Staff Spotlight: Tracy Mehlin

September 25th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

Tracy visiting The Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island

Tracy is the Information Technology Librarian in the Elisabeth C. Miller Library.

She grew up in the Southwest, in Southern California and Las Vegas. She has been interested in plants since childhood, and one of her earliest gardening memories is selecting bulbs and roses from the Jackson and Perkins catalog to plant at  their house in the high desert. She moved to Seattle after college in 1996 because her sister lived here. She hadn’t planned to stay long, but got a job at a botanic garden, got married, and bought a house, setting down really deep roots! Now she spends time gardening, cooking, reading,  knitting, and enjoying the many varied restaurants of Ballard.

Tracy has a BA in Social Science and a minor in International Relations from Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. She really enjoyed all her major classes in history, geography, political science, economics, and anthropology, but her favorite class was on Mexican history and culture. She also holds a Masters of Library and Information Science from UW.

Tracy became interested in UW Botanic Gardens when she read Val Easton’s column in the Seattle Times and noticed her byline, which said she was a horticultural librarian. She thought to herself that she finally had figured out what she wants to do with her life! She started volunteering in the Library autumn of 1999, was hired by the following winter, and started grad school in August 2000.

Tracy manages the websites of the Miller Library and the UW Botanic Gardens, so usually every day she edits or adds new content.  She assists patrons and fellow coworkers with computer and technology questions, and works on various projects as they come up, such as working with a vendor to redesign the interactive map of the Arboretum so that it works on smartphones.

Tracy really enjoys talking to patrons and coworkers about plants and feels so lucky to work here!
Her favorite place at the UW Botanic Gardens is walking from Merrill Hall to Douglas Conservatory because that takes her through three beautiful, dynamic gardens that have something interesting growing all year.

Tracy’s current favorite plant is the tomato. Really! She has five in her garden and is struck by how much she enjoys tending to them. They get planted in late May as tiny little things, then grow amazingly fast, especially this year with the hot, sunny weather. Two plants are already six feet tall. She loves the way the foliage smells. Tracy finds pruning and training them to grow on rebar stakes challenges her live-and-let-grow gardening attitude. Nothing is more coveted than the first ripe tomato. She also likes to make & can green tomato chutney and roasted tomato soup to savor in winter.

Glimpse into the past – the Daniel J. Evans Centennial Tree

September 22nd, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor
David Zuckerman and the Centennial Tree in 2003, just after transplanting.

David Zuckerman and the Centennial Tree in 2003, just after transplanting.

by John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

On Thursday, October 29, 2015, the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington will honor Daniel J. Evans, on his 90th birthday, for his public leadership, scholarship, and service.  What an opportune time to mention the Daniel J. Evans Centennial Tree at the Washington Park Arboretum…a coast redwood  (Sequoia sempervirens) which he planted in the south Pinetum as part of the Washington State Arbor Day program.   This tree has grown from a propagule (cutting) from the original tree named in 1989 during the State Centennial.  That tree was located at 201 Union Avenue SE, Olympia, WA, centered on a small knoll on property originally owned by Russell O’Brien, an Irish immigrant, and occupied by three generations of family thereafter.  The site is now called Centennial Park.  The tree was about 50 feet from the foundation of the old house that originally occupied the site, near a newer smaller home. (At this date, I have not been able to determine if the tree is still there, although I personally have visited it several times over the last 33 years.)

In 1998, the parent tree was at least 100 years old, 148 feet tall, and 67.2 inches in girth.  Ken Russell, Forest Pathologist, cored the tree and determined its age and wrote a description (1988) which is attached to our accession record. Other specific information can be found in the Washington State Historical Society records.  It is unknown how the tree arrived in Olympia and why it was planted on the O’Brien property.

Original certificate for the tree.

Original certificate for the tree.

In 1995, as Arboretum Director, I received an inquiry from Shelley Farber, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, asking if we would be interested in a propagule, since the DNR had several rooted trees which they wished to establish throughout the State of Washington. The official certificate is signed by Shelley on February 27, 1995 at 3:20 p.m.

