The WPA guides and education staff recently visited Seattle’s Dunn Garden on one of our enrichment tours. We visit local gardens regularly as part of our commitment to further education so that we, as guides, can provide WPA visitors a great tour experience.
The Dunn Garden, like the arboretum, was designed by James Dawson of the Olmstead Brothers landscape design firm, While the WPA was designed in the 1930’s as a natural park to house the plant collection, the Dunn Garden is a private formal garden surrounding residences and predates our park by almost 30 years.
The two gardens have other connections. Ed Dunn, son of garden founder Arthur Dunn, served as the Arboretum Foundation president in the late 1950’s and was instrumental in the installation of the Japanese Garden. Many of the plants Ed Dunn installed in his garden were species he acquired through the WPA, purchased as extras by him when the arboretum would receive new collection plants.
Other similarities occur – I noticed that the Dunn, like the WPA, also featured some Douglas Firs with Hydrangea anomala vines growing up their trunks. I asked our docent if this was a Dawson design feature and was told that this was the influence of Elisabeth Miller, who was very involved the both gardens and founded the CUH’s Miller Library.
One of the most amazing features of the Dunn is the presence of many mature East Coast specimen trees like Sugar Maples, European Beech, and the largest Magnolia I have ever seen personally. The garden covers several acres separated in a variety of styles and is beautiful even in late autumn. I plan to return in the spring when flowers will be in their glory because I can only imagine how breathtaking it must be. The Dunn Garden is closed for the winter, but open again for tours in April, 2013. I highly recommend a visit . For more information their web site is www.dunngardens.org.