Glimpse into the Past – Thirty Years of Horticultural Outreach

March 31st, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus.

When the Center for Urban Horticulture was established in the early 1980s, one of the programmatic goals was to create and carry out a comprehensive public outreach program into the community for gardeners and professionals. The University of Washington is not part of the federal land grant system and thus receives no federal or state monies for such programs, as is the case for Washington State University. Thus any resources and programs developed had to be self-supporting.

Private funds were found to assemble the buildings on the UW East campus, which were built from 1984-1987. The addition of the Graham Visitors Center in 1986 at the Washington Park Arboretum added an additional site for Arboretum focused programs.  As programs grew, so did the staff to support them.  In the late 1980s and 1990s,  the annual total number of participants in classes, facility inquiry visits, tours, school programs, telephone inquiries, public open houses, library visits, as well as community lectures and tours at both the Center for Urban Horticulture and Washington Park Arboretum reached into the thousands.

The addition of Washington State Master Gardening clinics, classes and lectures greatly expanded both community gardening and professional landscape and nursery programs.  The school programs increased at the Washington Park Arboretum. Both programs became year round.  In the 1990’s, we often boasted that we were “second” in UW community outreach numbers, although quite some distance behind the UW Athletic events.

Since the beginning and continuing today, these programs have been lead by a talented group of staff.   Many people have started their careers with us and then gone onto “greener pastures,” making their mark throughout the country.

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Early outreach staff at the Center for Urban Horticulture in 1992: Jean Robins – Office Coordinator and Administrator; Larry Vickerman – graduate student and Class Coordinator; Dave Stockdale – Outreach Coordinator; Lynda Ransley – GVC Manager and Washington Park Arboretum Program Leader; Fran (Trinder) Myer – Budget and Fiscal Analyst; Rebecca Johnson – Building Rental Coordinator

In thirty years, there have been changes in the horticulture outreach environment:  public budgets have decreased; there is now a plethora of gardening information on the internet; and there is increasing emphasis on environmental, conservation, and restoration issues.  The baby boomer generation is retiring and today’s consumers have less interest in large gardens although they are more food and environmentally conscious.

Annual reports of specific numbers and program themes are archived in both the Miller Library and UW Archives.  The included photos are one glimpse of the continuing education and outreach staff  taken in December 1992.

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Early staff for Center for Urban Horticulture outreach program in 1992: Jean Robins – Office Coordinator and Administrator; Larry Vickerman – grad student and Class Coordinator; Professor John Wott, Faculty Supervisor; Lynda Ransley – GVC Manager and Washington Park Arboretum Program Leader; Fran (Trinder) Myer – Budget and Fiscal Analyst; Rebecca Johnson – Building Rental Coordinator.

Glimpse into the Past – Celebrating the Founder of the Center for Urban Horticulture

March 5th, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John Wott, Director Emeritus

In those divisive times of the late 1960’s and 1970’s, many new ideas began to form regarding how to live on, properly use, and safeguard the resources on our earth. This included groups from the “flower children” to academics. Learned horticulturists, botanists, and academics in the Northwest created a plan which called for the creation of a new academic unit at the University of Washington to be called the Center for Urban Horticulture. It would be different from traditional production horticulture which had been taught for hundreds of years.   Instead it would bring disciplines together which seldom or never interacted.

The Center for Urban Horticulture, the first of its kind in the world, and thereafter copied around the world, officially began its life when Professor Harold B. Tukey, Jr, from Cornell University arrived as its founding director in May 1980. Dr. Tukey’s family, including father and brothers, were well known in the horticulture academic arena. He first worked along with an administrator, Sally Dickman, in an office in Anderson Hall on the UW campus. He also was UW director of the Washington Park Arboretum and directed that staff, headed by Joseph A. Witt, curator. In 1981, two new faculty arrived: myself, John A. Wott, from Purdue University in April, and James A. Clark, from Rutgers University in June.

The initial promise of full state funds soon evaporated as the State of Washington rapidly slipped into a recession and all hope of state funds for building and future program building was futile. Never daunted, Dr. Tukey, aided by the good will of Provost George Beckman (who did provide what seed money he could), along with community horticulture stalwarts such as Elisabeth Carey (Betty) Miller began a campaign to raise the millions of dollars needed privately. As you now see today, they were successful. CUH, now a part of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, is an invaluable resource in the Northwest as well as nationally and internationally.

