February Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

February 14th, 2016 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum, February 8 - 21, 2015

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum,
February 8 – 21, 2015

1)  Pinus greggii

  • This three-needle pine from northeastern Mexico is closely akin to P. patula but less ornamental.  Its oval-conical cone clusters stay closed on the branch for several years.  This specimen and the others described here can be found within Crabapple Meadow, along the east side of Arboretum Drive.

2)  Pinus jeffreyi

  • Native mainly of California in the Sierra Nevada and Siskiyous, this lofty tree is said to grow to 200 feet in the wild.  P. jeffreyi is closely allied to P. ponderosa and at one time, it was normal to regard it as a variety of that species.  Its three-needle bundles are said to give off a fruity scent when bruised.
Close-up of cones from Pinus greggii

Close-up of Pinus greggii cones

3)  Pinus montezumae var. lindleyi

  • This five-needle pine is native to southern and central Mexico at subtropical and cool temperate altitudes, with its best development at 7,000 to 8,000 ft.  Its flexible, pendulous leaves (growing to 14 inches or longer) along with its broad, dome-shaped crown give it a distinct look.

4)  Pinus pinaster

  • Commonly known as the Maritime Pine, this specimen is native to southwestern Europe and north Africa.  The glossy green leaves of this pine are the largest and stoutest of all two-needle pines, and it is said to be one of the best for light sandy soils.  As its common name implies, it thrives in coastal maritime localities.

5)  Pinus strobus ‘Fastigiata’

  • A native of eastern North America, P. strobus has proven to be a valuable timber tree and one of the richest assets of our country.  Its bluish-green five-needle clusters are three to five inches long, with lines of white stomata on the inner sides.  Once again, all of these specimens listed here can be found within Crabapple Meadow, along the east side of Arboretum Drive.

Glimpse into the past – Seeps and shifting soils

February 3rd, 2016 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

by John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

Last month we discussed how rapidly trees grow and change the landscape.  It is interesting how physical landscapes also change and often actually shift and move due to changes in temperatures. Visitors to the Pacific Connection Gardens, specifically the New Zealand Forest, have seen the renovation of the Lookout which restored its former shape and size. It is perched high above a steep bluff which looks northward over Azalea Way and the large pond with the University of Washington in the distance.

The steep wall was buttressed by stone work, and originally a pathway allowed visitors to precariously descend from the area of the Lookout to the green grassy basin surrounding the pond.

Bank before reconstruction, 7/2/1967

Bank before reconstruction, 7/2/1967. Photo by B. O. Mulligan.

This entire hillside “sheds” much water and after every rain, it is quite squishy and treacherous. In fact, sometimes you can even see slippage cracks. The Works Progress Administration men laid a series of wooden pipes to assist in drainage but these have almost totally failed. Thus it has been a challenge to manage this entire rockery and drainage system.

Originally built in the 1940s, the photos shown here detail a reconstruction project of the bank and pathway in July 1967. The first photo above is before reconstruction.  The others detail the new path and stone work, all taken on July 13, 1967.

Upper portion of new steps, 7/14/1967. Photo by B.O. Mulligan.

Upper portion of new steps, 7/14/1967. Photo by B. O. Mulligan.

 

New steps down bank, 7/14/1967. Photo by B.O. Mulligan.

New steps down bank, 7/14/1967. Photo by B. O. Mulligan.

 

New steps constructed on bank, 7/13/1967. Photo by B. O. Mulligan.

New steps constructed on bank, 7/13/1967. Photo by B. O. Mulligan.

 

Top of bank after clearing and new rock work. Photo by B. O. Mulligan.

Top of bank after clearing and new rock work. Photo by B. O. Mulligan.

As you can see, it has very uneven steps, typical of the designs of that day. Over the years, there have been many slippages and the path has been closed due to safety issues.  Currently there is no easy way to ascend/descend that slope.

The current photo taken on January 24, 2016, shows a view of the rockery which obscures most of its beauty.

Current view of rockery, Lookout above, 1/24/2016. Photo by John A. Wott.

