Big Big Flowers

July 16th, 2015 by Catherine Nelson, Adult Tours Program Assistant

maggrandifloraflwrThe Magnolia grandifloras in our collection are blooming now!  Who doesn’t love a 12-inch wide flower that smells great?   The commonly named Southern Magnolia or Bull-Bay is native to the SE United States from Eastern Texas, along the lower Gulf Coast to the Atlantic where it grows in loamy soils near water.  It has proven to be very adaptable to different soils and this has allowed for its ability to be cultivated in many different climates.  The largest M. grandifloras in their native habitat have been measured at up to 125′.  In non-native climate gardens they tend to grow to about 80′.

This tree is a valued ornamental in gardens around the world because of its large flowers and dark green glossy evergreen leaves.  It is used industrially for its beautiful hardwood to make furniture and cabinetry.  The seeds are food for native southeast squirrels, possums, quail and turkeys.  The leaves, fruit, bark and wood also are valued for their pharmaceutical properties.

Our collection M. grandifloras are located on either side of Arboretum Drive in the Magnolia section of the arboretum.   These trees are quite large and most of its flowers are high up, but there are a few on the lower branches accessible for smelling that nice citrusy scent.  Tour visitors from the Southern US assure me that this scent can be smelled at a distance down there, but up here in the Pacific NW one has to get up close to enjoy the scent.  And, speaking of tours, these trees and other summer bloomers like the Hydrangea are featured in our Free Weekend Walks for the month of July.  Join us any Sunday; we meet at 1:00 pm at the Graham Visitors Center.



Glimpse into the past – Dreams of an Arboretum at the University of Washington

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

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

Recently, I was browsing The Long Road Traveled by Henry Schmitz, from 1973, in preparation for a presentation about the Washington Park Arboretum.  I believe it is important to review how the leadership of the University of Washington was the catalyst to create the Arboretum. Almost all of this “glimpse” is the writing of Dr. Schmitz, but in a very condensed form.

The University of Washington seems to have wanted an arboretum from very early in its history. Shortly after his election in 1891 as a member of the State legislature, Edmond S. Meany became chairman of the legislative committee concerned with the acquisition of a new campus for the University. There are indications that he promoted the project in part by claims that it would provide an arboretum for the State as well as a campus for the University. If this is true, it was undoubtedly a method to elicit support from the lumber industry, which was not entirely without influence at that time in the state legislature. The late Herbert Condon used to relate a delightful story about a member of the legislature whom Mr. Meany was attempting to interest in the selection of the Union Bay area for the new campus-arboretum. The legislator listened to the arguments and then said, “Meany, I will help you get the area, but tell me-what in hell is an arboretum?”

Professor Edmond S. Meany

Professor Edmond S. Meany

It seems clear that for some years after the University moved to the new (and present) location selected by Dr. Meany’s committee, the development of an arboretum on the campus remained an important aim. The text calls attention to gifts of trees from the Seattle City Parks Department for planting on the new grounds.  On Arbor Day 1898, the Parks Department had presented the University with fifty assorted oaks and honey locusts. Later, Parks contributed an additional 2200 fine trees embracing almost thirty species new to the grounds, as well as a donation of a thousand perennials. These donations, along with a collection of five hundred more perennials from other sources gave impetus to a plan for the beautification of the campus.  These donations were said to “represent 42 natural orders and 179 species.”

A seed and plant exchange with eastern collectors was established by Dr. Meany to secure for the campus “as many rare and desirable species as possible.” Contributions of seeds were received from California, the Canadian Department of Agriculture, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Dr. Meany’s home garden was used entirely for growing seedlings of tree seeds received through the seed exchange. Since the city water mains had not yet been extended to his home, it was necessary for him to carry water in pails to the nursery beds. He was especially proud of the relations he had established with Kew Gardens and was greatly concerned that the seedlings survive.