The accompanying pictures show scenes from the Ground Breaking Ceremony for the original Merrill Hall in 1983.

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Elisabeth Carey Miller, Prentice Bloedel, Dr. Harold B. Tukey Jr. with their Champagne glasses at the ground breaking ceremony for the original Merrill Hall, 1983

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Front row: Eulalie Merrill Wagner, Virginia Merrill Bloedel, Prentice Bloedel, Mary Gates, Marilee Boyd, Elisabeth Miller, George Beckman, William Gerberding, Mrs. Harold Tukey.
(center 2nd row, Marvin Black)

Announcing a Crowdfunding Campaign to Grow the UW Farm

February 10th, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

The UW Farm has launched a USEED crowdfunding campaign with the goal of raising $9,000 to build a new cob oven and structure, a new wash station, and reusable and portable hoop houses. These projects will build on the capacity of the UW Farm, increase their educational opportunities, and give them an amazing space to gather for pizza bakes and community gatherings.

UW Farm at CUH

Based at the Center for Urban Horticulture, the UW Farm is a student-driven urban farm that inspires students to think critically about our food system, while also providing them a physical space to experiment and learn about urban agriculture. Please help us GROW!

USEED@UW is a powerful tool for fueling initiatives through crowd-sourced philanthropic giving. It provides a platform in which people can partner with the University on any number of projects and share the news with their friends, family and colleagues. Together, we can provide a dynamic learning environment and embrace the spirit of discovery, innovation and community involvement at the heart of the UW.

Glimpse into the Past – Remembering the First Northwest Flower & Garden Show

February 4th, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

A former staff member, Rebecca Johnson, shared with me a copy of the “First Annual Northwest Flower and Garden Show” program, held on Presidents’ Day Weekend, February 17-20, 1989.   On February 10, 2015, the 26th Show will open. I am proud to say that I have attended each one, including the Preview Party, a benefit for the Washington Park Arboretum. This 48-page colored glossy printed program was a synopsis of horticulture in the Northwest at that time.  The cover photograph, taken by the late Jerry Sedenko, features the Streissguth Garden, now a public garden on the slope of north Capitol Hill.

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This indeed was an exciting event, showcasing such a sizable indoor garden  display never before seen here.  A dream come true of the founder and owner, Duane Kelly, it was patterned after the fabulous shows of Boston, New York, and  Philadelphia.  Jane Pepper (Philadelphia) and Richard Daley (Mass. Hort. Society)  were advisers.  Duane’s vision and enthusiasm for the Seattle show is expressed in the “Welcome to the Show” program introduction.  The appreciation list is a glimpse of Northwest horticulture leadership including Dr. Harold Tukey, Nancy Davidson Short, Steve Lorton, Jerry Wilmot, Egon Molbak, and Ann Lovejoy as well as Kathleen Brenzel of Sunset Magazine.

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The 25 gardens were built and sponsored by Molbak’s, Star Nursery, Iseli Nursery, Briggs Nursery, Swanson’s, Rodda and Sons, Weyerhaeuser Nursery Products,  Weyerhaeuser Specialty Plants, Price Ragen, Magnolia Lawn and Garden, Washington Park Arboretum, Barford’s Hardy Ferns, Furney’s, Seattle Water Department, Seattle Parks Volunteer Park Conservatory, Jackson and Perkins, Skagit Gardens/Wight’s, Highridge Corporation, Puget Sound Bonsai, Ikebana International, Big Rock Garden, Bamboo Brokerage, Columbia Greenhouse, FTD Florists, and Boeing Aerospace Company. There was also a children’s garden.  The entire garden layout plus all the retail booths were on the fourth floor.