Current view of rockery, Lookout above, 1/24/2016. Photo by John A. Wott.

The last photo shows water gushing from old pipes and seepage ways.

Water gushing from hill side and banks, 1/24/2016. Photo by John A. Wott.

Water gushing from hill side and banks, 1/24/2016. Photo by John A. Wott.

UW Botanic Gardens staff is currently reviewing this entire area in order to restore its integrity, handle the drainage issues, and eventually make it all more easily accessible.

 

Late January Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

January 31st, 2016 by UWBG Horticulturist

Sleeping Beauties

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (January 25 - February 7, 2016)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum
(January 25 – February 7, 2016)

1)  Oemleria cerasiformis                Indian Plum

  • The Indian Plum adheres to Benjamin Franklin’s advice in Poor Richards Almanac: “Early to bed, early to rise. . . .”  This shrub goes to sleep early, beginning to slowly defoliate in late summer.  However, it is one of the first to leaf out, and flowers early in the spring.  It can be found throughout the Arboretum, and is just beginning to awaken.

2)  Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’                          Black Mondo Grass

3)  Magnolia × soulangeana                Saucer Magnolia

  • The Saucer Magnolia wraps its flower buds in a fuzzy blanket for its winter nap.  As winter draws to a close and spring approaches, these buds will swell and open into a glorious pink and white show.  You can find this and many other specimens of this wonderful genus in our nationally-recognized Magnolia Collection (http://depts.washington.edu/uwbg/gardens/wpa/collections.php).

4)  Polystichum munitum                Western Sword Fern

  • The Western Sword Fern spends its winter in a tightly coiled bunch.  As they unfurl in spring, these are called fiddleheads, as they resemble the curled ornamentation (called a scroll) on the end of a stringed instrument, such as a violin.  Fiddleheads also just happens to be the name of the UW Botanic Gardens’ Nature Preschool Program (http://depts.washington.edu/uwbg/education/Youth/nature_preschool.shtml).

5)  Tsuga heterophylla                Western Hemlock

  • Not all the plants in the Arboretum are providing shade for Little Nemo in Slumberland.  Some plants, such as conifers like the Western Hemlock, do not go to sleep during the winter.  As long as it is not too cold, they will happily photosynthesize, converting water and air into sugar.

The Weekend Warriors of Centennial Woods

January 23rd, 2016 by Anna Carragee
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Jon and Martha Diemer, the weekend warriors of Centennial Woods.

Since the initial planting of Centennial woods in Union Bay Natural Area in 2007, in celebration of the first 100 years of the College of Forest Resource (now known as the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences), Jon Diemer and his wife Martha have become the weekend warriors. They devote every free Saturday to restoration work at the site. As the current UBNA Ranger, I was able to lend a hand and plant a few hemlocks and shore pines this past Saturday, January 16th, 2016. Along the way I learned about this great site.

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Jon doing a planting demo with a Western hemlock, Tsuga heterophylla.

Trying to find Centennial Woods? Centennial Woods is located on the western edge of UBNA, across from the former E-5 parking lot. (Labeled in green.)

CW map

Restoration work at Centennial Woods requires patience and perseverance because the site is threatened by tireless invasive species such as Himalayan blackberry, and also high mortality rates of planted trees. For example, from the initial school sponsored planting in 2007, only 40 of the original 400 bare root trees survived. The trees have also had some run-ins with mowers. A challenging site like this requires constant management to reach restoration objectives.

Despite having finished his Masters of Environmental Horticulture project and returned to a full time job other than managing UBNA, Jon has continued researching the best ways to control Himalayan blackberry and promote survival rates of the planted trees. Jon is trying out the efficacy of herbicide to control patches and shading out patches with a tarp (pictured below).

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Herbicide trial to eliminate blackberry.

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Shade trial to eliminate blackberry.

To increase survival rates, Jon is trying out different plant species native to more southern climates including redwoods from California! You can see one little redwood doing well in the picture with Martha and Jon. Species adapted to more southern climates are predicted to do well with the warming temperatures associated with climate change.