College of Forestry Dean, Hugo Winkenwerder

College of Forestry Dean, Hugo Winkenwerder

Sadly, when the campus was cleared for the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, many of the trees planted in the early days by Professor Meany and others were destroyed. Nevertheless, the idea of an arboretum on the campus did not completely die. A few years later, Hugo Winkenwerder, Dean of the College of Forestry, with the enthusiastic support of Professor Meany, proposed to President Franklin Kane that the entire area below the railroad tracks be set aside for arboretum purposes. This proposal was approved by the President and the area was designated “Arboretum” on maps of the campus of that period.Progress was slow, and as the years went by, pressures developed on the campus for the construction of a golf course in the arboretum area. It was argued by the proponents of the golf course that the area could serve both purposes – the fairways and greens would occupy only part of the space and the remaining area could still serve as an arboretum. However, the golf course eventually took possession of the entire area and in late 1923 Dean Winkenwerder gloomily said that he “lost all hope of ever developing an arboretum on the University campus.”

Henry Suzzallo, UW President 1915-1926

UW President Henry Suzzallo

Although he recognized that an arboretum on campus was impractical because of the ever-changing patterns of land use by a growing university, Dean Winkenwerder did not for a moment give up the idea of developing an arboretum somewhere, and he conferred with President Henry Suzzallo to explore other possibilities. Even though it was President Suzzallo who had transformed the last campus arboretum into a golf course, he had a clear concept of the importance of a highly developed botanical garden and arboretum as a resource to the natural science departments of the University and to the people of Seattle and the State. He believed that the Arboretum should be developed jointly by the University and the City of Seattle.

Shortly after his conference with Dean Winkenwerder, Dr. Suzzallo addressed the Seattle Rotary Club to enlist the support of this important group of business and professional leaders for an arboretum in the Washington Park area. He said in part: “to the Board of Park Commissioners, that Board seems to have prepared Resolution No. 40 setting aside the entire area of Washington Park for a botanical garden and arboretum and giving the University of Washington certain privileges” (6th Day of February 1924).

Want to read the rest of the story? The Road Less Traveled is available for borrowing at the Elisabeth C. Miller Library.


July Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

July 12th, 2015 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (July 6 - 20, 2015)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (July 6 – 20, 2015)

1)  Itea ilicifolia                Holly-leaved Sweet Spire

  • Native to western China
  • Evergreen shrub growing up to 16 feet tall and 10 feet wide
  • Bears fragrant racemes of greenish-white flowers in late summer and fall
  • Located west of the Magnolia Collection near the south end of the Asiatic Maples

2)  Lomatia myricoides                Long-leaf Lomatia

  • Native to New South Wales in southeastern Australia
  • One of the hardier members of the Proteaceae
  • Honey-scented white flowers are much visited by bees in summer
  • Located across Arboretum Drive from the New Zealand Focal Forest

3)  Pterocarya stenoptera                Chinese Wingnut

  • Native to China
  • Deciduous tree to 70 feet or greater, with a trunk diameter as large as 8 feet
  • Located west of Azalea Way, north of Loderi Valley

4)  Quercus vacciniifolia                Huckleberry Oak

  • Native to western North America, mountains of the Sierra Nevada and southern Cascade Range
  • Leaves and acorns are an important food source for birds and mammals within its native range.
  • Located atop the rockery at the east end of the trail above the Gateway to Chile

5)  Rehderodendron macrocarpum                Mu gua hong

  • Native to Mt. Emei, Sichuan Province, China
  • Small deciduous tree 20 to 30 feet tall, related to Styrax
  • Located east of Azalea Way on the north end of the Rhododendron Hybrid bed

June Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum (Part II)

July 2nd, 2015 by Pat Chinn-Sloan
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (June 22 - July 5, 2015)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (June 22 – July 5, 2015)

1)  Quercus gilva                    Evergreen Oak

  • Native to China and Japan
  • Reaches heights of 90-100 feet in its native range
  • Located in the Oak Collection along the South Oaks Extension Trail

2)  Rhododendron calophytum           Beautiful-face Rhododendron

  • Native to China
  • Large species rhododendron capable of becoming a tree
  • Located along trail between Loderi Valley and the Woodland Garden

