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.

Staff Spotlight: Annie Bilotta

December 28th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

Annie_BilottaAnnie Bilotta is a Gardener, working at the Center for Urban Horticulture. She is originally from New York State, and she moved to Seattle in 1989. Annie started working at the UW Botanic Gardens in 1993 at the Washington Park Arboretum as a Gardener.  She moved over to the Center for Urban Horticulture around 2005.

Annie is especially fond of vegetable gardening. When not gardening, she can usually be found riding one of her four bikes, either on a long road ride or in the mountains.  In the rare times that she can be found sitting still, she likes to knit or weave baskets.

Annie has no formal education in horticulture and received her bachelor’s degree from Ithaca College in music education. One of her favorite classes in college was instrument repair.  It wasn’t apparent to her then but she loves working with her hands. Annie became involved with UW Botanic Gardens when she persistently called for about two years and asked about getting hired on as a gardener at the Arboretum.  When a position opened up in 1993 she applied and was hired.

The thing she likes most about her job is the variety.  A typical day has her checking out the landscape and determining what the most pressing issues are.  Out of the many that she identifies as needing doing ‘Right Now’ she picks one and does it — if she doesn’t get sidetracked by something else.  The things she does the most, in order of frequency, are: weeding, mowing, irrigation, mulching, pruning, and planting. Annie also likes talking to visitors.

Annie’s favorite place at the UW Botanic Gardens is the Union Bay Natural Area because it is calm and peaceful, and has a lot of wildlife. What is Annie’s favorite plant? Well, right now she is most fond of sedums (tender and hardy succulents). She likes the color palette they provide, that they are somewhat drought tolerant, and they’re easy to grow.

Seminar: Reconstructing Natural Areas in the Built Environment

December 8th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor
garden photo

Prairie rain garden, Center for Urban Horticulture

Reconstructing Natural Areas in the Built Environment:

Linking design, function, and long-term performance for natural areas, restoration sites, and trail sides

January 25 & 26, 2016
9:00 am-4:00 pm

University of Washington Botanic Gardens
Center for Urban Horticulture
3501 NE 41st St., Seattle, WA 98105

 

PROFESSIONAL CREDITS: CPH-6/day, ecoPRO-6/day, NALP/WALP-6/day, APLD-4.25/day, ASLA-5.5/day

 

RESOURCES FOR SEMINAR ATTENDEES:

Day One: January 25, 2016

Day Two: January 26, 2016

Additional Resources from Presenters and Attendees

September 2015 Plant Profile: Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’

September 8th, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

By Ray Larson, Curator

maple photoIn honor of the annual Elisabeth Miller Memorial Lecture on September 10 in Meany Hall, this month’s plant profile features one of her favorite trees, and perhaps the plant most associated with her:  Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium.’

At the UW Botanic Gardens, we have a grove of 6 planted in the Dorothy McVay Courtyard.  These trees were included at Mrs. Miller’s suggestion when Iain Robertson developed the garden design for the courtyard in the mid-1980s.  Betty Miller’s famous garden just north of Seattle includes over two dozen of the trees, which are among the very best small trees for texture and outstanding fall color.

They begin coloring in late July and slowly build to a crescendo of fiery reds ranging from flame orange to deep maroon.  They are among the most reliable trees for fall color in the Pacific Northwest, and generally at their peak in mid-October.
maple photo

As an added benefit they have small but showy flowers, which appear in early spring right before the leaves unfurl.  The shape of the leaves gives the tree its common name, and the scientific name refers to their resemblance to monkshood foliage (Aconitum).   They grow well in part shade to sun, with longest and best fall color appearing in more sun.  One of the best small trees for urban gardens, either singly or in a grove.  This is the most commonly grown Acer japonicum, but the UW Botanic Gardens has several other varieties, including impressive specimens of A. japonicum ‘O-isami’ and A. japonicum ‘Takinogawa’ in the Woodland Garden.  Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’ received an Award of Garden Merit (AGM) from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1984.  It is reputedly hardier than other forms of Acer japonicum, and is rated down to USDA Zone 5.

maple leaf photoCommon name:  Fernleaf fullmoon maple
Family:   Sapindaceae
Location:  McVay Courtyard at the Center for Urban Horticulture
Origin:  The species is native to mountain forests of Japan, Manchuria and Korea.  According to Arthur Lee Jacobson’s North American Landscape Trees, this form was introduced to cultivation around 1888 by Parsons Nursery in Flushing, NY.
Height and spread:  Generally 12-18’ high and as wide
Bloom time:  Late March-early April
Bloom color:  dark red, and showy for a maple

McVay maples photo

Glimpse into the past – Dr. James R. Clark

August 18th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

Tukey and Clark
Since its founding 35 years ago, the Center for Urban Horticulture (now a part of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens) has produced numerous students, staff, and faculty who have continued on to illustrious horticultural careers. A few days ago, I received this photograph of Dr. Harold B. Tukey, Jr., founding director, and associate professor James R. Clark. They are examining a tree experiment in the nursery area of the Center.  Since the then-new Merrill Hall is in the background, without Isaacson Hall, I would date the picture in the spring of 1985. It was obviously taken by the Seattle Times, for publicity of the newly developing Center, which would become an international model.

