A Glimpse into the past: Dedicating the Douglas Research Conservatory

January 6th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

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Douglas Research Conservatory in May 1989

On June 29, 1988, the Douglas Research Conservatory was dedicated.  It was a state-of-the-art facility for plant propagation, research, and horticultural education. The facility was made possible through a one million dollar donation from the estate of the late Neva Douglas, daughter of the University’s Metropolitan Tract developer, John Francis Douglas. The gift was given in memory of Douglas and his wife, Neva Bostwick Douglas. The facility featured 5000 square feet of glass-house space and 8000 square feet for support facilities. It included a laboratory, classroom, growth chambers, storage, experimental construction spaces, and offices.

The Douglas’ son, James B. Douglas, was the developer of Northgate and many other shopping malls. He was instrumental in directing the gift, along with his son, James C. Douglas of San Diego, CA. It also show-cased innovative computer technology, which monitored and controlled vents, fans, temperatures, and other events throughout the glass houses.

The Metropolitan Tract was given to the University of Washington in 1861 and was its original site until 1895. The Tract has long been the financial heart of downtown Seattle. The Tract’s business success began in 1907. In the ensuing 20 years, the Douglas Metropolitan Building Company constructed 13 major buildings, including the White Building (1909) and the Skinner Building (1927).

The Douglas Research Conservatory was the last major building built and dedicated at the Union Bay site at the Center for Urban Horticulture.

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December 2012 Plant Profile: Abutilon ‘Tiger Eye’

December 5th, 2012 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

This holiday season, we’re taking you indoors into our Douglas Conservatory and showcasing a plant to warm up our botanical curiosities. This unique and elegant flowering maple (though not technically a maple (that’s the genus Acer)) is best known as an annual shrub for containers and summer bedding, but I haven’t the heart to just chuck it into the compost. So we brought it in for the winter and given a little care, it has decided to flower for us.

Flowering maples come in an assortment of colors and have the distinct maple-like foliage that gives it its common name. They benefit from full sun/part shade and regular watering and fertilizing during the growing season. They seem to bloom on and off and gentle pruning keeps plants bushy and loaded with flowers. ‘Tiger Eyes’  isn’t as prolific a bloomer and stands taller and lankier than most other Flowering maples, but its flowers are too exquisite and makes up for it.

 

Common Name: Flowering Maple

Location: Douglas Conservatory

Origin: Unknown

Exposure: Full Sun/Part Shade

Height and spread: 6-8ft. tall x 3ft. wide

Bloom Time: Sporadically throughout the year. Heaviest in summer


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September 2011 Plant Profile: Vitex agnus-castus

September 1st, 2011 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

I’ve decided to go with a woody species this month so I selected the fabulous Chaste Tree. Our specimen here at CUH is just coming into bloom and will absolutely peak in the next couple of weeks attracting bees, butterflies, and other wildlife while also attracting the attention of our frequent visitors who inquire as to “why do you grow butterfly bush? Don’t know you know it’s a noxious weed?!”


Vitex agnus-castus makes a wonderful substitute to the agressively self-seeding Buddleja davidii. It has a far more elegant appearance with it’s scented, silvery green, palmately compound leaflets and the conical, upright flowering stems that bear lavender flowers that really look like butterfly bush.

As a Mediterranean native, it prefers a warm environment in full sun and fairly well drained soil. It is readily available in most garden centers and while the most common form is the lilac color. Vitex also comes in white and pink. Though hardy and thrives in the Pacifc Northwest, it is VERY slow to leaf out and looks like a dead tree in early summer before it begins to leaf out. Vitex comes into its own in later summer entering fall, which makes it so ideal for later season interest.


Common Name: Chaste Tree
Family: Lamiaceae
Location: Douglas Conservatory Parking Lot
Origin: Mediterranean
Height: 5 meters
Spread: 5 meters
Bloom Time: Late August-September
Bloom Type/Color: Upright panicles of lavender, occasionally white and pink forms available.

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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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