The Arbor Day planting of the tree took place in a very heavy rain storm on the Washington State Arbor Day, April 12. 1995.  (The Washington State Arbor Day is a different day than the National Arbor Day).  The ceremony was attended by Dean David Thorud, UW College of Forestry, Clement Hamilton, Director of the Center for Urban Horticulture,  dignitaries from DNR, area high school students, and arboretum staff, myself included.  The arboretum staff (Christina Pfeiffer and David Zuckerman) had prepared a great planting site, with the tree (Accession #245-95) patiently waiting in its plastic pot.  After appropriate speeches, and with great gusto, the young tree was passed to David for planting preparation.  He lifted and tugged on the pot only to discover that it was totally pot bound, necessitating slicing off the pot.  Of course the roots were found to be one solid round core.   We all stood patiently for several minutes in the rain while David struggled to cut and loosen the roots, wanting to make sure the tree would survive. It has!  Finally, Governor Evans was able to plant the tree and we all quickly retreated for drier locations, leaving the staff to finish the planting job.

Governor Evans at the Arbor Day tree planting, April 12, 1995.

Governor Evans at the Arbor Day tree planting, April 12, 1995.

The Daniel J. Evans Centennial Tree being transplanted, 2003.

The Daniel J. Evans Centennial Tree being transplanted, 2003.

The tree flourished well, but on September 23, 2003, it was moved a few feet north, thus giving it more space.  Todd Holm, from Olympic Tree Farm, was the tree spade contractor. The tree has continued to flourish. In 2003, it was measured by Randall Hitchin at 30 feet tall, with a 6 inch dbh.  Today, it is 70 feett tall with 20 inch dbh.

I often see Governor Evans enjoying a milkshake at one of his favorite haunts, Burgermaster.   Occasionally we chat about his tree, and he tells me that he regularly visits it with his family, including his grandchildren.   This in indeed a superb tribute to a great man with a great tree which will remain a legacy for at least another 100 years, a milestone he himself is within 10 years of achieving.

Capture the moment with botanical photography!

September 15th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

Botanical Photography Classes with David Perrydavid_perry_bio3

David Perry is an inspirational, Seattle-based photographer, a willing teacher and a captivating storyteller with a keen knack for observation and a distinct twinkle in his eye. His reverence for gardens, flowers and the gardeners who tend them is apparent in the pictures he makes and his playful, sometimes irreverent manner of speaking about them keeps audiences on the edge of their seats.

David’s work has been featured on the cover of Fine Gardening four times in the past few years, and many times in Sunset, This Old House Magazine, Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design, and Pacific Horticulture among others. His garden was recently featured by local Seattle Times garden columnist, Val Easton, in Pacific Northwest Magazine.

Students in David’s previous classes have raved about his teaching abilities, the individual attention given to each student, and his sense of humor.

Read on to discover three great opportunities to learn from David this fall and for you to become the botanical photographer you have always wanted to be!


Japanese Maple Photography Workshop

Washington Park Arboretum
2 parts: Mon., Sept. 28, 7-9pm & Sat., Oct. 3, 8:30am-12pm
Fee: $95 (the lecture on September 28, described in detail below, is included in this price)
Register online

This workshop includes both an instructional lecture and a photo-shooting workshop. The lecture will thoroughly cover the many styles of portraits that are possible and how they can translate across to plant photography. The full workshop is for those who wish to delve in further by participating in a hands-on workshop with shooting assignment. We will walk together to the Arboretum’s stunning collection of Japanese Maples to practice incorporating the portrait styles (The Close Up, The Environmental Portrait, The Group Photo, The Candid Portrait), and principles into our photographs. We will observe the Japanese custom of viewing autumn colors, known as “momijigari,” with our cameras, attempting to capture the essence, spirit and beauty of the Japanese Maples.

Picture Perfect Plant Portraits

***This lecture is included in the Japanese Maple Photography Workshop listed above.*** Anyone unable to make it to the Saturday photo shoot is welcome to sign up for the lecture alone.

