A glimpse into the past – Joe Witt in the “pit house”

July 1st, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

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Joseph A. Witt inspecting seed flats and cuttings in the “pit houses” of the University of Washington Greenhouses at Washington Park Arboretum. April 1976,

This photograph taken in April 1976, shows Joseph A. Witt inspecting seed flats and cuttings in the “pit houses” of the University of Washington Greenhouses at Washington Park Arboretum. Joe, as he preferred to be called, was a prominent staff member of the Arboretum for more than 30 yrs. Officially the Curator, he was also appointed as a Professor of Urban Horticulture at the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture, when it officially opened in 1980.

Joe was a “people person” and was instrumental in assisting the Arboretum Foundation in starting many programs, including encouraging volunteers, “fun days” in weeding, and other educational events. As curator, he was in charge of bringing many new plants into the collection and for the leadership of the UW grounds crew. He was an expert on the horticultural and native flora of the Pacific Northwest. He was renowned and sought-after for his teaching of plant materials, both to UW students and to thousands of horticulturists who came to the Arboretum during his tenure. He also experimented with plant breeding and many of his unnamed rhododendron hybrids still “lurk” within the Arboretum collections. He named many plants and the famed Acer tegmentosum ‘Joe Witt’, a highly striped form of the Manchurian Stripebark Maple, is now  found in increasing numbers on Seattle streets.

His widow, Jean, still active in her mid-90’s, was a keen iris breeder and together they were well known and respected in the native and hardy plant societies of the world. I personally remember several memorable field study trips to the Cascades and east side of Washington in the early 1980’s, whereby Joe spoke about the plants and Jean spoke about the geology. As Joe approached retirement age, he was stricken with cancer and died in May 1984, a great loss to the Northwest horticultural community. However, his legacy lives on.

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Joe and Jean Witt, Arboretum Foundation Annual Dinner, June 1972


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July 2014 Plant Profile: Hydrangea integrifolia

July 1st, 2014 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes
Photo courtesy of Richie Steffen/Great Plant Picks

Photo courtesy of Richie Steffen/Great Plant Picks

An evergreen hydrangea?!!  You betcha!

There are very few evergreen vines for gardeners in the Pacific Northwest, but this gorgeous gem from Asia is  becoming more readily available and it’s simply one of the coolest flowers you’ll ever get to witness opening.

From plump, peony-like buds, they begin to slowly crack open, a froth of fertile flowers begin to form and over the course of a few days, a flat umbel “lacecap” begins to form. People will begin to believe that it’s actually a hydrangea!

Hydrangea integrifolia is quite slow to establish (and re-establish, as we’ve learned after moving it to its new location at CUH three years ago) and may not even flower for the first few years of its life. Once it does, it puts on quite a show each summer. Dark green, glossy foliage remains year round. It’s a clinging plant that forms aerial roots on its stems. The aerial roots attach to a rough surface such as the bark of a tree or rough stucco wall; they don’t form tendrils or long whip-like shoots that wrap around supports so you have to carefully train them until they take hold. You could also let it sprawl on the ground as a ground-cover plant in a woodland garden.

They grow best in a protected spot in the garden such as a shady north-facing wall (such as our specimen here at the Center for Urban Horticulture), but they’re also quite at home tumbling over a stone wall in full sun with regular irrigation during the summer months.

Common Name:  Evergreen Climbing Hydrangea
Location: Center for Urban Horticulture – Miller Library North Foundation Bed
Origin: Taiwan/Philippines
Height and Spread: Can get 40′ tall and about 20′ wide
Bloom Time: Late June – July

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