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.



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.

photo of plan

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.


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


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.'”

tool photo

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.


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.


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

What to do with fallen leaves? Arborist Chris Watson considers the options

November 2nd, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

Beautiful fallen leaves from the Amelanchiers growing at the Center for Urban Horticulture. Photo by Larry Howard 2007

To rake or not to rake? When asked what homeowners should do with leaves falling from trees growing in city gardens, Chris Watson, the Arborist who cares for the trees at the Washington Park Arboretum definitively stated, “It depends!”

Is the best mulch for a tree its own leaves? Or does that spread disease and pests? Chris explained:

“From a nutrient cycling perspective, ideally the leaves would be left in place where they fall.  Much like a forest, this would reduce the need for additional inputs, such as fertilizer. However, the urban situation is quite different from a forest.  We have introduced plants, soils, pests and diseases, as well as the desire for aesthetically pleasing landscapes.  Leaves blow in the wind and have the potential to clog drains.  Also, the first best management practice for most foliar diseases is to remove all leaves when they fall to reduce inoculum.

“When leaf removal is necessary, I recommend composting leaf material if possible.  The compost can then be used to amend soils around landscape plants.  If leaves are diseased, they should be composted in a way that increases the temperature to sterilize pathogens.  This is difficult to do for the typical homeowner, so it may be best to place leaves in the yard waste bin where they will be processed in a suitable manner.”

Interested in graphic design? Miller Library seeks book sale poster design

October 28th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

Calling all artists & designers

 The Miller Library needs a poster design for the 2015 10th anniversary Garden Lovers’ Book Sale.

Tulip Tree FlowerWe seek your donation of creative talents for a new design for the 11 x 17 poster and 5 x 8 postcard advertising the 2015 Garden Lovers’ Book Sale. The successful design will have a plant or garden theme and eye catching appeal. The poster must include the specific details below about the date and location, plus the UW Botanic Garden logo. We will accept submissions through December 29th. Send a message to Tracy at for more information. The creator of the selected design will receive two tickets to the book sale preview party.



Elisabeth C. Miller Library





For more information visit
To purchase party tickets call the library at 206-543-0415

Art exhibit: native plants by Linda Stewart Henley

October 27th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

Linda Stewart Henley: OregonGrapeWatercolors by Linda Stewart Henley will be on exhibit in the Miller Library from November 4th through December 2nd. The paintings of Washington natives, done mostly on location, are accompanied by field notes. The exhibit shows the plants in representational, but not scientifically botanical, style. The poster Washington Shrubby Plants is featured as part of the exhibition.

Meet the artist at a free reception at the Library on Friday, November 14th from 5:00 to 7:00 pm.