“Story Time” at the Washington Park Arboretum

April 25th, 2016 by UWBG Horticulturist

The stories of people and plants are intricately intertwined.  The plants of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens have many stories to tell, and here are just a few to wet your whistle.  Explore our website at to look up and locate plants in the Arboretum and learn more of our stories.

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum, April 18 - May 2, 2016

1)  Abies grandis – Grand Fir                “Fir Above It All”

  • This particular tree has witnessed the entire history of the Washington Park Arboretum.  It is almost certainly a remnant of the vegetation that existed before the site was logged circa 1896.  You can read more about this remarkable tree’s history on the March 2016 plant profile.

2)  Castenea dentata – American Chestnut
“A Blight to Remember”

  • Once upon a time in the eastern forests of North America, the mighty American Chestnut was a ubiquitous giant.  This tree could shape entire ecosystems, providing food and shelter to all manner of beasts and men.  It was said that the chestnuts would sometimes pile up so high you could scoop them up with a shovel.  This fast-growing timber tree provided wood that could be used to make almost anything a carpenter can build. Sadly, this tree has been decimated by “chestnut blight”, a fungus that quickly girdles and kills the tree.  The University of Washington Botanic Gardens is committed to the conservation of this tree and many other species that are threatened.

3)  Rhododendron ‘Lem’s Cameo’                “Halfdan Lem and the Rhodies of War”

  • Some of Halfdan Lem’s story was told to the Vancouver Rhododendron Society meeting of March 1993.  When World War II started, Mr. Fred Rose in England sent Lem seed and scions of many of his crosses and the resulting plants formed the nucleus of Lem’s breeding program.  By the mid-sixties, he had made over 2000 crosses and had about 50,000 seedlings.  One of his first introductions was “Lem’s Cameo”, an outstanding and popular variety.  Halfdan was reported to be quite a “colorful” character, and you can see some of his legacy in the Puget Sound Hybrid Garden.  Many other stories about Halfdan Lem may be found in the Journal of the American Rhododendron Society, which is available online.

Staff Spotlight: Catherine Moore Nelson

April 22nd, 2016 by Donna McBain Evans

Catherine began volunteering to lead adult tours and youth programs for the UW Botanic Gardens in 2006 and in 2011, she received the Brian Mulligan volunteer of the year award.

More recently, she became employed part-time as a Tour Program Assistant, leading tours, training and coordinating volunteer guides, and contributing to the UW Botanic Gardens blogs. Adding to her long list of skills, Catherine also now helps with the adult education program, setting up private group tours, driving the tram and helping to lead youth and family programs.

Catherine leading her Adult tour.

Catherine leading a tram tour.

Catherine and her family moved to the area in 1974 and she grew up on San Juan Island. After obtaining a B.A. in Greek Culture and History at Western Washington University in Bellingham,  she moved to Seattle to enroll in a Horticulture program at Lake Washington Technical College, graduating in 2005 as a certified horticulturist.  She now has her own business, focusing on long term garden care for clients.

“I love the variety of work I do at the UW Botanic Gardens, ” says Nelson enthusiastically, “I especially enjoy interacting with visitors and sharing the great wonders of the Arboretum with them–plants, botany and horticulture.” But, she adds, she also learns a great deal from visitors who come from many different states and countries around the world.

A friend of Catherine’s from the UW Botanic Gardens Education department enticed Catherine to volunteer.  Although she was initially intimidated by the training, she instantly became excited about being a part of such a great Arboretum.

Catherine’s favorite place here is the grove of Sequoiadendron giganteum in the Pinetum.

“Its so quiet there, I feel as if I am in a natural cathedral encircled by giant towering trees,” and, she admits, “I take visitors there as often as possible to see the 100 foot tall trees that are really still just babies.”

When Nelson is not driving trams or sharing her wealth of botanic knowledge,  she loves to read, watch movies or enjoy the outdoors camping, playing softball and having barbecues.  She doesn’t have a favorite plant, but is smitten by conifers and loves the Ericaceae family, and she adores plants with large, showy flowers.

