Coming Attractions for 2014 in Horticulture and Plant Records

January 21st, 2014 by UWBG Horticulturist

There is much to look forward to in 2014 for the University of Washington Botanic Gardens (UWBG) horticulture and plant records staff. It will be a rare year of “normality” between capital project implementations, the completed 2013 Pacific Connections Gardens (PCG) New Zealand (NZ) forest exhibit and the looming 2015 multi-use trail. Our resources will be focused on smaller scale deferred maintenance projects of several gardens and plant collections, catching up with plant labeling and mapping of our Pacific Connections Gardens and embarking on a few recently awarded grants.

Washington Park Arboretum (WPA)

On the grants front, this spring, Azalea Way and the Japanese Garden will be receiving new cherry trees, along with funding to support future maintenance, thanks to the Japanese Embassy’s Nationwide Cherry Blossom Planting Initiative. Fourteen cherries will be installed of various types, ranging from the tide-and-true classical hybrids to the newer, disease-resistant cultivars. We hope to tap into the services of our volunteer Azalea Way stewards force to help in their planting, establishment and future care.

Club Car vs JD Gator

Club Car vs JD Gator

We just heard that we were awarded $33 thousand from the UW Green Seeds funds, a grants program that engages our UW community in sustainability research that will have a direct affect on reducing UW campus’ carbon footprint. Our 1 year study will allow us to purchase 2  new utility vehicles, 1 electric and 1 bio-diesel, which will be the test subjects of a research project titled:  “Grounds Utility Vehicle Carbon Footprint Comparison Study”. Results and conclusions will be disseminated at the end of the study to UW Grounds Management, Seattle City Parks and Recreation, and other local municipalities and private organizations that employ utility vehicles to perform grounds maintenance tasks.

Our curator, Ray Larson, is busy developing plant lists and procuring new plants for refreshing and embellishing many plant collections displays and exhibits. Our horticulturists will be installing exciting new cultivars and hybrids in the PCG entry gardens of Australia, Cascadia and China.  Also, wild-collected specimens from our container nursery inventory will be planted out in the future China forest portion which was cleared during the NZ forest construction last year. We hope to receive several tree peony cultivars from the Seattle Chinese garden. The  American Peony Arts and Cultural Association is promoting Luoyang peonies. These donations may be planted in the PCG China entry garden, in our original peony display along Arboretum Drive and/or over at the Center for Urban Horticulture.

Overgrown Camellias ready for renovating!

Overgrown Camellias ready for renovating!

Other gardens and collections of 2014 focus for small-scale renovations and/or new plantings include the Winter Garden, Camellias, Hollies, Maples, Pinetum and Viburnums.

On the Plant Records front, catching up with our backlog of labeling and mapping will be a major goal for all UWBG gardens and collections, specifically PCG’s NZ forest and Chilean Gateway. Mapping our collections has moved into the 21st century using sophisticated survey equipment to gather Geo-referenced points that will enable all sorts of modern applications for staff and public alike who want more information on the locations and data of our plant collections.

Center for Urban Horticulture (CUH)

The horticulturists at CUH will certainly not be any less busy or ambitious  in 2014 than those at WPA. The following projects are either underway or in the works:

  •  New plantings for the McVay stairs will include a new bench, bringing back the solar fountain from WPA and, if room allows, also incorporating a container or two.
  • Our “face” along 41st Street is undergoing a much needed “lift.” After the new fence is built, there will be opportunities for new plantings along it. Also, expect to finally see our “Welcome” signs get installed onto the long awaiting stands at both ends of our frontage.
  • Speaking of signs, the tired-looking interpretive signs in the Orin & Althea Soest Herbaceous Display Garden will be replaced shortly. Also, keep your eyes open for changes and new plantings in a few of the Soest display beds.
  • If funding comes through, the Fragrance Garden bed along NHS Hall is on the schedule for renovation this year as well.
  • Goodfellow Grove will continue to be a focus of renovation, with considerable restorative pruning and thinning beds, path and lawn improvements.
  • Later this year, clearing of vegetation around Central pond in the Union Bay Natural Area will take place in hopes of providing more habitat for shore-birds and increasing their diversity.
Solar Fountain to return to CUH