Dr. Clark and I were the two early faculty hires for the Center, and he arrived a few months after I did in the summer of 1981.  He holds a B.S. in Plant Science, an M.S. in Horticulture from Rutgers University, and a Ph.D. in Plant Physiology from the University of California, Davis.  He was a faculty member at Michigan State University from 1971 to 1981.  He was extremely instrumental in the early development of the Center from 1981 to 1991.

Upon arrival, Dr. Clark quickly developed programs in urban forestry and tree physiology.  He proved that garden sites closer to our major highways often had higher concentrations of heavy metals.  He worked closely with nurserymen and arborists, as well as the public.  In his work with the late Marvin Black, Seattle City arborist, who was responsible for putting trees back on Seattle streets, he studied the adverse growing conditions for street trees in Seattle.  He also worked with the new immersion exhibits in Woodland Park Zoo.

Dr. Clark and I shared the wooden “chicken coop-like” Medicinal building still lounging near the Botany Greenhouse on campus from 1981-84. It also housed our secretary Diana Perl. It was Dr. Clark who suggested that we teach a required course on public speaking for all our graduate students, which ultimately became the first Center for Urban Horticulture-taught course on campus.  Upon his departure, I taught the course until I retired in 2006.   Dr. Sarah Reichard continues that legacy.  Over the years, I have heard from people all over the world that they can tell the “Center for Urban Horticulture-trained students,” who know precisely how to deliver both a scientific talk and an extension-style public presentation.

Dr. Clark went on to become vice president of HortScience, Inc., located in Pleasanton, California. It is a consulting firm providing horticultural, arboricultural and urban forestry services.  Dr. Clark has developed a model of sustainable urban forest management, is experienced in designing and implementing field research, and frequently serves as an expert witness.  He is also the coauthor of four books and has published over 30 articles in scientific journals including Arboriculture & Urban Forestry (formerly Journal of Arboriculture), Journal of the American Society of Horticultural Science, Arboricultural Journal and Journal of Environmental Horticulture. He continues to lecture on arboriculture and urban forestry worldwide.  He is recognized internationally by the International Society of Arboriculture and has received many rewards including the Alex Shigo Award for Arboricultural Education.

August Plant Profile – Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Sioux’

August 6th, 2015 by UWBG Horticulturist

 

BloomIf this year’s hot and dry summer is a climate change omen for Seattle and the greater PNW, then here’s the tree of our future: Lagerstroemia spp and its many hybrids and cultivars. Commonly known as crapemyrtles, these trees are tolerant of hot and dry summers and offer appeal throughout the seasons. They have lustrous foliage and large colorful flowers in the growing season (spring and summer); in the dormant season (fall and winter), the foliage and bark provide interest.

‘Sioux’ is a National Arboretum Fauriei Hybrid crapemyrtle introduction from the 1950s that produces an abundance of large, bright pink flower clusters  during summer. Its foliage is the darkest green of any crapemyrtle and turns to a handsome purple color in fall. The bark is tan in color and the twigs have a reddish color. See National Arboretum link below for more information on the Fauriei hybrids.

http://www.usna.usda.gov/PhotoGallery/CrapemyrtleGallery/index.html

Common Name: Sioux Crape Myrtle

Location: Center for Urban Horticulture, west end of Douglas Greenhouse parking lot

Origin: National Arboretum Introduction. Name registered May 1, 1992.

Height and Spread: 12′-15′ tall; 8′-10′ wide. Multi-stemmed small tree, large shrub

Bloom Time: Summer, extended out as long as temperatures remain warm.

Specimen at CUH

Specimen at CUH

 

 

 

 

 

July Color Appears at the Center for Urban Horticulture

July 25th, 2015 by UWBG Arborist, Chris Watson

Featuring a Selection of Trees at the Center for Urban Horticulture

Selected cuttings from the Center for Urban Horticulture (July 20, 2015 - August 2, 2015)

Selected cuttings from the Center for Urban Horticulture (July 20, 2015 – August 2, 2015)

1)  Acer japonicum  ‘Aconitifolium’                         Fern Leaf Maple

  • Grove of six located in McVay Courtyard
  • Planted in 1986, original design element for McVay Courtyard
  • Beautiful leaf texture with extraordinary fall color
  • The most iconic tree at the Center for Urban Horticulture (CUH)

2)  Cedrus deodara             Deodar Cedar

  • Two mature specimens located at northeastern entrance to Event Lawn (x from Greenhouse)
  • The only conifers remaining from pre-CUH development
  • Probably planted post-war years (1950s) for UW married student housing

3)  x Chitalpa tashkentensis  ‘Morning Cloud’                                                                           Morning Cloud Chitalpa

  • An inter-generic cross between Catalpa bignonioides and Chilopsis linearis
  • A hardy drought tolerant tree currently in flower, hence its cultivar namesake
  • Several specimens located in bed along NE 41st Street, west entrance to CUH.

