Big Big Flowers

July 16th, 2015 by Catherine Nelson, Adult Tours Program Assistant

maggrandifloraflwrThe Magnolia grandifloras in our collection are blooming now!  Who doesn’t love a 12-inch wide flower that smells great?   The commonly named Southern Magnolia or Bull-Bay is native to the SE United States from Eastern Texas, along the lower Gulf Coast to the Atlantic where it grows in loamy soils near water.  It has proven to be very adaptable to different soils and this has allowed for its ability to be cultivated in many different climates.  The largest M. grandifloras in their native habitat have been measured at up to 125′.  In non-native climate gardens they tend to grow to about 80′.

This tree is a valued ornamental in gardens around the world because of its large flowers and dark green glossy evergreen leaves.  It is used industrially for its beautiful hardwood to make furniture and cabinetry.  The seeds are food for native southeast squirrels, possums, quail and turkeys.  The leaves, fruit, bark and wood also are valued for their pharmaceutical properties.

Our collection M. grandifloras are located on either side of Arboretum Drive in the Magnolia section of the arboretum.   These trees are quite large and most of its flowers are high up, but there are a few on the lower branches accessible for smelling that nice citrusy scent.  Tour visitors from the Southern US assure me that this scent can be smelled at a distance down there, but up here in the Pacific NW one has to get up close to enjoy the scent.  And, speaking of tours, these trees and other summer bloomers like the Hydrangea are featured in our Free Weekend Walks for the month of July.  Join us any Sunday; we meet at 1:00 pm at the Graham Visitors Center.



June 2014 Plant Profile: Philadelphus lewisii

June 3rd, 2014 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Philadelphus lewisii portrait 1The beginning of June boasts boisterous and abundant blooms and this native shrub is no exception. Starting in late May, an otherwise nondescript shrub begins to draw attention as masses of single white flowers suddenly begin to pop open creating a blizzard of deliciously scented clusters that cover a straggly shrub from top to bottom.


P. lewisii growing in the upland forest restoration site out in UBNA.

P. lewisii growing in the upland forest restoration site out in UBNA.

Found in open forests in low-mid elevations, Philadelphus lewisii is highly adaptable to the garden where it becomes a large shrub and requires only well-drained soil, moderate moisture, and full sun to part shade. It seems to tolerate competition from other plants very well, but requires some pruning to keep its size in check and to remove dead or non-productive  wood.

A established specimen in full bloom along the entrance into UBNA

A established specimen in full bloom along the entrance into UBNA

Philadelphus lewisii portrait 2


Common Name:  Lewis’s Mock Orange
Location: Union Bay Natural Area
Origin: Pacific NW Native
Height and Spread: 6-7′ tall and about 5-7′ wide
Bloom/Fruit Time: Late May – Early July

February 2012 Plant Profile: Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’

February 14th, 2012 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn' in the Fragrance Garden at CUH

This month’s plant profile showcases one of the showiest and most reliably fragrant, winter blooming shrubs. According to Great Plant Picks, it is a “tough shrub grows best in full sun to light or open shade. It prefers well-drained soil, but will tolerate sandy sites or clay if the drainage is adequate. It is drought tolerant once established, but flowering will be more profuse if it receives occasional water during dry weather. Little pruning is needed to maintain an attractive plant.”

A close up of the fragrant winter flowers of Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn'

Common Name: Bodnant Viburnum/Dawn Viburnum
Family: Adoxaceae
Location: CUH-Fragrance Garden
Origin: Garden Origin: Bodnant Gardens in Wales, UK.
Height and spread: 8ft. high and 10ft. wide.
Bloom Time: Winter

This is a lovely shrub for the urban garden as it works wonderfully as a background plant during the growing season with its dark green, bronze foliage that have a rugged texture. It simply lights up in the winter time as it flowers and on a warm day, the delicious scent of warm sugary vanilla and lilac wafts in the air. Truly exquisite and, as mentioned, a reliable shrub for the Pacific Northwest.