Solar Fountain to return to CUH

As you can see, there’s plenty of work to be done by the UWBG horticulture and plant records staff in 2014. And, yes, a sigh of relief to be able to broaden our horizons beyond all-consuming capital projects for the year to focus on these smaller maintenance improvements of our established gardens, grounds  and collections.  Please stay tuned for further posts and photos on many of these exciting changes to take place in 2014 at our botanic gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Seasonal Horticulture Update: “The Summer of Our Content”

November 3rd, 2012 by UWBG Horticulturist

Hydrangea by Harpa KarinUWBG Horticulture and Plant Records staff had a very busy, productive and satisfying summer. A cold wet June and early July pushed extraordinary plant growth, and, oh my, the WEEDS…Then, just as quickly as we could say, “No summer in Seattle”, the heavens went dry and lo and behold, we experienced an historic dry spell extending our summer to October 12. See King 5 news story starring, horticulturist and new plant care team member, Neal Bonham.

http://www.king5.com/news/local/If-today-stays-rain-free-driest-August-on-record-168165016.html

In hindsite, this weather pattern was just what the plant doctors ordered. A prosperous longer than usual planting window followed by a longer than usual dry period enabled us to plant into late June and then complete several landscaping projects into October.

For example, the contractor hired for constructing our 2.5 acre New Zealand eco-geographic display in the Pacific Connections Garden lucked out big time grading the steep, fortunately dry glacial-till slopes with heavy equipment. On a smaller scale, we were able to sneak a new berm in the hollies, which will eventually accommodate new specimens in the American clade. If you visit, check out the new interpretive signage.

It was all about NAIOP’s 22nd annual community enhancement project on the other side of the water at CUH. Early on in the planning stages, our associate director, Fred Hoyt, kept saying this event could be a game-changer for us. As time wore on and the project scope was scaled-back, it began to seem his prognostication would not come to pass. Now, after all is mostly said and done, if not a game-changer, it was most certainly HUGE for much needed improvements and indeed a springboard for potential future projects on our CUH campus, gardens and UBNA that will be appreciated by all for years to come.

I’m particularly excited about the huge effort that went into upgrading our plant production and corps yard area behind DRC. It’s amazing what laying down new gravel and paint can do for a tired looking nursery and storage space. And, just in the nick of time, we will now be able to overwinter lots of plants in a completely restored hoop-house.

Time now to blow the horn, as I would be remiss as a supervisor by not extending praise to my hard-working dedicated staff. Everyone contributed greatly to the enormous summer’s contents worth of planning, preparing, implementing and, of course, maintaining the grounds, gardens and plant records, including all the volunteer programs we’re involved with, throughout our botanic gardens. Here are a few of our summer accomplishments, not previously mentioned, and in no particular order:

  • A newly installed Winter Garden drainage system in the recently renovated SE quadrant. This was a joint operation between UWBG and City Parks crews. Implemented due to waterlogged soils not foreseen in the original bed renovation. May all our efforts pay off for healthy Winter Garden displays in the future!
  • A complete unabridged inventory and review of our plant collections within the Japanese Garden. Believe it or not, this is the first inventory taken since the UW gave up managment of the Japanese Garden to Seattle City Parks and Rec in 1981!
  • The Soest lawn has been renovated. Long overdue. You shoulda seen the thatch pile!
  • The incredible planning and installation for the “Music of Trees”!  Last weekend before UWBG arborist, Chris Watson, and the artist, Abby Aresty, begin the tedious task of dismantling the complex engineered designs.
  • Forest ridge middle-trail restoration in WPA. An Eagle Scout project and another joint operation between UWBG and City Parks staff.
  • Brubaker Quaking Aspen Grove maintenance project. Ask arborist assistant, Darrin Hedberg, where to find it.
  • Another successful and fun “Day of Caring”! Joint operations between all three arboretum partners: AF, UWBG and City Parks.
  • Completion of our 4th year of our 5 year DOE Garden Loosestrife grant. Although we are making headway, there are big challenges that lay ahead for this noxious weed.

And now that it is indeed officially fall and a surprising colorful one at that, it’s onward marching soldiers to another ambitious fall/winter planting season…Coming attractions include continuing McVay courtyard renovation and a Capstone REN project in the hollies to name a few.

Happy Holidays blog readers! Stay warm and cozy and renew your gardening senses by visiting UWBG!