There are more trees that need to be planted this winter. If you are interested in helping out please contact me, Anna at carragee@uw.edu or Jon at jdiemer@uw.edu.

For more information, check out Jon’s MEH thesis Centennial Woods Restoration and Management Plan.

January Color Brings in the New Year at the Washington Park Arboretum

January 16th, 2016 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Witt Winter Garden at the Washington Park Arboretum (January 11-24, 2016)

Selected cuttings from the Witt Winter Garden at the Washington Park Arboretum (January 11-24, 2016)

Witt Winter Garden

1)  Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’
Midwinter Fire Dogwood

  • Though the species normally has red twigs and purple fall color, this outstanding cultivar has golden-yellow fall color followed by red-blushed, yellow twigs.
  • This dogwood is native to northern Europe into northwestern Asia.
  • Full sun is required to obtain the best winter stem color and this dogwood will slowly colonize an area via suckers from its shallow roots unless controlled.

2)  Corylus maxima  ‘Atropurpurea Superba’                Purple Giant Filbert

  • This excellent selection of the Giant Filbert produces long purple catkins in winter followed by large purple-red leaves in spring.
  • From what we have observed in the Witt Winter Garden, this specimen is resistant to eastern filbert twig blight, caused by the fungus Anisogramma anomala.

3)  Daphne bholua  ‘Jacqueline Postill’                Lokta, Paper Daphne

  • The specific epithet “bholua” comes from “bhulu swa”, the Nepalese name for the species.
  • Despite having a native range to 12,000 feet in the Himalayas, this species of Daphne is just as hardy in Seattle and requires a protected placement in the garden.

4)  Hamamelis x intermedia  ‘Winter Beauty’                Winter Beauty Witch Hazel

  • The north end of the Witt Winter Garden contains many species and cultivars of witch hazel.
  • Witch hazel flowers range from sulfur-yellow to carmine-red, while their fragrance can be absent, lightly floral or an intense citrus.

5)  Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna                Sweet Box

  • Sweet box is an often overlooked element of the Witt Winter Garden due to the diminutive size of its flowers, though no one can miss their intense fragrance.
  • Perfectly comfortable in dry shade, Sweet Box is an excellent choice for under-planting taller shrubs or small trees such as Hamamelis.

Coniferous Trees Highlighted in January Tours

January 6th, 2016 by Catherine Nelson, Adult Tours Program Assistant

When the Olmsted Brothers first came to the Seattle area in the early 1900s, they were impressed by the size, abundance and beauty of our native conifers. Thirty years later when they designed the collection placement for the Washington Park Arboretum, they made a point of not removing our native trees, but placing the arboretum collection within a matrix of these native conifers. Eighty years later our park abounds with these tall stately beauties.

Many of the first conifers – or (mostly) evergreen trees – acquired in the collection were placed on Foster Island at the north end of the park; this site, while picturesque, turned out to be not so good for the needs of the trees themselves. Now much of our conifer collection resides in the Pinetum, which meets the needs of these plants as it is a site with better sun exposure and soil drainage. The rest of the collection is placed throughout the arboretum in areas suited to the needs of each species.

cupressusguadaloupensisCurrently the UW Botanic Gardens conifer collection includes 41 genera of conifers, comprising 216 species (not including subspecies or varieties) and approximately 2,974 individual plants. Our Sunday Free Weekend Walks in January will focus on this extensive conifer collection. With close to three thousand plants in the collection we cannot see all of them in the 90 minutes allotted, but our guides will show and talk about many of these amazing trees as well as what makes them unique in the plant world.

CguadaloupensisOne of the conifers in our collection that I have come to admire is the Cupressus guadaloupensis var. guadaloupensis, common name Guadaloupe Cypress. We acquired three of these trees in 1989 and two are still living; these plants highlight the conservation value of our collection.

Our Guadaloupe Cypress are not very big and sit unassumingly next to a path in the Pinetum. This tree caught my eye because if its exfoliating bark, which I had never seen on a conifer before, so of course I had to do some research on this tree. I’m glad I did, because it is an interesting story.

