Picturing Your Garden In Winter

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

winterPhotography01_David_PerryWinter in Seattle offers a bounty of botanical treasures, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the Joseph A. Witt Winter Garden in the Washington Park Arboretum. 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 garden led by the UW Botanic Gardens Tour Coordinator, then 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.
This class is a great outing for those in town for the Northwest Flower and Garden Show to see and experience the beautiful Winter Garden.
Cost: $60
Register Online or call 206-685-8033


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Instructor David Perry is an inspirational, Seattle-based photographer, a willing teacher and a captivating storyteller with a keen knack for observation and a distinct twinkle in his eye. His reverence for gardens, flowers and the gardeners who tend them is apparent in the pictures he makes and his playful, sometimes irreverent manner of speaking about them keeps audiences on the edge of their seats.
David’s work has been featured on the cover of Fine Gardening four times in the past few years, and many times in Sunset, This Old House Magazine, Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design, and Pacific Horticulture among others. His garden was recently featured by local Seattle Times garden columnist, Val Easton, in Pacific Northwest Magazine.

Dispatch from Fiddleheads Forest School: Midwinter Reflections

February 16th, 2016 by Joanna Wright

As the idea of outdoor early childhood programs gains ground, Fiddleheads Forest School has been the recipient of increased media attention from across the country. We are so glad that, from our small school in the University of Washington Botanic Garden, we are able to contribute to a wider conversation about learning in nature, and the nature of learning. However, the media’s perspective is inevitably limited; a reporter visits for a day or two at most, which may allow them to describe the general gestalt of our program and the excitement around this trend, but misses the meaning and impact of this kind of experience over time.

P1080996This fall, in response to growing interest, Fiddleheads expanded from one classroom site to two, welcoming 50 families to a year of preschool out-of-doors. Children suited up, waved goodbye to their caregivers, and ventured into their “Forest Grove” classrooms — wild, unknown spaces that would, over time, become deeply familiar. Now, approaching the midpoint of the school year, we have a chance to pause and reflect on some of the growth and learning of the last several months.

 

 

 

Perception

“What lives in that hole? It’s very dark in there.” “Look! More winter buds!” “We found this fungus. It’s… sticky.” Each day at Fiddleheads is full of observations and exclamations, as the children explore the wonders of the Arboretum and share their discoveries with peers and teachers.

P1090118 (1)As human beings, one of our primary modes of learning about the world is through our senses. This is true at any age, but is especially potent during early childhood, a period of enormous curiosity, physical energy, and cognitive development. Another way that young children learn is through conversation — listening, thinking out loud, reciprocal exchange. Thus, one of our emphases at Fiddleheads is the perceptual affordances of the outdoor environment, and the dialogue among students and teachers that draws out and makes meaning of sensory experience.

One of the most compelling aspects of teaching at a year-round outdoor school is seeing the way the children’s perceptions develop over time. At the beginning of the year, for many incoming students, trees were trees, a bird was a bird, and spotting an owl — superbly camouflaged — was nigh impossible.

Five months immersed in the woods has changed that. Students at Fiddleheads know the bumpy, moss-covered limbs of Big Leaf Maple; the fibrous, red bark of Western Red Cedar; Douglas Firs oozing sap from craggy trunks. They are familiar with the squeaky voice of a nuthatch and the cascading calls of eagles. And when a resident barred owl came to perch in our classroom recently, way up in the crowded evergreen canopy, the children were the ones instructing their parents on the best angle from which to spot the quiet, feathery visitor.  

undefined (5)In addition to noticing more nuance in any given moment, the children also show a growing awareness of their environment changing over time. They experienced the day-to-day changes in leaf color this fall, watched the way different leaves dance toward the ground, and rambled through the decomposing foliage for months to come. Now, they are noticing winter buds of all colors and sizes, and beginning to wonder aloud about their unfolding.

The students encounter myriad changes, large and small, in the environment every day. This kind of encounter with dynamic processes carries with it opportunity to develop flexible thinking. Part of a web of ecological events and relationships, these changes have a kind of coherence often lacking in highly engineered contexts. As the students explore and investigate their environment over time, they are developing an understanding that everything — a worm, a mottled leaf, a trickling stream — has a story to tell.

Grit

Since first donning their boots and rain suits this fall, every student in our class has also developed a remarkable amount of sheer grit. I am continually amazed by what a small human being, given some mental tools (and the appropriate clothing), is capable of, in any kind of weather!

We focused early in the year on checking in with our bodies throughout the day. As teachers, we model the awareness and self-care necessary for coping with (and enjoying!) all sorts of weather. “I feel raindrops,” I might say as a drizzle begins, “I am going to put on my hat.” Or, “I see you are shivering. Your body is cold. Let’s play a game to warm up.”

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By December — our wettest December on record — the children are doing this observing and adjusting with increasing independence. This physical awareness, and ability to make choices appropriate to internal state, is a critical element of self-regulation, and a focus of the Fiddleheads curriculum.