 

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Horticulture Vignettes from a Busy Spring in the Gardens

June 25th, 2012 by UWBG Horticulturist

“Something old…”

OK, so there’s the “old”, as in “enough already”, cold wet spring weather that seems to be continuing into summer and creating a monster weed season for us. And, there’s the “old” as in a staff milestone reached in age by none other than Riz Reyes, Soest Gardener.  Sure, compared to most of our seasoned horticulture staff, he’s still just a sapling in the woods at 30, but ever so slowly, he’s beginning to put down roots and develop heartwood, true elements of perennial long-life. Happy BD Riz! It’s about time….

In our special gardens: “Old” as in “they only flower once, set seed and then die”, a condition known as monocarpism. We are fortunate to have 7 giant flowering stalks, of our Cardiocrinum giganteum, Giant Himalayan lilies, ready to open. This is a “do not miss opportunity” found in the China entry garden of Pacific Connections! Don’t delay, check ‘em out today…

Giant Himalayan Lilies ready to flower

 

“Something new…”

We just completed what I consider to be an unprecedented year of planting in the Botanic Gardens. A total of 375 plants, includes transplants, representing 157 taxa (different kinds) have been planted out for the 2011/2012 planting season. Highlights include significant additions to our core collections: maples, hollies, oaks and conifers; as well as, our special gardens, Cascadia focal forest, Woodland and Winter Garden. Of note, there were 21 large, mature specimens, mostly witch-hazel family members, transplanted by Big Trees Inc of Snohomish, from our current Pacific Connections construction project footprint to various other gardens throughout arboretum grounds. If interested in viewing our 2011/2012 planting roster, please contact dzman@uw.edu

Also, exciting new interpretive signage has been installed in our Winter Garden and Holly collections. Winter Garden signage was funded by Lake Washington Garden Club, Unit III and includes 4 interpretive signs and 1 place ID sign. The holly signage was funded by our partner Century Link Pioneers for their centennial project of 2011 and includes 5 interpretive signs and 1 place ID sign.  These new signs follow our 2004 Interpretive and Wayfinding Plan that can be viewed on-line at: http://depts.washington.edu/uwbg/docs/finaliwplan.pdf

New Interpretive Sign in Hollies

“Something borrowed…”

Thanks to being able to borrow Iain Robertson’s precious time, we now have a renewal plan for the McVay courtyard. This spring, CUH horticulture staff and volunteers, re-graded and replanted the westernmost bed, closest to the Commons. We hope to be able to implement the rest of the plan in September when the NAIOP group comes in to give CUH a new facelift! We’ll keep our fingers crossed…

Perhaps a stretch here, but certainly an important arboretum story, is the latest on the fate of the original ‘Joe Witt’ maple located along Arboretum Dr E in the Peony section. We fear it is not long for this world suffering from a malady of trunk cankers and stem girdling roots.  To make matters worse, we have lost 2 of 3, with the 3rd one barely hanging-on, of the newly planted ‘Joe Witt’ cuttings in the renovated Winter Garden bed. We have asked the Arboretum Foundation’s Pat Calvert propagation group to come to the rescue and establish new cuttings from the original tree this summer. In the meantime, Roy Farrow, just planted a large ‘Joe Witt’ specimen we procured from Molbak’s nursery last week. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that this story has a happy ending.

“Something blue…”

“Blue”  NOT as in the blue trees in Westlake Park downtown or along the Burke Gilman trail or the Blue poppies at Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden, but “Blue” as in “I gots da blues…” This column would not be complete without a bit of sad news.

We had to remove one of the City’s largest Henry Lauder’s Walking Stick or contorted hazel-nut specimen located in our Winter Garden last week due to the pervasive Eastern hazelnut blight disease. This specimen was particularly dear to my heart since I was in on the original procurement and planting back in 1993. Alas, it is no longer w/ us, but fond memories will live on in my heart forever. If you want to hear its amazing story, it’ll have to be over a Guinness at my favorite pub…

And, now on to a productive summer of new plant care in the Botanic Gardens…

 

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CUH Update – SPRING 2012

May 25th, 2012 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Finding the time to do a regular update has been a challenge as this time of year demands so much of our time as the gardens take on a life of their own! With only two gardeners (one half-time and one 3/4 time) overseeing the grounds, we must scramble to get on top of things and sometimes it doesn’t always happen. The gardens, somehow, find a way to look fabulous and put on a show like no other.