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The center section of the program contained colored pictures and short descriptions of 26 Northwest public gardens in an article written by Nancy Clark Hewitt in which she states that “the Northwest is blessed with an excess of natural beauty inspired by nature’s bounty.  A rich gardening tradition has developed here, and is to be showcased in the show. “

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From the very moment of conception Duane wanted the Northwest Flower and Garden Show to be educational, and I was privileged to plan and lead these free lectures and seminars for those first years, then held on the sixth floor.  As stated by Duane, “these programs “represent the greatest amount of horticultural, floral, and landscape knowledge ever assembled under one roof in the Northwest.”  We were overwhelmed with attendees and early on struggled to contain waiting lines.  In addition the show offered free booth space to horticultural societies where the public could find answers and talk to local experts.

Over these 26 yrs, the NWFGS has changed with the times, but it is still one of the best indoor garden shows of the USA, if not the world.  Why not follow in the footsteps of thousands and attend the forthcoming Northwest Flower and Garden Show, “Romance Blossoms?”

Living the Pura Vida in Costa Rica

January 9th, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff
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Iguanas bask in a tree near a rest stop where we got amazing ice cream.

On the morning of January 7th, after our typical breakfast of amazing fresh fruit, eggs, and gallo pinto, the national breakfast dish made of yesterday’s leftover rice and beans, we headed out to the Organization for Tropical Studies field site, La Selva. In 1991 I took the 2 month field course in tropical ecology and much of the time was at La Selva. It looked much the same, with the same bridge high over the Rio Puerto Viejo, the same dining hall, and the same space where feverish students struggled to make sense of the data they had collected earlier in the day. We had a local guide with us, but our guide, Jimmy, used to work there and also knew the place well. Right away we saw some peccaries, a sort of wild pig, that can be smelled before seen (a sort of skunky smell). They seemed to know we were no threat, since they lived on a very large natural preserve, and just did their thing. We first hiked in second growth forest, which is obvious not just by species composition, but also by density of understory. Primary rainforests have little understory and that is mostly palms. On this hike we observed a very poisonous eyelash viper from a very safe distance. We also enjoyed watching a pale-billed woodpecker industriously remodeling his hole in  a tree snag.

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A pale-billed woodpecker grooms his home.

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Peccaries root around the forest floor.

After lunch, we went to a place where we learned about the indigenous people of the region. A local woman, Irma, is from a tribe native to Costa Rica, though not necessarily the group from the Rio Sarapiqui area. I had always heard that the indigenous people were not as productive and interesting as the Mayan, for instance. But Irma told us that the three tribes in the region came from Colombia, based on linguistics, but that they all developed their own syntax and customs. The group from Rio Sarapiqui were notable because they were matriarchal and polyandrous (women, especially high-ranking women, could have more than one husband). They also had interesting burial customs, burying the dead in a part of their conical-shaped hut.

From there it was a short walk away to La Tirimbina Reserve. There we hiked a bit and came to a hut where where we were told about the discovery of chocolate and our guide took us through the history of how it developed. We got to taste the goo around the fresh bean (very tropical fruit tasting), and then every step of the drying and roasting. They demonstrated making traditional hot chocolate (no milk, but spices like pepper, nutmeg, chili, etc).  We got to make our own custom blend. They then beat cocoa butters into it to make smooth and very delicious dark chocolate syrup. Then we got to taste solid milk and dark chocolate made there. It was a great afternoon!

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Janka Hobbs learns how to grind the roasted beans.

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We make our own custom blends of hot chocolate.

This morning we headed to Volcan Arenal. This Volcano was active for many years, but has been silent for about 5 years. When I was here in 1991 it was VERY active, spewing huge boulders out at us very stupid students who decided hiking up it was a good idea. After lunch and looking around La Fortuna, we headed up slope. We passed countless HUGE hotel complexes that were built during the active years and now are struggling. We kept going up and up, and then came to the entrance to our hotel, the Arenal Lodge. We then kept driving up their private drive anticipating our arrival. We were probably 15 minutes on this narrow winding road and were giving up ever arriving and then suddenly it was there. We were welcomed with a special cocktail (the gatekeepers had called to say were were on the way up, so they had plenty of time to prepare them…). We then went to our rooms, which are gorgeous and have what is probably an amazing view of Arenal, but we are socked in with mist right now. Hopefully it will clear up in the morning, when we have an early morning bird walk.

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Volcan Arenal, visible during a rare break in the clouds.