3)  Sequoia sempervirons  ‘Cantab’                     Coast Redwood

  • A cultivar of the coast redwood with unique needles
  • Specimens vary in form from shrubby to tree-like
  • Located in the north end of the Pinetum, along the Pinetum Trail

4)  Thujopsis dolobrata                    Hiba Arborvitae

  • A Japanese native
  • Capable of reaching 100 feet or more in Japan, yet large specimens are rare in the Seattle area
  • Located along the south slope of the Woodland Garden

5)  Viburnum rhytidophyllum                    Leatherleaf Viburnum

  • Native to China
  • Large evergreen shrub recorded to heights of 30 feet
  • Located along the trail through the Viburnum Collection

UW Botanic Gardens Ranked as a Top 50 University Garden

June 30th, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff
Picture courtesy Stephanie Colony

Washington Park Arboretum. Picture courtesy Stephanie Colony

The University of Washington Botanic Garden was ranked as one of the top University gardens, tied with three other gardens by Best Colleges Online. Gardens were scored on a number of criteria, including number of plant species, and presence of a horticultural library, education and conservation programs. With the Washington Park Arboretum enormous woody plant collection and the Center for Urban Horticulture’s numerous opportunities for formal and informal education it is no surprise that we ranked in the top of the list of 50 reviewed gardens.

June Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

June 15th, 2015 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (June 8 - 21, 2015)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (June 8 – 21, 2015)

1)  Cornus controversa           Giant Dogwood

  • A rounded deciduous tree bearing spreading, tiered branches and alternate, elliptic leaves, C. controversa can potentially reach 40 feet in height.  White flowers are borne in large, flattened cymes in early summer.  Following the flowers, masses of deep red fruit develop, changing to blue-black.
  • Native to China, the Himalayas and Japan, C. controversa is less cold tolerant than our native dogwoods.  This specimen is located along Azalea Way near the Hybrid Bed.

2)  Kalmia latifolila           Mountain Laurel

  • A dense, bushy shrub with glossy, dark green leaves and large corymbs of cup-shaped flowers, Kalmia latifolia is native to North America.  Thought by many to be our country’s most beautiful flowering shrub, it is the state flower of both Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
  • This specimen is located along the lower trail, near Rhododendron Glen.

3)  Quercus robur  ‘Concordia’           Golden English Oak

  • A standout specimen amongst the late spring flush of green, Q. robur ‘Concordia’ offers us bright yellow young foliage which will eventually turn color in the fall.
  • It is located on the east side of Azalea Way near the Woodland Garden.

4)  Pterocarya stenoptera           Chinese Wingnut

  • A large spreading tree with long pinnate leaves and winged green fruit produced in pendent spikes up to 12 inches in length.  Wingnuts are a member of the plant family Juglandaceae.
  • This specimen is located at the south end of the nut flats, just west of Azalea Way.

5)  Staphylea pinnata           Bladdernut

  • A deciduous shrub up to 15 feet high, S. pinnata is known for its curious bladder-like fruits in late spring and early summer.  This specimen is located amongst the True Ashes, west of Azalea Way.

Meet Our Summer Education Staff

June 9th, 2015 by Sasha McGuire, Education Program Assistant


Once again our Summer Camps have grown. Now spanning 10-weeks, we will host hundreds of budding scientists and naturalists at the Washington Park Arboretum and the Center for Urban Horticulture. Our amazing staff comes from all over North America and possesses tremendous experience and knowledge.

Michelle_BrownellMichelle Brownell, Garden Guide

Michelle grew up in Springfield, IL and earned her bachelor’s degree in wildlife ecology from Michigan Technological University in Houghton, MI. For the last two years, she has lived in St. Petersburg, FL and recently relocated to Seattle. While in Florida, she worked as a substitute teacher and taught robotics classes for the Sylvan Learning Center. Her two summers in Florida were spent working as a summer camp instructor for Mote Marine Laboratory and the Florida Aquarium. She has worked for seven seasons at various Boy Scout and YMCA camps throughout the US and Canada. Michelle loves the outdoors and enjoys hiking, backpacking and camping.

