on me that the ultimate goal of environmental education has got to be establishing a sense of belonging to something bigger than oneself – to feel a kinship with the world around us. We humans are not above or separate from life on earth; we’re merely part of it, “cogs in a wheel” as Aldo Leopold would say.
The value of getting kids outside and allowing them to explore the world around them is crucial in establishing this kinship. When it doesn’t happen, a disconnect results and we end up with a citizenry that thinks food comes from grocery stores, and energy from light switches. We end up with economies based on perpetual growth that don’t calculate true costs and carrying capacities. And we end up with governments that only look out for their own best interests; forests, reefs, and ice-caps be damned! Contrary to popular practice, natural resources like clean air/water/soil, petroleum/wood/fish, are not limitless. Those who see the birds and trees as equals know this and act accordingly, but unfortunately, we are a minority.
But we’re still here and we’re recruiting! If you’re picking up what I’m putting down, join us in any way that works for you. Send your kids to our upcoming Spring Break Camp; take a Weekend Walk with us any Sunday of the month; volunteer with us to lead School Fieldtrips or remove invasive weeds; become an Arboretum Foundation member; or simply step outside and take a hike! John Muir perhaps said it best, “in every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” And after receiving, think about how you can give back to ensure that generations to come have something to receive as well.

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Plants and Birds! A Preview of the Arboretum Foundation Display Garden at the NW Flower and Garden Show

February 8th, 2012 by Pat Chinn-Sloan
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum for February 1-14, 2012

A Preview of the Arboretum Foundation Display Garden at the NW Flower and Garden Show (Feb. 8 - 12, 2012)

1) Arbutus menziesii    (Pacific Madrone)

  • Found throughout the west coast of North America.
  • The bark is a rich orange that peels away on mature wood. Mature trees provide nesting cavities for birds.
  • Many birds feed on the berries including American Robins, Cedar Waxwings and Varied Thrush.

2) Corylus maxima   ‘Atropurpurea Superba’

  • The purple leaf filbert is known for its beautiful burgundy foliage and festive catkins.
  • Related trees include alder, birch and hornbeams.
  • The nuts are often referred to as cobnuts, indicating something round and plump.
  • Birds and wildlife are very attracted to the nuts and catkins of the hazelnut bush.

3) Berberis aquifolia    (Oregon Grape)

  • A beautiful, tall, native evergreen related to barberry, frequently used as an ornamental shrub.
  • They have tough evergreen leaves, edible dark blue fruit and attractive yellow flowers.
  • Birds are attracted to the food and cover that the Oregon Grape provides.

4) Picea abies    (Norway Spruce)

  • The Norway spruce is one of the most widely planted spruces both inside and outside of its native range in Europe.
  • The cones of the Norway Spruce are the longest of any spruce.
  • Birds love the habitat the dense foliage spruce provides for nesting and cover.

5) Vaccinium ovatum    (Evergreen Huckleberry)

  • A remarkable native evergreen shrub that grows in sun or shade.
  • It produces beautiful light, pink bell-shaped flowers followed by edible blue berries.
  • The berries, produced in late summer, are eaten by a wide variety of birds.
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Phytophthora Resistant Port Orford Trials Underway in Washington Park Arboretum

February 7th, 2012 by UWBG Horticulturist

The future health outlook bodes well for what many consider to be our finest native conifer in the PNW, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, Port Orford cedar and its many cultivars.   Port Orford cedars have been under seige for many years from its worst enemy Phytophtora lateralis, a soil-borne pathogen that is especially virulent in wet soils, and essentially spells a death-sentence to this majestic tree once its roots are infected. There is no cure, but there is a preventative practice known as plant resistance. Dr. Everett Hansen at Oregon State University has developed a Phytophthora lateralis resistant root stock. And now, thanks to the development and research labs of Monrovia, they have introduced into the trade numerous Port Orford cultivars grafted with the phytophthora resistant root stock. These grafted Port Orfords are known as The GUARDIAN Series .

Through a generous donation from Monrovia, the Washington Park Arboretum will be trialing 6 GUARDIAN Series Port Orford cultivars, as well as, the type species grown on its own root. We have chosen 5 known “hot-spots” (either cultured or symptomatic of phytophthora infested soils) throughout the arboretum. There are 2 specimens each of the cultivars and the type. We’ll be monitoring and reporting on their growth and health for a period of 5 years. Knowing the extensive research and development that has gone into The GUARDIAN Series Port Orfords, after the 5-year trial, I expect a 100% survival-rate. Stay tuned for periodic updates on this exciting plant trial study.

 

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Washington Park Arboretum Oaks Rescued

February 7th, 2012 by UWBG Arborist, Chris Watson

Along with the constant rain and drizzle, winter in the Pacific Northwest often brings the occasional wind and snow events.  Damage to trees (and caused by trees!) is inevitable following these storms.  While wind events tend to cause the most spectacular tree failures, snow loads have been known to fell their fair share of limbs.  Damage to Arboretum trees has been lower than expected during the course of the most recent snow; however, our evergreen oak collection in Rhododendron Glen took a severe hit.

A 60-foot Canyon Live Oak (Quercus chrysolepis) uprooted, damaging another Canyon Live Oak and a Huckleberry Oak (Quercus vaccinifolia). The structure and foliage of these evergreen oaks provides a unique feel to this area of the Arboretum.  Preserving these trees was a high priority as losing them would be a dramatic loss.  In fact, the large Canyon Live Oak and the Huckleberry Oak are listed among the best specimens in the city in Arthur Lee Jacobson’s Trees of Seattle.

The tall Canyon Live Oak has an interesting history, as well.  Plant records indicate that this tree was grown from seed collected by Carl English Jr., for whom the botanic garden at the Ballard locks is named.

After a careful inspection, no root decay or extensive damage was observed on the large Canyon Live Oak.  Through the use of ropes, pulleys and a tractor, the tree was pulled upright, and supported by cables to a nearby tree.  After carefully installing a couple of braces, or steel rods, the smaller live oak will be spared a severe pruning.  As for the huckleberry oak, a minor crack in the main stem will be supported with a cable.

News stories following winter storms are often portray trees in a negative light.  However, through proper care and maintenance, most trees can withstand our seasonal storms.  Sometimes, when given a chance, the trees that receive the brunt end of Mother Nature’s fury can be given a new lease on life.  After all, trees are not only a vital component of our urban forest; they are one of our regions defining characteristics.


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