MvVay Courtyard revovation:
We have just completed the first phase of a redesign and renovation of the McVay Courtyard here at the Center of Urban Horticulture. In the next couple of months, we will slowly transition into a new look thanks to UW Professor in Landscape Architecture, Ian Robertson. His aim is to integrate more architectural plants and add much needed color and vibrancy to the space.

CUH McVay Renovation
In this brand new makeover of this bed, we’ve relocated the existing ferns to make room for striking Manzanitas
(Arctostaphylos cvs.), azaleas, and an assortment of various bulbs including Nerine, Amaryllis, and Lilies.

 

Seattle Garden Club’s Scented Garden:
After 5 years since its installation, the Fragrance Garden is another one that has has taken on a life of its own as the beds are just about full and plants have really had a chance to get established.

Now it’s just a matter of editing and ensuring that there’s color (and fragrance, of course) all throughout the year.

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Fragrant azaleas perfume the air even on drizzly days.
(Rhododendron occidentalis)
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Newly installed trellis for a profusion of fragrant sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus)

A grand entrance in progress:

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Visitors might be wondering what’s happening up front; it’s getting kind of weedy and the horsetails are back in full force. It’s just one of the challenges we have in maintaining the grounds with just 2 part time gardeners, but we’ve been recruiting volunteers and partnering with the Hardy Plant Society of Washington
who have something spectacular in store as they are gathering troops to take on this challenge and transform this site into a most spectacular perennial border! There’s so much to do and they could really use a few hands during their work parties. If you’re interested in volunteering and being a part of what’s expected to be a traffic-stopper, check out the link to their site.

 

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It’s time to assemble our seasonal containers; both indoors and out! We’ve been trying to keep our small foyer in the Douglas Conservatory actually look like a conservatory with random tropical plants we’ve nursed back to health and put on display here. These have also been the source of plant material for ESRM 411 (Plant Propagation).

 

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The cutting lab is always a fun activity and I had an opportunity to help out this quarter! They take a wide assortment of cuttings utilizing various techniques and treatments. If they are successful, they’re able to take their new starts home and just marvel at the fact that they started a new plant from just a single section of stem and brought it back to life!

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In Remembrance.

   It’s been about 5 years since I started working in the Soest
Perennial Display Garden and in that time, I’ve had the pleasure of
meeting and interacting with the Soest family. This February, we were
saddened by the passing of Orin Soest. Alongside his wife, Ally, it was
always a treat to see them visit and walk them through the splendid
garden that bears their name. Even in his fragile state just a few years
ago, Orin still insisted on seeing the beds and always marvelled at
just how much it has grown and evolved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll always admire him as a kind and generous man who wasn’t afraid to smell the flowers. In fact, one of this favorites was a highly scented English Rose called ‘Gertrude Jekyll’, which should be in bloom in a few weeks in June and into July. Please come by CUH and the SoestGarden and help me remember Orin by sampling the scent of this exceptional rose and admiring a garden that will continue to live on in his honor. His presence, both in and out of the garden setting, will truly be missed.

 

 

Riz

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CUH Update – December 2011: New Garden Features & Season’s Greetings

December 21st, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

It has been an incredibly busy autumn here at CUH as we have several new projects underway. Our entire horticultural team has been involved with 2 major projects we’d like to highlight as these are pretty significant changes that might raise a few eyebrows.

Soest Garden by R. Reyes

new tree photo

Earlier this autumn, our arborist crew took down a large specimen of Parrotia persica that’s been growing in a raised planter in the Orin and Althea Soest Herbaceous Perennial Garden. You can read our notice about it from a few weeks ago.

 

 

If you’ve visited UWBG-CUH in the last two weeks or so, you probably couldn’t help but notice a small broadleaf evergreen tree standing by itself on a “pedestal” with soil excavated from it. This is the first phase of what should be an extravagant perennial border to be design, planted and maintained by the Hardy Plant Society of Washington. HPSW and UWBG have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and we’re moving forward to assist them in preparing the site. The first step was to remove as much of the existing soil as possible to help eradicate the horrendous horsetail that has inhabited the bed after years of mediocre maintenance as this section of CUH has always been a low priority, yet it’s really our front door. We are ecstatic to have a group that can take this on (and also take over the Blooms of Bressingham evaluation program and its maintenance.

