CUH Update May 2010

May 7th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

May is always an abundance of activity in the garden. Whether April’s on and off showers played much of a role in how many plants are blooming right now, each year we’re overwhelmed with the work as temperatures begin to warm up and just about everything calls our attention; people make requests for things (they ask more questions and are more curious and observant about a lot of things like the endless weeds we’ve been trying to stay on top of) and even the plans themselves demand that they get the cutting back, pinching, top-dress of compost and irrigation they require in order to perform their best. It’s an ongoing challenge and with three part time gardeners overseeing all of CUH Grounds and the Union Bay Natural Area, we truly try our best with the time and resources we have.

The Fragrance Garden in early May 2010

Amidst the chaos of choking weeds and a flurry of events and activities that occur at this time of year, the gardens and the plants themselves somehow manage to put on a tremendous show and visitors are constantly delighted by it all. With our recent changes and game of “musical plants”, the Fragrance Garden is looking fuller and far better defined. It still has a ways to go and a few minor planting schemes have yet to be implemented, but for the most part, plants are more appropriately placed and most everything is thriving very well. The Soest Garden next door continues to be the signature piece of CUH Grounds with its beautiful borders and captivating selection of plants. Bed 7 has got to be the most exciting bed as a jewel box packed with treasures. Epimedium ‘Lilafee’ is absolutely at its peak as are the dramatic stems of Disporum ‘Night Heron’ that seems to draw a lot of attention. We are also expecting the blossoming of a rare variety of the Giant Himalayan Lily (Cardiocrinum giganteum v. yunnanese).

Bed 7 of the Soest Garden in early May 2010

Here is some eye-candy that should prompt a visit to CUH very soon because in a few weeks, they’ll be gone:

Tulipa batalinii 'Bright Gem'. A charmingly true and perennial tulip

Bergenia 'Bressingham White'. Lovely evergreen foliage and a nice floral showing in early spring.

Anemone Vestal

Anemone nemorosa 'Vestal' growing in the dry shade bed of the Soest Garden

The McVay Courtyard is in dire need of attention and direction as it needs to move forward with the next phase of its evolution. Phormium has had the toughest time the last two winters and I’m beginning to question their status as a perennial plant for the Northwest. Many people have begun to write it off as an evergreen perennial and simply treat it as an annual or a container subject. Even if phormiums die back down, they are fully capable of returning, but it takes a full growing season to actually get a substantial specimen and at that point, winter has returned. There are many potential substitutions and ideas for replacement. So, stay tuned and find out what takes place in the next few months.

With a few weeks delay, we are still preparing for the arrival of a set of new introductions from Bloom of Bressingham. The beds themselves are really coming along with many cultivars under evaluation in full bloom for people to see. I would very much like to get a set of volunteers to help with these evaluations and perhaps help maintain the beds as well. If this sounds at all interesting to you, please contact David Zuckerman, our horticultural grounds supervisor at dzman@u.washington.edu. If you’d like to learn more about what would be involved in evaluating and maintaining “BLOOMS”, please feel free to email me: rhr2382@uw.edu. I will post our report on 2009 plants next week and, hopefully, the new plants will have arrived by then!

Well, the weeds are calling and the lawn is SCREAMING to be mowed and edged. I hope the two classes and meeting in Isaacson Hall and conference in NHS don’t mind the noise too much. The two weddings and 3 outdoor workshops this weekend will thank them.

Cheers,

Riz

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CUH Update April 2010

April 1st, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

April 2010

It’s finally beginning to feel like spring. Yes, we have our occasional bouts of cool temperatures that threaten the tender young growth steadily coming to the fore, but in true spring fashion, plants flaunt the floral frenzy that this season is known for. A new wave of spring flowering bulbs can be admired and adored here at CUH as they fill the air with their potent perfume. A mass of daffodils and fawn lilies take center-stage in the Fragrance Garden and the Daphnes are still going at it strong as they aren’t only blooming, but also pushing new vegetative growth for more blooms next season!

