CUH Update – January 2011: A frosty start to a new year

January 11th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

The start of the new year brings with it a bit of sad news as one of our gardeners here at CUH has decided to take another position that’s full time, leaving just two half-time gardeners to oversee the grounds here. With our staff so limited as it is to oversee all aspects of the work we do and a budget that’s going to see more cuts, getting a new gardener sometime soon is highly unlikely. So, we certainly have challenges ahead of us, but we move forward.

January has traditionally been the coldest month of they year, but with our cold snap of November and drab December, I’m just praying that we don’t endure anymore severe fluctuations in temperature and prolonged subfreezing temperatures. So many plants have been hit and we’re all just waiting for signs of spring to distract us from our worries. Luckily, daffodils are showing signs of life as are the lovely Hellebores we are most excited about watching bloom in the next couple of weeks! You might remember ‘Josef Lemper’ from last year along with ‘Jacob’, ‘Pink Frost’ and the highly anticipated ‘Walburton’s Rosemary’. Then come the x hybridus selections that will be standouts in the Soest Garden for sure!!

We’ve also been trying to plant, if soil allows us so, and our focus has been getting our vine collection out of the nursery and into the grounds of CUH. Several grape species (Vitis) have been installed to clamber around the Southwest side of Merrill Hall and a few Clematis species climbing or carpeting the slopes of the Stormwater Garden. They’ve been mulched well in the hopes they survive the transplant well and establish as quickly as possible.

The McVay Courtyard will undergo a bit of a facelift to help spruce up the site with the addition of a new maple tree, flowering perennials and bulbs and the relocation of a large specimen of Edgeworthia chrysantha that will need to carefully be dug and transplanted to two possible locations. You might recall this plant suffering from the cold last month, so we will try and find a more sheltered location for it.

Now with more snow in the forecast, we have to pace ourselves and pray we get everything we want to get done, accomplished. It’s mother nature; you always have to try and work with it, never against it!

I’m sure it’ll be forgiving, it always seems to be.

Think spring….and tell it to hurry!!

Riz

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January 2011 Plant Profile: Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’

January 5th, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

The winter landscape is incomplete without the presence of twig-dogwoods. Their stately, yet elegant stems, vibrant color and imposing form in the garden is remarkable. What’s more impressive is their adaptability and ease of growth. They are tolerant of most soils, are drought tolerant once established and the ability to recover from almost being mowed down to the ground each spring and produce brightly colored stems the following winter is extraordinary. From a plant production point of view, they root easily from natural layers (when stems come into contact with the soil and begin forming roots) and a ecological restoration technique called “live-staking”, where sections of mature stems are simply plunged into a container or directly into the ground and root. These cut stems are also prized by florist and the slimmest stems are used for basket-weaving.

The one represented here is a striking stand of them at the Center for Urban Horticulture’s Soest Garden flanked my various ornamental grasses, heaths and heathers create an amazing, low-maintenance plant combination that anyone can replicate in their home gardens.

Even with our early snowfall last November, the imposing stems of yellow-twig dogwood stand out and dried flower heads capture a few flakes creating a glittering effect from a distance

Common Name: Yellow-twig dogwood
Location: CUH: Soest Garden South Slope, WPA: Witt Winter Garden Family: Cornaceae
Origin: Garden Origin
Height: 6-8ft.
Spread: 7-8ft.
Bloom Time: Early Summer
Bloom Type/Color: Umbels of white flowers on the tips of stems.
Water/Soil: Moist to moderately dry. Drought tolerant once established.

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CUH Update – December 2010: Overcoming November’s Cold Spell

December 15th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Several weeks after an unusual early snow and cold snap, the grounds at CUH have looked like a bomb was detonated and we’re just now cleaning up the aftermath. OK, it wasn’t that bad, but the clean-up continues as the holiday season is well underway and we’re doing our best to keep things clean and presentable to our many guest this time of year.

Having the snow was actually quite a sight as it emphasizes the strength of the structure, or so called “bones” of a landscape, so beautifully.


Here you can see some of the changes made to the Fragrance Garden this past year as we thinned out a few plants and transplanted several specimens to allow more room for certain species to really thrive.

Nolina nelsonii in the McVay Courtyard

Always the stand-out in every season is our stunning Nolina from Mexico. Dusted in pure white powder, it withstands the cold and remains such an iconic plant in a garden that will undergo a slight facelift as we reconfigure some of the plantings and add some for floral interests come spring.

Container composition up against Issacson Hall.

