In the Arboretum with the total station and other milestones

November 30th, 2012 by Tech Librarian, Tracy Mehlin

The Leica Builder theodolite is a central part of the total station.

In August 2012 UWBG was awarded a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to create a georeference database of the living collections. The first phase involves surveying in the Washington Park Arboretum.

Where are the monuments?

On a sunny autumn day a team of UW students, UWBG staff and team leader Jim Lutz headed down the East Arboretum trail to the Meadow with a shiny, new total station. They were on a mission to track down monuments that define the grid used to map Arboretum plant accessions. Once a monument was found they used the total station to determine the location in real space. (more photos below)

Total what?

A total station is a collection of equipment, such as a Leica Builder theodolite, tribrach, tripods, and prisms, that is used to measure distance and slope. A team of two or three people use it together to measure coordinates. Most of us have seen a total station in use by transportation survey crews. Low tech equipment like measuring tapes and marking paint are also used to do the job.

Making progress: georeferenced database project milestones

After months of preparation the  Otis Douglas Hyde Herbarium records are now integrated into the BG-Base plant records database which means that a search now returns records for both plant accessions and vouchers. Vouchers are pressed plant material that serve to document and archive living collections while also supporting species identification.

Another milestone completed was scanning the print copies of grid squares. These print maps record where individual trees and shrubs grow with a dot and accession ID number. As plants are added, moved or removed the print maps are redrawn with updated information. As grid corner monuments are surveyed the corresponding scanned map will then be imported as a layer into ArcGIS Desktop and each plant accession will be clicked to essentially digitize the print map.

This is a portion of grid 35-2E. The scanned maps will be digitized the information incorporated into the georeferenced database.

The green dots represent the monuments recently surveyed and entered into an ArcGIS Map project with layers of city streets, park trails, an aerial view and the Arboretum grid map.

November 10th day in the field photos


Holiday Art, Craft, and Gift Sale Starts Dec. 7

November 27th, 2012 by Tech Librarian, Tracy Mehlin

Just a few examples of the artwork and hand-made crafts on sale in the Miller Library starting December 7.

Get your holiday shopping done early and support local artists and artisans! Starting December 7th, we’ll have a selection of locally made arts and crafts available for purchase at the Miller Library.

Choose from:

Items will be available to purchase at the library from December 7 – 21, 2012. Join us for refreshments at the opening reception on Friday, December 7th from 5pm to 7pm. There is no entrance fee.

Location: Elisabeth C. Miller Library, 3501 NE 41st Street, Seattle, WA, 98105

*Cash or Check only please! 25% of proceeds benefit the Miller Library.*

Want to visit Cuba? Come with us in February 2013!

November 20th, 2012 by Tech Librarian, Tracy Mehlin

Cuba image

The Fund for Reconciliation and Development, in association with UWBG, is proud to offer a people to people study tour to Cuba led by UWBG director, Professor Sarah Reichard. The 10 day tour includes visits to botanic gardens, organic farms, nature preserves, and historic national parks.

The deadline to register has been extended to January 2.

The fee includes a tax deductible donation to UWBG that funds the Education program.

For more information contact Sandy Schmidt at 877-907-5360 or email

Fall Scavenger Hunt at the Arboretum – Fruits & Nuts

November 16th, 2012 by Sarah Heller, Community Programs Coordinator & Fiddleheads Forest School Director

Our Fruits & Nuts scavenger hunt highlights some often missed collections and specimens that are particularly interesting for their persistent seeds. From crabapples and roses to ashes and oaks this scavenger hunt has something for everyone! Birds are active on trees with brightly colored fruit so keep your eye out for some feathered companions along your way. Complete the scavenger hunt and you can collect a small, seasonal prize.

Grab your friends and family, print your clue sheet or pick one up at the Graham Visitor Center and come explore some fall highlights. Follow the white painted cones to find the clues.

The scavenger hunt will be available on Tuesday 11/20 and run through Sunday 12/9. You can pick up a clue sheet at the Graham Visitor center, which is open from 10am-4pm 7 days a week .



Q: Where does the scavenger hunt begin?

A: At the strawberry tree directly in front of the big greenhouse (dark evergreen leaves and bright red fruits). Exit the east side of the visitor center (back towards parking lot), walk to the parking lot and turn right. Walk towards the greenhouse the tree will be on your right.

Q: What is the scavenger hunt about?

A: The scavenger hunt highlights fruits and nuts that are on display at this time of year. It is a loop exploring a variety of collections and specimens that have unique or unusual fruits and nuts.

