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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

2016 Classes Open for Registration

December 19th, 2015 by Sasha McGuire, Education Program Assistant

Our new Winter 2016 catalog is out, and we have a lot to offer in the next few months!  We are offering a number of popular classes, such as Plant ID, Intro to Mosses,  birding classes with Connie Sidles, and photography classes with David Perry.
We have plenty of free classes and tours this winter, and don’t forget our ProHort classes for our professionals and advanced gardeners.

Here are some of the highlights this winter:

Picturing Your Garden In Winter

Saturday, February 20th, 9am-12pm

Want to learn to capture the beauty of the winter garden and bring it inside? Learn the best techniques in an extraordinary setting with master photographer and storyteller, David Perry. This class begins with short tour of the Witt Winter Garden, a photo shoot, moves indoors for a warm-up and instructional lecture, and then continues back outside for an opportunity to take what you’ve learned and put it into practice. David will inspire you with his fantastic images, and explain how to photograph your own winter garden as well as how to set up simple indoor photo sessions. Bring your camera (point-and-shoots are most welcome), for equipment tips.
Cost: $60

winterPhotography02_David_Perry

Plant Identification in the Field

6 week course – Tuesdays, March 8-April 12, 6:30-8:30pm plus field trips on Saturday March 26 and April 16

plantidThis course is designed for students who want to develop basic field identification skills and gain experience using the keys in Hitchcock and Cronquist’s “Flora of the Pacific Northwest.” Over the six-week course students will learn how to recognize approximately 25 of the most common plant families found in Washington.
Emphasis is placed on learning the combination of vegetative (leaf and stem) and floral characters that are unique to each family. Class time is spent learning basic terminology required for plant identification and keying out local native and introduced species using a combination of dissecting microscopes, an introductory text for identifying plants families, and “Flora of the Pacific Northwest”.

Cost: $175

Botanical Sketching In Ink and Watercolor

hydrangeas_in_ink_Bot_Sketch4 Tuesday Mornings, 10am-12pm, February 23-March 15 OR April 5-26

Capture the essence of flowers and foliage in this 4-part class with simple, quick techniques and portable materials! While using the beautiful perennial beds and borders at the Center for Urban Horticulture as a backdrop, you will be guided in an intuitive approach to sketching with pen, layering watercolor washes, and gathering tips that can be applied to everyday sketching. A simple supply list will be provided. All levels welcome.
Cost: $95

Free Classes and Tours

Botanical Identification

Become the person who knows the names of plants!

Don’t forget our professional series (ProHort) for landscape professionals and advanced home gardeners. Professional Credits available.  Topics this winter include:

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Come visit us this winter!

Glimpse into the past – Trees Have a Habit of Growing

December 17th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

It is said that humans “have a habit of growing.” We grow tall in our formative years, and most of us also grow wider in the later years. We could also say that trees have a habit of growing. Tree species grow to specific heights and widths. Some smaller trees obtain their normal mature size in a few years, while the larger species may grow for years and years. In fact some large forest trees may continue to grow for hundreds of years.

In our urban sites, native conifers are capable of continuing their growth for hundreds of years. Any time the temperatures are in the 40s or above (which happens just about every day of the year here), the chlorophyll molecules are busy manufacturing sugars.

When we visit a park on a regular basis, we are very unaware that the trees we see are growing larger every day. I remember someone once saying, “I visit the Arboretum every year, and the plants have not changed at all over the last 25 years.” Rubbish! The Arboretum changes daily due to this continuous tree growth. The conifers gradually grow larger and larger and suddenly, their size can “ambush” us. I am sure most of us have had the experience of suddenly realizing that the cute little evergreen we planted 20 years ago is now overpowering the house.

View of Section C, Nursery and Seedling beds

1. A view of Section C Nursery and the Seedling Beds where thousands of plants have been started. Fred Leissler, asst. dir. 1935- 37

This series of pictures shows such a progression of growth. The first picture above, taken by Fred Leissler, Assistant Park Director in 1935, shows seedling trees of western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla)  planted along Section C of the Nursery and Seedling Beds as a screen and windbreak. The picture notes indicate that thousands of plants had been started there in those sunny beds. Note that Arboretum Drive E. is a wide lane.

Pictures 2 and 3, below, show the same trees on January 15, 1950, just 15 years later, and already making a sizeable screen.

46b. Hedge of Western Hemlock, 30 ft., A. macrophyllym, 1-15-1950

Hedge of Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) outside nursery. Trees of Oregon maple (Acer macrophyllum) on left. January 15, 1950. By E.F. Marton, UW

 

Hedge of Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) outside nursery. Tallest specimen about 30 ft. January 15, 1950. By E. F. Marton, UW.

Hedge of Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) outside nursery. Tallest specimen about 30 ft. January 15, 1950. By E. F. Marton, UW.