Bailey_CraigBailey Craig, Garden Guide

A lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest, Bailey loves nothing more than learning in the outdoors with students of all ages! She graduated from the University of Washington in 2011 with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology: Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation and has since earned graduate certificates in Museum Studies and Education for the Environment and Community. Bailey has enjoyed conducting Biological research in South Africa, the San Juan Islands, and in laboratories at the UW, but she has found that working with kids is what she enjoys best. Since the 9th grade she has been combining her love of science with her passion for education and conservation by working and volunteering with the Seattle Aquarium, Pacific Science Center, Woodland Park Zoo, and IslandWood. Bailey is currently coaching gymnastics and pursuing a Master’s in Education from the University of Washington and she is thrilled to spend her summer exploring the gorgeous Arboretum with Seattle’s youth. Bailey loves reading, dancing, teaching, eating tacos and grilled cheese sandwiches, and meeting invertebrates.

Katy_JachKaty Jach, Garden Guide

Katy grew up on the east side of the mountains in Yakima, Washington. She enjoys hiking, rafting, swimming, and just about any activity where she can be outside! In addition to exploring nature, Katy also loves to explore other parts of the world. In fact, she has lived in two South American countries; both Ecuador and Argentina. Katy is a current junior studying Spanish and Education at the University of Washington. Last summer, she worked as an assistant instructor at the Yakima Arboretum and is very excited to continue to do similar work here in Seattle!

Morgan_LawlessMorgan Lawless, Garden Guide

Born and raised in Syracuse, Morgan went to the University of New England in Southern Maine and stayed in New England several years after graduation. She has worked outdoor education through a program called Nature’s Classroom. Teaching outside is the reason she decided to go to Islandwood and get her Master’s in Education. She is excited about working at the Arboretum this summer! Morgan really enjoys spending time outside near any body of water.  She loves looking for creatures that live in the water. She also likes hiking and reading.


Casey_O'KeefeCasey O’Keefe, Preschool Garden Guide & Extended Camp

Casey studies Biology at University of Washington and has been involved with science education since she was in high school. For the past two years she has taught summer camps at Pacific Science Center. Casey has experience volunteering with Mountains to Sound Greenway and works on undergraduate research at UW. She is excited to share her love of nature and wildlife during her first summer at the Arboretum!


Morgan_WrightMorgan Wright, Preschool Garden Guide
Morgan was born in British Columbia and lived at WindSong Cohousing until moving to Seattle in 2000. She graduated last year from the Community, Environment, and Planning program at the University of Washington. Since then, Morgan has traveled to Israel, ridden her bicycle from Seattle to Yellowstone, interned for YES! Magazine, and continued the work she loves best: teaching and caring for children of all ages. She is passionate about community, education, and ecology. In her free time, Morgan loves to bike, cook, make art, and spend time with her family and friends in Seattle.


Dave_GiffordDave Gifford, Camp Coordinator
Originally from Philadelphia, Dave has been exploring and teaching in the Pacific Northwest for over seven years in a number of different programs. Recently he taught at the University Child Development School and at environmental education programs in the Seattle area including Islandwood on Bainbridge Island. Last Summer Dave was a Garden Guide at the Arboretum and is excited to return as the Camp Coordinator. Dave loves hiking the Cascades and exploring the beaches of the Sound. He also enjoys working on community projects and volunteering

Glimpse into the past – the Legend of the Flamingos and the Silver Egg

June 4th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

This month’s Glimpse is about the ‘Legend of the Flamingos and the Silver Egg’ featured at the recent celebration honoring Dr. Harold B. Tukey, Jr., and the founding of the Center for Urban Horticulture.  Dr. Tukey arrived in Seattle in May 1980 and one year later, several new faculty and staff were added.

During that time period, the American public had been ‘poking fun’ at the profusion of inexpensive (rather cheap) plastic ornaments which had been flooding our marketplaces.   The urban landscape took on a new look with its plastic balls, animals, statues, pet rocks, etc.  It was inevitable that a symbol from that urban environment should be chosen for the fledgling CUH.

