November 2011 Plant Profile: Acer griseum

November 13th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Fall color this autumn has been truly exceptional and this wonderful maple is no exception. Though more well known for it’s papery bark, Acer griseum is one of the most beloved landscape trees here in the Pacific Northwest. You see it more frequently these days as street trees and main specimen subjects in small urban gardens because of it’s slow-moderate growth rate.


Here it is just a few months ago. What makes this maple so distinct and easy identifiable is the bark, of course, but the foliage isn’t palmately dissected like the Japanese maples, but instead it’s a compound leaf with several leaflets.

Acer griseum fall color
Come fall, the foliage takes on a spectacular orange/red color that’s more pronounced when planted in full sun, but since this adaptable plant also thrives in part sun, the fall color is more yellow.

My friend Sean Barton with one of the largest specimens of Acer griseum I've ever seen at Bodnant Gardens in Wales, UK during a visit earlier this spring.

Common Name: Paperbark Maple
Family: Sapindaceae
Location: North of Merrill and NHS Hall
Origin: SW China
Height and spread: 18-20ft. high and 15-18ft. wide. Older specimens will ultimately reach 40-50ft.
Bloom Time: Early June
Bloom Type/Color/Fruit: Almost inconspicuous flowers appear in spring followed by dull green samaras appear in mid-summer.

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CUH Update: The Autumn Approach

October 4th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

After a nonexistent summer, we’re now charging forward and anticipating the return of rain and cooler temperatures, the shorter days, and all the fall tasks that seem to just ramp up without warning.

Autumn can be a mesmerizing time of year as many plants, particularly in the Soest Perennial Display Garden, have reached their full potential in growth and in many cases, abundant bloom. There’s indication of fall color all around (check out this month’s Plant Profile selection) and the last thrust of blooms being encouraged from slightly tender plants such as the dahlias, salvias, and agapanthus make for a tremendous show. The ornamenntal grasses are beginning to turn color as well as infloresences beginning to show creating a wonderfully diverse and complimentary foil to the landscape.

Our Plant Pick for the month of October: Vitis coignetiae the Crimson Glory Vine.

Fall is also the time to get one last mow of the lawn and then fertilize it. A major tree removal is on the task list this fall/winter (read about it here).We’ve also got a few planting areas that need to be prepared and hopefully installed this autumn and spring. It will be a very busy fall. We just pray that the weather cooperates when we have these large tasks to take on.

Cheers,

Riz

Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue' with Dahlia 'Bishop of York' with giant feather grass (Stipa gigantea) in the background.


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October 2011 Plant Profile: Vitis coignetiae

October 4th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Vitis coignetiae

Another woody plant has captured our attention this month and is deserving of this autumn highlight and that’s the Crimson Glory Vine.

While most grapes are fruiting now and express some fall color, this outstandingly large and colorful vine is mesmerizing to see especially when back lit by the western exposure of the sun. A entire kaleidoscope of rich purples, bright crimsons, yellow, reds and oranges along with the aging green is a sight to see.

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It is readily available and fairly easy to care for. It requires full sun, but can tolerate part shade, and moderate irrigation. It also requires quite a bit of space, but responds pretty well to pruning in mid-summer to control its size and habit on a trellis or similar structure.

Common Name: Crimson Glory Vine
Family: Vitaceae
Location: North of Merrill Hall and South of Issacson Hall on trellises
Origin: Russia, Korea, and Japan
Height and spread: 20-30ft. +
Bloom Time: Early June
Bloom Type/Color/Fruit: Almost inconspicuous racemes with small white lowers later forming into chalking purple blue fruit that are slightly bitter and tart with prominent seeds.

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Notice of Garden Renovation: Soest Garden Specimen Tree

October 4th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Our Persian Ironwood tree slated to be replaced later this fall/winter

So after 13 years in the same raised bed, it’s time that one of our Persian Ironwood trees (Parrotia persica) be removed and replaced with another species.

It was suggested that every ten years or so, the specimen tree would be changed out to showcase different species that could be utilized to create the part shade environment intended for the perennials planted below. There’s also concern that a mature tree’s roots could damage the concrete wall if allowed to get large.

After leaf-drop this fall/winter, we will close off the Soest Garden for a day or so and have the tree removed. Some of the soil will be replace (and perennials moved temporarily, of course) and our new tree, a American smoke tree Continus obovatus, will be planted.

We will begin digging up perennials shortly and keeping them in the nursery until they can be replanted in the same bed. Signs will be posted describing the project and further notice will be made when the date of renovation is determined.

CUH Grounds Staff

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September 2011 Plant Profile: Vitex agnus-castus

September 1st, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

I’ve decided to go with a woody species this month so I selected the fabulous Chaste Tree. Our specimen here at CUH is just coming into bloom and will absolutely peak in the next couple of weeks attracting bees, butterflies, and other wildlife while also attracting the attention of our frequent visitors who inquire as to “why do you grow butterfly bush? Don’t know you know it’s a noxious weed?!”


Vitex agnus-castus makes a wonderful substitute to the agressively self-seeding Buddleja davidii. It has a far more elegant appearance with it’s scented, silvery green, palmately compound leaflets and the conical, upright flowering stems that bear lavender flowers that really look like butterfly bush.

As a Mediterranean native, it prefers a warm environment in full sun and fairly well drained soil. It is readily available in most garden centers and while the most common form is the lilac color. Vitex also comes in white and pink. Though hardy and thrives in the Pacifc Northwest, it is VERY slow to leaf out and looks like a dead tree in early summer before it begins to leaf out. Vitex comes into its own in later summer entering fall, which makes it so ideal for later season interest.


Common Name: Chaste Tree
Family: Lamiaceae
Location: Douglas Conservatory Parking Lot
Origin: Mediterranean
Height: 5 meters
Spread: 5 meters
Bloom Time: Late August-September
Bloom Type/Color: Upright panicles of lavender, occasionally white and pink forms available.

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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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