Tomorrow there are canopy walks (rumors of a zip line) then on to one of the many hot springs in the area. Knowing Holbrook’s knack for finding the best of the best, we are anticipating a very special afternoon and then dinner at the hotel where the spa is located. Just another day of what the Ticos (Costa Ricans) called the Pura Vida.

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Mother and kit racoons raid a bird-feeding station, just like at home. Seattle and Costa Rican racoons have much in common.

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Primary rainforest with a palm understory.

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Deadly eyelash viper.

When and Why to Cut Leaves Off Epimediums and Hellebores

December 30th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff
Showy Epimedium 'Lilafee' flowers with fresh new spring leaves.

Showy Epimedium ‘Lilafee’ flowers with fresh new spring leaves.

Busy gardeners appreciate the early spring flowers and minimal care required of evergreen perennials such as epimediums and hellebores. They don’t need dividing or staking or fertilizing, they just do their thing without much gardener intervention. Yet a little attention in late winter will improve the appearance and show off newly emerging flowers.

Roy Farrow, one of the UW Botanic Gardens horticulturists, attends to enormous swaths of epimedium and hellebore in the Washington Park Arboretum’s Witt Winter Garden. When and why does he trim the leaves off? “We attempt to cut down all our Epimedium [foliage] by flowering time – which translates to late winter to make sure we  don’t miss the window. The reason we don’t do it any earlier is either they are good evergreen ground covers or they have particularly colorful foliage in the winter.” Sometimes due to less than ideal cultural conditions, epimedium foliage can look bedraggled by November. The leaves can be cut off then, but that carries risk as well. Roy observes: “[people] love to trample all over areas that have plants about to come up.”

Helleborus x hybridus (H. orientalis) foliage gets cut back earlier in the year at the Arboretum, but some established patches that are particularly hardy rarely receive attention. The main reason to remove foliage is to focus attention on the new flowers emerging from the center of the plant. However, Roy reports, “In some gardens they get botrytis quite badly and look terrible by the end of fall and it’s a good idea to cut down the foliage to keep the inoculum down. Sometimes it’s aphids that drive people to cut down foliage and then flowers later on.” The Winter Jewels series plants have been especially susceptible to disease.

Hellebore x hybridus flowers emerge from the center of the plant and look best with ratty old foliage removed.

Helleborus x hybridus flowers emerge from the center of the plant and look best with ratty old foliage removed.

Hellebore species, such as H. argutifolius and H. foetidus flower on stems that grew the previous year and then decline later in the year. This type of hellebore should be left alone in winter.

A glimpse into the past – a remarkable issue of the Arboretum Bulletin

December 27th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

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Cover of Arboretum Foundation Bulletin , Winter 1945.

Recently I was given a copy of the Arboretum Bulletin, Volume VIII , no. 4, Winter 1945, by Lyn Sauter, who was the first librarian for the collection of books that became the Miller Library. Lyn started her cataloging work in the early 1980s. The editor was John Hanley, the first director of the University of Washington Arboretum.  Arboretum Foundation membership was five dollars, the phone number was SEneca 0920 and the address was 516 Medical Arts Bldg., Seattle 1, Washington.

The issue of 32 pages was devoted to rhododendrons.  The Table of Contents, on the cover, included articles by R.H.M. Cox – foremost horticulturist in Great Britain; G.G. Nearing – one of the few rhododendron authorities in the USA; letters from three prominent award-winning rhododendron growers in Washington State; a  most interesting report on the details about planting Azalea Way by Paul D. Brown;  Iris Weber – enthusiastic UW student studying rhododendron fertilization;  Lord Aberconway on magnolias;  a most intriguing short history about the Arboretum and the University of  Washington Campus; a detailed article on Rhododendrons by Dr. Hanley; and a List of recommended Rhododendron Hybrids compiled by the Seattle Garden Club members.  In this issue, there were extensive indexes as well the obituary of Col. F. R. S. Balbour.

The feature article contained 8 black and white photographs of rhododendrons: “The following group of rhododendron pictures, taken in the beautiful garden of Mr. and Mrs. Donald G. Graham, is displayed through their kindness and courtesy.”  I have included copies of the two of the featured pictures, although the texture of the paper is quite grainy.  Copies of the Arboretum Foundation Bulletins are archived in the Miller Library as well as with the Arboretum Foundation.