Even the effective composition of an evergreen container is emphasized by winter’s snow. During the growing season, this Osmanthus heterophyllus, flanked by a prostrate Podocarpus, Heuchera ‘Purple Petticoats’ and a maidenhair fern. In the shade for the majority of the day, it isn’t all that exciting. But as the snow arrives, it instantly becomes a sight to behold.

Helleborus argutifolius 'Silver Lace'

The same could be said of this fairly new selection of Helleborus argutifolius called ‘Silver Lace’. It’s been a plant that not many people really take note of unless it’s paired with a contrasting color or texture in the garden, but the added snow creates a most unusual and beautiful effect.

Phlomis ruselliana seedheads

With so much clean up, cutting back and dead-heading to do in the fall, you just can’t quite get to everything, but once the weather doesn’t cooperate to allow you to finish your work, the resulting image in the landscape can be quite enchanting. This Jerusalem Sage was never cut back after blooming, but capped in a light dusting of snow, it is truly elegant.

NOW, COMES THE HARSH REALITY OF IT ALL:

Persicaria in the Soest Garden

“Overcooked spinach” is what one visitor said to describe the mess a cold spell can bring. A task that I meant to do a few weeks back suddenly rises up on the priority to-do list.

Cold damaged Daphne bholua

For the third year in a row, our poor Daphne bholua has, once again, suffered from an early frost and cold damage. This species typically begins blooming around Christmas time for us, but the past few winters have been so unforgiving, we just pray that it recovers and is allowed to branch out and flower again next year.

Cold Damaged Edgeworthia chrysantha

A relative of the Daphne is the beloved Chinese Paper Bush or Edgeworthia. Each winter, since it was planted, the cold seems to damage the buds as they form so very few flowers are produced. Ideally, the plant would have formed its buds over the summer and into autumn, the foliage yellows and drops and by then, the plant is prepared for the onset of cold temperatures and the buds continue to develop and flower beginning in early February or so. The problem has been: the foliage never fully yellows so the plant isn’t allowed to go into a proper dormancy before the cold sets in; therefore, the buds are further damaged. Seeing these fuzzy undeveloped buds that still look plump and firm gives us hope that they’ll mature properly, but the fact that it isn’t even officially winter yet worries me.

There’s a lot to see and observe at CUH right now, but one of the highlights is a exciting brand new plant (you didn’t think I’d end this report on a sad note, did you?) we’ve acquired as a container specimen for Merrill Hall Commons. Though being advertised as hardy and suited for our mild Seattle climate, this relative of a fairly common houseplant has been the talk of plant aficionados around as the grower who was introducing it accidentally “leaked” a few specimens to local nurseries and we managed to secure one prior to its wide distribution. This is the stunning and elegant Taiwanese Umbrella Tree botanically known as Schefflera taiwaniana.

Schefflera taiwaniana

Like any new and exciting plant we acquire for our collections, I like to think of each one as a gift to the public: our visitors who come near and far to enjoy the surroundings and admire the work we do here at CUH.

I want to dedicate this Schefflera to you all and hope you have a chance to see it here or acquire it for your own garden in the near future.

On behalf of UWBG and the entire grounds staff here at CUH, I want to wish you all a warm and happy holidays and an exciting new year!

Cheers,

Riz Reyes
Soest Perennial Display Gardener
UW Botanic Gardens – Center for Urban Horticulture

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November 2010 Plant Profile: Osmanthus fragrans v. aurantiacus

November 14th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

In the three years I’ve expected it bite the dust, this plant has survived our winters and we’ve enjoyed the fruity scent from this form of Sweet Olive every autumn. Osmanthus fragrans is a popular shrub/small tree in the warmer regions of the United states (USDA Zone 8 +) and in China, where it is highly revered and its scented autumn blossoms are used to scent and flavor tea. This orange flowered form aurantiacus is not as common in the United States and it’s also not known to be as hardy. So, it was surprising to me that our two large specimens in the Fragrance Garden are thriving. Perhaps the fact that we started with large specimens, are enclosed by other plantings and are against a southwest facing wall contributes to their success OR I’ve even began to wonder if this isn’t aurantiacus, but a selected named cultivar of O. fragrans that is truly hardy and well worth propagating to see if it’s something we can recommend to gardeners in the Puget Sound region. We can grow straight O. fragrans, but it really requires a protected location and benefits from the radiated heat from a nearby building or paved surfaces. Instead, I’ve recommended gardeners seek out a cross known as Osmanthus x fortunei to plant in their gardens. It is very much like O. fragrans, but with broader, darker green leaves and larger, more profuse flowers with the same apricot-like scent. You can read more about it here. For now, just follow your nose during your next visit to CUH and admire this plant in person.