The original Xylem and Phloem in the Center for Urban Horticulture courtyard, 1986

The original Xylem and Phloem in the Center for Urban Horticulture courtyard, 1986

The two first graduate students in the program, Sharon Buck and Cindy Maitland, decided that a pair of pink flamingos should be part of the CUH display and proudly presented them to Dr. Tukey on May 31, 1981, as members of the CUH Alumni Association.  The faculty and staff were excited and decided to hold a naming contest, voting by secret ballot, with the names of ‘Xylem’ and ‘Phloem’ chosen.  The following holiday season, and in subsequent seasons, the proud ‘parents’ were joined by a large silver egg in a CUH courtyard display.

The presentation of a pair of flamingos occurred for each new faculty and staff member hired, often appearing spontaneously on their front lawn or porch.   I was given a pair which I proudly named ‘Burt’ and ‘Ethel’, who proudly presided on my deck overlooking Lake Union.  Flamingos often appeared in many ways during the next few years around CUH.  In 1994, six appeared on my new home lawn, causing the neighbors to wonder about their new neighbor.

Today, flamingos come in many assorted colors and themes, including Husky mascot colors.   While reminiscing with Dr. Tukey at the Celebration, he remarked how much we were all full of the new doctrine for urban horticulture in the 1980’s, but the addition of the plastic flamingos brought us back to our relevancy to the urban environment.   Recently two of my new neighbors have been officially “Flocked” through a legitimate business.  While ‘Xylem’ and ‘Phloem’ have long disintegrated, their prototypes live on.

Modern garden flamingos, on display at a celebration of Dr. Tukey's founding of the Center for Urban Horticulture, April 2015

Modern garden flamingos, on display at a celebration of Dr. Tukey and the founding of the Center for Urban Horticulture, April 2015

More festive flamingos from the April celebration

More festive flamingos from the April celebration

What to Read this Summer? We Have Suggestions!

June 3rd, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

A few thought provoking books on display in the Miller Library.

This summer, check out a good book

We hope summer brings you sun, fresh air, and time to read. On display this month in the northwest corner you’ll find a few off-the-beaten-path selections to engage your intellect this summer. With topics ranging from poetry to environmental policy and history to biography, there’s something for every reader. See recommended titles in the Garden of Ideas list of books available to borrow from the Miller Library.

[Originally appeared in Leaflet for Scholars e-newsletter.]

May Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

May 15th, 2015 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (May 11-24, 2015)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (May 11-24, 2015)

1)  Cytisus x praecox ’Luteus’           Warminster Broom

  • This broom is a hybrid of C. multiflorus and C. purgans and is located on Arboretum Drive in the Legume Collection.
  • Many of the brooms are blooming now or soon to bloom, including the pineapple broom, Argyrocytisus battandieri, whose fragrance earned it its common name.

2)  Erica arborea var. alpina           Tree Heath

  • While non-alpine tree heath can reach heights in excess of 20 feet, the alpine variety is the “short” one, reaching only 10 to 15 feet.
  • Alpine tree heath has white flowers versus light-gray, and the scent is reminiscent of honey.

3)  Hydrangea luteovenosa           Sweet Hydrangea

  • In full bloom now, this semi-trailing Hydrangea is located on the Ridgetop Trail in Rhododendron Glen.
  • Though widely distributed in western Japan, this species of Hydrangea is critically endangered in Korea.

4)  Rhododendron ‘Snow Lady’ x Rhododendron degronianum ssp yakushimanum

  • Hybrids are often created to blend two or more outstanding traits from two separate taxa into one single plant, e.g. flower color and leaf indumentum.
  • There are several areas in the Washington Park Arboretum, including Azalea Way, Loderi Valley, Rhododendron Glen and the Puget Sound Rhododendron Hybridizers bed, showcasing many hundreds of hybrids of Rhododendron.

5)  Syringa reflexa           Nodding Lilac

  • The buds of Syringa reflexa start out a rosy–red before opening to pink and eventually fading to almost white.
  • The specific epithet “reflexa” refers to the nodding habit of the flower heads.
  • Lilacs are located throughout the Washington Park Arboretum, though many are found just south of the Woodland Garden along Azalea Way.