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.”

April 2016 Plant Profile: Brassica oleracea

April 5th, 2016 by UWBG Communication Staff

IMG_0434By Sarah Geurkink

This time of year, you may notice your winter garden plants like kale, collards, and cabbage start to elongate, and produce new, small tender leaves and florets, soon-to-be flowers, also known as raab. Often green, yellow, or purple, these clusters of flower buds emerge when the days get longer, and signify that your plants are preparing to go to seed. What you may not know is that those are edible, delicious, and nutritious! Raab tastes a lot like broccoli, but is sweeter and more tender, and is delightfully simple to cook: briefly sauté them with a little bit of oil or fat and garlic, and add them to your favorite pasta, stir-fry or scramble.

This year, the UW Farm is taking on a third site: the terrace at McMahon Hall. We broke ground on this site on April 1, and it happened to be covered in collard greens preparing to go to flower. We were able to harvest almost 20lbs of raab for the McMahon dining hall, just 100 feet below our garden.

Expect to harvest 6-10 clusters of raab per plant in the spring. Plan ahead and grow extra brassicas in July so that your spring harvest starts early!

Family: Brassicaceae
Genus: Brassica
species: Brassica oleracea
Common Name: Kale and Collard Greens
Location: UW Student farm at McMahon Hall

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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.

 

Construction Started to Expand Public Access at Arboretum

March 25th, 2016 by UWBG Communication Staff

Photo: The Berger Partnership Whether you’re a first-time visitor to the Washington Park Arboretum or have been coming to the gardens for decades, a new trail project will take you through plants you likely haven’t seen here before.

Construction has begun on the new Arboretum Loop Trail. Once finished, this paved, multi-use 1.2-mile trail will connect to Arboretum Drive, creating a highly accessible 2.5-mile path through plants and trees from around the world—many of which are rare or threatened species. The paved path will create more opportunities for pedestrians, wheelchair users, slow-moving bicycle riders and families with strollers to exercise and explore once-hidden parts of the Arboretum year-round.

Much of our work will benefit existing plant collections by adding new specimens, replanting with native species that provide richer food and shelter for wildlife, and removing unhealthy and invasive plants. Portions of Arboretum

Detail of the construction map. Source: City of Seattle

Detail of the construction map. Source: City of Seattle

Creek will be day-lighted, and important wetland habitat will be restored.

Throughout planning, design and construction, the health of Seattle’s flagship public garden has been a top priority. We moved what we could, propagated what we couldn’t, and rerouted the Loop Trail to protect rare, unusual or very large trees that could not be moved. In total, just 137 of the Arboretum’s 10,000+ trees will be removed, and we intend to reuse all of the tree material onsite in restoration projects and other work.

As part of mitigation for the current phase of the SR 520 bridge project, the Washington State Department of Transportation is providing $7.8 million to help complete portions of the arboretum’s 20-year master plan, which was adopted in 2001 after years of public input. This paved path is a jewel of the master plan.

More information is available on the City of Seattle project site.

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.

 

 

 

Tour Spring Ephemerals at the Miller Garden

March 21st, 2016 by Sasha McGuire, Education Program Assistant

miller_garden_2014-031See some of the best and choicest plants for creating a lovely early season display. While strolling through the Miller Garden, you will learn how the garden weaves early spring flowering bulbs and perennials into the landscape. Join Richie Steffen, curator of the garden, and enthusiastic guide, as he shares his knowledge and expertise of these delightful garden gems. Space is limited so reserve your spot today.

What: Tour of the Miller Garden

When: Thursday, April 7th, 1-3pm

Where: The Elisabeth C. Miller Garden in the Highlands
(Directions will be sent after registration)

Cost: $25

How: Register Online, or call 206-685-8033

 

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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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Spring Family Nature Classes

March 16th, 2016 by Sasha McGuire, Education Program Assistant

We are happy to announce that our Spring Classes are open for registration!

Join us for a Family Nature Class and make connections with the natural world that will last a lifetime! Through science-based exploration and outdoor play, preschoolers(2-5 years) and their caregivers will experience the UW Botanic Gardens using their senses.

Classes are Wednesday through Saturday 9:30 to 11:30am (We are not offering any older student Friday afternoon classes at this time)

Week of: Theme
March 30-April 2 Dirt!
April 6-9 Trees and Seasons
April 13-16 Forests Are a Healthy Home
April 20-23 Our Planet Earth – Celebrate Earth Day
April 27-30 Tree Appreciation – Celebrate Arbor Day
May 4-7 WEEK OFF  – Come to our Bioblitz Friday night and Saturday all day!
May 11-14 Flowers and Pollinators
May 18-21 What Makes a Bird a Bird
May 25-28 Owls
June 1-4 Birds on the Water
June 8-11 Wetlands

kids with binos

Feel free to register online, or call 206-685-8033. Please call if you have a class credit to use!

Cost is $18/class, $9 for additional children, (additional adults free) and there is a discount for purchasing 6 or more at once.

Meet our teachers!

Wednesday and Thursday: Tifanie Treter
Tifanie Treter received her Naturalist Certificate from the Morton Arboretum, near Chicago, where she was a lead guide for school field trips, family programs, and summer camps. After relocating to Seattle, she has volunteered at the Washington Park Arboretum with the school programs and the Fiddleheads Forest School.  In her free time Tifanie enjoys learning about her new Pacific Northwest surroundings through exploring the many natural areas that surround Seattle. She looks forward to sharing the Arboretum with the many families that visit!

Fridays: Lisa Sanphillippo:
Lisa Sanphillippo is a Certified Interpretive Guide and Naturalist living in Seattle for 23 years.  Her background is in theater, but she has been an informal educator for 17 years – the last 12 here at UW Botanic Gardens leading field trips for preschool to high school students at both Washington Park Arboretum and Center for Urban Horticulture.  Lisa is super excited to work with families exploring and discovering the wonders of nature at both sites.

Saturdays: Stephanie Aragon
Stephanie Aragon is an Environmental Educator, born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. Her background is in Anthropology and Environmental Studies, looking at how humans and the environment interact.  When Stephanie is not teaching Family Nature classes, she explores the natural world with students at the Fiddleheads Forest School, and presents engaging programs and experiences at the Woodland Park Zoo. Stephanie approaches environmental education with a sense of wonder and excitement. She can’t wait to join you on adventures that foster our fundamental appreciation for the natural world.

More information…