There is much to look forward to in 2014 for the University of Washington Botanic Gardens (UWBG) horticulture and plant records staff. It will be a rare year of “normality” between capital project implementations, the completed 2013 Pacific Connections Gardens (PCG) New Zealand (NZ) forest exhibit and the looming 2015 multi-use trail. Our resources will be focused on smaller scale deferred maintenance projects of several gardens and plant collections, catching up with plant labeling and mapping of our Pacific Connections Gardens and embarking on a few recently awarded grants.
Washington Park Arboretum (WPA)
On the grants front, this spring, Azalea Way and the Japanese Garden will be receiving new cherry trees, along with funding to support future maintenance, thanks to the Japanese Embassy’s Nationwide Cherry Blossom Planting Initiative. Fourteen cherries will be installed of various types, ranging from the tide-and-true classical hybrids to the newer, disease-resistant cultivars. We hope to tap into the services of our volunteer Azalea Way stewards force to help in their planting, establishment and future care.
We just heard that we were awarded $33 thousand from the UW Green Seeds funds, a grants program that engages our UW community in sustainability research that will have a direct affect on reducing UW campus’ carbon footprint. Our 1 year study will allow us to purchase 2 new utility vehicles, 1 electric and 1 bio-diesel, which will be the test subjects of a research project titled: “Grounds Utility Vehicle Carbon Footprint Comparison Study”. Results and conclusions will be disseminated at the end of the study to UW Grounds Management, Seattle City Parks and Recreation, and other local municipalities and private organizations that employ utility vehicles to perform grounds maintenance tasks.
Our curator, Ray Larson, is busy developing plant lists and procuring new plants for refreshing and embellishing many plant collections displays and exhibits. Our horticulturists will be installing exciting new cultivars and hybrids in the PCG entry gardens of Australia, Cascadia and China. Also, wild-collected specimens from our container nursery inventory will be planted out in the future China forest portion which was cleared during the NZ forest construction last year. We hope to receive several tree peony cultivars from the Seattle Chinese garden. The American Peony Arts and Cultural Association is promoting Luoyang peonies. These donations may be planted in the PCG China entry garden, in our original peony display along Arboretum Drive and/or over at the Center for Urban Horticulture.
Other gardens and collections of 2014 focus for small-scale renovations and/or new plantings include the Winter Garden, Camellias, Hollies, Maples, Pinetum and Viburnums.
On the Plant Records front, catching up with our backlog of labeling and mapping will be a major goal for all UWBG gardens and collections, specifically PCG’s NZ forest and Chilean Gateway. Mapping our collections has moved into the 21st century using sophisticated survey equipment to gather Geo-referenced points that will enable all sorts of modern applications for staff and public alike who want more information on the locations and data of our plant collections.
Center for Urban Horticulture (CUH)
The horticulturists at CUH will certainly not be any less busy or ambitious in 2014 than those at WPA. The following projects are either underway or in the works:
- New plantings for the McVay stairs will include a new bench, bringing back the solar fountain from WPA and, if room allows, also incorporating a container or two.
- Our “face” along 41st Street is undergoing a much needed “lift.” After the new fence is built, there will be opportunities for new plantings along it. Also, expect to finally see our “Welcome” signs get installed onto the long awaiting stands at both ends of our frontage.
- Speaking of signs, the tired-looking interpretive signs in the Orin & Althea Soest Herbaceous Display Garden will be replaced shortly. Also, keep your eyes open for changes and new plantings in a few of the Soest display beds.
- If funding comes through, the Fragrance Garden bed along NHS Hall is on the schedule for renovation this year as well.
- Goodfellow Grove will continue to be a focus of renovation, with considerable restorative pruning and thinning beds, path and lawn improvements.
- Later this year, clearing of vegetation around Central pond in the Union Bay Natural Area will take place in hopes of providing more habitat for shore-birds and increasing their diversity.
As you can see, there’s plenty of work to be done by the UWBG horticulture and plant records staff in 2014. And, yes, a sigh of relief to be able to broaden our horizons beyond all-consuming capital projects for the year to focus on these smaller maintenance improvements of our established gardens, grounds and collections. Please stay tuned for further posts and photos on many of these exciting changes to take place in 2014 at our botanic gardens.
The Washington Park Arboretum (WPA) staff was delighted to host the staff and interns from the Elisabeth C. Miller garden for an educational walk and talk Wednesday January 8th. The wind and rain didn’t stop this intrepid group of horticulturists from walking the Pacific Connections Gardens and the ever-changing, always stunning Joe Witt Winter Garden. The Miller Garden staff was gracious enough to bring several plants to gift to the WPA, continuing the Miller family’s legacy of supporting the University of Washington Botanic Gardens. A big thank you goes out to Roy Farrow (a former Miller garden intern and current WPA horticulturist) for coordinating this meeting of plant-world minds.
The misty October revealed a great surprise to New Zealand horticulturist Kathleen DeMaria while she was installing signs for the new ’Lookout Loop Trail’ near the recently restored Lookout Gazebo. Kathleen and fellow horticulturists Rhett Ruecker and Roy Farrow peeked through the fog and barely saw a highly engaged woman taking notes on the new New Zealand Forest. As it turns out, this woman was Rebecca Stanley, Auckland Botanic Gardens Education Officer and former plant ecologist with the Auckland Regional Council. Bec, visiting the US west coast on holiday, graciously offered to spend some time with Kathleen in the garden on the following Saturday. The two plant-geeks spent 4 hours walking through the foggy New Zealand forest. Bec’s encyclopedic knowledge regarding the ethnobotanic uses of plants and the cultural requirements of plants was astonishing, and her willingness to share it all, as well as her educational delivery style were delightful. She offered sources for seed, suggestions for books, names, emails and information about who she knows throughout New Zealand that would be interested and willing to help UWBG grow our own New Zealand forest. Personally, and as a representative of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, I would like to thank Rebecca for all of her time and information, it was a delightful walk in the garden topped off with a delicious lunch at Cactus Cafe and a visit to the downtown library. Thanks so much, Bec! All photos courtesy of Julie Postma.