It will be awhile before both these projects really come into their own, but because we are the CENTER for urban horticulture, we will aim to provide our visitors with ongoing interest, color and at this time of year, festive decor such as our lovely Christmas tree donated by City People’s Garden Store and decorated by one of our many generous supporters, Charlotte Behnke and our containers in the Seattle Garden Clubs’s Fragrance Garden where members flanked containers with scented pansies and primoses accented with bright gold sweet flag grass.

On behalf of the UWBG staff, we want to wish you Season’s Greetings and a very Happy Holidays and may the upcoming year bring with it much joy, good health and, hopefully, more frequent visits to our gardens!

Cheers,

Riz

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CUH Update: The Autumn Approach

October 4th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

After a nonexistent summer, we’re now charging forward and anticipating the return of rain and cooler temperatures, the shorter days, and all the fall tasks that seem to just ramp up without warning.

Autumn can be a mesmerizing time of year as many plants, particularly in the Soest Perennial Display Garden, have reached their full potential in growth and in many cases, abundant bloom. There’s indication of fall color all around (check out this month’s Plant Profile selection) and the last thrust of blooms being encouraged from slightly tender plants such as the dahlias, salvias, and agapanthus make for a tremendous show. The ornamenntal grasses are beginning to turn color as well as infloresences beginning to show creating a wonderfully diverse and complimentary foil to the landscape.

Our Plant Pick for the month of October: Vitis coignetiae the Crimson Glory Vine.

Fall is also the time to get one last mow of the lawn and then fertilize it. A major tree removal is on the task list this fall/winter (read about it here).We’ve also got a few planting areas that need to be prepared and hopefully installed this autumn and spring. It will be a very busy fall. We just pray that the weather cooperates when we have these large tasks to take on.

Cheers,

Riz

Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue' with Dahlia 'Bishop of York' with giant feather grass (Stipa gigantea) in the background.


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CUH Update – Sprimmer 2011: There is NO summer!

August 2nd, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Things certainly ramped up since my last post on here hence the absence of updates, but it’s been a busy past few months here at the Center for Urban Horticulture Grounds. There are several exciting new projects underway and our regular summer regiment is in full swing with regular volunteers that have helped what is now a two person crew to oversee all of CUH Grounds since our third colleague left. It’s been stressful, at times disheartening, to see colleagues leave or hours cut because our budgets are whittled down to the point where “do less with less” is the new mantra.

Like I’ve said before, plants and nature move on and grow and so we should do the same. There’s so many beautiful things in the garden right now such as our bizarre and highly unusual “Plant Profile” for August, but the weather has been so variable and relatively cool as things are incredibly late this year. Comparing photographs from previous years, we’re easily three, even four weeks behind where we were last year. We wonder if our late season bloomers will ever mature in time as leaves are sort of beginning to change color and gardeners joke that we could have frost as soon as tomorrow! Slowly things are catching up, but that doesn’t mean we’re ahead either. Weeding has been constant and certain areas just have to sit until we are able to get to them. My thanks to those who have left neat little piles of fireweed and thistle for us to pick up. =)

The number of projects we have is certainly overwhelming, but at the same time, very exciting and much anticipated! One of those projects is certainly an exciting endeavor that will hopefully get the UW Community more involved. A site just Northwest of the main CUH complex is being prepared as an expansion of the current Seattle Youth Garden Works site as a partnership between Seattle Tilth and the UW Farm. Seattle Youth Garden Works has been farming at CUH for almost 10 years  and recently teamed up with the UW Farm to expand production.  With its humble origins along the Burke-Gilman trail adjacent to the UW Botany Greenhouse in campus, the UW Farm been encouraged to expand in the hopes of growing the program and having a far greater impact not only for those taking part, but for the surrounding communities that would benefit from their hard work producing organic, sustainably grown produce. You can purchase produce from the site at the Seattle Youth Garden Works booth at the U-District farmers market. For more information on the partnership between Seattle Tilth and the UW Urban Farm, please contact Robert Servine, SYGW Farm Coordinator – robertservine@seattletilth.org or (206)633-0451 x102 and Michelle Venetucci Harvey, UW Student Farm – michelle@uwfarm.org

Just north of their site is the run-down “Soundscapes” Garden that has received very little attention over the years. Once a demonstration garden, it has been overtaken by blackberries, horsetail and other unwanted weeds. Some of the original woody plants still add structure , but it is in dire need of a revamp as it is essentially the  front door to the center. A few months ago, the newly formed Hardy Plant Society of Washington proposed to take over the site to design, install, and regularly maintain the garden. A group of plant savvy, highly passionate gardeners is required to refurbish that site and it will be no easy task. Negotiations are underway, but we are all anxious to give this part of CUH a much needed face-lift.

