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

Art Exhibit: Now You See It! The Slime Mold Revelation

September 11th, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

Tuesday, September 15 – Friday, October 30

slime mold artWhat do evolution and the Emperor of Japan have to do with art about slime molds? Now You See It! The Slime Mold Revelation reveals the stories behind four centuries of artistic devotion to these otherworldly organisms. Just what are slime molds? Worldwide, one-celled bacteria-munching travelers of the earth beneath your feet. Shimmering rainbow-colored spore-filled protists on your rosebush. Tiny dwellers of the arctic, the rainforest, and the desert. Now You See It! is a colorful foray into a little-known world: a visual and scientific delight for all ages. Come confused, leave stupefied. Curator Angela Mele is a scientific illustrator finishing the illustrations for a field guide to cosmopolitan slime molds. She recently received a Master’s of Museum Studies from the University of Washington.
The artist invites you to a reception at the Miller Library on Friday, September 18 from 5:00 to 7:00pm.

Hear Angela recount how she got started with slime molds in this interview by KPLU.

September 2015 Plant Profile: Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’

September 8th, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

By Ray Larson, Curator

maple photoIn honor of the annual Elisabeth Miller Memorial Lecture on September 10 in Meany Hall, this month’s plant profile features one of her favorite trees, and perhaps the plant most associated with her:  Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium.’

At the UW Botanic Gardens, we have a grove of 6 planted in the Dorothy McVay Courtyard.  These trees were included at Mrs. Miller’s suggestion when Iain Robertson developed the garden design for the courtyard in the mid-1980s.  Betty Miller’s famous garden just north of Seattle includes over two dozen of the trees, which are among the very best small trees for texture and outstanding fall color.

They begin coloring in late July and slowly build to a crescendo of fiery reds ranging from flame orange to deep maroon.  They are among the most reliable trees for fall color in the Pacific Northwest, and generally at their peak in mid-October.
maple photo

As an added benefit they have small but showy flowers, which appear in early spring right before the leaves unfurl.  The shape of the leaves gives the tree its common name, and the scientific name refers to their resemblance to monkshood foliage (Aconitum).   They grow well in part shade to sun, with longest and best fall color appearing in more sun.  One of the best small trees for urban gardens, either singly or in a grove.  This is the most commonly grown Acer japonicum, but the UW Botanic Gardens has several other varieties, including impressive specimens of A. japonicum ‘O-isami’ and A. japonicum ‘Takinogawa’ in the Woodland Garden.  Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’ received an Award of Garden Merit (AGM) from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1984.  It is reputedly hardier than other forms of Acer japonicum, and is rated down to USDA Zone 5.

maple leaf photoCommon name:  Fernleaf fullmoon maple
Family:   Sapindaceae
Location:  McVay Courtyard at the Center for Urban Horticulture
Origin:  The species is native to mountain forests of Japan, Manchuria and Korea.  According to Arthur Lee Jacobson’s North American Landscape Trees, this form was introduced to cultivation around 1888 by Parsons Nursery in Flushing, NY.
Height and spread:  Generally 12-18’ high and as wide
Bloom time:  Late March-early April
Bloom color:  dark red, and showy for a maple

McVay maples photo

Art Exhibit: Now You See It! The Slime Mold Revelation

September 4th, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

Tuesday, September 15 – Friday, October 30
Slime mold artwork by Angela Mele

What do evolution and the Emperor of Japan have to do with art about slime molds? Now You See It! The Slime Mold Revelation reveals the stories behind four centuries of artistic devotion to these otherworldly organisms. Just what are slime molds? Worldwide, one-celled bacteria-munching travelers of the earth beneath your feet. Shimmering rainbow-colored spore-filled protists on your rosebush. Tiny dwellers of the arctic, the rainforest, and the desert. Now You See It! is a colorful foray into a little-known world: a visual and scientific delight for all ages. Come confused, leave stupefied. Curator Angela Mele is a scientific illustrator finishing the illustrations for a field guide to cosmopolitan slime molds. She recently received a Master’s of Museum Studies from the University of Washington.

The artist invites you to a reception at the Miller Library on Friday, September 18 from 5:00 to 7:00pm.

2015 Miller Memorial Lecture features Helen Dillon

August 19th, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

photo of Helen DillonThe Pendleton & Elisabeth C. Miller Charitable Foundation
Presents the 21st Annual ELISABETH C. MILLER MEMORIAL LECTURE

The Evolution of an Irish Garden featuring Helen Dillon

Thursday, September 10th
The Lecture is FREE!

To receive a ticket, please email info@millergarden.org

The lecture is in Meany Hall on the UW Seattle campus. Doors open at 6:15pm with the lecture beginning at 7:00pm. A free reception with refreshments will be held at the conclusion of the program.

As a lasting gift to the horticultural community, the Pendleton and Elisabeth Carey Miller Charitable Foundation, the Elisabeth Carey Miller Botanical Garden, the Elisabeth C. Miller Library, the Northwest Horticultural Society and Great Plant Picks sponsor this free annual memorial lecture to remember the legacy of Betty Miller.