Last Twilight Tram Tour of the Season!

August 19th, 2016 by Sasha McGuire, Education Program Assistant

Join us for the last evening tram tour of the season! We’ve added a bonus fall tour as an encore to our successful summer evening tram series.  Join us Friday, September 9th, at 6:30pm (the sun sets early that day!) to explore the Arboretum, and it’s nighttime life. We may encounter bats, raccoons, or owls as we glide through the forest. You’ll also learn a bit about the history of the Arboretum, the interesting plants living there, and the stories behind them.

WHAT: Twilight Tram Tour (last of the season!)
WHO: Anyone who wants to see and hear the Arboretum at night!
WHEN: Friday, September 9th, 6:30-8pm
COST: $15/person
HOW: Register online, or call 206-685-8033


August Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

August 14th, 2016 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (August 8 - 21, 2016)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum
(August 8 – 21, 2016)

1)  Clerodendrum bungei

  • C. bungei is a deciduous, suckering shrub producing upright shoots and opposite, ovate, toothed, dark green leaves tinged with purple when young.  Salverform, fragrant, dark pink flowers, each with five spreading lobes, are borne in rounded, terminal panicles from late summer to autumn.  Native to China and a member of the family Lamiaceae, this specimen is happily spreading around the south side of bed ‘G’ on Azalea Way.

2)  Fuchsia magellanica

  • F. magellanica is an erect shrub with ovate-elliptic leaves, sometimes tinted red beneath.  Throughout summer, it produces small flowers with red tubes, wide-spreading sepals, and purple corollas.  Native to Chile and Argentina, this specimen is located within our Pacific Connections Entry Garden along the circular path.

3)  Hibiscus  x  ‘Tosca’

  • A member of the Malvaceae plant family, Hibiscus is a genus of some 200 species of trees, shrubs, and herbs – inhabitants mainly of the tropics and subtropics.  This rather unspectacular specimen is located near Azalea Way, south of the large Glen Pond.

4)  Sorbus  ‘Birgitta’

  • Sorbus is a genus of about 100 species of deciduous trees and shrubs within the family
    Rosaceae.  They are widely distributed throughout northern temperate regions and are
    found in woodlands, on hills and mountains, and on scree.  Tolerant of atmospheric pollution,
    they are ideal as specimen trees in a small garden.  The raw fruit may cause mild stomach upset if ingested.

5)  Vitex agnus-castus and Vitex agnus-castus  ‘Silver Spire’

  • Another member of the family Lamiaceae, Vitex is a widespread genus of around 250
    species of deciduous or evergreen shrubs occurring mainly in tropical regions and often in woodland or dry river beds.  Cultivated for their elegant foliage and summer flowers, Vitex may be grown in a shrub border or against a wall.  These specimens are located along Azalea Way near the Lower Woodland Pond


“One is the loneliest number…”

July 29th, 2016 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum <br /> (July 25 - August 7, 2016)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum
(July 25 – August 7, 2016)

The University of Washington Botanic Gardens is home to truly one of a kind plants.  In botanical nomenclature, a monotypic genus refers to the case where a genus and only a single species are described.  These plants are often “living fossils”, comprising the last living remnant of ancient lineages.  Many are also often in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

1)   Davidia involucrata var. vilmoriniana               Dove Tree

  • Davidia involucrata is the only member of the genus Davidia.  It was named after French priest and naturalist, Father Armand David who was also the first westerner to describe the giant panda.  In 1899, David commissioned a young Kew-trained botanist named Ernest Wilson to travel to China to find the dove tree.  This presented a challenge for 22-year-old Wilson, who had never been abroad before and did not speak a word of Chinese.

2)  Franklinia alatamaha                Franklin Tree

  • William Bartram was the first to report the extremely limited distribution of Franklinia.  “We never saw it grow in any other place, nor have I ever since seen it growing wild, in all my travels, from Pennsylvania to Point Coupe, on the banks of the Mississippi, which must be allowed a very singular and unaccountable circumstance; at this place there are two or 3 acres of ground where it grows plentifully.” (W. Bartram 1791: 468).  The tree was last verified in the wild in 1803 by the English plant collector, John Lyon.