Speaking of face-lifts, these prominent gardens will see some dramatic changes in the next couple of months:
The McVay Courtyard is undergoing a re-design by the original designer, UW landscape-architect professor Iain Robertson. He aims to have more architectural elements and much needed color interest. Like any large project, it will be done in phases and it will depend a lot on events scheduled and, of course, the budget.

Artists painting watercolors of the Soest Garden on a rare sunny day this summer.

The Soest Garden will see one of its large Parrotia persica trees removed this fall to be replaced with a different species. The trees have outgrown their space in the raised beds. Its been overdue for a revamp because the original plan was to replant shade trees every ten years to showcase different species that serve the purpose of providing shade to  perennials growing underneath.


On a smaller scale, we have another project installed and through the 1st phase of its completion and that’s the rain garden at the base of the south-facing Stormwater slope. Students and volunteers have prepared the site and have begun planting natives to take advantage of an ideal situation to collect excess stormwater and by having plants there, they improve the water quality of surrounding bodies of water by reducing the amount of potential pollutants flowing through. For more information on this project please contact David Zuckerman
Neighborhood support and involvement has also grown as Friends of Yesler Swamphave had several work parties these past few months. A Union Bay East Basin development grant is in progress and is currently in a design phase.

A lot going on and a lot to look forward to, that’s for sure. Please take some time to visit us and witness our slow progress and if you’ve got some time to share your expertise, there are volunteer opportunities both here and at Washington Park Arboretum.

I hope everyone has a great “sprimmer” and we’ll catch up again come Autumn!

Cheers,

Riz (and Tracy…thanks for the links and edits!)

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PURPLE MARTIN CONDOS ARRIVE AT CUH

April 28th, 2011 by UWBG Horticulturist

Purple Martin Condos

Condos at CUH by Constance Sidles

 Yesterday the UW Botanic Gardens staff installed some new condominiums west of the greenhouses near the Center for Urban Horticulture. Oh, not for people, but for purple martins.Purple martins, you see, are our largest swallows, and they have been in decline for a long time. They nest in holes, and they like to live together in a colony. Natural habitat that suits them has vanished from our area, and for a while, so did the martins.

Then about ten years ago, one man — a water quality expert and biologist named Kevin Li — began to install houses for purple martins all over Puget Sound. He put up natural gourds for the birds among the pilings near Ray’s Café in Shilshole Bay, at Fort Lawton,  in Edmonds, and many other places. Birders began to see purple martins again in the skies over Seattle.

Before he died in a diving accident in 2006, Kevin tried twice to install gourds at UBNA. Both times, the gourds were stolen by vandals. After Kevin’s death, no one tried again. 

Until now. A couple months ago, Friends of Yesler Swamp  were brainstorming about how to improve bird habitat in the swamp (the easternmost section of UBNA). Kevin’s efforts were mentioned, and everyone immediately realized: Purple martins belong here.

Within days, the word went out to the birding community: We need money to buy purple martin gourds. Birders responded immediately, donating enough to buy eight state-of-the-art gourds. These gourds are specially designed for purple martins. They are molded from real gourds but made of UV-resistant white plastic to resist mold and reflect the hot sun, so baby birds can stay cool inside. The gourds have a little porch for the birds to perch on, and an entrance hole that is ridged so starlings and other pests cannot enter to take over the nest.

In the course of our brainstorming, David Zuckerman of UW Botanic Gardens remembered  seeing an unused cedar log at the Arboretum which could be repurposed to make a perfect stand to hold the gourds. Jerry Gettel of the Friends offered to assemble the gourds when they arrived from the manufacturer, and make a cedar arm for each one, with cordage to raise and lower the gourds so they can be cleaned when nesting season is over. 

