A pair of dedicated and highly organized graduate students succeeded in obtaining a grant to significantly expand the Society for Ecological Restoration-UW’s (SER-UW) native plant nursery at the UW Botanic Gardens. The SER-UW nursery provides low cost plants to the Arboretum, UW planting projects and many restoration efforts on campus initiated by SER-UW.
Anna Carragee, a graduate student in Environmental Horticulture (at the UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences) and her classmate Kelly Broadlick have been managing the nursery during their graduate tenure, which will end in June. The two realized that there was a compelling need to significantly expand the plant inventory to serve all these purposes. So the students appealed to the Campus Sustainability Fund for a grant to build a new hoop-style greenhouse, fund manager positions, and buy plant production materials.
The students were awarded the $54,000 grant last June and have recently completed the structure thanks to over 50 volunteers and 400 hours of labor over winter quarter.
The UW Construction Management department oversaw the construction of the new hoop house, which provides a new “home base” for the nursery that will lead to cost savings as well as space for 60% more plants.
“The unique shape of this hoop house will ensure that if we do get significant snowfall in winter, the hoop house will not collapse under the weight,” says Carragee, “a problem with a previous hoop house, which actually collapsed.”
The nursery is an important source of plant material for the two primary restoration projects of SER-UW – Whitman walk on the main campus and Kincade Ravine near the Burke Gilman trail.
The nursery grows plants from seed, from cuttings and from salvage—“saving” plants from development sites across King County that will be destroyed once construction begins.
The nursery is the home for these plants, as well as those started in Native Plant Production plant classes at the UW.
“The nursery collaborates with the other UW classes to ensure the plant starts thrive until ready to be used. We teach nursery skills here, horticulture skills and ensure that the plants that are harbored here promote genetic diversity at their eventual planting sites,” notes Carragee.
Carragee and Broadlick were careful with the funds they were granted and through a generous use of volunteers they were able to realize a cost savings. This allowed them to construct a lovely potting bench of rough-hewn wood, which will keep the new plants organized.
“But we want the new bench and workspace to be beautiful as well,” says Carragee. “So we devised a contest for a mural to be created on top of the bench!”
UW art students will vie for the $200 prize and rights to decorate the new potting bench with art, which will then be covered by an epoxy glaze to preserve both the art and the wood table from the elements.
The nursery is a great example of how so many University departments can work together to achieve a common purpose-horticulture, restoration scientists, native plant students, art students as well as the numerous UW facilities that will utilize the plants.
Seems only fitting that on Earth Day, we celebrated the completion of the hoop house with a grand party.