Q: Who is the scavenger hunt for?

A: The scavenger hunt is designed for families, but anyone can do it. There are purple painted tree cones along the way to help people navigate. There are also written directions on the clue sheet.

Q: I’m interested in doing this at a future time/date. Can I get the clue sheet online?

A: Yes, you can get it at the link below. Also, you can pick up and drop off clue sheets outside the visitor center when it is closed – there will be a sign with folders attached to it.

Clue sheet for fall scavenger hunt

Huntington Workshop

November 16th, 2012 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan

I just got back from a week-long interpretation workshop sponsored and hosted by the Huntington Botanical Gardens in Pasadena, CA. Everything about it was great…the weather, the people, the location, all of it.

There were 10 of us in attendance (5 men and 5 women) from all across the country (NH, CT, MI, WI, IL NC, IA, CA, VA). Most were from other public gardens, a couple were from science centers, and one was from a natural history museum. Coincidentally, one of the attendees was a former colleague from my days at Norfolk Botanical Garden in Virginia – small world.

The Huntington is a national treasure. Part library, part art gallery, part botanical garden, its various collections are both significant and cherished. The 200 acre site and its handful of buildings is the former estate of Henry Huntington. With the help of his right hand man William Hertrich, Huntington spent the first half of the 20th century converting this former citrus farm into the impeccably kept grounds one sees today. With over 14,000 different varieties of plants showcased in more than a dozen unique garden areas, a week is hardly enough time to take it all in, but I had fun trying.

In 2006, work was completed on a 2000 square-foot, multimillion dollar glass conservatory that enabled the Huntington to expand their plant collection to include exotic tropicals and afforded an excellent opportunity for year-round educational interpretation. The exhibition featured in the conservatory, “Plants Are Up to Something”, won top honors from the American Associations of Museums in 2007. The space itself was the brain-child of Jim Folsom, the Director of the gardens, while the success of the exhibition was due in large part to the hard work and careful planning of Kitty Connolly, one of our workshop leaders. Rachel Vourlas, the other leader, worked as a gardener during the installation and was responsible for planting much of what can be seen thriving in there today.

Kitty is a strong proponent of interactivity when it comes to exhibits, and this m.o. was apparent in the format of our workshop as well. The first couple days consisted of a general overview of museum exhibitions, including several presentations from guest interpreter extraordinaire, Beverly Serrel, who has been in the biz for 40 years and quite literally written the book(s) on the subject. During this time we also got a behind the scenes look at the “Plants Are Up to Something” for inspiration.

For the next couple days we were each assigned a partner and asked to develop a prototype for an exhibit intended to go live at one of our own sites. I was paired with Jan from the Sarah P. Duke Garden, the “crown jewel of Duke University”, and we decided to work on an exhibit I’ve proposed to install at UWBG that aims to engage citizen scientists with the phenology of local native plants.

On Saturday, we were given the opportunity to try out our prototypes on actual Huntington visitors. This experience was a little nerve-racking, a lot of fun, and provided extremely valuable insights into the minds of our audience. If you’re interested in being a guinea pig, be on the lookout in the coming months for a prototype near you!

Our final 2 days were spent diving deeper into what goes into making a successful exhibition, and one evaluation technique developed by Beverly called Excellent Judges. We used one of the Huntington’s own exhibitions, “Beautiful Science”, to try it out. While sharing our individual impressions over a dim-sum lunch, what struck me most was the wide range of opinions amongst the group. Beauty (and in this case science) truly is in the eye of the beholder.

The take-home that I bring back is that it is an impossible task to create an exhibition that pleases everybody, and any attempt to do so is an exercise in futility. That said, museum exhibitions are important tools in bridging the academic world with the world that most of us live in. They enable us to reach so many more people than programs and tours and use our collections to better pursue our mission. The mission of the UWBG is to sustain managed to natural ecosystems through plant research, display and education. With this mission in mind, in the coming year we will be developing a series of interpretive loops at the Washington Park Arboretum, and if funding can be secured, we look forward to bringing these to you in the not too distant future…stay tuned.

November Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

November 16th, 2012 by Pat Chinn-Sloan

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum for November 12-25, 2012

1)   Callicarpa sp.      Beautyberry

  • When the late autumn landscape seems to offer little in the way of vibrant color, the upright shrub, Callicarpa shows us that it has some local Husky pride.  Grown mainly for their clusters of small, bead-like fruit, the Callicarpa species are ideal for a colorful shrub border.
  • Native primarily to China, Japan, and Korea, Callicarpa is a member of the plant family, Verbenaceae.
  • This specimen can be found in our field nursery near Arboretum Drive.