Two weeks later, a small group of staffers gathered near the greenhouses to dig a post hole by hand. When it was deep enough, they hefted the 13-foot post with sheer muscle, and lowered it into the hole. Then they hung up the gourds carefully, one by one. We were all thrilled when the pole went up and the gourds started swinging in the breeze. Inside each gourd are clean cedar chips, waiting for a martin passerby to take note and move in. 

When (not if!!) the purple martins establish a colony at our site, we expect you will be able to see them all summer long, coursing over the waters of Yesler Cove in the heart of Yesler Swamp.  Martins love to hunt for insects over water,  and our site is perfect for them: far enough away from possible predators, close enough to a reliable food source, and within sight of comforting people (martins like us to be nearby). 

All together, our community has created a work of art that will, we hope, bring purple martins back to UBNA and Yesler Swamp. No one of us could have achieved this alone. Like everything else here in this special place, our project succeeded because we all helped, because we all respect nature, and most of all, because we try as best we can to balance the needs of people and wildlife.

As human beings, we each have within us the power to create much of our own environment, at least the cultural parts. What we choose to create is up to us — as individuals, but also as people working together. I hope when we each make our choices about how to act in both our natural and cultural worlds, that we choose to better our environment and bring out the best in each other. 

FUN FACTS ABOUT PURPLE MARTINS 

Purple Martin In Flight

• They catch and eat insects on the fly.

• Native Americans have provided nesting gourds for purple martins for centuries.

• Eastern purple martins like apartment-style houses best; western martins prefer gourds.

• Purple martins like to be around people. They are very gregarious.

• Martins are noisy birds with several different songs and calls. Males have a special song they sing at dawn.

• Males look black in dull light and deep, iridescent purple in bright sunlight.

• Females can lay up to five eggs in one gourd.

• Once eggs are laid, they take only a couple of weeks to hatch. Babies are ready to fly a month after that.

• Purple Martins spend the winter in the Amazon Basin.

• Before they migrate, they get together in large groups and then fly south together.

• Thousands of martins used to sit on the powerlines around Green Lake before their population crashed.

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CUH Update – March 2011: Ramping up

March 21st, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Narcissus in Soest Garden

We all await the arrival of the most promising time of year as the garden slowly wakes up and showcases it early season splendor. March is when bulbs burst into bloom, spring ephemerals shyly shine and the winter shrubs are putting forth yet another splendid show of unrivaled color and, in most cases, outstanding fragrance.

Trillium chloropetalum in Bed 7 of the Soest Garden

Azara microphylla in full bloom scenting the Fragrance Garden with its chocolate/vanilla perfume.

It’s all  such a great distraction from  the financial woes and the economic downturn we’re all facing. Recent news of budget cuts and even threats to potentially eliminate the Arboretum from the University have caused us to be a little more on edge. Here’s a link to an article written by Valerie Easton on her blog about this situation. It’s really quite unsettling and as a gardener here, while we’re suppose to worry about a very busy spring season ahead, we’re all wondering if we’ll even have jobs come July. We’ve basically been learning to work with what little resources we’ve got and simply trying to stay motivated to get as much work done as possible.

Edmonds Community College students enjoy the sunshine as they install container plantings in the Soest Garden

Stepping back from our multiple tasks and looking out into the landscape, we’re simply in awe. This time of year has the potential to bring out the joy of what makes our profession so wonderful and unique. Bring out the sun and spirits are high!

We had the pleasure of hosting a group from Edmonds Community College’s Horticulture Department who dressed up some containers here at the Center for Urban Horticulture. In collaboration with garden designer, Wendy Welch and her fabulous container gardening class, we were treated with sunshine and an opportunity to see these young garden artists at work as they implement one of their designs as a series for our containers in the Soest Garden.

Here’s a note from Wendy about her student’s work:

“For their final project of the winter quarter Horticulture students from EDCC’s Container Gardening class designed and planted three containers in the courtyard at CUH. The long list of requirements for their designs included, a strong “winter picture”, at least one main element that is attractive year round, and at least two years of viability as a combination. All 22 students presented designs and then voted on the one they felt was the strongest. Jill Nunemaker’s design with Acer circinatum ‘Pacific Fire’, Sorbaria sorbifolia ‘Sem’, warm-colored cultivars of Heuchera and trailing Kininikinnick, won the vote by a landslide. Next years class will evaluated the success of these pots over time, as can all of you.”