Common Name: Sweet Olive
Location: Fragrance Garden
Family: Oleaceae
Origin: China
Height: 12-20ft.
Spread: 4-6ft.
Bloom Time: Late October throughout November.
Bloom Type/Color: Axillary flowers arranged fairly densely throughout plant.
Straight species is a creamy yellow, but this a rare orange form and supposedly not hardy selection of this species.
Water/Soil: Well drained, moderately moist.

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CUH Update – November 2010: Color and Winter

November 12th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

It’s been a cold nippy November and we’re taking a little extra time to put on a few extra layers before heading outside to work. Temperatures are dropping and it’s really time to start thinking about winter. The plants are on their last legs and the last of the tremendous fall foliage we’ve been blessed with this autumn are carpeting our grounds and exposing an occasional clear blue sky above. Indian summer has been frequent and we’ve all been soaking it all in.

The Lagerstroemias this year have had wonderful fall color to make up for its lack of prolific flowers this summer and the Parrotia persica in the Soest Garden have exhibited the best color yet in the three years I’ve overseen them. All of the fall blooming stars never fail to hit their queue and some of the regular summer bloomers have hung around for a little encore. Geranium ‘Rozanne’ continues to churn out blooms along with salvias, chrysanthemums, and various asters. Of course, the grasses are hitting their stride and are looking spectacular and I’m finding that more and more people are catching on and are willing to try them out in their gardens because they are so eye-catching and easy to maintain.

Panicum virgatum 'Northwind' illuminated by an autumn sunset

November is also a time when we prepare the nursery for the winter and our cohorts over at Washington Park Arboretum have helped us put up the plastic covering on our hoophouses and brought our container stock into a bed of sawdust where they overwinter.


The key is to prevent the rootballs of these otherwise hardy plants from freezing and thawing and by having them in sawdust, it’s almost like having them directly in the ground where the soil temperatures stay relatively even so the top few inches of sawdust can freeze, but the whole rootball itself is perfectly fine underneath.

October and November are very busy planting times for us and rather than overwintering the whole inventory, we’ve been working on finding permanent homes for some of the plants in stock. We are looking forward to the bloom of a generous donation of Hellebores from Ernie and Marrieta O’Byrne of Northwest Garden Nursery who have bred the fabulous “Winter Jewels” series. Paying them a visit last summer to pick up these plants was such a treat. Their gardens are some of the best I’ve ever visited and their breeding program was so fascinating to learn about.

So, look for these Hellebores peppered throughout CUH in the winter time and look for “Winter Jewels” at your local nursery!!

T & L Nursery also came through with another donation to us this year with a nice assortment of new ornamental grasses and some classic perennials such as Siberian Iris and herbaceous peonies that we’ve never had in the garden before. They will be a fabulous addition to the wonderful assortment of perennials we have.

McVay Courtyard after later leaf drop

If you ever have any questions about the grounds and landscapes here at CUH, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We aren’t always out in the garden to greet you, but we hope you’ll enjoy your visit.

Cheers,

Riz
Soest Perennial Display Garden
rhr2382@uw.edu
206-897-1434 (voicemail)

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CUH Update – October 2010: UW Classes, plant evaluations and fall color

October 11th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Acer japonicum 'Aconitifolium'

Classes in UW are in full swing as is the fall landscape at UWBG. Color is just beginning to show on our deciduous trees and the fall-blooming perennials are slowly waiting in the wings to burst into flight and glorious bloom here at CUH. After a inconsistent and late summer, fall seems to be right on queue as the weather slowly cools and our usual autumn tasks are well underway: fertilizing the lawn, planting and transplanting, monotonous raking and gathering of fallen leaves in either cold wet or windy weather, and one of my more favorite task is evaluating the year’s successes and failures in order to plan for next season.

Our formal evaluations were actually done on a crop of hardy perennials supplied to us by Blooms of Bressingham. For years we’ve received material and grown them on for people to see, but it was just last year that we resumed our formal trials and gave “BLOOMS” our feedback on how well their plants performed. This season, I decided to step it up; I recruited a enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteer to help me with maintenance and evaluations based on a set of criteria. We noted things like flowering period, stem and foliage quality, and pest and disease resistance. Maintenance practices were also jotted down to determine a variety’s overall performance throughout the growing season. I hope to develop an exclusive page that will feature photos of each variety under evaluation and our findings. There are some exceptional varieties and a few that never should have entered the market based on our criteria. So, stay tuned for those results!