 

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“Azalea mollis ‘Primrose Yellow’ [sic],  Rhododendron ‘Pink Pearl’, Magnolia grandiflora, and Clematis montana.”

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“Mixed grouping of Azalea Hinomayo [sic], Rhododenron Mrs. E.C. Stirling, Kalmia latifolia, and Clematis montana.”

(Editor note: Listen to a oral history clip from Donald Graham Jr about his dad’s interest in the Arboretum and rhododendrons)

Arboretum Event Rentals on Sale

December 23rd, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

We are offering 10% off the room rental fee if you hold a new event* at Graham Visitors at the Washington Park Arboretum between December 2014 and April 2015.

GVC Patio at Arboretum

Call 206-221-2500 to take advantage of this offer and to book your next event!

*This promotional discount is good for one meeting or social event per customer. Weddings or wedding receptions do not apply to this offer.

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A glimpse into the past – Leissler’s 1934 design for the Arboretum

December 3rd, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

by John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

An historic document connected to the early “life” of the Washington Park Arboretum has been found.  It is the (believed) first design for the Arboretum, prepared in 1934 by Frederick Leissler, landscape architect in the Seattle Department of Parks.

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Copy of the Leissler Plan for Washington Park Arboretum

Scot Daniel Medbury in his M.S. thesis The Olmsted Taxonomic Arboretum and its Application to Washington Park, Seattle (1990), documents this plan (pg 99). Scot was able to interview Mr. Leissler shortly before his death.  Notes from these interviews are located in the Miller Library and UW Library Special Collections.  Medbury states “[Leissler’s] design was monumental in the Beaux-Arts style, and included a gigantic conservatory rising above an axial and symmetrical series of planting beds.”  Medbury reported that Leissler had adapted a design he made when he was a student that won a national prize for the first Arboretum plan.  The plan called for an intensive development and as Leissler himself was later to recall, “the plan would have cost a fortune to build.”  In a later draft, Leissler emphasized three main rock gardens, the “Alaska Rock Garden,” the “Northwest Rock Garden,” and the “Rock Garden of the Orient.”

It’s an interesting story of how I learned of the document’s existence. Leissler passed the original copy (signed by both Frederick Leissler and Hugo Winkenwerder, Dean of the UW College of Forestry) to Jon Stewart, a friend and colleague at Oregon State University. Recently, Mr. Stewart shared it with Raymond Williams, professor emeritus from OSU and a personal acquaintances from my time at Purdue University.  It so happens that Steve Garber, a long-time Arboretum Foundation member, former Foundation president and Japanese Garden Society officer is Raymonds’s brother-in-law.  Mr. Garber, in turn, brought it to my attention, and all of us are now involved with finding a permanent home for the document.

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Raymond Williams, professor emeritus, Oregon State University; Jon Stewart, owner of the document and donor, friend of Frederick Leissler; Steve Garber, Washington Park Arboretum long-time supporter. Taken August 2, 2013

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Steve Garber; John Wott, Director Emeritus, UWBG; Brian Thompson, Miller Library Manager and Curator of Horticultural Literature; Julie Coryell, Japanese Garden Society enthusiast and long time supporter.
Taken July 9, 2014

Tool rules from a seasoned horticulturist for home gardeners

December 3rd, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

UW Botanic Gardens Horticulturist Neal Bonham has been gardening at the Washington Park Arboretum for years. He’s the go to person on staff for power tool repair. When asked if he had any rules for home gardeners for optimal tool use he grew philosophical, “I’m reminded of the anecdote of someone asking a Taoist butcher how often he sharpened his knife. He answered ‘I never sharpen it. I only cut between the joints.'”

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Use the right tool for the job for best results.

Neal’s practical rules for hand tools are:

“Use stainless steel tools whenever possible – they don’t need care.

“Never lay tools on the ground – that’s how you lose them.

“Don’t fight nature. That is, if a branch is too big for your pruners, use a saw. If your shovel or fork hits an object you can’t move with one hand, stop trying. Nature will win and your tools will lose.

“The old adage is ‘there’s a proper tool for every job.’ The value there is that is that you will appreciate the abilities of each tool.”