Student Spotlight: Emma Relei

April 15th, 2016 by Donna McBain Evans

emmareleiIn Emma Relei’s extensive list of “favorite” plants, one of them is the simple crocus, meaningful for her because of its prominence in a much-loved children’s tale, The Runaway Bunny;  another is Ponderosa pine, because “it smells like vanilla!”

Emma’s energy and enthusiasm for all things extends in many directions, including her work with specimens at the Hyde Herbarium. There she helps sort the 23,000+ species, catalogs them on the database, mounts species for filing and makes greeting cards.

“I love how each specimen has a story and a history to unfold, and that I get to be part of it,” she proclaims.

In addition to her volunteer work, Emma is a senior at the University of Washington studying Environmental Science and Resource Management in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.  Emma is keen on all of her plant-related classes, especially ones that bring her outside into nature.

“I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest,” she notes, “and although I would like to travel more some day, this is a pretty great place to live and study.”

In addition to her studies, and volunteering at the Herbarium, Relei works in a local nursery, watches “tons” of gardening videos and has a small container garden in her tiny home.  She also loves trail running, hiking, camping and kayaking with friends.  She also loves to play piano and read historical fiction.

Whew!  Do you think she ever sleeps?

As for favorite places, Relei mentions of course, the Hyde Herbarium.  But she  also loves the Japanese Garden in the Arboretum as it was where she celebrated her 16th birthday, a day she holds fond memories of even today.

 

 

April Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

April 10th, 2016 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum, April 4 - 17, 2016

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum,
April 4 – 17, 2016

1)  Acer mandshuricum                Manchurian Maple

  • The Manchurian Maple is native from Eastern Siberia into China and strongly resembles Acer griseum and Acer triflorum.
  • This species is located in the Asian Maples Collection.

2)  Distylium racemosum                Isu Tree

  • The flowers of Distylium racemosum are petalless, but have attractive red calyces (whorl of sepals) and purple stamens.
  • The Isu tree is native to southern Japan, but can be found in the Witt Winter Garden and in our Hamamelidaceae Collection, east of Arboretum Drive near the Pacific Connections gardens.

3)  Pieris japonica                Lily-of-the-Valley Shrub

  • This shrub from eastern China, Taiwan and Japan begins the spring with showy terminal panicles of flowers that range from white to dark-red, followed by extremely colorful new growth which will fade to green in summertime.
  • Lily-of-the-Valley can be found at the Graham Visitor Center, the Witt Winter Garden and Rhododendron Glen.

4)  Rehderodendron macrocarpum

  • This native of southwestern China and Vietnam is a member of the Styracaceae family and displays typical Styracaceous white pendent flowers in Spring.
  • Though a relatively small tree in the Pacific Northwest, Rehderodendron macrocarpum is a dominant component in its native habitat.
  • Specimens can be found along Azalea Way near our Puget Sound Rhododendron hybridizers bed as well as in the Witt Winter and Woodland Gardens.

5)  Viburnum bitchuense                Bitchiu Viburnum

  • This native of Korea and Japan has pink buds that open to wonderfully fragrant white flowers.
  • Viburnum bitchiuense can be found just across Arboretum Drive, outside the east doors of the Graham Visitor Center.

Staff Spotlight: Laura Blumhagen

April 8th, 2016 by Donna McBain Evans
Laura on a favorite hiking trail

Laura on a favorite hiking trail

Laura is an Information Specialist with the Elisabeth C. Miller Library. She works half-time, dividing her time between reference services, working on Leaflet newsletters, taking care of the library’s offerings for children and teachers (including monthly story programs), as well as choosing new curriculum and children’s books.

Laura is from Coeur d’Alene, ID. Her parents (retired from public library work with children, and teaching high school Latin and English) grew up in Seattle. Laura came here in 1992 to study Arabic at UW.

In her free time she enjoys hiking, swimming, photography, and beach rambles all around Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula. Reading, graphic design, cooking, and gardening keep her busy at home. Her family garden is just big enough to grow plums, blackberries, grapes, and herbs, along with a few favorite shrubs and perennials.
Although Laura’s major field of study was Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, her favorite class was Plant Identification – a series of two courses taught at the Washington Park Arboretum; in those days by Professors Clement Hamilton and Matsuo Tsukada. Laura states the chance to explore the green world and learn plant recognition characteristics from these experts was well worth the rushed commute from the main campus across the Montlake Bridge to the Arboretum.