Helichrysum Pink Sapphires - a brand new variety drawing much attention as it completes its 2nd year of evaluations.

One of the more exciting things to observe as an employee is being able to access “behind the scenes” to see the number of student projects taking place. Graduate students and post docs run various experiments and several classes make use of our facilities to set up labs and it’s all very fascinating to see. At times I feel like I’m so out of touch with recent developments and research, but it’s reassuring to know that there are hard working individuals answering various questions concerning our ever-changing ecosystems and landscapes.

Both the students and the general public have a most treasured resource here at CUH that’s celebrating its 25th anniversary. The Elisabeth C. Miller Horticultural Library is one of the best in the nation providing both novice and professionals a tremendous number of resources related to gardening and plants. Be sure to check our calendar for upcoming events to celebrate.

Our Douglas Conservatory has never really lived up to its name as our collection of indoor plants have consisted of only random hand-me downs from various sources who didn’t want to bother with them and tropicals left over from seasonal containers, but with a few doing reasonably well. I asked one of our volunteers to work with what we have and create a more appealing composition. Here’s what we came up with:

With fall being an ideal time to plant and transplant, expect a few changes as we play another round of musical plants. Look out for new plantings, a lot of digging and thinning and, hopefully, a few pleasant surprises come spring. There’s plenty to do as we shift in the seasons and I invite you all to come and visit and see the transformation before your eyes!

R

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CUH Update September 2010

September 14th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

I can’t believe summer is almost officially over. What a seesaw of a season we had! Cooler than normal average temperatures, a few heat waves; nothing really stuck around long enough, and bloom time on some of the plants his year was really all over the place!

Oh well, it has been a busy and hectic summer that seemed to almost get away from us from time to time, but the plants can always be expected to put on a show for all to see and we take great pride in showcasing some of the best for the Pacific Northwest.

Several changes loom ahead as we painfully absorb the severe budget cuts we’re being forced to take. It’s been a challenging at times to stay motivated and just carry on as usual; however, the wonderful people I work with and our frequent visitors are always there to remind me of just how fortunate we are to just have jobs during these tough times and how great it is to work for a botanic garden. At times, I have to just tell myself, “Do it for the plants!”

Our wave of volunteers has subsided a bit as the upcoming school year approaches, but a handful have expressed an interest in continuing and we couldn’t be more pleased with the efforts they’ve provided these past few months.

New interpretive signage has finally been created and installed in the Soest Garden! After endless revisions, tweaks and printing snafus, they are mounted and ready for your viewing and learning pleasure! These signs are sort of a test run to see how well they hold up and how well they communicate the information we hope to provide about the plantings here. So, if you have any questions and/or comments, we would like to hear from you!

Each sign describes a bed\’s exposure, soil type, and amount of supplemental irrigation it receives along with just a few selections of plants suited to each condition.

Early September is peak time for cherry picking at CUH! Cornelian cherries, that is! Cornus mas, to be exact is an attractive small landscape tree and our grove along Mary Gates Drive draws many people who often climb the trees, break branches and stomp on the groundcovers, while we appreciate people picking and using the fruit, we politely ask that they refrain from climbing the trees or the fence and from ripping off branches. I feel like it’s the one thing we truly do (outside, that is) that allows us to provide the community with something besides gardening information, a venue for events, or just pretty gardens to look at and admire. I would love to see us hold a fall festival where we would invite them to take part and perhaps have them share the wonderful things they do with the tart fruits they so covet!

September is definitely the time to soak in the last rays of summer and see the gardens in their full splendor. I will try and take some more photographs and post them on Facebook, so if you haven’t joined the craze of social networking, it’s time to check it out! Or, just come and see us in the gardens!

facebook.com/UWBotanicGardens

Cheers,

Riz
Soest Gardener

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CUH Update August 2010

August 5th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

It’s finally beginning to feel like summer; fairly consistent warm temperatures, scrambling to get containers adequately watered, and gravitation towards shade when working outdoors!

The past few weeks have been so busy and incredibly productive as we’ve been fortunate to have an arsenal of interns, work study students, and volunteers help us out in grounds several times a week this summer. While it takes a bit of patience and organization, the added number of bodies out there doing SOMETHING has helped to keep things under control. While skills are still developing, their efforts have made quite a difference and it seems like they’re savoring the experience.