Along Arboretum Drive, other species of conifers were planted in rows during this time and into the late 1950s. These were mostly native species, such as the Western redcedars (Thuja plicata) in pictures 4 and 5 below.

4. Hedge row of Leyland cypress, December 14, 2015

4. Hedge row of Western redcedar (Thuja plicata), December 14, 2015

 

46e 0151214_141442

5. Hedge row of Western redcedar (Thuja plicata), December 14, 2015

However, one of the final plantings of this type were of the newly introduced Leyland cypress (× Cuprocyparis leylandii), which is a cross between the Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) and the Alaska yellow cedar (Xanthocyparis nootkatensis). These were sent to us from Hillier Nurseries in England via the Institute of Forest Genetics in Placerville, CA. They were planted at the north end of Arboretum Drive E., just to the west of the Greenhouses (and current Plant Donations area).

These trees, while extremely fast growing, have proved to be inferior landscape trees. They have weak, soft wood, and are prone to wind damage. They are best used as a tall sheared hedge and kept under 20 feet. Our trees were planted out in the late 1950s and grew rapidly. One large specimen, shown below in picture 6, toppled on December 10, 2015, probably due to root removal by the lowering of Arboretum Drive for the construction of the Graham Visitors Center in 1985 (west side), and the recent heavy rains. This is an excellent pictorial example of continuous tree growth and how conifers grow and grow and grow. It is also an example of the need for continual evaluation and management of trees and their appropriate placement in the landscape.

6. Toppled Leyland cypress, December 10, 2015

6. Toppled Leyland cypress, December 10, 2015

 

December Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

December 11th, 2015 by UWBG Horticulturist

Conifer trees occasionally mutate into unusual forms, often slow-growing natural dwarfs. Thousands of these have been in cultivation for centuries. The Arboretum has only a few in its collection, sadly neglected in grid 37-1W – a corner of the Oaks area.  Here are five examples:

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (December 1 - 14, 2015)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (December 1 – 14, 2015)

1)  Chamaecyparis lawsoniana  ‘Lycopodioides’

  • Translated: “a form of Lawson’s false cypress that looks like Lycopodium” – a genus of club moss that’s said to resemble a wolf’s foot.

2)  Chamaecyparis pisifera  ‘Plumosa Nana’                     Dwarf Sawara Cypress cv.

  • Dwarf (nana), feathery (plumose), pea-bearing (pisifera) false cypress

3)  Cryptomeria japonica  ‘Bandai-Sugi’                     Japanese Cedar cv.

  • The cultivar name has been shortened recently to ‘Bandai’ because Sugi is the Japanese word for Cryptomeria, therefore is redundant.
  • All parts of the flower are hidden in this genus, hence Crypto (hidden) meria (parts).

4)  Picea abies  ‘Gregoryana parsonii’                Norway Spruce cv.

  • See Arthur Lee Jacobson’s Trees of Seattle for an explanation of the botanic name.
  • Jacobson notes that only Lawson’s Cypress has more cultivars than Norway Spruce.

5)  Tsuga canadensis  ‘Hussii’                Eastern Hemlock cv.

  • Because of people’s tendency to call all conifers “pine” or “fir”, botanists adopted the Japanese name for hemlocks – Tsuga.  Does that sound too similar to ‘Sugi’?

December 2015 Plant Profile: Euonymus europaeus ‘Atrorubens’

November 26th, 2015 by Catherine Nelson, Adult Tours Program Assistant

euonymuseuropaensatrorubenseuonymuseuropaeus

Found in its native Europe, Euonymus europaeus ‘Atrorubens’, or spindle tree, is commonly seen as an understory shrub or small tree growing along deciduous woodland edges. Quite shade tolerant, it loves calcareous, well-drained base-rich soils and can grow up to 20’ tall. It is considered cold and drought tolerant. While labeled as invasive in some areas of the Northeast, it seems to behave itself here in the Pacific Northwest; the specimens in our collection have been here since the late 1940s and maintain their size at about 10’ x 6’. The easiest specimens to locate in the Washington Park Arboretum are in the Pinetum, tucked in between the cedars and the Coulter pines. You can’t miss them this time of year.

Traditionally, this plant’s stems were used to make spindles to twine wool and flax into yarn. It contains many medicinal properties in its roots and bark which were used by both Europeans and the Iroquois in Northeast America and Canada, where it spread widely after introduction to the new continent. While the fruits are eaten by a variety of animals in the plant’s native habitats, they are poisonous to humans.

The spindle tree is currently used as an ornamental garden feature, and the cultivar ‘Red Cascade’ has won the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. While its late spring flowers (small yellow cymes) are considered inconspicuous, its amazing orange fruits and pink sepals are brilliant in the fall and will persist into deep winter on the shrub. The ‘Atrorubens’ cultivar is prized for its bright red fall foliage, similar to its cousin the “burning bush” euonymus.