Laura comes from a family that values libraries and learning, as well as gardening. While she was a UW student, she worked at Suzzallo Library. After her Plant Identification and Plant Propagation courses, she volunteered with the Arboretum, Plant Propagation Unit, helping to keep starts watered during the summer of 1995. When summer was over, her supervisor, Barbara Selemon, suggested she look into volunteering with the library, since they needed year-round help. Brian Thompson, Martha Ferguson, and the rest of the library staff were amazing teachers and mentors for her, right from the start. Over the years, volunteering turned into part-time and then half-time employment as her skills and responsibilities grew.

Because Laura’s duties are so varied, no day is typical, and she loves that! She said that on a given workday she is likely to answer a few telephone and email reference questions, assist several researchers in finding materials on their topic, lead students on a tour, and/or set up a display of books. She helps process donated books, edits newsletter articles, and answers questions about the collections and exhibits. She especially enjoys the families and school groups who visit the library to hear stories and do craft projects, and loves selecting a few new items to add to the Children’s and Parent/Teacher Resource collections each month. Her absolute favorite task, though, is “working one-on-one with readers of all ages to find the information they are seeking, especially when they don’t know exactly what they’re looking for.”

Laura’s favorite place at UW Botanic Gardens is the Pinetum in the Arboretum, which has a special place in her heart. She has happy memories of rushing across the footbridge to get to her Plant ID section only a little late. Now that she is not in such a rush, Laura treasures meditative time spent in the grove of Sequoiadendron giganteum and Sequoia sempervirens.

Laura thinks her favorite plant may be Arbutus menziesii. “It’s hard to choose; there are so many plants I love, and our native plants seem to me to be a community that is more than the sum of its parts.” She said she loves the colors of madrona, with its peeling bark and dramatic silouette; it reminds her of her grandmother’s garden. “Grandma grew up in Bellingham. She had a keen eye for design along with a love for Northwest native plants, and she and Grandpa kept a stand of madronas near the house where my mother grew up, in Burien. As a small child I remember playing with the strips of bark and the tough leaves, and being fascinated by the interesting red seeds peeking out of their brown cases.”

Staff Spotlight: Sasha McGuire

April 1st, 2016 by Donna McBain Evans

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Sasha McGuire is the Education Programs Assistant for Adult, Youth and Family Programs at the UW Botanic Gardens. Sasha enjoys reading, hiking, and video games; she also dabbles in cooking and homesteading activities like making cheese and sausage.

Sasha grew up in upstate New York and received a B.S. in Biology with a minor in Anthropology and Plant Science from SUNY-Geneseo. There she worked in the research greenhouse taking care of orchids, tropical plants, cacti and research plants like tobacco. She then became a Buckeye at The Ohio State University, earning her Master’s in Horticulture and Crop Science. “I was a research assistant on the University farm, which was hard work, but it kept me fed–I got all the vegetables I could eat!”

Sasha loves classifying and identifying things so no surprise her favorite class was Taxonomy of Vascular Plants. “I also loved the field trips, especially when we climbed Algonquin Mountain,” one of the High Peaks in the Adirondacks. Unfortunately, it was cloudy that day, and she didn’t get any views. “We did see a number of alpine plants,” she notes, “but we were all unimpressed after the exhaustion of getting to the summit!”

Despite her eastern roots, Sasha’s husband landed a job as professor at UW-Tacoma. They headed west and never looked back. Sasha started out at UW Botanic Gardens as a volunteer in the Otis Douglas Hyde Herbarium, working on making plant cards and helping audit the herbarium samples. When a position opened at the UW Botanic Gardens Education programs, Sasha jumped at the chance, as working at a botanic garden was her dream job since college.

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Sasha loves the variety of her work at UW Botanic Gardens, from searching for interesting articles to posting on the Facebook site to helping create craft projects for our preschool programs. She also enjoys talking with members of the public about the wide array of program offerings. “I really like being able to help people connect with plants, whether it’s a new homeowner who needs gardening classes, or a parent who wants their child to spend more time outside.” She also really enjoys working in the beautiful Center for Urban Horticulture, and with coworkers who are as nutty about plants as she is!

“I can’t just pick one favorite place here!” she pines, “I love the Witt Winter Garden at the Arboretum in February since it smells amazing—so awake and active when many other parts of the Botanic Garden are quiet.” Sasha also recommends the Soest Garden at the Center for Urban Horticulture in summer, when all the perennial beds are busting at the seams with color and every day there is something new blooming. But Sasha’s real soft spot is for the Union Bay Natural Area where she finds the perfect place to walk and unwind after work, and if she’s lucky, get a little sun!

