CUH Update – Sprimmer 2011: There is NO summer!

August 2nd, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Things certainly ramped up since my last post on here hence the absence of updates, but it’s been a busy past few months here at the Center for Urban Horticulture Grounds. There are several exciting new projects underway and our regular summer regiment is in full swing with regular volunteers that have helped what is now a two person crew to oversee all of CUH Grounds since our third colleague left. It’s been stressful, at times disheartening, to see colleagues leave or hours cut because our budgets are whittled down to the point where “do less with less” is the new mantra.

Like I’ve said before, plants and nature move on and grow and so we should do the same. There’s so many beautiful things in the garden right now such as our bizarre and highly unusual “Plant Profile” for August, but the weather has been so variable and relatively cool as things are incredibly late this year. Comparing photographs from previous years, we’re easily three, even four weeks behind where we were last year. We wonder if our late season bloomers will ever mature in time as leaves are sort of beginning to change color and gardeners joke that we could have frost as soon as tomorrow! Slowly things are catching up, but that doesn’t mean we’re ahead either. Weeding has been constant and certain areas just have to sit until we are able to get to them. My thanks to those who have left neat little piles of fireweed and thistle for us to pick up. =)

The number of projects we have is certainly overwhelming, but at the same time, very exciting and much anticipated! One of those projects is certainly an exciting endeavor that will hopefully get the UW Community more involved. A site just Northwest of the main CUH complex is being prepared as an expansion of the current Seattle Youth Garden Works site as a partnership between Seattle Tilth and the UW Farm. Seattle Youth Garden Works has been farming at CUH for almost 10 years  and recently teamed up with the UW Farm to expand production.  With its humble origins along the Burke-Gilman trail adjacent to the UW Botany Greenhouse in campus, the UW Farm been encouraged to expand in the hopes of growing the program and having a far greater impact not only for those taking part, but for the surrounding communities that would benefit from their hard work producing organic, sustainably grown produce. You can purchase produce from the site at the Seattle Youth Garden Works booth at the U-District farmers market. For more information on the partnership between Seattle Tilth and the UW Urban Farm, please contact Robert Servine, SYGW Farm Coordinator – robertservine@seattletilth.org or (206)633-0451 x102 and Michelle Venetucci Harvey, UW Student Farm – michelle@uwfarm.org

Just north of their site is the run-down “Soundscapes” Garden that has received very little attention over the years. Once a demonstration garden, it has been overtaken by blackberries, horsetail and other unwanted weeds. Some of the original woody plants still add structure , but it is in dire need of a revamp as it is essentially the  front door to the center. A few months ago, the newly formed Hardy Plant Society of Washington proposed to take over the site to design, install, and regularly maintain the garden. A group of plant savvy, highly passionate gardeners is required to refurbish that site and it will be no easy task. Negotiations are underway, but we are all anxious to give this part of CUH a much needed face-lift.

Speaking of face-lifts, these prominent gardens will see some dramatic changes in the next couple of months:
The McVay Courtyard is undergoing a re-design by the original designer, UW landscape-architect professor Iain Robertson. He aims to have more architectural elements and much needed color interest. Like any large project, it will be done in phases and it will depend a lot on events scheduled and, of course, the budget.

Artists painting watercolors of the Soest Garden on a rare sunny day this summer.

The Soest Garden will see one of its large Parrotia persica trees removed this fall to be replaced with a different species. The trees have outgrown their space in the raised beds. Its been overdue for a revamp because the original plan was to replant shade trees every ten years to showcase different species that serve the purpose of providing shade to  perennials growing underneath.


On a smaller scale, we have another project installed and through the 1st phase of its completion and that’s the rain garden at the base of the south-facing Stormwater slope. Students and volunteers have prepared the site and have begun planting natives to take advantage of an ideal situation to collect excess stormwater and by having plants there, they improve the water quality of surrounding bodies of water by reducing the amount of potential pollutants flowing through. For more information on this project please contact David Zuckerman
Neighborhood support and involvement has also grown as Friends of Yesler Swamphave had several work parties these past few months. A Union Bay East Basin development grant is in progress and is currently in a design phase.

A lot going on and a lot to look forward to, that’s for sure. Please take some time to visit us and witness our slow progress and if you’ve got some time to share your expertise, there are volunteer opportunities both here and at Washington Park Arboretum.

