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.

 

New digital collection created to complement UW Botanic Gardens Oral History

June 27th, 2016 by Tech Librarian, Tracy Mehlin

graham visitor center at washingto park arboretumPatrons listening to the oral history narrators reminiscing about the Washington Park Arboretum might wonder what the heck they are talking about. Why was there a debate about the purpose of the Arboretum?

In an effort to give listeners historic context the Miller Library invited UW Information School grad student Katie Mayer to create a digital collection drawn from the Library’s archives. Last spring quarter, Katie  listened to a sample of the recordings, selected themes, and explored the archives of the Miller Library, UW Special Collections and the Miller Botanical Garden. In order to keep the project manageable, but also expandable, Katie developed criteria for which documents should be digitized. Finally, she selected the most useful reports, minutes, articles and correspondence, scanned the items and assigned metadata. Metadata (such as dates and descriptions) will help people decide which items they might want to read.

Now the Oral History Complementary Documents allow patrons to listen to narrations and then read the reports to learn the points of view of various decision makers and interested neighbors. Other documents give insight into the influential plantswoman Elisabeth Miller’s passion for public horticulture and her deep interest in plants.


report snippet

A UW report from 1972 proposing a shift toward a traditional botanic garden management system and away from a park model.

 

plant list

A snippet of a plant list Betty Miller drafted to be considered for landscaping the McVay Courtyard from 1985

The Wonderful World of Monocots

June 7th, 2016 by UWBG Horticulturist

Monocotyledons, commonly referred to as monocots, are flowering plants whose seeds typically contain only one embryonic leaf, or cotyledon.  A quarter of the world’s known plants are monocots. They are the most economically important group of plants to humans today in agriculture, horticulture, forestry and fiber industries.  Here are a few samples of monocots in our plant collections.

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum or Center for Urban Horticulture (June 1 - 12, 2016)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum or Center for Urban Horticulture (June 1 – 12, 2016)

1)  Allium schubertii                                                                            (Ornamental Tumbleweed Onion)

  • Dried seed heads look like starry tumbleweeds or shooting star fireworks
  • Located in the Soest Herbaceous Display Garden, bed 6 at the Center for Urban Horticulture

2)  Austroderia richardii syn Cortedaria r.                     (Toetoe Grass, Plumed Tussock Grass)

  • Ornamental grass native to New Zealand
  • This “pampas” grass seems to be behaving itself in the Pacific Northwest, unlike others that do seed around and could be considered invasive.

3)  Phormium colensoi                (Mountain Flax, Wharariki)

  • One of two species in the genus Phormium; both are endemic to New Zealand.
  • Fiber from its broad, sword-like leaves, can be made into Maori baskets.

4)  Phyllostachys nigra                 (Black Bamboo)

  • Native to China, but widely cultivated elsewhere
  • Known for its ornamental beauty and prized for decorative woodworking
Close-up photo of fruit from a Chinese Windmill Palm tree

Close-up photo of fruit from a Chinese Windmill Palm

5)  Trachycarpus fortunei                (Chinese Windmill Palm)

  • Only palm that is reliably hardy to the Puget Sound area
  • Dioecious, with male and female flowers produced on separate trees
  • Sample of mature fruit cluster and frond

To locate specimens of these plants, please visit our interactive map:
http://depts.washington.edu/uwbg/gardens/map.html.

Faculty Spotlight: Tom Hinckley

May 25th, 2016 by Donna McBain Evans

Tom Hinckley

Tom Hinckley no doubt kept his much younger graduate students challenged to  keep up as he climbed to over 7000′ on Snowshoe Mountain in the North Cascades. It was there he chose to conduct research on the effects of environmental stress on three species of native trees.

Hinckley needed that energy as he served both as Director for the UW Botanic Gardens’ Center for Urban Horticulture (1998-2004),  and as researcher, teacher and mentor at the UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, where he is now emeritus professor.

“I first came to Seattle in March 1964 to ski in the Cascades, and I must have gotten hooked,” he says, “because I returned two years later to attend graduate school.”

Hinckley received a B.A. in Biology from Carleton College in Minnesota (1966) and his PhD in Forest Ecophysiology from the UW in 1971.  Despite his science focus, he reports that his favorite course in college was actually American History because “it was taught extraordinarily well.”

After time spent teaching in Missouri, Hinckley returned to the University of Washington in January 1980 to join the faculty.  Many of his colleagues, with whom he co-taught and worked on joint research projects, were the initial faculty cohort at UW-Botanic Gardens (James Clark, Barb Smit-Spinks, Deane Wang, Kern Ewing).

With Kern Ewing and others he was involved in launching the Restoration Ecology Network (UW-REN).  UW-REN is now a regional center for the study of ecological restoration and conservation, creating new undergraduate research and curricula, much of it taking place at the Center for Urban Horticulture.

“Now that I am retired, I am a regular visitor to the Soest Garden– my favorite place to walk and take in nature the the Center,” he says, “and I am also active in helping find financial resources to maintain and grow the garden.”

