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'

Art Exhibit: Al Dodson Photography

December 29th, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

AL Dodson photo of barkNorthwest native and trained botanist, Al Dodson, is intimately familiar with plants of all kinds. He loves photographing their more subtle and elusive qualities and bringing them to light so that the more casual observer might appreciate them. Bark, for example, can have beautiful color, texture, and pattern that often goes unnoticed.

Come view Al’s photos in the Library January 2 through February 12th.

Holiday Art, Craft & Gift Sale in the Miller Library

November 30th, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

2015DecemberShowGet your shopping done early and support local artists! We invite our patrons to join us for a reception on Friday, December 4th, 5 to 7pm. Exhibit and sale runs through December 23rd, we’ll have a selection of locally made arts and crafts available for purchase at the Miller Library.

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

Artists participating this year are:

  • ANN GIRARDE, garden inspired wreaths
  • DOROTHY CRANDELL, elegant jewelry
  • JENNY CRAIG, Notta Pixie Press, vintage letterpress cards and gifts
  • MOLLY HASHIMOTO, nature-inspired watercolor paintings, prints, cards and calendars
  • JENNIFER CARLSON, felt veggie ornaments and lavender wands
  • SYLVIA PORTILLO, The Human Hand Card Company, cards, prints, dioramas and botanically inspired, felted wool, wearable flowers
  • JOAN HELBACKA, hand-bound notebooks
  • MICHELLE SMITH-LEWIS, cyanotype botanical print fabric
  • JOEL BIDNICK, mini aqua-systems
  • AL DODSON, photographs

Center for Urban Horticulture, 3501 NE 41st Street, Seattle, 98105

*some artists may accept credit card at the reception on 12/4

November 2015 Plant Profile: Danae racemosa

November 3rd, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

By Roy Farrow

Danae racemosa photoNovember, I’ve found, is a difficult month to choose a garden highlight. The glory of autumn color is passing as the storms of our historically wettest month remove the most stubborn holdouts from the branches of our Acer, Stewartia, Oxydendrum and Fothergilla. Those same storms presage the return of honest-to-goodness mud, while the uplifting gems of winter such as Helleborus, Galanthus, Cyclamen and Hamamelis are still just distant dreams. Most people of sound mind are driven inside at this time for a much deserved break from the garden.

However, it is just these conditions that can spotlight the rare jewel for people still out and about. Danae racemosa is just such a jewel. During the summer months, its only request is that you keep it out of full sun. In the right shade, Poet’s Laurel is a fine, arching, bamboo-like mass of lush green foliage all year. Take a closer peak at the “foliage” and you might notice something odd. The leaves are actually just flattened stems called phylloclades. Danae spreads slowly by rhizomes.

A monotypic genus, Danae has but the one species. Currently listed in the family Asparagaceae, it has previously been located within Ruscaceae and even Liliaceae. Danae is closely related to Ruscus which also uses phylloclades rather than leaves, though Danae has terminal racemes of 1/8 in. flowers rather than have the flowers and fruit magically appear in the center of the “leaf” as with Ruscus. While the foliage of both Danae and Ruscus is quite long lasting even when cut, the fruit set of bright orange-to-red berries of Danae tends to be much more impressive than Ruscus, mostly because Ruscus requires both a male and female plant to be present, while Danae does not.

Come visit the Witt Winter Garden and you will see Danae racemosa growing in close proximity to both Ruscus hypoglossum and Ruscus aculeatus.

Name: Danae racemosa

Family: Asparagaceae (prev. Ruscaceae, Liliaceae)

Common Name: Alexandrian Laurel, Poet’s Laurel

Location: Witt Winter Garden, Washington Park Arboretum

Origin: Turkey, Iran

Height and Spread: 3’x4’

Danae racemosa with berries

Danae racemosa in the garden

October 2015 Plant Profile: Cucurbita maxima

September 29th, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

squash photoBy Sarah Geurink

Beautiful, packed with calories and vitamins, and easily stored for up to several months, winter squash is one of the most rewarding crops for vegetable gardeners to grow. One of our favorite squash varieties grown at the UW Student Farm at the Center for Urban Horticulture is Confection Squash. Similar to Crown Prince, popular in England, New Zealand, and Australia, Confection is a beautiful blue-grey, squat kabocha-type squash most notable for its incredible flavor, rich sweetness and texture, and edible skin. Confection squash is versatile, too—a perfect ingredient for savory soups or sweet pies alike. Note that Confection squash actually becomes more flavorful the longer it is stored, and will usually sit happily in storage throughout the winter. It is worth the wait!

Winter squash seeds should be sown in the spring, after your last spring frost and not less than 14 weeks before your first fall frost. Grow your winter squashes in a sunny area with fertile, well-drained soil with a pH between 6 and 6.5, and water your plants regularly. Confection squash is ripe when the fruit has taken on a blue-grey color, the stem has browned a bit, and the skin cannot be easily pierced with your fingernail. Expect to harvest 3-4 Confection squash fruits per plant.

 

Family: Cucurbitaceae
Genus: Cucurbita
species: C. maxima
Common Name: Confection Squash
Location: UW Student farm at the Center for Urban Horticulture