3)  Ginkgo biloba                Maidenhair Tree

  • The Maidenhair Tree was thought to have become extinct, similarly to the other members of its ancient lineage, until it was discovered in Japan in 1691.  The Maidenhair Tree remains virtually unchanged today and represents the only living bridge between ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ plants (between ferns and conifers).

4)  Metasequoia glyptostroboides                Dawn Redwood

  • Considered one of the greatest botanical finds of the 20th century, the Dawn Redwood was known only from ancient fossils until a small population was discovered in the forests of central China in 1944.  The mature, large trees have all been declared protected; habitat protection is overall inadequate, which means that the survival of this very interesting species in its natural habitat is not guaranteed. (Bartholemew 1983, Fu and Jin 1992, Wang and Guo 2009).

5)  Pseudolarix amabilis                Golden Larch

  • The famous plant explorer, Robert Fortune first saw this unusual conifer as a container plant in China.  Wild specimens have been found in the Wuyi Shan of Fujian, and in the Lushan of Jiangxi.  Mixed mesophytic forests have been set aside as protected reserves on the Tienmu Shan and Lu Shan, and these include some of the most diverse temperate forests on earth.

Staff Spotlight: Jessica Farmer

July 29th, 2016 by Donna McBain Evans

JessicaJessica Farmer is one of those fortunate individuals who, through a combination of foresight, focus and possibly a bit of luck, ended up in her dream job.

“Just outside my office door at the Center for Urban Horticulture is Yesler Swamp,” she enthuses, “a quiet, shady oasis that provides me with instant wonder and relaxation.”

Just about a perfect location for a person who has been passionate about plants and nature since high school.  Farmer is the Adult Education Supervisor for the UW Botanic Gardens.  In that role she develops programs to involve adults in Botanic Gardens programs, coordinates volunteers, oversees social media, writes the monthly E-Flora newsletter and creates regular blog postings.

Farmer’s involvement in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) in her hometown in Iowa sparked an interest in  horticulture and led to her working in the high school greenhouse, and later in a retail nursery for a summer.

“After that I was hooked,” she admits.

She went on to gain a bachelor’s degree in horticulture at Iowa State University, specializing in public gardens.  Internships at the Reiman Gardens (Iowa) and Morris Arboretum (University of Pennsylvania) let to a position at a tree nursery outside of Chicago.

“After a few years of that I wanted to get back into public horticulture, so I returned to graduate school–this time in Seattle.  The fantastic resources at the UW allowed me to volunteer at the Arboretum,  study at the Center for Urban Horticulture, and I also got a concurrent Master of Public Administration degree through the UW Evans School (of Public Policy and Governance).”

“I loved that I now had the chance to combine my interest in plants with courses on public management and program development,” she concedes, “it has given me a whole new tool set that has helped me professionally and expanded my work.”

Farmer’s roots with the UW Botanic Garden run deep.  Her thesis adviser was Sarah Reichard, now UW-Botanic Gardens director.  And her student office was at the Center for Urban Horticulture.

When she is away from work, Farmer likes to garden (of course!) and prepare food from what she’s grown–lately she has gotten into canning and fermenting foods.  She also loves spending time in Seattle’s urban parks with friends and getting out to the mountains to backpack.

“One of my favorite nearby spaces at the Arboretum is the Loderi Valley,” she explains.  “I love to walk among the towering rhododendrons, with their beautiful curved trunks and lush foliage overhead.”

“It is a most exquisite, magical place,” she says.

And her favorite plant?

“At the moment, it is the Garry oak (Quercus garryana) that comes to mind–oaks exude images of strength and endurance,” she says.  “And I especially love to imagine the young one planted in my backyard–how it will grow strong and fill the space over time.”