Glimpse into the past – Trees need Tractors

April 20th, 2016 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

Managing a large garden requires large equipment. Often tractors and trucks can be kept in great working order for many years, but eventually they too will need to be replaced. Shredders, mowers, and machinery with many working parts need to be replaced every few years. Machinery costs were once totally covered in state and city budgets. In years past, tractors and trucks were also sometimes leased. With the severe budget cuts over the last several decades, staff has to now improvise and find creative ways to obtain and use larger equipment.

1949_Fleet

The photo on the left above, from 1949, shows the UW Arboretum fleet of four trucks and a Ford Tractor. The photo on the right shows the Ford Tractor , brand new in March 1948, hooked up to a new Hardie sprayer. In those days, widespread spraying for all types of pests was common. This equipment was obtained and supported through UW (State) budgets.

JohnDeere

This next set of photos shows Arboretum Foundation President Steve Garber proudly delivering a new John Deere tractor and loader – a $35,000 gift of the Arboretum Foundation on September 14, 1995. The photo below shows the same tractor helping to lift a new Drimys winteri into its planting site just last month, on March 18, 2016.

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Both the UW Botanic Gardens and Seattle Parks and Recreation staff now also use a number of modern efficient carts in their daily operations (photo below).

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The funding need for equipment, both large and small, is never ending. Excellent working equipment lessens the work load for staff, and leads to more efficient maintenance. It too is part of the cost of Arboretum maintenance.

 

* Editor’s note: Learn about ways to support the equipment budget and other needs, crucial to the maintenance of UW Botanic Gardens, on our Donate page.

 

 

2016 Bioblitz

April 15th, 2016 by Sasha McGuire, Education Program Assistant
Jenni Cena and Liam Stacey, guest entomologists, examine a catch at our 2013 Bioblitz

Jenni Cena and Liam Stacey, guest entomologists, examine a catch at our 2013 Bioblitz

Coming up on May 6 and 7, the UW Botanic Gardens invites you to join our 2016 BioBlitz at the Washington Park Arboretum! A BioBlitz is an intense period of biological surveying in an attempt to record all the living species within a designated area. Groups of scientists, naturalists and community volunteers conduct an intensive field study over a continuous time period. Sign up this year and help us look for bats, birds, insects, lichens, weeds, and mussels at the Arboretum’s Foster Island!

On Friday night, you can partake in “Introduction to BioBlitz” activities, as well as walks with our naturalists for families with kids ages 4 to 11. Stop in any time between 4 and 7 p.m., and we will also stay out late to look for bats from 8 to 10 p.m.

On Saturday, we’ll be searching for birds at daybreak, insects, lichens and noxious weeds in the morning, then plants and freshwater mussels/macroinvertebrates in the afternoon. The BioBlitz is open to everyone, whether you are a newbie or a seasoned naturalist, and children are welcome in all groups.

So if you’d like to join other students, citizen scientists and families for a rewarding, hands-on weekend of discovery, you can RSVP online for an organism group (or taxa), by phone (206.685.8033), or by email (uwbgeduc@uw.edu).

Hope you can make it!Andrew_Westphal_by_Christina_Doherty

Student Spotlight: Emma Relei

April 15th, 2016 by Donna McBain Evans

emmareleiIn Emma Relei’s extensive list of “favorite” plants, one of them is the simple crocus, meaningful for her because of its prominence in a much-loved children’s tale, The Runaway Bunny;  another is Ponderosa pine, because “it smells like vanilla!”

Emma’s energy and enthusiasm for all things extends in many directions, including her work with specimens at the Hyde Herbarium. There she helps sort the 23,000+ species, catalogs them on the database, mounts species for filing and makes greeting cards.

“I love how each specimen has a story and a history to unfold, and that I get to be part of it,” she proclaims.

In addition to her volunteer work, Emma is a senior at the University of Washington studying Environmental Science and Resource Management in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.  Emma is keen on all of her plant-related classes, especially ones that bring her outside into nature.