Sometimes, despite best efforts, being outside for four hours can get a little uncomfortable. On a cold, clear day in January, we took a long walk through the Arboretum to the open, sunny Pacific Connections garden. One student was particularly struggling with his hands feeling cold. I saw him walking in small circles on the path, his shadow long in the winter sun, shaking his hands, wincing a little, and talking to himself. Recognizing this as a coping strategy, I chose to continue observing rather than immediately intervene.

A few minutes later, he was running up the steep hill with his peers, reluctantly at first, and then with enthusiasm. On our walk back he was cheerful and engaged. It was a small moment, which he may not even remember. But many small moments like that — experiencing adversity, and getting through it — add up to something. Confidence. Resilience. Grit.

Self-regulation

The other big changes we’ve seen in students over the last five months are in their social and emotional awareness, and self-regulation skills. This suite of skills are complex, and understood as foundational to future learning and development. More on this in our next blog post — check back soon!

February Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

February 14th, 2016 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum, February 8 - 21, 2015

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum,
February 8 – 21, 2015

1)  Pinus greggii

  • This three-needle pine from northeastern Mexico is closely akin to P. patula but less ornamental.  Its oval-conical cone clusters stay closed on the branch for several years.  This specimen and the others described here can be found within Crabapple Meadow, along the east side of Arboretum Drive.

2)  Pinus jeffreyi

  • Native mainly of California in the Sierra Nevada and Siskiyous, this lofty tree is said to grow to 200 feet in the wild.  P. jeffreyi is closely allied to P. ponderosa and at one time, it was normal to regard it as a variety of that species.  Its three-needle bundles are said to give off a fruity scent when bruised.
Close-up of cones from Pinus greggii

Close-up of Pinus greggii cones

3)  Pinus montezumae var. lindleyi

  • This five-needle pine is native to southern and central Mexico at subtropical and cool temperate altitudes, with its best development at 7,000 to 8,000 ft.  Its flexible, pendulous leaves (growing to 14 inches or longer) along with its broad, dome-shaped crown give it a distinct look.

4)  Pinus pinaster

  • Commonly known as the Maritime Pine, this specimen is native to southwestern Europe and north Africa.  The glossy green leaves of this pine are the largest and stoutest of all two-needle pines, and it is said to be one of the best for light sandy soils.  As its common name implies, it thrives in coastal maritime localities.

5)  Pinus strobus ‘Fastigiata’

  • A native of eastern North America, P. strobus has proven to be a valuable timber tree and one of the richest assets of our country.  Its bluish-green five-needle clusters are three to five inches long, with lines of white stomata on the inner sides.  Once again, all of these specimens listed here can be found within Crabapple Meadow, along the east side of Arboretum Drive.

Glimpse into the past – Seeps and shifting soils

February 3rd, 2016 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

by John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

Last month we discussed how rapidly trees grow and change the landscape.  It is interesting how physical landscapes also change and often actually shift and move due to changes in temperatures. Visitors to the Pacific Connection Gardens, specifically the New Zealand Forest, have seen the renovation of the Lookout which restored its former shape and size. It is perched high above a steep bluff which looks northward over Azalea Way and the large pond with the University of Washington in the distance.

The steep wall was buttressed by stone work, and originally a pathway allowed visitors to precariously descend from the area of the Lookout to the green grassy basin surrounding the pond.

Bank before reconstruction, 7/2/1967

Bank before reconstruction, 7/2/1967. Photo by B. O. Mulligan.

This entire hillside “sheds” much water and after every rain, it is quite squishy and treacherous. In fact, sometimes you can even see slippage cracks. The Works Progress Administration men laid a series of wooden pipes to assist in drainage but these have almost totally failed. Thus it has been a challenge to manage this entire rockery and drainage system.

Originally built in the 1940s, the photos shown here detail a reconstruction project of the bank and pathway in July 1967. The first photo above is before reconstruction.  The others detail the new path and stone work, all taken on July 13, 1967.

Upper portion of new steps, 7/14/1967. Photo by B.O. Mulligan.

Upper portion of new steps, 7/14/1967. Photo by B. O. Mulligan.

 

New steps down bank, 7/14/1967. Photo by B.O. Mulligan.

New steps down bank, 7/14/1967. Photo by B. O. Mulligan.

 

New steps constructed on bank, 7/13/1967. Photo by B. O. Mulligan.

New steps constructed on bank, 7/13/1967. Photo by B. O. Mulligan.

 

Top of bank after clearing and new rock work. Photo by B. O. Mulligan.

Top of bank after clearing and new rock work. Photo by B. O. Mulligan.

As you can see, it has very uneven steps, typical of the designs of that day. Over the years, there have been many slippages and the path has been closed due to safety issues.  Currently there is no easy way to ascend/descend that slope.

The current photo taken on January 24, 2016, shows a view of the rockery which obscures most of its beauty.

Current view of rockery, Lookout above, 1/24/2016. Photo by John A. Wott.

Current view of rockery, Lookout above, 1/24/2016. Photo by John A. Wott.

The last photo shows water gushing from old pipes and seepage ways.

Water gushing from hill side and banks, 1/24/2016. Photo by John A. Wott.