Soest Garden Bed 4

Lots of summer pruning is well under way to keep our trees, shrubs, and vines growing here relatively healthy and happy. By pruning in the summer, we can work on shaping and training certain species, controlling unruly growth such as water sprouts, suckers, and aggressive vines that have over-“climbed”.

Our evaluations of BLOOMS OF BRESSINGHAM perennials are underway here at CUH and we’re beginning to see glimpses of potential bright stars for the garden. After our first round of evaluations of the new plants we’ve received the last two years, many are looking quite promising while others just bit the dust and would caution gardeners about using them. I hope we can develop a website where we can post our findings and we’re also hoping to have a separate evaluation sheet for visitors to the gardens to GIVE US FEEDBACK about the plants! Please stay tuned!

We’ve also just received a generous donation of perennial plants from Skagit Gardens. Each year, they send us new varieties to feature in our gardens so people can see them and look them up when they visit local nurseries. We’ve received some lovely Sedums, a salvia, and some wonderful tickseeds aka Coreopsis like this smashing one called, ‘Cosmic Eye’ bred by a colleague of mine, Darrell Probst.

Coreopsis 'Cosmic Eye'

We’re also quite active on our Facebook Page so to get the latest tidbits about news, events, and quirky happenings, do “like” us, ok!! haha

R

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CUH Update July 2010

July 8th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

We are experiencing quite a heatwave after weeks of cloudy, overcast and rainy days here in Seattle. We’re thankful for the sunshine and all, but the sudden warmth is a little unbearable without the transition to warmer temperatures we should have had in late May.

Everything is picking up with this surge of heat as irrigation is also in full swing. So WEEDS WEEDS WEEDS everywhere and we tackle as much as we can, but it’s so exhausting and uncomfortable working in such intense heat.

There are places to definitely cool off if you come for a visit: underneath the red oak in the Soest garden you’ll find a patch of grass and a wooden bench in which to sit and cool off and the site is a perfect spot for a little picnic. Another shady picnic site with a little more privacy is Goodfellow Grove.

Still too hot out? Swing by the Miller Library; get comfortable with a book or magazine and brush up on all things gardening!

Gonna keep it short and simple this time around and I hope you come visit us soon!

R

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CUH Update June 2010

June 15th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

June is turning out to be an incredibly busy month as the weeds have gotten away from me and so much seems to have landed on my plate all at once. Three gardeners and a handful of volunteers are trying to keep up with CUH grounds on a half time schedule; it’s never enough and we’ve almost gotten used to the fact that not everything will get the attention it needs right away. It seems sad, almost pathetic, that a world class botanical institution can’t operate the way it should, but we’re not alone. With the recession affecting just about everybody, we’re trying to absorb the hit, but it’s not encouraging when we have to expect another staff reduction this year and next. It’s a tense and unpredictable time right now.

The budget cuts have certainly sapped our energies during a time where we should be out and marveling at the landscape that surrounds us. Everything is in full swing and everywhere you turn, you find something that catches your eye and/or nose. Check out our June plant profile.

Being short on time, I’ll let a few photographs speak for themselves. I hope they inspire you to come visit and maybe think about volunteering a little bit of your time to help us get caught up. There’s always something to do and always something new to learn!

See you in the gardens,

Riz

A view of our Blooms of Bressingham trial beds. With both classic favorites and brand new introductions, these beds showcase some of the best perennials out on the market!

Another view of the Blooms of Bressingham Beds. Come visit us for an updated map and plant list.

One of the newer varieties is this stunning new sea holly, Eryngium 'Big Blue'

Speaking of “Blooms”…

Adrian Bloom, from Blooms of Bressingham, will be in town and UWBG will be sponsoring a lecture and book signing at Molbak’s that’s A MUST for hardcore perennial gardeners. I’m looking forward to meeting him in person and, hopefully, he’ll approve of our efforts. More more information about his talk, click here.

Most of the containers are now potted up. Just a little more warmth and regular watering and these will be busting out in foliage and flowers in no time!

Recall that we transplanted a mature Carpenteria californica in this bed. It looks to have survived well and is in fine company with a stunning mountain laurel and several dwarf strawberry trees

Kalmia latifolia 'Bullseye' - Mountain Laurel

Carpenteria californica

Bed 7 in the Soest Garden has filled in considerably and is punctuated by an elegant stem of a Himalayan Lily in full bloom. Can you spot it?


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