October 2016 Plant Profile: Phacelia tanacetifolia

September 29th, 2016 by UWBG Communication Staff

phacelia photo

By Sarah Geurkink.

Phacelia is a quick-growing, cold- and heat-tolerant flowering plant that is native to the Southwest United States. It is used in agriculture both as cover crop and as an attractant for beneficial insects. As cover crop, Phacelia gets about four feet tall and has deep roots that capture and hold nutrients and increase soil organic matter. At the UW Farm, we mainly use Phacelia as an insectary plant. Its long curvy inflorescences of bell-shaped flowers buzz audibly on sunny summer days, boiling with pollinating and predatory insects that benefit our food crops.

Phacelia can be sown directly on the edges of your vegetable (or ornamental) garden, but also does well when planted indoors and transplanted out. It survives in temperatures as low as 18 degrees, and grows in a wide range of soil types. It will promptly re-seed itself after it has finished flowering, but is easy to weed out if unwanted.

Special thanks to UW instructor and great friend of the farm, Beth Wheat, for introducing us to this wonderful plant!

Family: Boraginaceae
Common Name:  lacy phacelia, blue tansy or purple tansy.
Location: UW Farm at the Center for Urban Horticulture, Mercer Court Apartments, and McMahon Hall Terrace
Origin: Native to southwest United States

phacelia

Fantastic Fall Plant Sales

September 8th, 2016 by UWBG Communication Staff
fallabundance

Happy shopper at the FallAbundance sale in the Arboretum.

Savvy gardeners know fall is the best time to plant because the soil is warm and months of rainfall ensure deep root growth.

At the Washington Park Arboretum on Saturday, September 10th from 10am to 2pm the Arboretum Foundation hosts the FallAbundance plant sale in the Pat Calvert Greenhouse (near the Graham Visitors Center).

At the Center for Urban Horticulture on Friday, September 16th from 9am to 3pm the Northwest Horticultural Society hosts the Annual Fall Plant Sale in NHS Hall.

Even more plant sales, harvest festivals and garden tours are listed on the Miller Library’s website.

 

Remembering Jean Witt, Long Time Friend of the Botanic Gardens

September 2nd, 2016 by UWBG Communication Staff

Jean Witt, long time friend of the UW Botanic Gardens, passed away last week at age 95.  She was the widow of Joe Witt, the former Arboretum Curator and Professor of Urban Horticulture and for whom the Joseph A. Witt Winter Garden is named.  Together, they were well known for their joint leadership in field study trips of Washington native flora and geology (Jean’s specialty).  Arboretum Director Emeritus John Wott wrote about their life together in July 2014.

Jean was also a noted iris hybridizer, illustrator, and researcher.  Her extensive work breeding median (mid-sized) iris was recognized by the American Iris Society last year with the presentation of the Bennett C. Jones Award.  A framed set of her illustrations is on display in the Miller Library, and can also be found in The Siberian Iris by Currier McEwen.  With Bob Pries, she published in 1999 a checklist of Iris species and their variations for the Species Iris Group of North America.

Jean was a narrator in the UW Botanic Gardens’ oral history project completed in 2011.  Asked about the Washington Park Arboretum, she observed “The interesting thing about the Arboretum is that it’s very well known internationally and under-appreciated at home…”  Throughout her long life, she was an advocate for all of the UW Botanic Gardens and a friend to many of us on the staff.

photo

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

UW Botanic Gardens Loses a Family Member

August 29th, 2016 by UWBG Communication Staff

This morning, our community woke up to the heartbreaking news that Professor Sarah Reichard passed away while leading a garden tour in South Africa. There are no words that can adequately express the sadness and shock we are experiencing from this news. With Sarah’s passing, we have lost an incredible director of the UW Botanic Gardens, a beloved professor, an important voice for conservation, and a truly wonderful person.

Our thoughts are with her husband Brian, her family, and her many friends, colleagues and students.

Sarah Hayden Reichard, Ph.D. Orin and Althea Soest Professor and Director

Sarah Hayden Reichard, Ph.D.
Director and Orin and Althea Soest Chair for Urban Horticulture

Memorial Set for October

We will be holding a celebration of life in honor of Sarah on Thursday, October 13. The details are not finalized yet, but the event will likely include an afternoon walk through the Washington Park Arboretum, followed by a reception at the Center for Urban Horticulture or another location in Seattle. Please mark your calendars to join us in honoring Sarah, and RSVP as soon as possibleeven if you aren’t positive you can make itto help us prepare for the right number of people. We’ll then be able to send you more details as they are set.