Water gushing from hill side and banks, 1/24/2016. Photo by John A. Wott.

UW Botanic Gardens staff is currently reviewing this entire area in order to restore its integrity, handle the drainage issues, and eventually make it all more easily accessible.

 

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.

February 2016 Plant Profile: Taiwania cryptomerioides

January 29th, 2016 by UWBG Communication Staff

By Ray Larson, Curator

Coffin tree branchesWhile there is an abundance of early blooms, bright bark and fragrance elsewhere in the Arboretum this time of year (particularly in the Winter Garden and Camellia Collection), winter is also a time to appreciate conifers.  One of the best and most unusual for foliar effects in February is Taiwania cryptomerioides, the Coffin tree.  We have three accessions totaling 8 trees in the Arboretum.  There are two from 1969 (Accession #315-69 A&B), four from 1996 (Accession #119-96 A-D) and two in the old nursery from 1974 (Accession #465-74 B&C).  The 1969 accessions are just south of the main Sequoiadendron grove just off Arboretum Drive E, and the 1996 plantings are at the Newton Street entrance in the Pinetum.  Using the interactive map on our website is a great way to easily locate plants.

From a distance Taiwania cryptomerioides looks a little in habit like a young western red cedar or false cypress.  But closer in its visual affinity to Cryptomeria becomes more apparent, hence the specific epithet meaning “resembling a Cryptomeria,” or Japanese cedar.  The Coffin tree is the only species in the genus Taiwania and hence is known as a monotypic genus.  The common name comes from the practice of some native peoples in its natural range using the trees for making coffins.  A tree is chosen at birth to be carved into a person’s coffin in old age.   The grove in the Pinetum is part of the ½ mile long interpretive trail, and selected specimens along the route feature information about the tree and its uses in small interpretive panels.

Coffin tree grouping

In older forests, trees with trunks up to 10 feet wide are not uncommon.  However the species is listed as Vulnerable to extensive logging in its native range.  Populations 500 years ago were much more robust and widespread.  The species is long-lived, and some older populations in Taiwan are now protected.

Ornamentally the tree has much to offer.  Perhaps most striking is the array of blue-green needles along the somewhat drooping branches.  They look sharp and stiff, but are surprisingly soft and flexible.  The textural effect is outstanding, and the narrow shape accentuates the somewhat weeping effect.  It is most attractive throughout the winter and spring seasons, and new growth is a brighter blue.  Like many conifers, older foliage does turn a brownish yellow before dropping, and this is usually most noticeable in late summer and early fall.  It does best in full sun.  In its native lands, it grows in mid to upper elevations in areas of summer and autumn rainfall but drier winters.  Despite this, it seems to do very well for us with our dry summers and wet winters.

Coffin tree needles

Next time you are in the Pinetum or near the giant Sequoias along Arboretum Drive, be sure to look for this species.  The ones at the Newton Street entrance are probably easiest to find, and if you haven’t been to this minor entrance from the Montlake Neighborhood, you’ll notice is reached from a quiet street end.

Common name:  Coffin tree
Family:  Cupressaceae
Location:  Grids 19-4E in the Sequoiadendron section, Grids 33-7E and 34-7E in the Pinetum at the Newton Street entrance
Origin:  Taiwan, northern Vietnam, Myanmar (Burma) and Yunnan, China.  Populations elsewhere in south-central China are believed to have been introduced.
Height and spread:  A large tree, that can reach over 200 feet in the wild.  It is fairly narrow in youth, and in cultivation is slower growing.  Considered the largest tree native to Asia
Hardiness:  Cold hardy to USDA Zone 8

Coffin tree with sign

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.

Arboretum Map Upgraded for Smartphones

January 5th, 2016 by Tech Librarian, Tracy Mehlin

Have you even been deep inside Rhododendron Glen at the Washington Park Arboretum and wondered which direction you should walk to get to the Lookout Gazebo? Or maybe you were standing in front the most floriferous Hydrangea you have ever seen and can’t find the identification label? If you have a smartphone in your pocket then you can use the freshly upgraded map to see where you are and what plants are near by. You can also search for plants by name, keyword or accession number. Once you find a plant you love add it to your favorites. Next time you visit the Arboretum you can call up your list of favorites and see where each one is on the map.

map screenshot

The map home screen shows gardens and the highlighted collections plus parking lots. Zoom in to see plant icons.

The map was originally created in 2014 as part of a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The map worked well on desktop computers, but was challenging to use on small smartphone screens. To improve the utility of the map for visitors actually in the Arboretum the Botanic Gardens contracted with SpatialDev, a local GIS development firm, to redesign the map to be responsive to handheld devices and to utilize the GPS location function built in to every smartphone. The redesign was partially funded by a gift from the Northwest Horticultural Society.

Want to try it? There is no app to install. Simply go to the Botanic Gardens website (uwbotanicgardens.org) and navigate to the Interactive Map under the Gardens tab. If you want to use it again why not make a shortcut and add it to your home screen?

 

The map works on Android and Apple smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers