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.

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

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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

 

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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