Dr. Sarah Riechard leading a tour of Chile in 2011.

Dr. Sarah Reichard leading a tour of Chile in 2011.

More about Dr. Reichard

Gift funds to honor Dr. Reichard

May 2016 Plant Profile: Kalmia latifolia

April 29th, 2016 by UWBG Communication Staff

kalmia photo

By Preston Pew

In western Washington, the month of May is usually marked by vivid springtime blooms of Rhododendron. A lesser known member of the same family as Rhododendron (Ericaceae), Kalmia latifolia is native to eastern North America, and is one of our most spectacular broadleaf evergreen shrubs. Its attractive qualities no doubt led both Connecticut and Pennsylvania to choose Kalmia latifolia as their state flower. Growing up to 30’ in the wild, in cultivation Kalmia slowly reaches heights of 8 to 10 feet, with a similar spread. Kalmia generally bloom later that most Rhododendron and are a good way to extend the blooming season. When not in bloom, alternate glossy deep green leaves and rounded habit give clues to its affinity with Rhododendron and Pieris. In bud, Kalmia are a special treat well before the flowers open. In early spring the small buds are covered in fine hairs. As the buds expand they develop pronounced ridges that make them resemble the dots of frosting found on decorated cakes. This fascinating geometric quality is enhanced by their arrangement in flat clusters. Inflated Kalmia buds then open to reveal five-parted shallow cups about one inch across. These groups of flowers are three to six inches across and range in color from pure white to deep pink. Several cultivars are noted for uniquely banded or spotted markings in varying tones of red and pink on their inner flowers petals. Kalmia cultivars ‘Star Cluster’, ‘Olympic Wedding’, and ‘Minuet’ are especially desired by enthusiasts for these markings. The genus Kalmia was named by Carl Linnaeus for his pupil Peter Kalm who authored a famous 18th century book Travels into North America.1

Family: Ericaceae
Genus: Kalmia
Species: Kalmia latifolia
Common Name: Mountain Laurel, Calico Bush
Location: Grid 30-3E at the intersection of Arboretum drive and the south Woodland Garden trail

kalmia photo

kalmia photo

1. Bean, W.J. Trees and Shrubs hardy in The British Isles, eighth edition. London: The Royal Horticultural Society, 1978. Print.

April 2016 Plant Profile: Brassica oleracea

April 5th, 2016 by UWBG Communication Staff

IMG_0434By Sarah Geurkink

This time of year, you may notice your winter garden plants like kale, collards, and cabbage start to elongate, and produce new, small tender leaves and florets, soon-to-be flowers, also known as raab. Often green, yellow, or purple, these clusters of flower buds emerge when the days get longer, and signify that your plants are preparing to go to seed. What you may not know is that those are edible, delicious, and nutritious! Raab tastes a lot like broccoli, but is sweeter and more tender, and is delightfully simple to cook: briefly sauté them with a little bit of oil or fat and garlic, and add them to your favorite pasta, stir-fry or scramble.

This year, the UW Farm is taking on a third site: the terrace at McMahon Hall. We broke ground on this site on April 1, and it happened to be covered in collard greens preparing to go to flower. We were able to harvest almost 20lbs of raab for the McMahon dining hall, just 100 feet below our garden.

Expect to harvest 6-10 clusters of raab per plant in the spring. Plan ahead and grow extra brassicas in July so that your spring harvest starts early!

Family: Brassicaceae
Genus: Brassica
species: Brassica oleracea
Common Name: Kale and Collard Greens
Location: UW Student farm at McMahon Hall

IMG_0438

 

Construction Started to Expand Public Access at Arboretum

March 25th, 2016 by UWBG Communication Staff

Photo: The Berger Partnership Whether you’re a first-time visitor to the Washington Park Arboretum or have been coming to the gardens for decades, a new trail project will take you through plants you likely haven’t seen here before.

Construction has begun on the new Arboretum Loop Trail. Once finished, this paved, multi-use 1.2-mile trail will connect to Arboretum Drive, creating a highly accessible 2.5-mile path through plants and trees from around the world—many of which are rare or threatened species. The paved path will create more opportunities for pedestrians, wheelchair users, slow-moving bicycle riders and families with strollers to exercise and explore once-hidden parts of the Arboretum year-round.