I hope everyone has a great “sprimmer” and we’ll catch up again come Autumn!

Cheers,

Riz (and Tracy…thanks for the links and edits!)

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August 2011 Plant Profile: Eucomis bicolor

August 2nd, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Pineapple lilies are gaining popularity as gardeners are finally giving them a chance! Though somewhat marginally hardy and very tropical in appearance, a handful of species and hybrids do quite well here in the Pacific Northwest given that they receive excellent drainage (especially during the winter) and regular watering during the growing season. Eucomis bicolor is one of the more common and easily sought after species as it truly showcases why this genus is known as “pineapple lily”

Eucomis bicolor about to flower in late July

The strappy foliage, sometimes mottled in purple on the undersides, is attractive by itself, but emerging from the center is this alien-like creature about to invade.

Common Name: Pineapple Lily
Family: Asparagaceae
Location: Soest Garden Bed 8
Origin: South Africa
Height: 12-15″
Spread: Can form a clump 2-3 feet wide after many years
Bloom Time: Late July-August
Bloom Type/Color: Cylindrical raceme on stout stems with
cream white florets streaked in purple and unpleasantly
scented observed up close. Green bracts on top that create a “pineapple” look.
Exposure/Water/Soil:Full sun/part shade in well-drained soil. Regular irrigation.

An immature inflorescence of E. bicolor

A stem of E. bicolor in full bloom last summer in August.


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July 2011 Plant Profile: Triteleia (Brodiaea)

July 10th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Triteleia 'Rudy'

Triteleia in McVay Courtyard with Nolina nelsonii in the background.

Somewhat of a taxonomic nightmare, but truly a much overlooked summer flowering bulb! Planted as a group, these put on a colorful show in early summer as they first emerge as fleshy, grass-like plants, but then they’re soon followed by wiry stems hold up clusters of blue-violet blooms (also comes in white) that are eye-catchy and truly spectacular. The seed heads will also dry adding a little longer interest. This particular cultivar pictured is called ‘Rudy’ with a cool blue suffused in white. It thrives happily emerging from ornamental grasses and just popping up as a planned surprise. These are charming, so easy to grow and need to be used more often.

Common Name: Triplet Lily, Brodiaea
Family: Asparagaceae
Location: Soest Garden Bed 6
Origin: Western USA
Height: 10-12″
Spread: Each inflorescence is about 6-8″ wide.
Bloom Time: Late June/July.
Bloom Type/Color: Terminal umbels on wiry stems with clusters of typically blue/violet flowers,
Exposure/Water/Soil: Full sun in well-drained soil.

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June 2011 Plant Profile: Glumicalyx goseloides

June 6th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Walking down the Soest Garden, it’s very easy to miss seeing this remarkable perennial plant all the way from South Africa. It’s a low growing evergreen perennial herb with foliage that has a pungent scent to your fingers if you touch it and if you kneel down and observe the unique tubular flowers, you’ll pick up on the “artificial chocolate” scent. What is really special about this delicate plant is its hardiness. It has survived temperatures in the lower teens (Fahrenheit) provided that it’s in a well drained spot in full sun.

Common Name: Nodding Chocolate Flower
Family: Scrophulariaceae
Location: Soest Garden Bed 8 (Southeast corner of bed)
Origin: South Africa
Height: 10-15″
Spread: 12-15″
Bloom Time: Late May and throughout the summer if deadheaded
Bloom Type/Color: Terminal racemes of nodding flowers of red/orange with a unique fragrance.
Exposure/Water/Soil: Sun-Part Shade. Moderately moist and well draining soil.

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May 2011 Plant Profile: Daphne x transatlantica ‘Summer Ice’

May 11th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Having the coldest spring on record, I figured it would be fitting to introduce this excellent garden plant that might describe what kind of summer we have.

Daphne x transatlantica 'Summer Ice'

Daphne ‘Summer Ice’ is becoming a widely recognized small shrub for the Pacific Northwest. It’s dependable, easy to care for, once established, and possesses fine qualities as such persistent leaves (for the most part) and wonderfully sweet fragrance that’s present almost year round. Gardeners have been impressed with its tidy habit often forming a compact mount with dense blooms from top to bottom.