“I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest,” she notes, “and although I would like to travel more some day, this is a pretty great place to live and study.”

In addition to her studies, and volunteering at the Herbarium, Relei works in a local nursery, watches “tons” of gardening videos and has a small container garden in her tiny home.  She also loves trail running, hiking, camping and kayaking with friends.  She also loves to play piano and read historical fiction.

Whew!  Do you think she ever sleeps?

As for favorite places, Relei mentions of course, the Hyde Herbarium.  But she  also loves the Japanese Garden in the Arboretum as it was where she celebrated her 16th birthday, a day she holds fond memories of even today.

 

 

April Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

April 10th, 2016 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum, April 4 - 17, 2016

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum,
April 4 – 17, 2016

1)  Acer mandshuricum                Manchurian Maple

  • The Manchurian Maple is native from Eastern Siberia into China and strongly resembles Acer griseum and Acer triflorum.
  • This species is located in the Asian Maples Collection.

2)  Distylium racemosum                Isu Tree

  • The flowers of Distylium racemosum are petalless, but have attractive red calyces (whorl of sepals) and purple stamens.
  • The Isu tree is native to southern Japan, but can be found in the Witt Winter Garden and in our Hamamelidaceae Collection, east of Arboretum Drive near the Pacific Connections gardens.

3)  Pieris japonica                Lily-of-the-Valley Shrub

  • This shrub from eastern China, Taiwan and Japan begins the spring with showy terminal panicles of flowers that range from white to dark-red, followed by extremely colorful new growth which will fade to green in summertime.
  • Lily-of-the-Valley can be found at the Graham Visitor Center, the Witt Winter Garden and Rhododendron Glen.

4)  Rehderodendron macrocarpum

  • This native of southwestern China and Vietnam is a member of the Styracaceae family and displays typical Styracaceous white pendent flowers in Spring.
  • Though a relatively small tree in the Pacific Northwest, Rehderodendron macrocarpum is a dominant component in its native habitat.
  • Specimens can be found along Azalea Way near our Puget Sound Rhododendron hybridizers bed as well as in the Witt Winter and Woodland Gardens.

5)  Viburnum bitchuense                Bitchiu Viburnum

  • This native of Korea and Japan has pink buds that open to wonderfully fragrant white flowers.
  • Viburnum bitchiuense can be found just across Arboretum Drive, outside the east doors of the Graham Visitor Center.

2016 Urban Forest Symposium

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

UrbanForestSymposium2016Explosive population growth is underway in the Puget Sound Region. The 2016 Urban Forest Symposium will explore approaches to sustaining the urban forest in the face of this rapid densification. Speakers will introduce the tenets of Smart Growth initiatives which have been widely adopted by policy makers, influencing land use decisions and the urban forest in Seattle and around the world. Case studies of successful approaches from Seattle and other cities will offer insights into ways to creatively address our local challenges.

Speakers include:

  • David B. Williams, freelance writer and naturalist. Author of Too High and Too Steep, and The Seattle Street-Smart Naturalist
  • John McNeil, past Manager of Forestry Services, Oakville, Ontario
  • Laurie Reid, Urban Forestry Supervisor, Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Shelley Bolser, Land Use Planning Supervisor, Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections
  • Roger Valdez, Director, Smart Growth Seattle
  • Shane DeWald, Senior Landscape Architect, Seattle Department of Transportation
  • Cass Turnbull, Founder of PlantAmnesty
  • Peg Staeheli, FASLA, PLA, LEED AP, MIG/SvR Design Company

What: 2016 Urban Forest Symposium

Who: Urban foresters, planners, policymakers, landscape architects, garden designers, landscape contractors, advocates, volunteers, restoration companies and organizations, project managers and landscape maintenance staff

Where: UW Botanic Gardens – Center for Urban Horticulture, NHS Hall (3501 NE 41st St)

When: Tuesday, May 17th, 8:45am-4pm. Reception to follow 4-6pm.

Cost: $85. Lunches available for $15. Free lunch available for the first 100 registrants

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

We’ll see you there!

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

Sasha_McGuire_1

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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