Much of our work will benefit existing plant collections by adding new specimens, replanting with native species that provide richer food and shelter for wildlife, and removing unhealthy and invasive plants. Portions of Arboretum

Detail of the construction map. Source: City of Seattle

Detail of the construction map. Source: City of Seattle

Creek will be day-lighted, and important wetland habitat will be restored.

Throughout planning, design and construction, the health of Seattle’s flagship public garden has been a top priority. We moved what we could, propagated what we couldn’t, and rerouted the Loop Trail to protect rare, unusual or very large trees that could not be moved. In total, just 137 of the Arboretum’s 10,000+ trees will be removed, and we intend to reuse all of the tree material onsite in restoration projects and other work.

As part of mitigation for the current phase of the SR 520 bridge project, the Washington State Department of Transportation is providing $7.8 million to help complete portions of the arboretum’s 20-year master plan, which was adopted in 2001 after years of public input. This paved path is a jewel of the master plan.

More information is available on the City of Seattle project site.

Love Plants? Love Books? Don’t Miss the Garden Lovers’ Book Sale April 2nd

March 4th, 2016 by UWBG Communication Staff

Love gardening, plants, trees, flowers, or growing food?
Can’t pass up a bargain?
Then you won’t want to miss the 11th annual GARDEN LOVERS’ BOOK SALE of used books at the Center for Urban Horticulture.

booksale-booksThis important benefit for the Elisabeth C. Miller Library funds the purchase of new books and magazine subscriptions.

The sale on Saturday, April 2 from 9am to 3pm is free and open to everyone at the Center for Urban Horticulture, 3501 NE 41st Street, Seattle, 98105.

Beautiful art will also be on exhibit and for sale from the Pacific Northwest Botanical Artists.

hummingbird and lonicera

Botanical illustration prints and original works will be on exhibit and for sale through May 7. Illustration by Margaret Trent

The Garden Lovers’ Book Sale Preview Party is on Friday, April 1, 5 – 8pm

photo

Why are these women smiling? Because they are thrilled with the fantastic plant books deals!

Enjoy wine and light refreshments while browsing a fantastic selection of gardening books. Advance tickets cost $25; $30 at the door.
To purchase tickets call 206-543-0415.

February 2016 Plant Profile: Taiwania cryptomerioides

January 29th, 2016 by UWBG Communication Staff

By Ray Larson, Curator

Coffin tree branchesWhile there is an abundance of early blooms, bright bark and fragrance elsewhere in the Arboretum this time of year (particularly in the Winter Garden and Camellia Collection), winter is also a time to appreciate conifers.  One of the best and most unusual for foliar effects in February is Taiwania cryptomerioides, the Coffin tree.  We have three accessions totaling 8 trees in the Arboretum.  There are two from 1969 (Accession #315-69 A&B), four from 1996 (Accession #119-96 A-D) and two in the old nursery from 1974 (Accession #465-74 B&C).  The 1969 accessions are just south of the main Sequoiadendron grove just off Arboretum Drive E, and the 1996 plantings are at the Newton Street entrance in the Pinetum.  Using the interactive map on our website is a great way to easily locate plants.

From a distance Taiwania cryptomerioides looks a little in habit like a young western red cedar or false cypress.  But closer in its visual affinity to Cryptomeria becomes more apparent, hence the specific epithet meaning “resembling a Cryptomeria,” or Japanese cedar.  The Coffin tree is the only species in the genus Taiwania and hence is known as a monotypic genus.  The common name comes from the practice of some native peoples in its natural range using the trees for making coffins.  A tree is chosen at birth to be carved into a person’s coffin in old age.   The grove in the Pinetum is part of the ½ mile long interpretive trail, and selected specimens along the route feature information about the tree and its uses in small interpretive panels.

Coffin tree grouping

In older forests, trees with trunks up to 10 feet wide are not uncommon.  However the species is listed as Vulnerable to extensive logging in its native range.  Populations 500 years ago were much more robust and widespread.  The species is long-lived, and some older populations in Taiwan are now protected.

Ornamentally the tree has much to offer.  Perhaps most striking is the array of blue-green needles along the somewhat drooping branches.  They look sharp and stiff, but are surprisingly soft and flexible.  The textural effect is outstanding, and the narrow shape accentuates the somewhat weeping effect.  It is most attractive throughout the winter and spring seasons, and new growth is a brighter blue.  Like many conifers, older foliage does turn a brownish yellow before dropping, and this is usually most noticeable in late summer and early fall.  It does best in full sun.  In its native lands, it grows in mid to upper elevations in areas of summer and autumn rainfall but drier winters.  Despite this, it seems to do very well for us with our dry summers and wet winters.

Coffin tree needles

Next time you are in the Pinetum or near the giant Sequoias along Arboretum Drive, be sure to look for this species.  The ones at the Newton Street entrance are probably easiest to find, and if you haven’t been to this minor entrance from the Montlake Neighborhood, you’ll notice is reached from a quiet street end.

Common name:  Coffin tree
Family:  Cupressaceae
Location:  Grids 19-4E in the Sequoiadendron section, Grids 33-7E and 34-7E in the Pinetum at the Newton Street entrance
Origin:  Taiwan, northern Vietnam, Myanmar (Burma) and Yunnan, China.  Populations elsewhere in south-central China are believed to have been introduced.
Height and spread:  A large tree, that can reach over 200 feet in the wild.  It is fairly narrow in youth, and in cultivation is slower growing.  Considered the largest tree native to Asia
Hardiness:  Cold hardy to USDA Zone 8

Coffin tree with sign

January 2016 Plant Profile: a Study on Sticks in the Witt Winter Garden

December 31st, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

Bare Naked in a Public Garden (a Study on Sticks in the Witt Winter Garden)

By Roy Farrow

photoI love January. The dark, wet, oppressive weather of December is past as the temperature finally drops consistently below freezing. Underfoot mud disappears overnight and we awake to glorious sunshine again. Our world seems expansive and encouraging.

I’ve come to understand that an important part of this feeling is due to the presence of “dormant” plants in the landscape. Dormant, or deciduous, plants allow the light from our very-low-on-the-horizon sun to penetrate our gardens and thus our inner beings. I qualify the word dormant because a walk through the Witt Winter Garden demonstrates that indeed it can be the leafless that are having the most fun this time of year.

As I walked through the garden this morning, my attention was torn between the just-beginning-to-crawl-out-of-their-buds witch hazels (Hamamelis sp.) and the pair of ruby-crowned kinglets gleaning from the mosaic of moss and lichen on the stems. As the birds flitted, about my eye was stolen by the multitude of buds of the winter hazel (Corylopsis sp.) and catkins of the giant filbert (Corylus maxima ‘Atropurpurea Superba’).

Magnolia stellata with frost

Quickly demanding my attention was the early winter diva Viburnum x bodnantense, of which there are three cultivars in the Witt Winter Garden: V. x bodnantense ‘Dawn’, ‘Deben’ and ‘Charles Lamont’. Other Viburnum such as V. farreri ‘Candidissimum’ and V. grandiflorum forma foetens (synonym V. foetens) will soon be following with their own fragrant display of naked gaiety. All other fragrances will eventually be forced aside by the aromatically dominant winter sweet (Chimonanthus praecox), now just a bird’s nest of sticks.

Corylus maxima 'Atropurpurea Superba'

Speaking of sticks, I often thank Miss Nature for populating our world with the many plants, particularly willows and dogwoods which are simply decorous without any adornment beyond their own skin. No one can enter the garden without their eye being caught by the midwinter fire dogwood (Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’). Once there, your eye may also appreciate the elegance of the bluestem willow, Salix irrorata with its white bloom and the bright golden-yellow of Salix alba ‘Vitellina’ behind it. Two newcomer willows to the Witt Winter Garden are Salix fargesii and Salix ‘Swizzle Stick’. The sleek, naked stems and large, red buds of Salix fargesii are difficult to describe without using the word “gorgeous” and the swizzle stick willow has an upright, contorted form which is colorfully impressive.

Salix 'Swizle Stick'

There are plenty more examples of naked fun to be enjoyed over the next few months, including the berries of Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’, the playfully fuzzy buds of Magnolia stellata and the brief, but powerfully fragrant flowers of Abeliophyllum distichum. Last, but not least is the royal trifecta of stunning mature bark: Stewartia monadelpha, Betula albosinensis var. septentrionalis and Acer griseum. Please visit repeatedly as the Witt Winter Garden is quite dynamic and no two weeks will display the same show. Enjoy the cold!

Betula albosinensis var septentrionalis

Ilex verticillata 'Red Sprite'