2)   Decaisnea insignis        Dead Man’s Fingers

  • An interesting deciduous shrub within the family Lardizabalaceae, Decaisnea certainly gets noticed when it bears its dullish blue fruit.
  • Native to Western China.
  • This specimen can be seen from Arboretum Drive, just west of the Peonies Collection.

3)   Euonymus myrianthus

  • The fruits of this upright shrub are yellow, but their full beauty is only attained when they ripen and split, exposing the seeds which become orange-scarlet in December.
  • Known commonly as Spindle trees, Euonymus are members of the family, Celastraceae.
  • Native to Western China.

4)   Pieris japonica   ‘Crispa’

  • Evergreen shrub native to the Himalayas, East Asia, North America and the West Indies.
  • Can be found in the Rhododendron Glen.

5)   Zanthoxylum piperitum       Japan Pepper

  • Spiny, tree-like shrub with spherical red fruit.
  • Located in the Rutaceae Collection, near the current pedestrian detour trail.

UWBG Recognizes Volunteer Contributions

November 14th, 2012 by Tech Librarian, Tracy Mehlin

Written by Cassie Benz

On October 18, 2012, UW Botanic Gardens and the Arboretum Foundation celebrated their volunteers with an annual Volunteer Recognition event.  We enjoyed fabulous food, from delectable appetizers to yummy barbecue to delicious desserts.  Directors Sarah Reichard and Paige Miller graciously honored our volunteers, speaking of their dedication and importance to UWBG and the Foundation.  This past year UWBG volunteers contributed 6,258 hours and Foundation volunteers contributed 13,931 hours.

Sharlene Walsh was the Arboretum Foundation Volunteer-of-the-Year.  Molly Cleland received the annual Brian O. Mulligan UWBG Volunteer Award.  Many thanks go to Sharlene, Molly and all our volunteers.

 Become a volunteer and join the fun!

WPA Historic Event: Tree Transplants for the Ages

November 11th, 2012 by UWBG Horticulturist

90″ root balls ready to go.

I think it’s safe to say that history was made last Tuesday, Nov. 6, and it had nothing to do with election day. It was the day the largest trees ever, 3 “Southern Beeches”, were transplanted in the arboretum to their new homes in the construction of the New Zealand focal forest of Pacific Connections Garden.

Here are the “WOW!” factoids:

  • Big Trees of Snohomish and Magnum Crane from Kent, accomplished the amazing feat.
  • It took a 175 Ton crane to do the job!
  • Their rootballs each weighed between 12,000 and 20,000 lbs!
  • The trees were between 30′- 40′ tall with up to 20′ canopy spreads!
  • Their trunks were between 8″-10″ calipers!

Utube video provided by AF staff, Rhonda Bush

Let’s wish these trees luck in adapting and establishing into their new home.

Hoisting up via crane

Photos taken by Todd Holms of Big Trees this one showing one of these Goliath trees suspended by crane over its new home.

WPA Goes Hollywood: Release of film “The Details”

November 11th, 2012 by UWBG Horticulturist

It’s been a few years since many of our staff witnessed a film shoot in the arboretum featuring Spiderman star, Tobey Maguire. Now, the big payoff, “The Details” has hit the big screen. It garnered a 3-star review in Friday’s Times “Weekend Plus” by John Hartl.

What are you waiting for! Go check it out and keep your eyes open for arboretum landmarks.



Thank You NAIOP! New Video Shows Hardworking Volunteers

November 9th, 2012 by Tech Librarian, Tracy Mehlin

Members of the Commercial Real Estate Development Association joined forces at their 2012 Community Enhancement Day to spiff up the Center for Urban Horticulture. Projects included invasive plant removal, small construction projects, painting, planting and much more.

Hoop-houses were rebuilt, Stairs from the McVey Courtyard to the Event Lawn were built, and the weed-prone gravel paths were replaced with stamped concrete in the Soest garden (photo right).

UWBG director, professor Sarah Reichard, remarked: “Of special interest to the faculty and students: the wet beds are rebuilt and look gorgeous. Get that wetland research going now!”

CUH is sparkling now thanks to our NAIOP friends, community members and the  UWBG Horticulture staff.

Watch the action:

Video posted with permission.