Hinckley is still an avid skier, hiker and photographer.  And when asked about his favorite plant, he had a clear preference:

Abies amabilis,” he clamoured.  This tree, also called Pacific silver fir or “lovely” fir because of the softly silver undersides on the needles and gorgeous purple-hued cones that stand upright on the branches. Hinckley loves the looks of this tree, its mountain habitat and, “the fact that it got me my first job teaching at the University of Missouri.”

 

Staff Spotlight: Jessica Anderson

May 6th, 2016 by Donna McBain Evans

Jessica_AndersonJessica Anderson is a librarian at the Elisabeth C. Miller Library at the University of Washington Botanic Gardens.  Most days you will see Jessica at the Reference desk, doing research or providing answers to gardening questions.

Jessica moved to Seattle from the Southwest to attend the University of Washington, earning her Masters in Library and Information Science in 2010.  As an undergraduate, Jessica began working at the Natural Sciences Library inside of the Suzzallo-Allen Library on the main campus.  Once graduated, she began volunteering at the Miller Library.

“I became fascinated by all the books on horticulture,” she notes,  “and checked out dozens of books on growing edible plants.  Then I began experimenting at home.”

Jessica is now a full-fledged urban farmer and maintains an edible garden of fruits and vegetables, complete with chickens in her small backyard.

At her work in the Miller library, Jessica performs varied tasks including managing the print and electronic serials collection (subscriptions, renewals, receipt records, claiming, and archiving), supervising volunteers, and tracking purchase orders and library supplies.  Her favorite part of her job is learning new things from the research questions she is asked via the Plant Answer Line Service.

“I feel so lucky to work at a place where I spend my time with patrons answering questions about plants,” she glows.

She also feels fortunate to work next to the Union Bay Natural Area loop trail, where she often walks and, when it is clear, looks out toward the mountains across Lake Washington.

When the weather is not so nice and she is not working, Jessica joins a meet-up group to play board games.  And her favorite plant?  The Saucer Magnolia tree (Magnolia x soulangeana), with its large fragrant blossoms in spring.saucer-magnolia

“Especially after a long winter, it is a welcome sight to see a magnolia in full bloom!”

Volunteer Spotlight: Heidi Lennstrom

April 29th, 2016 by Donna McBain Evans

Heidi_Tree cholla Santa Fe 2015Heidi volunteers at the Hyde Herbarium, working with pressed plants and the plant database.  She holds a PhD in archaeology, specializing in paleoethnobotany–the study of plant remains from archaeological digs.  She spent many years at the Bishop Museum in Hawaii, where she was also a science educator and creator of an ethnobotany garden and webpage. 

“I love to organize things,” says Lennstrom, “so working with the seven cabinets of duplicate specimens at the Herbarium is perfect for me!”

Heidi carefully identifies which of the specimens are duplicates, confirms they have been entered into the Botanic Garden website and  then determines which ones are kept and which ones need to be shared with other herbaria.

Although originally from Seattle, Heidi lived in Minneapolis and later, Honolulu for many years.  She returned to Seattle in 2007 to be closer to family.  She loves to travel with family, work with digital photography and cook.

When in college, Heidi always favored the classes where she got to be outdoors–archaeology field studies, geology of the Pacific Northwest and plant identification.  Now that she is working in an Herbarium she admits that she doesn’t get outside into the Botanic Gardens nearly often enough.

Heidi loves the conifers of the Arboretum but it is perhaps the simple lily that is her favorite plant.  “Its so elegant!”

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.

 

 

Glimpse into the past – The UW Plant Laboratory Complex

March 2nd, 2016 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

The Center for Urban Horticulture officially began in 1980 with the arrival of Dr. Harold B. Tukey as the founding Director. He was given an office in the northeast corner (first floor) of Winkenwerder Hall in the College of Forestry Dean’s complex. His administrative assistant, Sally Dickman, was nearby.

When the first two new faculty arrived in 1981– John A. Wott (April) and James Clark (June) – the University/College had “dusted off,” painted, washed the windows, and added heat in the complex of unused buildings known as the Plant Laboratory and Laboratory Annex on Stevens Way N.E., near the Botany Greenhouse. These buildings had been built and used by the Medical School during the exciting programmatic days of studying medicinal plants for human uses.  Hence the close proximity of the Medicinal Herb Garden, still in existence today.

Rear of Plant Lab complex Greenhouse, Annex, Laboratory

Rear of Plant Laboratory complex: Greenhouse, Annex, Laboratory

Two weeks ago, I decided to take a stroll down memory lane and document these buildings before this area is razed for the new Life Sciences Complex. As you currently drive along W. Stevens Way N.E., on the UW campus, these buildings are now barely visible, obscured by plants.

Lab Annex through the “bushes”

Lab Annex through the “bushes”

I well remember those first three years in that small wooden building, with no foundation and no insulation, making it quite cold in the winter and impossible to cool in the summer, and often with a few furry friends and plenty of spiders. Visitors entered off the wooden front porch, always a bit creaky.  You knew someone was coming as soon as they stepped onto the shaky boards. Inside were two rooms, one large one in which Professor Clark and Diana Pearl, our secretary, worked. I had the smaller office on the north side.