Nearby NHS Hall, we have a lovely, but often overlooked relative of the kiwi fruit, Akebia quinata ‘Alba’, that is so elegant and deliciously scented, no one really notices it. It is a vigorous deciduous vine (in very mild winters it can be semi-evergreen), but it is easily manageable.

In our efforts to promote and encourage research and education, a section of CUH grounds has been designated for a test plot we’ve referred to as the “Climate Change Garden”. Spear-headed by Prof. Soo-Hyung Kim, his graduate students and CUH grounds staff have begun to install beds that will feature genetically identical species selected for their biological responsiveness to temperature. Read more about it here.

Things are picking up momentum as I type so I’m eager to get outside and get on top of our cutting back and dive into some serious weeding. If we have a break in the weather, the Soest lawn is crying out for another haircut!

Ornamental grasses have begun to push their new growth so it’s time to get most of them cut back to allow them to develop. As always, we use our hedge trimmers to shear the grasses down to make the job go more quickly. Those trimmers are then put to use on the hedges themselves as our stunning Osmanthus delavayi also gets a haircut following their wonderfully scented white blooms.

April is also the month we turn on our irrigation system. In the next couple of weeks, the irrigation crew from UW Campus will meet with our irrigation specialist, Annie Billota, to check that heads are working properly and we cover the areas we need to be watered. We then set the frequency and just tweak it during the season as needed.

It is an absolutely great time to visit CUH as there’s so much to see, smell and admire. As many gardeners begin to brainstorm for their landscapes this year, our gardens are a wealth of ideas and fascinating plants!

Riz

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CUH Update March 2010: “Wow! Things are early!”

March 5th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

“It’s crazy!”, a visitor commented as I carefully weeded around emerging tulips and blooming lungworts busting out blooms and color we didn’t come to expect until later this month. It kind of has been crazy, but I told her to just enjoy and soak it all in.

I’m a bit irritated that I’m in the office writing this update when it’s bright and remarkably warm outside. haha. But it’s important that I get the word out to encourage EVERYONE to visit the Center for Urban Horticulture this month. So many of our winter blooming treasures are still present while a surge of spring bloomers are coming up WEEKS ahead of their usual bloom times.

The Magnolias (M. ‘Leonard Messel’) are in full peak bloom as are the daffodils in the Soest Garden. Our plant pick-of-the-month is a gorgeous kaufmanniana species tulip called ‘Ancilla’, also in the Soest (Bed 6). Of course, we have to keep in eye out for those plants just coming up that present themselves as a buffet to pesky snails and slugs that can dessimate a stand of plants. We use the safe and environmentally friendly slug bait called “Sluggo” to keep them at bay.

The Fragrance Garden is getting a bit of a makeover as we play “musical plants” and redesign the beds for a more cohesive appearance and to ensure that plants are appropriately placed for best growth. Come see the changes and watch this garden continue to evolve as you savor the wonderful aromas this landscape exudes. Right now, the daphnes take center stage and the vanilla/white chocolate scent of Azara microphylla is absolutely mouth-watering as it drifts in the warm spring air.

We have a new large specimen that has just recently been installed in the west entry of CUH. A mature Carpenteria californica was transplanted from the Aboretum and founds its new home here at CUH. It is somewhat gangly in appearance, but we hope it establishes well for us to prune it later on so it can continue to thrive. Carpenteria californica is a native of California, obviously, and it is an evergreen shrub with clouds of single white flowers that almost resemble species roses that bloom in early summer. It also has exquisite exfoliating bark and it is quite drought tolerant once established.

Our famous grove of Cornelian cherries (Cornus mas) is in full, bright-yellow bloom and seems to slow traffic along NE 41st. Street! Soon these will leaf out and charge the whole character of the landscape!

Please drop by soon as the spring show is well underway. I’d hate for you all to miss it!

Riz

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