Washington Park Arboretum
Mon., Sept 28, 7-9pm
Fee: $15
Register online

What is a plant portrait? At its most basic, a plant portrait is a likeness that celebrates the physical characteristics and ephemeral beauty of a plant. Plant portraits are a wonderful place to begin wading into the larger river of garden photography, but they are also a photographic art form that one will never outgrow. Join David E. Perry for a lively and inspiring exploration of his own adventures as a plant portraitist. Learn how to make better close-ups and how to capture the dreamy moods that will elicit the oohs and ahhs of others while showing the plants within a larger garden setting.


iPhone and iPad Botanical Photography

Center for Urban Horticulture
3 Thursday Afternoons, October 29th-November 12, 1-4pm
Fee $165
Register online

Become the master of your photographic domain. Learn to use the cameras you already have on your smartphone or tablet and the best photography apps to make pictures that can populate your website, portfolio, Instagram and Facebook pages. Learn from master photographer/storyteller David Perry, who has four covers for Fine Gardening magazine in the past two years, the most recent of which was shot with his pocket-sized point and shoot camera.


This is an opportunity not to miss! Call 206-685-8033 or email with any questions.


Student Spotlight: Nate Haan

September 14th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

Nate in the Goodfellow Grove at the Center for Urban Horticulture

Nate is a PhD Candidate who became involved with UW Botanic Gardens when he joined Professor Jon Bakker’s lab at the Center for Urban Horticulture in 2013. He grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and moved to Seattle in 2013 to start his studies at the UW.

He enjoys spending time hiking and backpacking in the mountains or along the coast. He also spends a bit of time on art projects, usually printmaking.

Nate finished his bachelor’s degree at Calvin College in 2007, majoring in Biology.  His favorite class was called Plant Taxonomy, although it covered lots of topics other than taxonomy.  He loved it because they learned how to identify plants by their family characteristics, and had several field trips to forests, bogs and prairies to learn the local flora.  A few years later he was a Teaching Assistant for this class, and a few years after that was hired as the instructor.

Nate finished his M.S. at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment in 2010. His thesis was on ecological restoration in disturbed areas like roadsides.

Currently, he is working in prairies in the South Sound, studying Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly and its interactions with its larval host plants. A typical day is usually spent in the greenhouse, watering or potting plants for various experiments. There is a captive population of checkerspot butterflies in the lab at most times, so he spends some time with various members of the lab taking care of them or setting up different experiments. Other than that, you can usually find him in the graduate office in Merrill Hall. Mostly, he enjoys coming up with new research ideas, learning new things, and occasionally getting his hands dirty.

Cool Seeds Abound

September 11th, 2015 by Catherine Nelson, Adult Tours Program Assistant

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 1.26.25 PMPterocarya stenoptera, common name Chinese Wing Nut, has gorgeous lime green seed catkins 12-14″ long each bearing up to 80 seeds. That’s pretty amazing in itself but when these seed catkins are dripping off of each limb of a tall tree the effect is stunning.

The Wing Nut genus resides in the walnut family, or Juglandaceae, and is used for ornamental purposes in gardens around the world.   Its native habitats are in China, Japan, and Korea, growing in areas from sea level to elevations of about 1500 feet.  Like its cousin nut trees – the Walnut, Pecan & Hickory – this large deciduous tree has pinnate leaves and grows quickly with a rangy habit.Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 1.26.59 PM

We have a few different Pterocarya species in the Washington Park Arboretum collection.  I like to stop and admire the large P. stenoptera specimen along Azalea Way; it was acquired in 1951 and is now about 60′ feet tall.   Because it has many low-hanging limbs, you can touch the seed catkins, which are surprisingly rigid and tough.

You can learn about this tree and many others in our collection if you join our Free Weekend Walks for September.  Our tour theme is “Fruits, Nuts & Seed Pods” because right now is the time to marvel at the bounty which is the result of spring pollination.  Guides meet visitors at the Graham Visitors Center every Sunday at 1:00 pm and off you go to explore our great park.