Common Name: Spindle Tree

Family: Celastraceae

Family Common Name: Bittersweet Family

Locations:
Washington Park Arboretum

  • Pinetum (555-42*B & D in 38-5W)
  • Pacific Connections Garden (555-42*A in 6-1E)

Origin: Northern Europe and UK

Height and Spread: to 20’ tall x 10’ wide

Bloom Time: late spring

Glimpse into the past – a Surplus of Cedar

November 24th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor
1937, splitting cedar fence uprights

1937, WPA splitting cedar fence uprights

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

One of the four primary forest trees of the Pacific Northwest is Thuja plicata, or the Western red cedar. There are “giants” of this species still growing after hundreds of years in protected sites in this state, but most were logged in great quantities as the lumber mills in the Pacific Northwest grew. The Washington Park Arboretum land, originally owned by the Pope Lumber company, was logged in the late 1880s and then basically clear cut of any remaining harvestable trees a few years later. Realizing that the city was growing up the hill, Pope sold the “developable” property and gave the drainage valley (now known as Arboretum Creek) to the City as open space in exchange for utilities which are all contained in the famed “Wilcox Bridge” over Lake Washington Boulevard East.

1937, WPA setting fence posts

1937, WPA setting fence posts

The red cedar produces many seeds and thus seedlings, and is an early invader of forest lands. It can germinate and grow under the dense shade of the big leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum). Since these trees are evergreen with many needles full of chlorophyll, they can photosynthesize every day of the year. They grow rapidly and tall. In the early part of the last century, Western red cedar seedlings flourished and produced many young trees in the fledgling Arboretum.

1937, WPA sawing cedar logs

1937, WPA sawing cedar logs

The University of Washington Arboretum (its original name) officially began in 1934. These were depression times, and there was little money to develop any of the ideas in the Dawson Plan which had been accepted. However, federal funds obtained through the State brought hundreds of men to work here through the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Even though fences around the Arboretum have been a subject of controversy, there seems to have always been some type of fence along the eastern side, bordering Broadmoor Golf Course.

1937, WPA puttingup fence uprights

1937, WPA putting up fence uprights

These photos from 1937 show men (often in their hats and reasonably dressy clothes) working through the WPA sawing, spitting and building a tall cedar fence. Since cedar is an extremely durable wood for use in northwest climates, the fence lasted for years as shown in a picture from 1951. Eventually it deteriorated and has been replaced by a tall rather unsightly wire fence.

When an inventory of the native matrix of trees was conducted in the 1990s, it was obvious that there was a ten year dearth of missing cedar trees, proving that the lumber for the fence was cut in the Arboretum. Another side bar is that many of the original drainage pipes were hollow cedar logs, some of which are still in use in the Arboretum. What a novel idea, using our own ecosystem for beauty as well as worth.

1951, from Sequoia to Deutzia, Phila.....note fence

1951, from Sequoia to Deutzia, Phila…..note fence

“Happy Thanksgiving!”
Native Plants of Cape Cod

November 23rd, 2015 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum, November 16 - 29, 2015

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum, November 16 – 29, 2015

1)  Arctostaphylus uva-ursi                                                   ‘Vancouver Jade’            Kinnikinnick or Bearberry

  • Broadleaf evergreen and creeping groundcover with circumpolar distribution in northern hemisphere often found growing in association with Pitch Pine
  • If there were still bears on Cape Cod, it would be a favorite food source for them.
  • This cultivar, ‘Vancouver Jade’ is growing in containers outside the Graham Visitor Center.

2)  Juniperus virginiana  ‘Blue Coast’                               Eastern Red Cedar

  • A low growing, blue form of the Eastern Red Cedar
  • Pioneer species found in mixed stands with Pitch Pine, reclaiming abandoned farms and grasslands
  • Found growing under Pines in grid 36-4E, along nursery road

3)  Morella pensylvanica                Bayberry

Photo demonstrating the straightness of Arrowwood stems and their usage in making arrows

Photo demonstrating the straightness of Arrowwood stems and their usage in making arrows

  • Berries boiled to extract sweet-smelling wax used to make clean-burning candles
  • Found growing in dry open sites along with Bearberry, Eastern Red Cedar and Pitch Pine
  • Mass growing in Oaks Collection in grid 43-B

4)  Pinus rigida                Pitch Pine

  • Rigid cone scales and stiff needles, hence its Latin specific epithet
  • Used during days of wooden ships due to its resistance to decay
  • Several young specimens in our Pinetum, grid 37-4W

5)  Viburnum dentatum var. pubescens                Arrowwood

  • Large deciduous shrub with fruit a food source for songbirds
  • Common name refers to Native American use of straight young stems as arrow shafts
  • Old specimens located in southeastern Viburnum bed, grid 24-4W

Reference: http://www.na.fs.fed.us/pubs/