August 2016 Plant Profile: Dierama pulcherrimum

July 28th, 2016 by Ray Larson

Dierama pulcherrimum photoDierama pulcherrimum is one of the more striking members of the iris family in flower, which is saying something.  It flowers over a long period from late June to mid-August, along stems that elongate and arch above the basal foliage.  Flowers open in sequence along the wiry stems, from furthest out from the clump to closest in as the season progresses.  The funnel shaped flowers move gently in the breeze and are especially striking when sited above a low wall.  From a distance they almost seem to float, as the flowering stalks are very thin.

Angel’s fishing rod is an evergreen clump-forming perennial arising from a corm.  Flower color is typically a rosy pink, though can range from white to reddish purple.  There are numerous named forms.  ‘Blackbird’ has an especially dark flower.

Dierama pulcherrimum prefers well-draining though somewhat moisture retentive soil.  In our climate, it does best with occasional summer water.  Full sun is best for flowering effect.  Overall it is a tough, easily grown perennial, and is tolerant of wind as well as coastal conditions.  Seed heads in papery sheaths follow the flowers and are attractive in their own right.  Plants sometimes seed around in gravel pathways or between stepping stones, but are easily removed if desired.  They are excellent companions with ornamental grasses and in more naturalistic perennial borders.  Plantings are effective singly or in masses.

Dierama don’t like being in containers for too long, and once established generally resent being moved.  Divisions can be taken when the clump gets too dense, and is best done in spring.  They may take a couple of years to settle in after moving.  The large, 30 year old plant at the Center for Urban Horticulture was moved to a sunnier spot about 5 years ago, and after resting for a couple of years is now more floriferous than ever.  This year the blooming stalks extended over 8’ wide around the clump!  This and our specimen of ‘Blackbird’ are blooming as well as they ever have this year.
Dierama pulcherrimum photo
We recently planted another species on the west side of Miller Library in Merrill Hall, Dierama pendulumDierama igneum is a smaller growing species suitable for urban gardens, reaching only 2-3’ high in flower.  Dierama can be obtained as seed and is offered by several local specialty nurseries.  It is worth seeking out.  We grew ‘Blackbird’ from seed obtained from the Cruickshank Botanic Garden at the University of Aberdeen in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Dierama pulcherrimum was introduced to western horticulture in 1866 by botanist James Backhouse.  “Dierama” is derived from the Greek word for “funnel”, which refers to the shape of the flower.
Dierama 'Blackbird' photo
Common name:  Angel’s fishing rod, fairy wand flower

Family:  Iridaceae

Location:  A large example (Accession 108-86-A) is found the Stormwater Garden/McVay Staircase planting area at the Center for Urban Horticulture on the east side of Merrill Hall.  The cultivar ‘Blackbird’ (252-90-A) is found adjacent to the north patio at the Graham Visitors Center in the Arboretum.

Origin:  South Africa.  There are about 44 species of Dierama, all native to Africa.  They range from the highlands of Ethiopia to the southern Cape in South Africa.  The center of Dierama diversity is the KwaZulu-Natal province in the southeast corner of South Africa where about 26 species occur.  Dierama pulcherrimum is one of several species hardy in Pacific Northwest gardens.

Height and spread:  A large perennial in time, though airy in effect and appearance, Dierama pulcherrimum can reach 4-5’ high and wide in flower.  Out of flower it forms a clump up to 2” wide and about 2’ tall.

Hardiness:  Cold hardy to USDA Zone 7

Glimpse into the past – Honoring a Legend and Looking to the Future

July 26th, 2016 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

by John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

Dr. Kruckeberg at Snoqualmie

Dr. Kruckeberg at Snoqualmie

For every creature – plants, animals, or people – there is a season. They are germinated/born, develop from juveniles into adults, usually produce progeny, grow into old age, and then succumb. In the plant kingdom, there are various ways in which plants reproduce, both sexually and asexually. In humans, we pass along our genetics, our ideas, and plans to successive generations.

In every field or endeavor of learning, certain people seem to become more prominent and eventually become legendary icons. The older generation passes and a new one rises. I was reminded this week of the changes that are occurring in the Northwest horticulture scene.