Staff Spotlight: Lisa Sanphillippo

September 7th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

Lisa_SanphillippoMeet Lisa Dora Sanphillippo! Lisa is the School Fieldtrips Coordinator for UW Botanic Gardens.

She lived in L.A. until she was 8 years old.  Her mom “got a little freaked out” by the big city, big crime and smog so she moved them to a tiny town in Idaho called Kamiah (population 2500).  The family lived in the middle of a National Forest and the Clearwater River. They swam with bass, rode horses, and learned to pee outside.

Lisa moved to Lewiston, Idaho in 1988 to attend Lewis-Clark State College where she studied theatre.  She moved to Seattle in 1992 to be with her boyfriend, and is married to him now (they have been together 23 years, married 18).

She still enjoys doing theatre from time to time and is currently co-writing a cabaret with the hope of producing this fall.  She enjoys photography, crafting, walking her dog, Franklin, and watching movies.
Lisa loves science and tries to learn more about the world around her all the time. She states that biology was/is her favorite class so far.

Lisa started as a volunteer with UW Botanic Gardens in the fall of 2003.  She applied for the job previously held by Shawna Zuege.  Chris Berry (the Supervisor at the time) asked Lisa if she would volunteer, and she did.  Two years later, Chris moved on, Shawna moved up, and so did Lisa.

A typical day at work for Lisa involves e-mail, development of program activities or curricula, brainstorming with colleagues, and hanging out with/teaching kids.  Her favorite activity is spending time with kids, though she loves that she has a variety of duties.

Lisa has several favorite places at UW Botanic Gardens, though she states the Winter Garden is probably her top choice. It is the most wonderful place to visit to enjoy the fragrance, color, and texture of the plants when it is cold and dreary in the middle of January.  This lifts her spirits and helps her deal with the short days.  She also adores the way the Winter Garden is designed to resemble the layout of a room, including an entry way and living room.

Her favorite tree at the Washington Park Arboretum at the moment (and for a long time) is the State Champion Malus fusca or Pacific crabapple that can be found just up the ramp from the Graham Visitors Center.  The bark is twisted, which makes it seem like it is in motion — or maybe those twists and furrows are its wrinkles; it is old, possibly 100 years or more.  It’s a champion because it is wider than it is tall.  The last measurement she knows of stated it was 45 feet tall and 75 feet wide.  The branches reach to the right and left like it is welcoming you.

Lisa also loves Azara microphylla because they are pretty droopy little trees that smell like cocoa butter in winter.  Lisa loves our own native Sitka spruce because they are ancient giants that live in an amazing forest ecosystem.  She loves snowbells and crocus that herald the coming of spring.  But, right now, her favorite is the Baobab tree.  She has loved them since childhood when she read The Little Prince.  It is on her bucket list to see them in their native habitat.

Lisa’s favorite walk is through the oaks, down the trail parallel to Azalea Way to the Walnuts and up to Honeysuckle hill, through the Viburnums and back up and out to Azalea Way to visit the big pond.

A Wind in the Willows (and Cedars, Firs, Maples…)

September 5th, 2015 by UWBG Horticulturist

How some trees react to high winds.

A broken <em>Acer macrophyll </em> (Big Leaf Maple) um stem located at the east end of Loderi Valley in the Washington Park Arboretum

A broken Acer macrophyllum (Big Leaf Maple) stem located at the east end of Loderi Valley in the Washington Park Arboretum

1)  Pseudotsuga menziesii                Douglas Fir

  • The detritus lying on the ground following a wind event in the Pacific Northwest provides ample evidence of how P. menziesii defends itself against wind.
  • The wood of P. menziesii is brittle and can snap. When a strong wind acts on a Douglas Fir, the tree sacrifices small pieces of foliage to shed the wind’s energy.

2)  Thuja plicata                Western Red Cedar

  • In contrast to Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar limbs are fibrous and tenaciously strong. Long, bendable limbs whip and swing in the wind, but rarely break.
  • The wind’s energy is transferred to the trunk and the cedar relies on its massive girth and extensive root system to keep it upright.