Common Name: ‘Summer Ice’ Daphne
Family: Thymelaeaceae
Location: Fragrance Garden
Origin: Garden Origin
Height: 2.5-3ft.
Spread: 3ft. wide
Bloom Time: Intermittently throughout the year.
Bloom Type/Color: Terminal clusters of white-pale pink,tubular flowers with exceptional fragrance.
Exposure/Water/Soil: Sun-Part Shade. Moderately moist and well draining soil.

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Perennial Plant Trials: Blooms of Bressingham Report 2009-2010

April 27th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

UPDATED FOR YOUR REFERENCE AS YOU SEEK OUT NEW PERENNIAL PLANTS FOR YOUR GARDEN!!

2009-2010 Blooms of Bressingham Plant Evaluation Profiles

A little introduction:

Since 1997, the Center for Urban Horticulture (CUH) has been the recipient of plants from one of the most prominent names in the perennial plant industry. Blooms of Bressingham (referred to simply as “BLOOMS”) has been a source of the world’s finest perennial plant introductions for many years. Based in the UK with headquarters in North America, they’ve partnered with gardens all around the United States to evaluate the performance of their plants. Each year at CUH, samples are acquired, grown on and planted out in three island beds just west of Merrill Hall and, in recent years, container displays at Washington Park Arboretum. What looks like an extravagant perennial border is actually a test plot where the performance of each variety is scrutinized. Then recommendations and feedback are given back to BLOOMS.

For the 2010, season, we’ve decided to bring back the evaluation program after a few years hiatus. With the assistance of knowledgeable volunteers, BLOOMS has been consistently getting us new plant material and we’ve become a showcase garden for both new and older varieties for people to see before they head out to a local nursery and find these varieties for their own landscapes.

With the gardens changing each growing season with new plants and deletion of older varieties that are no longer performing as well as they should (often times being surpassed by improved selections), our maps are updated regularly and copies can be found at the reception desk at Merrill Hall.

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April 2011 Plant Profile: Osmanthus delavayi

April 8th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes
 

One of the most useful and attractive evergreen shrubs for the Pacific Northwest, this fragrant, spring blooming gem is hardy, easy to grow and highly adaptable to our climate. Left alone, it’s a loose and airy background shrub with clusters of densely packed tubular flowers in early spring. It also responds well to regularly pruning and shearing as a specimen or hedging plant. This is often done after flowering to stimulate growth that puts forth next year’s bloom.

Common Name: Delavay Tea Olive
Family: Oleaceae
Location: Fragrance Garden. McVay Courtyard
Origin: Western China
Height: 6-8ft. tall and
Spread: 10-15 ft. wide
Bloom Time: Late March into April
Bloom Type/Color: White, axillary, tubular flowers. Scented
Exposure/Water/Soil: Sun-Part Shade. Moderately moist and well draining soil.

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CUH Update – March 2011: Ramping up

March 21st, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Narcissus in Soest Garden

We all await the arrival of the most promising time of year as the garden slowly wakes up and showcases it early season splendor. March is when bulbs burst into bloom, spring ephemerals shyly shine and the winter shrubs are putting forth yet another splendid show of unrivaled color and, in most cases, outstanding fragrance.

Trillium chloropetalum in Bed 7 of the Soest Garden

Azara microphylla in full bloom scenting the Fragrance Garden with its chocolate/vanilla perfume.

It’s all  such a great distraction from  the financial woes and the economic downturn we’re all facing. Recent news of budget cuts and even threats to potentially eliminate the Arboretum from the University have caused us to be a little more on edge. Here’s a link to an article written by Valerie Easton on her blog about this situation. It’s really quite unsettling and as a gardener here, while we’re suppose to worry about a very busy spring season ahead, we’re all wondering if we’ll even have jobs come July. We’ve basically been learning to work with what little resources we’ve got and simply trying to stay motivated to get as much work done as possible.

Edmonds Community College students enjoy the sunshine as they install container plantings in the Soest Garden

Stepping back from our multiple tasks and looking out into the landscape, we’re simply in awe. This time of year has the potential to bring out the joy of what makes our profession so wonderful and unique. Bring out the sun and spirits are high!

We had the pleasure of hosting a group from Edmonds Community College’s Horticulture Department who dressed up some containers here at the Center for Urban Horticulture. In collaboration with garden designer, Wendy Welch and her fabulous container gardening class, we were treated with sunshine and an opportunity to see these young garden artists at work as they implement one of their designs as a series for our containers in the Soest Garden.