The creaky front porch

The creaky front porch

It was here that the first graduate students and staff hires were interviewed and approved, before having their fate sealed by Dr. Tukey in the “big building.”  This included potential graduate students, Professor Sarah Reichard – now UW Botanic Gardens Director – being one of them. David Zuckerman, a former Purdue student of mine and now Manager of Horticulture at UW Botanic Gardens, surprised me on a fall day. He was looking for job, and after I sent him to see Joe Witt, Curator, he was hired. It was also here that I first met Sharon Buck and Cindy Maitland, the first two graduate students who created the “flamingo mascot” idea for the Center for Urban Horticulture.

Pathway to Stevens Way N.E. and to Winkenwerder Hall

Pathway to Stevens Way N.E. and to Winkenwerder Hall

Program and building plans were discussed and dreams for an internationally-significant new program were formulated. I also remember a very dark rainy Friday afternoon when a call came from the Provost’s office wanting to know how we were going to cut a major portion of our budget due to a state budget crisis. I wondered for weeks if the entire new program would be eliminated, but alas we were spared, although we were told to raise our own money in order to survive.

Plant Lab Headhouse and Laboratories

Plant Lab Headhouse and Laboratories

When Van Bobbitt was hired in 1982, we dusted off an office in the Plant Lab Annex, just off the head house for the small attached greenhouse. We found that the previous building occupants had basically walked out the door and left everything sitting on the shelves, floor, etc. It took days to clean up the materials. Soon after, we hired staff to assist in cleaning and retrofitting the greenhouse. As additional faculty and staff arrived, we “descended” into the dungeon-like basement labs, removing glassware, chemicals, as well as much dust. In fact, much of that glassware was eventually moved into the new Merrill Hall labs.

Stairs to Basement “dungeon” labs

Stairs to Basement “dungeon” labs

The head house space was our meeting space, eating space, and the location of monthly birthday parties, usually with a cake baked by myself. The now forsaken paths around the buildings were then our daily home. We revitalized the old red and yellow roses as well as the lavender plants along the paths. Needless to say, when we moved into the newly completed Merrill Hall in April 1984, it was like moving from a log cabin into Windsor Castle. Today, thirty-five years later, change is still afoot, but these physical structures of the past will soon be just a memory and a photograph!

Greenhouse

Greenhouse

 

For more information about the greenhouse and construction of the new Life Sciences Complex, visit http://www.biology.washington.edu/about-us/facilities/greenhouse

 

Trail Completion to Begin at Yesler Swamp

February 17th, 2016 by Donna McBain Evans
Trailhead, Yesler swamp

Trailhead, Yesler swamp

Shovels, picks and hammers will be brought out this month to forge the final section of the Yesler Swamp trail, a much-anticipated finale to years of planning and fundraising.

Yesler Swamp, the 6-acre wooded wetland along the eastern border of the Center for Urban Horticulture has captivated local citizens, restoration ecologists and leaders at the University of Washington Botanic Gardens for close to a decade.

“The Yesler swamp is a perfect outdoor laboratory where students can study, investigate and take their classroom learning into nature,” states Fred Hoyt, Associate Director of UW Botanic Gardens.

And because the area is one of the last remaining swamp ecosystems along the Lake Washington shoreline (a swamp is a wetland dominated by trees and other woody species), scientists are keen to remove remaining invasive species, restore a multilevel canopy and study the natural succession of this marvelous public open space.

Bird watcher at Yesler Swamp

Bird watcher at Yesler Swamp

Hoyt, along with UW professor and restoration ecologist Dr. Kern Ewing, and a dedicated citizen group —the Friends of Yesler Swamp — have brought this amazing project to fruition.  It took an array of donors—from the City of Seattle to King County and numerous individuals—to get it this far.   The Washington Conservation Corps will begin the estimated 8-week project finale at the end of February.  The Friends group also still needs to match $11,000 in donations for the final City grant.

Trail work on new ADA-accessible entry path to Yesler Swamp. Photo courtesy of Friends of Yesler Swamp

Trail work on new ADA-accessible entry path. Photo courtesy of Friends of Yesler Swamp

Part of the trail has been completed in the last few years, so one can now follow a sturdy boardwalk out to the lake’s edge.  Ewing notes that over 200 species of birds have been seen here and in the adjacent Union Bay Natural Area, as well as raccoon, turtle, beaver, coyote and heron.  Last December, crews completed an ADA accessible entry to the path; once this final section is completed it will be a loop trail encircling the entire swamp area.  Graduate students of Ewing continue to study the area, which he describes as a “fantastic outdoor laboratory.”

This is an incredible transformation of an area that was once a sawmill and lumber business for Seattle pioneer and two-time mayor, Henry Yesler.

“The great thing about completing this trail,” says Dr. Ewing enthusiastically, “is that it is really just the beginning.” 

Ewing has numerous plans for future scientific studies, watching the transformation over time:  recently planted western red cedars and Sitka spruce will eventually grow into mature trees, enriching the canopy and species diversity, native plants will take root and crowd out the invasives, and the site will eventually return to a near natural state.