On May 25, 2016, Dr. Arthur R. Kruckeberg, one of the most prolific botanical scholars, died at the wonderful age of 96. Author of many prestigious publications, including several books, Dr. Kruckeberg guided hundreds of students of all ages on field trips, answered multitudes of questions, and lectured thousands of students on the flora of the Northwest. Legendary for his stature as well as his professorial appearance with his ever-ready pipe, he easily commanded your attention.

Along with his wife Mareen Shultz Kruckeberg, they turned their 4-acre Shoreline home and garden into a mecca which is today known as the Kruckeberg Botanic Garden and MsK Nursery. Dr. Kruckeberg was involved in the early master planning for the Center for Urban Horticulture in the 1970-80’s and forever kept a keen interest in its future.

Personally I remember the legendary noontime musical productions which he and several others provided by playing classical tunes on their woodwinds, while sitting in the Douglas Conservatory Foray. I also remember walking around the Kruckeberg Garden with him in his later years, ever more slowly as the years moved along. His keen interest in plants and sharing knowledge was retained to the very end.

Arthur and his pipe

Arthur and his pipe

However, the new generation is already evolving. This week’s issue of The American Gardener contained a significant article entitled “Riz Reyes: Rising Star,” written by Marty Wingate. Both Riz and Marty are successful UW horticulture graduates, and I am proud to have mentored both of them.

Riz Reyes picking the right color

Riz Reyes picking the right color

A native of the Philippines, Riz immigrated to the USA with his family in 1989. He always loved plants and eventually obtained his degree in environmental horticulture and urban forestry. Upon graduation, he become the head gardener for the Orin and Althea Soest Herbaceous Display Garden at the Center for Urban Horticulture for eight years. During this time, he was also my personal gardener where he introduced many new plants into my garden, most of which still flourish there.

Riz is also owner of RHR Horticulture, a business which specializes in all kinds of design, and landscaping. He has written for many publications, given many lectures and loves to design floral arrangements for special events. He won the Founders Cup for a magnificent garden at the Northwest Garden and Flower Show. His current monthly blogs are legendary.

Almost two years ago, he was tapped to be the head gardener for the new McMenamins Anderson School in Bothell from its early development onward. Today it is fast becoming a horticulture show garden in the Northwest, visited daily by hundreds of visitors.

And so it is….generations come and generations go…but oh the excitement as we reap the history past but look forward to the future ahead!


Riz and the late Orin Soest

Riz and the late Orin Soest

Volunteer Spotlight: Carolyn Scott

July 22nd, 2016 by Donna McBain Evans

At the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, we rely on volunteers–over 500 of them– to keep daily operations afloat.Carolyn_Scott

Volunteer Carolyn Scott works in the administrative heart of the Gardens, helping Manager of Administrative Services Carrie Cone with record-keeping, mailing, filing and data entry.

Born in 1921, Carolyn came to Seattle from Virginia in her early 30s with husband David who accepted a faculty position with the (then) College of Forestry at the UW.

Scott received a B.A. degree, Phi Beta Kappa, from the, now co-ed,  Randolph-Macon Women’s College in 1942.  “My wonderful Latin professor inspired me to choose Latin as a major,” she notes, “but I also loved languages, learning French and Spanish.”

Married during World War II,  Scott was a translator for US Postal Censorship and afterward worked for five years in the Yale University library. After raising four children she worked at Bush School, the University Book Store, and Seattle Children’s Hospital until retirement in 1988.

“I love classical music, ballet, art and theater,”  she says, and “until recent years I loved gardening and travel.

Scott now spends much time volunteering. “The Botanic Gardens are such a friendly  place to volunteer,” she says, “and I especially love walking through the gardens and watching the seasonal changes.”   In particular Scott enjoys the sights and scents of blooming plants.


Silent Invaders

July 20th, 2016 by Donna McBain Evans

Imagine you see that a campfire has ignited some of the dry leaf litter nearby and no one but you is around.  Most of us would know enough to either try to put the fire out, or quickly alert officials to get to the scene.  With such early detection and quick action, it is quite possible to avoid an out of control fire that burns thousands of acres.