And speaking of sun, Sasha’s favorite plants just happen to be cacti and succulents, though, she admits, it has been a challenge adapting that hobby to Western Washington. She loves their low maintenance nature and their huge range of shapes, colors, and spiny-ness.

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A Subtle Side of Spring

March 28th, 2016 by UWBG Horticulturist

Spring is not typically known for its subtlety around these parts, but upon its early awakening many plants warrant a closer look. Enjoy!

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum, March 21, 2016 - April 4, 2016

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum,
March 21, 2016 – April 4, 2016

1)  Acer palmatum ‘Katsura’                     Katsura Maple

Close-up of Acer palmatum 'Katsura'

Close-up of Acer palmatum ‘Katsura’

  • One of the first Japanese maples to leaf out each spring. The small, five-lobed leaves emerge pale yellow-orange, with brighter orange margins.
  • Found in the semi-dwarf group of Japanese maples.
  • Specimen 19-10*A is located in grid 30-4E.

2)  Ginkgo biloba                     Maidenhair Tree

  • Emerging leaves are “mini-mes” of the actual size.
  • Also seen are emerging male cones.
  • This sample is taken from the Graham Visitor Center specimen located in the northwestern corner of the parking lot.

3)  Larix laricina                     Tamarack or Eastern Larch

  • Deciduous conifer native to eastern North America
  • Cutting sample shows newly emerging needles and last year’s cones.
  • Specimen is located in grid 33-5W, Pinetum.

4)  Photinia beauverdiana var. notabilis

  • Rose family deciduous shrub from China
  • Hairy, white newly-emerging leaves and flowers on cutting sample
  • Specimen is located in grid 33-5W, Pinetum.

5)  Ribes sp. (maybe R. menziesii)                     Gooseberry (maybe Canyon Gooseberry)

  • Though this Ribes sp. has not been positively ID’d, it is indeed a gooseberry because it has spines.
  • Not the eye-catching Ribes sanguineum flowers, but beautiful nevertheless.
  • Thicket is located behind the Stone Cottage.

Glimpse into the past – A Tale of Two Kames

March 27th, 2016 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

Almost no one is aware that the Washington Park Arboretum is the location of two kames. “Kames, what is that?” everyone asks. Wikipedia tells us that “a kame is a geomorphological feature, an irregularly shaped hill or mound composed of sand, gravel and till that accumulates in a depression on a retreating glacier.”

Located just east of Lake Washington Boulevard E. and just north of the intersection with Boyer Avenue S., the two kames were given the names Honeysuckle Hill and Yew Hill. They were originally the planting sites of collections for plants in these families. To clarify the taxonomy, this is the Caprifoliaceae/Adoxaceae (Honeysuckle/Adoxa) family. If you find a plant with opposite leaves and pithy stems (the inside of the stem looks like stryofoam), this is the family. The yew family is known as the Taxaceae family, a coniferous family which includes mostly smaller evergreens. These site names were originally noted on the 1936 Dawson Plan for the Arboretum, completed by the Olmsted Brothers firm.

View across Azalea Way, west to Honeysuckle mound. April 14, 1948

View across Azalea Way, west to Honeysuckle mound. April 14, 1948

The photo above depicts a view looking west across Azalea Way, toward Honeysuckle Hill, on April 14, 1948. Notice that there is very little vegetation along Azalea Way, and the kame has been almost entirely mowed and covered with grass. A few remnant native trees remain. (Note: the photographs labeled by then-director Brian O. Mulligan called them mounds rather than hills or kames.)

View north from Honeysuckle mound to Yew mound. April 7, 1959

View north from Honeysuckle mound to Yew mound. April 7, 1959

The second photo, taken on April 7, 1959 (ten years later), is a view north from Honeysuckle Hill toward Yew Hill. Notice already how much taller the trees are and how many more trees are present. Today, these kames are almost entirely obscured by the vegetation and barely noticed by visitors. Nevertheless, they are an important geological legacy in the Arboretum.

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Kirsten Rasmussen

March 25th, 2016 by Donna McBain Evans

Kirsten Rasmussen

Kirsten is a Volunteer at the Elisabeth C. Miller Library.  She grew up in Denmark near Copenhagen and relocated to the Seattle area in October of 2011.  Kirsten likes to garden, knit, and sing in her free time.

She has a BS in biochemistry and biology and a BS in library and information science.  Her favorite classes in college were evolution and classification of higher plants, native plant identification, and information retrieval.  Kirsten enjoys solving puzzles, finding information and facts, relevance, and providing research assistance.