4)  Lagerstroemia indica             Crape Myrtle

  • This amazingly resilient and adaptable tree has had three homes in its lifespan.
  • Planted in 1963 around the original Washington Park Arboretum (WPA) buildings,
  • Then moved in 1984 to the WPA Mediterranean beds.
  • Moved to its current resting spot at CUH, south side of Isaacson Hall in 1990.

5)  Juniperus scopulorum             Rocky Mountain Juniper

  • Cuttings would not be complete without featuring a Pacific Northwest native tree at CUH.
  • OK, so it’s not found in the Puget Sound area, but its range does include parts of eastern Washington.
  • This upright specimen can be found anchoring the southeastern corner of the Soest Herbaceous Display Garden.

Plant Profile: Stewartia monadelpha

June 5th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

This small tree, commonly grown for its stunning reddish-brown bark, offers exceptional features throughout the year. Stewartia monadelpha, otherwise known as tall stewartia or orangebark stewartia, is just getting ready to come into bloom this month. Its white camellia-like flowers burst forth in early summer, followed by interesting brown seed pods and rich russet fall color. This species is planted in UW Botanic Gardens’ collections at both the Washington Park Arboretum and Center for Urban Horticulture.

Stewartia monadelpha is a member of the Camellia family. The small, white cup-shaped flowers last up to four weeks and have petals with smooth edges. This tree is best grown in partial shade but can handle full sun in the Pacific Northwest. It makes an excellent specimen tree for the home landscape.

Common Name: Tall Stewartia or Orangebark Stewartia
Location: Washington Park Arboretum: Camellia collection, Winter Garden; Center for Urban Horticulture: Event Lawn
Origin: Japan
Height and Spread: 20-25’ tall, 15-25’ wide
Bloom Time: June

Summer blooms of Stewartia monadelpha

Summer blooms of Stewartia monadelpha

Exfoliating bark of Stewartia monadelpha

Exfoliating bark of Stewartia monadelpha

Stewartia monadelpha fall color

Stewartia monadelpha fall color

Stewartia monadelpha in winter

Stewartia monadelpha in winter

Glimpse into the past – the Legend of the Flamingos and the Silver Egg

June 4th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

This month’s Glimpse is about the ‘Legend of the Flamingos and the Silver Egg’ featured at the recent celebration honoring Dr. Harold B. Tukey, Jr., and the founding of the Center for Urban Horticulture.  Dr. Tukey arrived in Seattle in May 1980 and one year later, several new faculty and staff were added.

During that time period, the American public had been ‘poking fun’ at the profusion of inexpensive (rather cheap) plastic ornaments which had been flooding our marketplaces.   The urban landscape took on a new look with its plastic balls, animals, statues, pet rocks, etc.  It was inevitable that a symbol from that urban environment should be chosen for the fledgling CUH.

The original Xylem and Phloem in the Center for Urban Horticulture courtyard, 1986

The original Xylem and Phloem in the Center for Urban Horticulture courtyard, 1986

The two first graduate students in the program, Sharon Buck and Cindy Maitland, decided that a pair of pink flamingos should be part of the CUH display and proudly presented them to Dr. Tukey on May 31, 1981, as members of the CUH Alumni Association.  The faculty and staff were excited and decided to hold a naming contest, voting by secret ballot, with the names of ‘Xylem’ and ‘Phloem’ chosen.  The following holiday season, and in subsequent seasons, the proud ‘parents’ were joined by a large silver egg in a CUH courtyard display.

The presentation of a pair of flamingos occurred for each new faculty and staff member hired, often appearing spontaneously on their front lawn or porch.   I was given a pair which I proudly named ‘Burt’ and ‘Ethel’, who proudly presided on my deck overlooking Lake Union.  Flamingos often appeared in many ways during the next few years around CUH.  In 1994, six appeared on my new home lawn, causing the neighbors to wonder about their new neighbor.

Today, flamingos come in many assorted colors and themes, including Husky mascot colors.   While reminiscing with Dr. Tukey at the Celebration, he remarked how much we were all full of the new doctrine for urban horticulture in the 1980’s, but the addition of the plastic flamingos brought us back to our relevancy to the urban environment.   Recently two of my new neighbors have been officially “Flocked” through a legitimate business.  While ‘Xylem’ and ‘Phloem’ have long disintegrated, their prototypes live on.

Modern garden flamingos, on display at a celebration of Dr. Tukey's founding of the Center for Urban Horticulture, April 2015

Modern garden flamingos, on display at a celebration of Dr. Tukey and the founding of the Center for Urban Horticulture, April 2015

More festive flamingos from the April celebration

More festive flamingos from the April celebration