This “early detection rapid response” is exactly what some scientists hope will soon be commonplace when it comes to a different form of habitat destruction– invasion of native ecosystems by non-native plants.  Invasion of natural ecosystems by non-native species may not be as quick as fire, but  the damage caused by fast-growing species can result in all the same kinds of dramatic long term changes—changes in soil chemistry, crowding out of native plants, altering natural physical characteristics such as fire and flooding regimes and introducing pathogens.

Invasive species Japanese knotweed alongside highway.

Invasive species Japanese knotweed alongside highway.

It might surprise you that invasive plants are such a big worry.  But they are a serious problem for land managers, agriculturalists and local governments, costing an estimated $120 billion annually across the country for all types of invasives. Almost half of all the threatened or endangered species in the US are in jeopardy precisely due to competition or predation by invasive species.

In Washington, the Pacific Northwest-Invasive Plant Council is taking a lead in tackling this problem.  Lizbeth Seebacher, a PhD specializing in invasive species biology, works with the WA Department of Ecology and also serves on the Board of the Pacific Northwest-Invasive Plant Council (PNW-IPC).

“A grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in 2011 and subsequent grants from the National Forest Foundation and the WA Departmentt of Agriculture, helped jumpstart a program we call EDRR, or Early Detection Rapid Response,” says Seebacher.  “These grants have allowed us to establish a citizen science program to identify, monitor and report invasive plants on an integrated GPS mapping program, a program called EDDMapS.”

Seebacher’s colleague, Julie Combs, directs the program which consists of several hundred citizen scientist volunteers who adopt an area or trail and regularly hike there to identify problems and report them.

The PNW-IPC coordinates with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Park Service, King County, the Department of Agriculture, the Noxious Weed Board and many other agencies.  The goal is to identify problem species and provide a coordinated system for identifying areas of infestation and where spread may be rapid. When citizen scientists find a new outbreak of invasives, it is quickly reported and evaluated.

“Rapid response to a new infestation can be critical, notes Seebacher, “because eradication efforts are most successful in areas under a few acres.”  After that, she says, costs can skyrocket.


UW Botanic Gardens creates home for Invasive Plant Council

For many years, the idea of tasking a specific group to take on the challenge of taming invasive plants floundered in a sea of bureaucracy and lack of funding. Fortunately, in 2006 the UW Botanic Gardens sponsored a conference on invasive plants, with now Director Dr. Sarah Reichard leading the charge.

“Because of my involvement on invasive plant species on a national level, I have been invited to speak at the annual meetings of a number of similar non-profit organizations in Florida, California, North Caroline, and other areas” recall Reichard. There was an attempt to start a council here in the mid-1990s, but despite best efforts, it went dormant in 1997. She knew how valuable they could be in partnering with federal, state, and local governments.

In 2006, Reichard was able to secure a US Forest Service grant to bring together an array of scientists from throughout the Northwest doing important work on invasive species eradication, in a conference held at the Center for Urban Horticulture in which Seebacher was hired to work. “There was great synergy at the conference,” she notes, “and the federal funding allowed us to establish a local committee affiliated with the national Association of Invasive Plant Councils.” The second afternoon was dedicated to a lively discussion of what the PNW-IPC could be.

Reichard was also responsible for getting approvals to house the local plant council at the UW Botanic Garden, where she is now Director.

“Thanks to energetic scientists like Julie (Combs) and Lizbeth (Seebacher),” says Reichard, “we have a vibrant local invasive species council, excellent collaboration with agencies and hundreds of citizen volunteers who are working to keep invasives out of our natural lands.”

Lovely Villain

Forest overgrown with English Ivy

Forest overgrown with English Ivy

Once prized for its graceful presence decorating brick edifices, English Ivy (Hedera helix) has become one of the most familiar invasive plants in our region. It is actually a European native species on the list of noxious weeds in several states, including Washington State.  The qualities that initially made English Ivy a popular ornamental are the same ones that make it invasive in the right environment—it grows rapidly, needs little light or water once established and is extremely hardy—it forms dense mats on the ground and can climb up trees and shrubs.  English ivy can choke off life in native shrubs by preventing light from reaching the shrub due to the density of ivy.  The sheer weight of the ivy can weaken the plant it has grown on and make it more susceptible to blow-down and disease.