A typical day at UW Botanic Gardens includes working in the collection and editing records; she enjoys combining her love of plants and libraries!

The Fragrance Garden at the Center for Urban Horticulture in early spring is her favorite place at UW Botanic Gardens.

Her favorite indoor plant is the Paphiopedilum spp. (a type of orchid) because they are easy to grow, great variety, and it is such a joy to watch them bloom.

Anemone hepatica (syn. Hepatica nobilis) is her favorite outdoor plant because it reminds her of a song/poem and the flowers have the most beautiful and vibrant shade of blue.

 

 

 

Student Spotlight: Daniel Sorensen

March 18th, 2016 by Donna McBain Evans

Dan_Sorenson_1Daniel Sorensen is a graduate student at the UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, working in the lab of UW Botanic Gardens Director, Sarah Reichard, and researching the risk of invasion across Washington and Oregon of 2 two closely related grasses in the genus Cortaderia – pampas grass and jubata grass. Daniel works as the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Sustainability Coordinator for UW Grounds Management, and in that role he helps manage invasive species in the Union Bay Natural Area along with UW Botanic Gardens staff.  He is also a student member of the Arboretum Botanic Garden Committee.

Daniel grew up on Long Island in NY, close to the ocean and the salt marshes along the south shore. Family vacations–swimming, hiking and getting lost in the woods of Northern Vermont–sowed Daniel’s love for plants and nature.  Daniel earned a BS from the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, in Syracuse NY.  He also worked in several states doing ecological restoration, natural resources management, and invasive plant management.

Starting a master’s program at the UW is what ultimately brought Daniel to Seattle, although he had longed to live in the Pacific Northwest.  He enjoys exploring Seattle neighborhoods by bicycle, hiking and camping the in the Cascades and Olympics, and going to antique/thrift stores to find vintage Pyrex for his collection. He also enjoys gardening, growing his own food, canning and being surrounded by plants inside his home.

Daniel’s favorite classes are Plant Ecophysiology and Landscape Plant Recognition. Plant Ecophysiology makes connections between the internal working of the plant with external influences in the landscape; it taught him how to ask research questions and set up experiments to answer those questions. Landscape Plant Recognition was a race to memorize the scientific names and identify over 250 plants in one quarter.

Daniel now gives talks and workshops for the UW Botanic Gardens Adult Education Program.

Although Daniel is often busy with classes and work on campus, he often bikes over to the Center for Urban Horticulture for a class or just to spend time in Elisabeth C. Miller Library where he loves “being surrounded by the community of professional staff, faculty, students, and volunteers on campus and UW Botanic Gardens.”

Daniel also loves to visit the Washington Park Arboretum to “get lost under the trees” of the Woodland Gardens, or go paddling in the marshes at the Union Bay Natural Area.

No one plant can be considered Daniel’s favorite, this changes seasonally and sometimes daily. With that said, one his favorite plants from his time in the northeast is Northern spice bush- Lindera benzoin– this small understory shrub has a delightful smell found in the leaves, stems, and fruit (hence its common name) but its small yellow blooms are the reason it is his favorite northeast plant. These small blooms are one of the first bit of color to in early spring and a dense stand of spicebush can glow strong against the drab brown and gray backdrop of the deciduous woodlands in the Northeast. “When I would see the spice bush in flower,” he says in glee, “I knew winter was definitely over!”

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Boraginaceae; the family that makes little blue flowers

March 15th, 2016 by Catherine Nelson, Adult Tours Program Assistant

omphalodesverna2

Blooming now in the arboretum are several large arrays of blue flowered ground covers in the Borage family. They make a stunning effect, especially if you adore carpets of little blue flowers as I do.
There are 146 genera in this family with roughly 2000 species including garden favorites such as Star Flower, Borage, and Forget-Me-Nots, Myosotis, which are annuals and can be grown in the sun.
My two favorite species of Borage are the plants that are in blossom right now; Lungwort and Navelwort. (Many species in the family have the term ‘wort’ in their common name; this indicates that the plant is used medicinally & usually that the plant is an herb. From the Old English ‘wyrt’ or root.)
Both Lungwort and Navelwort are native to the northern hemisphere and tend to grow well in the shady, acidic conditions of temperate coniferous forests.