These conifers are endemic to Guadaloupe Island in the Pacific Ocean west of the California/Mexico border. Guadaloupe is a desert island and most of its moisture is received through ocean fogs rather than rain. The Guadaloupe Cypress has been cultivated since the 1800s but is rarely used in collections as it will not set seed outside its native habitat and is not necessarily resistant to cold temperatures. In the last century the tree became critically endangered in its native habitat due to a population of feral goats on the island.

A quote from The Gymnosperm Database at Conifers.org:

“For many years the species was severely limited by the grazing of goats, which reduced its population to about 3300 individuals on about 160 ha, with negligible regeneration. However, in 2005, under the leadership of Dr. Alfonso Aguirre Muñoz, the Grupo de Ecología y Conservación de Islas, A.C. succeeded in completely eradicating the goats from this large island and the trees and vegetation are now recovering. This is an uncommon bit of good news in the generally depressing landscape of rare conifer conservation.” Good news indeed.

Art Exhibit: Al Dodson Photography

December 29th, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

AL Dodson photo of barkNorthwest native and trained botanist, Al Dodson, is intimately familiar with plants of all kinds. He loves photographing their more subtle and elusive qualities and bringing them to light so that the more casual observer might appreciate them. Bark, for example, can have beautiful color, texture, and pattern that often goes unnoticed.

Come view Al’s photos in the Library January 2 through February 12th.

Staff Spotlight: Annie Bilotta

December 28th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

Annie_BilottaAnnie Bilotta is a Gardener, working at the Center for Urban Horticulture. She is originally from New York State, and she moved to Seattle in 1989. Annie started working at the UW Botanic Gardens in 1993 at the Washington Park Arboretum as a Gardener.  She moved over to the Center for Urban Horticulture around 2005.

Annie is especially fond of vegetable gardening. When not gardening, she can usually be found riding one of her four bikes, either on a long road ride or in the mountains.  In the rare times that she can be found sitting still, she likes to knit or weave baskets.

Annie has no formal education in horticulture and received her bachelor’s degree from Ithaca College in music education. One of her favorite classes in college was instrument repair.  It wasn’t apparent to her then but she loves working with her hands. Annie became involved with UW Botanic Gardens when she persistently called for about two years and asked about getting hired on as a gardener at the Arboretum.  When a position opened up in 1993 she applied and was hired.

The thing she likes most about her job is the variety.  A typical day has her checking out the landscape and determining what the most pressing issues are.  Out of the many that she identifies as needing doing ‘Right Now’ she picks one and does it — if she doesn’t get sidetracked by something else.  The things she does the most, in order of frequency, are: weeding, mowing, irrigation, mulching, pruning, and planting. Annie also likes talking to visitors.

Annie’s favorite place at the UW Botanic Gardens is the Union Bay Natural Area because it is calm and peaceful, and has a lot of wildlife. What is Annie’s favorite plant? Well, right now she is most fond of sedums (tender and hardy succulents). She likes the color palette they provide, that they are somewhat drought tolerant, and they’re easy to grow.

Volunteer Spotlight: Richard Fleenor

December 28th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

Richard_Fleenor_2Meet Richard Fleenor. Richard is a Rare Care volunteer with UW Botanic Gardens. He monitors rare plant populations on the east side of the state and usually takes one to two assignments a year. Rare Care volunteers live in all parts of the state of Washington, plus northern Oregon.

Richard grew up in Vancouver and loved playing in the woodlands surrounding their house as a kid. He remembers building tree “forts,” with no safety gear or ropes, in Douglas-fir trees 70 feet off the ground. He would hang on with his legs while he nailed in support beams and said there is no way he could do that now. Over the years he has lived in several different places in Oregon and Washington. His rangeland/plants career has taken him to the Willamette Valley in western Oregon, the high desert in SE Oregon, Okanogan County in North Central Washington, and the Columbia Basin.  Although, at first, Richard loved the forests on the west side of the state most, he has become very fond of the wide open spaces on the east side.  When he got the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Plant Materials Specialist position 7 years ago, he and his wife, Sue, moved to Medical Lake, just outside Spokane. Sue is also a Rare Care volunteer and accompanies him on rare plant monitoring assignments.