The clusters of black berries are eaten and spread by birds which makes dispersal easy and widespread.  In Stanley Park in Vancouver B.C., for example, 700 volunteers removed more than 20,000 square meters of ivy in a recent work weekend.  Despite this comprehensive effort, scientists estimate that it will take 50 years to rid Stanley Park of this invasive pest!

An Alliance with Commercial Nurseries

GardenWiseThere are many sources responsible for introducing invasive species into natural ecosystems, says Seebacher.  Invasives can arrive as seed in agricultural products, or on shipments from overseas.  In the past, officials in the highway departments selected median strip plants for their resilience and adaptable nature, not recognizing at the time the threat it might pose to native ecosystems.

“We are trying to limit the sources of infestation,” says Seebacher, “and an important ally in this effort are local nurseries.”

“So our next big task is to create a Nursery Certification Program,” she says.  The PNW-IPC will be developing a list of species they will ask nurseries not to sell because of the high potential for that plant to become an invasive ‘villain’.  The scientists can also provide ideas for alternate species for nurseries to sell with many of the same decorative characteristics but fewer of the negative consequences for the environment.

“Most home gardeners would not want to be a part of propagating aggressive invasives into the environment,” Seebacher notes.  “This program will help everyone play a part in keeping these costly pests from spreading in our natural landscapes.”


July Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

July 15th, 2016 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (July 11 - 24, 2016)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum
(July 11 – 24, 2016)

1)  Colutea orientalis                Bladder Senna

  • This deciduous native of northern Iran has delicate bluish-green pinnate leaves.
  • The orange flowers are followed by surprising translucent bladder-like fruit pods.
  • You can find Colutea orientalis in the Legume Collection along Arboretum Drive.

2)  Hydrangea macrophylla  ‘Mme. Emile Mouillere’ Bigleaf Hydrangea

  • Hydrangea macrophylla is native to Japan.
  • This cultivar is an example of the Hortensia group – having mophead flowers.
  • The pure white sterile flowers will age to pink.

3)  Hydrangea serrata  ‘Bluebird’                Tea of Heaven

  • Hydrangea serrata, a.k.a. H. macrophylla subspecies serrata, is native to Korea as well as Japan.
  • This cultivar is a fine, long blooming example of the Lacecap group.
  • Many of our hydrangeas can be found in Rhododendron Glen along Arboretum Drive.

4)  Lomatia myricoides                 River Lomatia

  • Lomatia myricoides is a native of Australia, in the regions of New South Wales and Victoria.
  • The flowers are honey scented.
  • A large specimen is located along the east side of Arboretum Drive opposite our New Zealand Garden.

5)  Taiwania cryptomerioides                Coffin Tree

  • This native of southeast Asia is listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List overall, and ‘critically endangered’ in Vietnam.
  • The wood from this tree has been historically used for coffins.
  • Specimens can be found along Arboretum Drive, on the north side of our Giant Sequoia grove, as well as in the Pinetum.

DIY Wetlands In a Bottle

July 8th, 2016 by Sasha McGuire, Education Program Assistant

BottleWetlandJoelBidnickWetlands rely on the right balance of invertebrates, plants, water, and nutrients to stay healthy. In this class you will learn about plants and animals living in our nearby wetlands, and you will build your very own mini-ecosystem for your living room or office. Learn to care for your bottle so that it thrives month after month. Watch your community of plants, zooplankton, and detritovores evolve everyday. Bring your own bottle, and we’ll supply the rest of the materials.

What: Make your own wetlands in a bottle class

When:  Tuesday, August 9, 2016, 7 – 8:30pm

WhereCenter for Urban Horticulture, Douglas Classroom (3501 NE 41st St
Seattle, WA 98105)

Cost: $30

How: Register Online, or by phone (206-685-8033)

Photo by instructor Joel Bidnick