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.

WisteriaHall

WisteriaHall2

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.”

Fragrance Garden renovation enters phase two

December 3rd, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

The Fragrance Garden at the Center for Urban Horticulture is being refreshed with help from partner the Seattle Garden Club. The declining stripe bark maple will be removed and new scented plants will be added.

Fragrance Garden at CUH 11-2014Manager of Horticulture David Zuckerman said the Acer capillipes has been declining for years. David explained: “it may have verticillium wilt, but more likely to be causing the decline are symptoms of over exposure (sun, temps) during the course of its life in the entry garden. In general, stripe bark maples are forest edge trees, somewhat short lived and do not do well when grown in exposed conditions.”

A few of the new plants going in include:

  • Magnolia virginiana ‘Moonglow’
  • Itoh peonies
  • Berberis x media ‘Winter Sun’
  • Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’
  • Azara microphylla
  • Pieris japonica ‘Cavatine’
  • Chimonanthus praecox

Arboretum Loop Trail nears construction start

November 5th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By Audrey Wennblom

An artist's rendering of one of the bridges on the Arboretum Loop Trail. Image courtesy the Berger Partnership

An artist’s rendering of one of the bridges on the Arboretum Loop Trail. Image courtesy the Berger Partnership

At long last, the Arboretum Loop Trail (ALT) appears to be just a few months away from the start of construction. “Right now, it looks like the tentative start date would be late spring 2015,” said Raymond J. Larson, Curator of Living Collections for the UW Botanic Gardens. “The idea is to start after most of the rain has passed and to do construction over the drier months.’’

Depending on the the bids received, Larson said the project may be done in two phases. The first phase would be from E. Madison Street to the Boyer/Birch parking lot along E. Lake Washington Blvd. (across from the Holly Collection), he said. The second phase, in 2016, would be from the Birch Lot to the Graham Visitors Center. Larson said, however, that it could also happen all at once. “It depends on a variety of factors,” he said, “and the contractor selected.”

But before any work begins, “the first thing we will do in the field is contract out the transplanting of collections,” said David Zuckerman, Horticulture Manager for the UWBG. “This work will begin as early as this fall sometime, even if it’s just root pruning,” he said.

The ALT is expected to have several benefits for the Arboretum.  “First, it will get people into areas of the arboretum that are currently less well known and visited,” Larson said.  Most people don’t make it to the viburnum collection or know where it is, and don’t get through the Flats (where birches, poplars and the creek is) much of the year because the ground is too wet and there are no trails there, Larson said.  “The ALT will also open up a new route through the largely undeveloped southern hillside across from the Japanese Garden and will provide another way to access the Pacific Connections Gardens,” said Larson.  That is an area currently difficult to navigate and where it is easy to get disoriented (especially for new or occasional visitors), Larson said. Access is going to be much better and the park should feel bigger, he said.

The collections themselves will also benefit. “We will have many new planting areas that will be accessible and viewable,” Larson said.  Some of these will anticipate future phases of the Pacific Connections China and Chile ecogeographic gardens.  “Where the trail crosses through these areas we will be planting plants from those areas along the way,” Larson said.  Other areas will see the addition of a diversity of new plantings that strengthen existing collections (viburnums, oaks, rhododendrons, etc.). “There are going to be a lot of new plants going in, and areas with a lot of ivy and invasives will be refreshed,” he said.

All of this adds up to a better visitor experience—finding your way more clearly as you navigate through the gardens. The north end will be enhanced with better sightlines and a clearer, more obvious connection to the Graham Visitors Center, where the trail forms a loop with Arboretum Drive E, Larson said.  It should feel less hidden and more welcoming.  Some existing blind spots will be improved and in general areas should feel refreshed.  “We think this will be a popular walking and bicycling trail, and the loop connection should help people better experience more of the park,” Larson said.

More Information

Seattle Department of Planning and Development trail project page

Seattle Parks and Recreation trail project page

A glimpse into the past – a very low tide on Foster Island

November 4th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John Wott, Director Emeritus

For many years both Lake Washington and Union Bay had variable water levels throughout the year.  The Army Corps of Engineers allowed the water of the Lake Washington system to drop several feet in order to have enough capacity for heavy spring rains and snow melt.  This frustrated many dock owners and also led to significant shoreline erosion.  Today they try to maintain a steady level, although it is difficult to predict both rainfall and rate of snow melt.

The photograph taken on September 12, 1958, show an extremely low water level on the north end of Foster Island. Currently the water level is usually near the top of the large stone works.  The gentleman standing there gives a perspective of at least a six foot drop.

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Low tide on Foster Island in September 1958.

Looking west is the University of Washington Stadium, which depicts only the southern section (now demolished and rebuilt in 2012). The campus buildings are quite low and mostly indistinguishable, and the smoke stack from the UW heating plant has been replaced with the newer large one.

Miller Library annual gift show inspired by nature

November 4th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff
Monotype by Roberta McDaris Long

Monotype by Roberta McDaris Long

GIFT EXHIBIT December 5 – 23

From December 5th through December 23rd, the Elisabeth C. Miller Library will have a selection of locally made arts and crafts available for purchase. Nature inspired gifts such as hand made tiles, letter press cards, and felted wool flower pins will delight recipients.

OPENING RECEPTION   December 5

Join us for refreshments at the opening reception and sale on Friday, December 5th from 5 to 8pm.

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

Participating artists:

  • BARBARA CLARK, carved ceramic tiles
  • JENNY CRAIG, Notta Pixie Press, vintage letterpress cards and gifts
  • AL DODSON, color photographs of bark, trees, plants and landscapes.
  • MOLLY HASHIMOTO, nature-inspired watercolor paintings, prints, cards and calendars
  • JOAN HELBACKA, Elda Grace handcrafted journals
  • ROBERTA MCDARIS LONG botanically themed monoprint cards and prints, shown right
  • SYLVIA PORTILLO, The Human Hand Card Company, cards, prints, dioramas and botanically inspired, felted wool, wearable flowers
  • JENNIFER ROSE, flower photographs, cards and calendars

3501 NE 41st Street, Seattle, WA 98105