3)  Populus trichocarpa                Black Cottonwood

  • In growth, P. trichocarpa sacrifices strength for speed.
  • Just to the northwest of our Overlook Pond, a massive black cottonwood demonstrates how weak wood tends to shatter under stress.

4)  Salix spp.                Willow

  • Often growing in wet bottomlands, the roots of willows can be shallow mats that are relatively easy to peel up when a strong wind levers a tall tree.

5)  Acer macrophyllum                Big Leaf Maple

  • The wood of Acer macrophyllum is strong but heavy. The massive, reaching limbs can shatter mid-limb when wind pulls on the sail-like leaves.
  • A recent example is located at the east end of Loderi Valley just above Arboretum Drive, although many of our big-leaf maples are festooned with “storm stubs.”

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 Fall Kayak Tours

September 1st, 2015 by Sasha McGuire, Education Program Assistant

Join us for this end of summer tradition at the Washington Park Arboretum as we tour our wetlands by kayaks generously loaned to us by Agua Verde Paddle Club. All proceeds go towards our Saplings Scholarship Fund that enables underprivileged students to take part in our hands-on, science-based school field trip programs.

Learn about the wetland ecosystem, including a little bit of history and little bit of ecology!  It’s great exercise and also simply beautiful.

No experience necessary; kayaks are doubles; max tour size is 12. Spaces are filling fast, so register today!
Suitable for children ages 6+. Children must be accompanied by a parent/guardian.
Cost is $35 per person.
Register by emailing or call 206-545-8570


  • Thursday, September 10th                     3pm and 5pm
  • Friday, September 11th                           3pm and 5pm
  • Saturday, September 12th                      9am, 11am, and 1pm
  • Sunday, September 13th                         9am, 11am, and 1pm
Photo Credit: Ethan Welty

Photo Credit: Ethan Welty

Student Spotlight: Anna Carragee

August 31st, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor



Meet Anna Louise Carragee.  Anna is a Master of Environmental Horticulture student in the University of Washington’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, and she will start her second year this fall.  She has 3 part-time positions at UW Botanic Gardens: Greenhouse Assistant, Nursery Manager for the Society for Ecological Restoration – UW Chapter’s Native Plant Nursery (housed at the Center for Urban Horticulture), and a short-term position to support the City’s Seattle reLeaf program to help re-inventory and evaluate the health of street trees planted with the Trees for Neighborhoods project.

Anna is from Wayne, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia.  She moved to Seattle to start school at UW last year.  She was attracted to Seattle since it is a large city with excellent access to the mountains.  Anna likes to hike, bike, contra dance, attend concerts, care for her indoor plants, and read.

Anna attended the University of Vermont and studied Ecology for her undergraduate degree.  Her favorite class was dendrology, which was life-changing because she suddenly saw all the trees in much more detail and gained greater understanding of the ecology of the northern hardwood forests of Vermont.  Anna’s favorite class at UW so far is Plant Ecophysiology, which she also found to be life-changing.  Her understanding of plants increased exponentially in ten very quick weeks.

As a student in the Master of Environmental Horticulture program, Anna has many classes in the greenhouse and in the Douglas Research Conservatory at the Center for Urban Horticulture. She has had the chance to meet the staff of UW Botanic Gardens and be involved in really interesting projects this summer.

On a typical day, Anna waters the potted plants in Merrill Hall and maintains the plants in the research yard near the hoophouses.  When working for Seattle reLeaf, she drives all over the city surveying street trees planted in the last 3-5 years.  Her favorite part of her jobs is watching plants put on new growth and seeing the colors of the Soest garden change over the season.

Anna’s favorite part of the UW Botanic Gardens gardens is the New Zealand forest at the Washington Park Arboretum; she studied in New Zealand and recalls the fun she had there.

Her favorite tree is the tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) because she loves large shade trees that also have “showy” flowers. Also, growing up in Pennsylvania she had many tall tulip poplars in her backyard that shed flowers and seeds — which provided hours of amusement for Anna and her friends!