Lung Wort / Pulmonariapulmonaria

There was once a school of thought known as ‘The Doctrine Of Signatures,” dating back to the Ancient Greeks and revived by European naturalists in the 15th century, which stated that herbs that resemble certain parts of the human body could be used by herbalists to treat that part of the body. Pulmonaria leaves were thought to resemble the human lungs and therefore it was used a medicinal herb to treat bronchial illnesses. The plant contains compounds which act both as a decongestant and can protect lungs against harmful organisms that can affect respiratory health.1
A semi-evergreen, Pulmonaria’s leaves sport a lovely variegation and a fuzzy texture enjoyable even when the plant is not in bloom.
There are between 15-18 species in the Pulmonaria genus and multiple cultivars that may bear white, pink or purple flowers. Many patches of these can be seen in the Witt Winter Garden and the Woodland Garden.

omphalodesverna1Navelwort, Blue Eyed Mary, Creeping Forget-Me-Not / Omphalodes verna

Named from the Greek ‘Omphalos’ for ‘navel’ referring to the shape of its fruits and ‘verna’ from the Greek for ‘spring’ referring to its bloom time. Although its common name bears the word ‘wort,’ I couldn’t find any information on medicinal usage.  It was, however, listed as having poisonous compounds.
Two large carpeted areas can be found covering hillsides under Japanese Maples between the Winter Garden and the Woodland Garden. This plant spreads rhizomatously, but does not seem to be invasive or overly vigorous.

Come enjoy early spring in our arboretum either by yourself or come along on one of our Free Weekend Walks (meet Sundays at the Graham Visitors Center at 1:00 pm) and go out with a knowledgeable guide to explore the plants in our collection.

Sources

  1. http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/9-best-herbs-lung-cleansing-respiratory-support/

Staff Spotlight: Rebecca Alexander

March 11th, 2016 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor
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Rebecca in the Washington Park Arboretum

Rebecca Alexander is the Plant Answer Line librarian in the Elisabeth C. Miller Library. In addition to providing reference services, she works on acquisitions, cataloging, and a wide assortment of tasks including editing Miller Library and other publications, and updating the library’s database of questions and answers.

My beautiful picture

A younger Rebecca at the former Union Bay Circle, now the site of the Center for Urban Horticulture

Rebecca grew up in Seattle and spent some of her early childhood years living near the current site of the Douglas greenhouses at the Center for Urban Horticulture. Later on, she lived in the last house before the E. Lynn Street bridge into the Washington Park Arboretum, but her family was forced to move when the SR 520 Ramps to Nowhere were built. Rebecca has also lived in Jerusalem, Berkeley, and Brooklyn. In her spare time, she works in the garden, takes long walks with the dog, bakes bread and pastries, and writes poems.

She has a Master of Library and Information Science degree from the University of Washington, and a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting from Pratt Institute in New York. She also studied French, and Near Eastern languages and literature. College was long ago, but two classes stand out as favorites: a course in Egyptology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem which culminated in a bus trip to Egypt, and a survey of African American History at U.C. Berkeley, both of which shaped her world view as a young adult.

Rebecca was a work-study employee in the Arboretum’s Education Department in the late 1980s to early 1990s while she was in library school. She hoped to work in the Miller Library one day, but it took a while to wend her way back. She began volunteering in the library in 2005, and became a staff member in 2006. The landscapes of the Arboretum, Union Bay Natural Area, and the Center for Urban Horticulture have been a part of her life since she was a small child. She finds it heartening to work in a place that has been so transformed (for the better!).

As the Plant Answer Line librarian, Rebecca answers a lot of questions from the public (in person, by email, and on the phone). She has learned to expect the unexpected, and enjoys finding useful information (in the library’s resources and beyond) and solving mysteries. Every day at work is different. She seeks out new titles to consider, orders books, and catalogs new additions to the collection. At any given moment, she might be working on her quarterly article for the Arboretum Bulletin, assessing a donation of books, compiling library statistics, creating an original cataloging record for a student thesis, updating a booklist, replacing dead links in the Gardening Answers Knowledgebase, or writing a book review.

Rebecca said there are too many special places at UW Botanic Gardens to name just one favorite place. She likes eating lunch on the slab of rock in Goodfellow Grove at the Center for Urban Horticulture. In the Arboretum, she enjoys spying hummingbirds in the Winter Garden and on the Grevillea behind the greenhouse, and brushing the needles of the Montezuma pine in Crabapple Meadow.

She does not have a favorite plant but is fond of Mediterranean plants like Phlomis and Halimium. Grey and fuzzy things catch her eye. They aren’t all fond of wet winters, so she has lost a few. She would love to add a Callistemon and an upright manzanita to her tiny garden, but it might mean evicting something else first!