Jill Nunemaker with her design, which includes a striking vine maple Acer circinatum 'Pacific Fire'

Seattle Garden Club also took part in a work party as members helped out in planting, transplanting and mulching within the Fragrance Garden. The site is now home to a few new plants with a few more still to come as we define the space a little more and more summer color will be more obvious with several perennials included this spring.

March is also the time we start to focus on WEEDS!!!! The gradual rise in temperatures and increased day length means the prolific germination of weed seeds that have been resting all winter. In a valiant effort in reducing our use and need for chemicals, we’ve been experimenting with various treatments such as torching (basically burning a plant with a flame) and a horticultural grade vinegar. We’ve seen signs of effectiveness, but we just need a few clearer and sunnier days to really see it take effect.

Anything we can do now to get on top of the big push of spring is crucial. With two gardeners left to oversee CUH grounds, it’ll be more challenging than ever, but everyone seems to be having patience and accepting the fact that some areas aren’t tended to right away, but for the most part, the gardens are looking great and visitors have been so pleased and enchanted by it all!

Chin up!

Riz

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CUH Update – February 2011: Show Time

February 22nd, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Apologies for the delay in getting an update posted. We’ve had several little projects we’re trying to complete and we are getting numerous volunteer applications, which we have been going through and contacting interested individuals who are interested in helping us out in grounds.

Late winter brings with it a lot of planting and transplanting projects and our major one so far this year has been the relocation of an established specimen of Edgeworthia crysantha from the McVay courtyard to a new location just north of the Miller Library.

Transplanted Edgeworthia in a bed just North of the Merrill Hall

Like its close relative, Daphne, Edgeworthia resents being moved around and the fact that it’s also recovering from the hard freeze of last November with just a few buds remaining to open, we did our best to get the largest rootball possible and replanted it immediately into its new location. Cross your fingers!

With more severe winter cold predicted to come our way again, we are keeping our eye out on a few plants that could suffer. Obviously, Edgeworthia is on that list along with the two large Osmanthus we have in the Fragrance Garden. Our poor Daphne bholua doesn’t deserve another hit; this poor plant hasn’t flowered for us in three winters.


Then there are the Azara microphylla, which are just starting to flower that could be hit with cold and the remaining buds zapped and our massive Cordyline australis on the south side of Issacson Hall is already a sorry looking site. So, basically, anything spectacularly fragrant is being monitored.  Hehe

Our first accessioned plant for 2011 has been planted here at CUH in a large Chinese container donated by a special donor that once held a beautiful cascading Japanese maple, but when it became too troublesome to keep up the watering and the foliage would crisp up in the summer sun, we had to replace it.

Detail of the fierce branches of Citrus ‘Flying Dragon’

The maple has moved into a new home in the Woodland Garden over at Washington Park Arboretum and, for awhile, the pot was empty until it was decided that we would seek out a specimen of Poncirus (Citrus) trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’, a hardy citrus, to fill that void. Bloom River Nursery down in Oregon was able to provide us with a standardized specimen that’s been trained for ten years. It now graces the pot with its exquisite and somewhat sinister looking branches. It is highly unusual and will definitely be a conversation piece. Now we have to determine an under-planting so it doesn’t look so bare below.

Spring is definitely in the air when the sun decides to show itself and bulbs begin to bulge out of the ground and bloom their little heads of. Our annual show of yellow, cheerful, daffodils are just days away.

But for a real show, the 2011 Northwest Flower and Garden Show is finally here and UWBG has a most unusual booth this year thanks to our friends at Agua Verde Café and Paddle Club.

Rey Lopez generously donated a kayak for our display with one end cut off so it would stand and then it was planted up to make it look as if it had traveled to both sides of UWBG. Native flora and accessioned plants represented the Arboretum while more natives , including red-twig dogwoods and cattails complete with a “blue-tube” represent Foster Island and UBNA, while more exotic garden plants represented CUH.

Planted kayak that’s been through Lake Washington having collected materials from UWBG along the way

February is flying by so quickly with many activities taking place. The next few weeks should be spectacular (barring any serious cold snaps that will do certain plans in).

Cheers,

R

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