Here’s a note from Wendy about her student’s work:

“For their final project of the winter quarter Horticulture students from EDCC’s Container Gardening class designed and planted three containers in the courtyard at CUH. The long list of requirements for their designs included, a strong “winter picture”, at least one main element that is attractive year round, and at least two years of viability as a combination. All 22 students presented designs and then voted on the one they felt was the strongest. Jill Nunemaker’s design with Acer circinatum ‘Pacific Fire’, Sorbaria sorbifolia ‘Sem’, warm-colored cultivars of Heuchera and trailing Kininikinnick, won the vote by a landslide. Next years class will evaluated the success of these pots over time, as can all of you.”

Jill Nunemaker with her design, which includes a striking vine maple Acer circinatum 'Pacific Fire'

Seattle Garden Club also took part in a work party as members helped out in planting, transplanting and mulching within the Fragrance Garden. The site is now home to a few new plants with a few more still to come as we define the space a little more and more summer color will be more obvious with several perennials included this spring.

March is also the time we start to focus on WEEDS!!!! The gradual rise in temperatures and increased day length means the prolific germination of weed seeds that have been resting all winter. In a valiant effort in reducing our use and need for chemicals, we’ve been experimenting with various treatments such as torching (basically burning a plant with a flame) and a horticultural grade vinegar. We’ve seen signs of effectiveness, but we just need a few clearer and sunnier days to really see it take effect.

Anything we can do now to get on top of the big push of spring is crucial. With two gardeners left to oversee CUH grounds, it’ll be more challenging than ever, but everyone seems to be having patience and accepting the fact that some areas aren’t tended to right away, but for the most part, the gardens are looking great and visitors have been so pleased and enchanted by it all!

Chin up!

Riz

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March 2011 Plant Profile: The Genus Helleborus

March 9th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

The popularity of this tough and resilient perennial has made it one of the most revered and sought after of all winter blooming plants in our climate. The range of varieties and different color forms now available is quite remarkable and being able to select just one for your garden is near impossible.

Helleborus x hybridus Winter Jewels™ Black Diamond

By far the most popular and well known are the diverse hybrids of Helleborus x hybridus (often incorrectly dubbed as Helleborus orientalis) or the Lenten Rose. These represent the wide range of colors and forms that currently exist and some of the finest examples come from a breeder who generously donated some of their previous breeding stock to UW Botanic Gardens, which are all now in full bloom at the Center for Urban Horticulture. Ernie and Marietta O’byrne of Northwest Garden Nursery developed the fabulous Winter Jewels Series. Thousands of crosses comprised of hybrids bred from at least 16 different species make up several color strains to showcase much improved flower forms, exquisite colors and unusual markings.

Here’s just an example of their work and what’s currently blooming now:

Helleborus x hybridus Winter Jewels™ Jade Star flower reverse

Helleborus x hybridus Winter Jewels™ Onyx Odyssey reverse

Helleborus Winter Jewels™ Painted

Helleborus x hybridus Winter Jewels™ Golden Lotus

When it comes to early bloom, prolific flowers and sturdy, disease-free foliage, the new hybrids coming out of Europe are tough to beat. The “Gold Collection”, again a complex series of hybrids are actually identical clones propagated vegetatively (via tissue culture) to ensure uniformity. In varying shades of pure white, cream, to deep saturated pinks, these have proven to be vigorous and excellent garden or container perennials. ‘Joseph Lemper’ our January 2010 Plant Profile) along with ‘Jacob’ are two selections of Helleborus niger that are a part of this Gold Collection. Then you have the exquisite quality of varieties such as ‘Ivory Prince’ and ‘Pink Frost’ that are flying off the nursery tables at nurseries in mid-winter.

Helleborus 'Josef Lemper'

A brand new hybrid that was new for us last year is getting established and looking quite lovely is Helleborus x ‘Rosemary’. An unusual cross between H x hybridus and H. niger bringout the fine qualities of both plants.

Then you have the sturdiness and dependability of species such as Helleborus argutifolius, the Corsican Hellebore, which opens later in the spring with pale green flowers. A selection called ‘Silver Lace’ is lovely with finer dissected foliage and a more compact habit. Helleborus foetidus you can find growing in the Fragrance Garden despite its unpleasant smell if admired up close, The foliage is exquisitely elegant, narrow and finely dissected.