In the summer they like to bike, kayak, or just take walks in some of the natural areas near their house. Every summer Richard also takes a motorcycle trip with his brother, who lives in Vancouver. This year they plan on riding the loop around the Olympic peninsula. Gardening and yardwork seem to take much of his time as well. Other times of the year he likes to work on his jeep and motorcycle in their garage; and ski in the winter, although not as much as he used to.

Richard has a BS degree from Oregon State University in Rangeland Resources. He states that his favorite classes were range and botany classes. The range classes often included field trips where he got to spend a few days camping out in eastern Oregon. One trip in the fall, he recalls, he woke up to about an inch of snow on the ground.  The air was calm and crisp, the sky was clear, the landscape beautiful, it was awesome! The botany classes also had great field trips where you’d find yourself in a native prairie, old growth forest, or some other really cool place.

Richard became involved with UW Botanic Gardens when he was the Vegetation Ecologist for the Colville Tribes and wanted to learn more about rare plants in the area.  He heard that Rare Care was providing training for volunteers in nearby Omak, so he attended and has been monitoring plant populations ever since. That was about 13 years ago.

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A typical monitoring day usually starts early because he often has to travel far to get to the site. He gets as close as he can driving, then gets out the GPS unit to see how far and what direction he needs to go from there. Sometimes the site is right there and there’s very little walking/trekking involved. Other times, like the last time he went out, the site was still about three miles away and on steep unstable ground; you never know. If the plant process goes relatively quick, they identify the population, get a count (best they can), fill out a field data sheet, and head back. If they don’t find the plant, they usually look around until something sends them home (a thunderstorm, water runs out, Sue twists her ankle because she thought she saw a snake, but didn’t, etc.).

His favorite plant is Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa). To Richard it represents “the west.” It grows in relatively arid environments but can still attain heights of 200’ and be 5 – 6’ in diameter. It has a tap root to help it survive drought, is fire tolerant, and can live to be hundreds of years old. If you’ve ever seen these majestic beauties growing on a hillside amongst the bunchgrasses, he said “you’ll know what I mean.”

Deck the Halls

December 22nd, 2015 by UWBG Horticulturist

Boughs used as winter decoration are often from plants in the genus Ilex. Many Ilex, or holly species are dioecious, meaning that male and female reproductive organs are separated on individual plants. This trait promotes cross-fertilization which increases genetic variability, but can decrease seed-setting efficiency.  Solitary individuals are unable to be pollinated, therefore it is necessary that male and female plants grow in close proximity or female plants will not produce berries.

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (December 15 - 28, 2015)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (December 15-28, 2015)

1)  Ilex cassine var. mexicana

  • This large, fast-growing evergreen is native to the southeastern coast of the U.S. as well as Mexico, Puerto Rico and Cuba.
  • A healthy specimen can be found in grid 13-3W, just west of Lake Washington Boulevard.

2)  Ilex verticillata  ‘Red Sprite’

  • This female, deciduous Ilex cultivar reveals large red berries when its leaves fall.
  • Our best patch can be found along the path in the Joe Witt Winter Garden planted next to the male pollinizer, Ilex verticillata ‘Jim Dandy’.

3)  Ilex opaca  ‘Boyce Thompson Xanthocarpa’

  • Evergreen tree that grows rapidly and assumes an attractive conical shape. As with most of the American Holly clade, this tree is cold hardy but not very wind-tolerant.
  • Berries can be crimson-red, yellow or orange.

4)  Ilex opaca  ‘Emily’

  • Found in the Pacific Connections Meadow plantings, this evergreen female boasts copious quantities of vivid red fruits, starting at a very young age.

5)  Ilex serrata

  • Located in the deciduous Holly clade on the west side of Lake Washington Boulevard, this holly spreads and suckers to form colonies.
  • Small red berries are revealed in late autumn after the leaves have fallen.