Hellebores will be the highlight of an early spring plant sale taking place here at CUH being run by the Northwest Horticultural Society. Proceeds from the sales go to support the Miller Horticultural Library and there will be plant vendors from all around the Puget Sound region selling plants and, yes, they’ve been asked to also bring their blooming hellebores to entice you! There will be demonstrations, displays, and even a talk by renowned plantsman, Dan Hinkley.

For more information, please visit our page dedicated to this event!

This is the perfect month to see these wonderful jewels in person as the weather begins to warm, the earliest of bulbs begin to pop and the color heralding the arrival of spring.

Common Name: Lenten Rose, Christmas Rose
Family: Ranunculaceae
Location: Throughout CUH
Origin: Original species come from Eastern regions of Europe. Mostly hybrids.
Height: 10″-18″ tall
Spread: mature clumps can get 2.5ft. wide
Bloom Time: Mid-Winter-Early Spring
Bloom Type/Color: Flowers composed of persistent sepals often marked or fully double with central nectaries. Flowers are out to downfacing opening sequentially.
Water/Soil: Moist to moderately dry. Drought tolerant once established.

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CUH Update – February 2011: Show Time

February 22nd, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Apologies for the delay in getting an update posted. We’ve had several little projects we’re trying to complete and we are getting numerous volunteer applications, which we have been going through and contacting interested individuals who are interested in helping us out in grounds.

Late winter brings with it a lot of planting and transplanting projects and our major one so far this year has been the relocation of an established specimen of Edgeworthia crysantha from the McVay courtyard to a new location just north of the Miller Library.

Transplanted Edgeworthia in a bed just North of the Merrill Hall

Like its close relative, Daphne, Edgeworthia resents being moved around and the fact that it’s also recovering from the hard freeze of last November with just a few buds remaining to open, we did our best to get the largest rootball possible and replanted it immediately into its new location. Cross your fingers!

With more severe winter cold predicted to come our way again, we are keeping our eye out on a few plants that could suffer. Obviously, Edgeworthia is on that list along with the two large Osmanthus we have in the Fragrance Garden. Our poor Daphne bholua doesn’t deserve another hit; this poor plant hasn’t flowered for us in three winters.


Then there are the Azara microphylla, which are just starting to flower that could be hit with cold and the remaining buds zapped and our massive Cordyline australis on the south side of Issacson Hall is already a sorry looking site. So, basically, anything spectacularly fragrant is being monitored.  Hehe

Our first accessioned plant for 2011 has been planted here at CUH in a large Chinese container donated by a special donor that once held a beautiful cascading Japanese maple, but when it became too troublesome to keep up the watering and the foliage would crisp up in the summer sun, we had to replace it.

Detail of the fierce branches of Citrus ‘Flying Dragon’

The maple has moved into a new home in the Woodland Garden over at Washington Park Arboretum and, for awhile, the pot was empty until it was decided that we would seek out a specimen of Poncirus (Citrus) trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’, a hardy citrus, to fill that void. Bloom River Nursery down in Oregon was able to provide us with a standardized specimen that’s been trained for ten years. It now graces the pot with its exquisite and somewhat sinister looking branches. It is highly unusual and will definitely be a conversation piece. Now we have to determine an under-planting so it doesn’t look so bare below.

Spring is definitely in the air when the sun decides to show itself and bulbs begin to bulge out of the ground and bloom their little heads of. Our annual show of yellow, cheerful, daffodils are just days away.

But for a real show, the 2011 Northwest Flower and Garden Show is finally here and UWBG has a most unusual booth this year thanks to our friends at Agua Verde Café and Paddle Club.

Rey Lopez generously donated a kayak for our display with one end cut off so it would stand and then it was planted up to make it look as if it had traveled to both sides of UWBG. Native flora and accessioned plants represented the Arboretum while more natives , including red-twig dogwoods and cattails complete with a “blue-tube” represent Foster Island and UBNA, while more exotic garden plants represented CUH.

Planted kayak that’s been through Lake Washington having collected materials from UWBG along the way

February is flying by so quickly with many activities taking place. The next few weeks should be spectacular (barring any serious cold snaps that will do certain plans in).

Cheers,

R

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