Glimpse into the past – the Daniel J. Evans Centennial Tree

September 22nd, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor
David Zuckerman and the Centennial Tree in 2003, just after transplanting.

David Zuckerman and the Centennial Tree in 2003, just after transplanting.

by John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

On Thursday, October 29, 2015, the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington will honor Daniel J. Evans, on his 90th birthday, for his public leadership, scholarship, and service.  What an opportune time to mention the Daniel J. Evans Centennial Tree at the Washington Park Arboretum…a coast redwood  (Sequoia sempervirens) which he planted in the south Pinetum as part of the Washington State Arbor Day program.   This tree has grown from a propagule (cutting) from the original tree named in 1989 during the State Centennial.  That tree was located at 201 Union Avenue SE, Olympia, WA, centered on a small knoll on property originally owned by Russell O’Brien, an Irish immigrant, and occupied by three generations of family thereafter.  The site is now called Centennial Park.  The tree was about 50 feet from the foundation of the old house that originally occupied the site, near a newer smaller home. (At this date, I have not been able to determine if the tree is still there, although I personally have visited it several times over the last 33 years.)

In 1998, the parent tree was at least 100 years old, 148 feet tall, and 67.2 inches in girth.  Ken Russell, Forest Pathologist, cored the tree and determined its age and wrote a description (1988) which is attached to our accession record. Other specific information can be found in the Washington State Historical Society records.  It is unknown how the tree arrived in Olympia and why it was planted on the O’Brien property.

Original certificate for the tree.

Original certificate for the tree.

In 1995, as Arboretum Director, I received an inquiry from Shelley Farber, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, asking if we would be interested in a propagule, since the DNR had several rooted trees which they wished to establish throughout the State of Washington. The official certificate is signed by Shelley on February 27, 1995 at 3:20 p.m.

The Arbor Day planting of the tree took place in a very heavy rain storm on the Washington State Arbor Day, April 12. 1995.  (The Washington State Arbor Day is a different day than the National Arbor Day).  The ceremony was attended by Dean David Thorud, UW College of Forestry, Clement Hamilton, Director of the Center for Urban Horticulture,  dignitaries from DNR, area high school students, and arboretum staff, myself included.  The arboretum staff (Christina Pfeiffer and David Zuckerman) had prepared a great planting site, with the tree (Accession #245-95) patiently waiting in its plastic pot.  After appropriate speeches, and with great gusto, the young tree was passed to David for planting preparation.  He lifted and tugged on the pot only to discover that it was totally pot bound, necessitating slicing off the pot.  Of course the roots were found to be one solid round core.   We all stood patiently for several minutes in the rain while David struggled to cut and loosen the roots, wanting to make sure the tree would survive. It has!  Finally, Governor Evans was able to plant the tree and we all quickly retreated for drier locations, leaving the staff to finish the planting job.

Governor Evans at the Arbor Day tree planting, April 12, 1995.

Governor Evans at the Arbor Day tree planting, April 12, 1995.

The Daniel J. Evans Centennial Tree being transplanted, 2003.

The Daniel J. Evans Centennial Tree being transplanted, 2003.

The tree flourished well, but on September 23, 2003, it was moved a few feet north, thus giving it more space.  Todd Holm, from Olympic Tree Farm, was the tree spade contractor. The tree has continued to flourish. In 2003, it was measured by Randall Hitchin at 30 feet tall, with a 6 inch dbh.  Today, it is 70 feett tall with 20 inch dbh.

I often see Governor Evans enjoying a milkshake at one of his favorite haunts, Burgermaster.   Occasionally we chat about his tree, and he tells me that he regularly visits it with his family, including his grandchildren.   This in indeed a superb tribute to a great man with a great tree which will remain a legacy for at least another 100 years, a milestone he himself is within 10 years of achieving.

Glimpse into the past – Dr. James R. Clark

August 18th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

Tukey and Clark
Since its founding 35 years ago, the Center for Urban Horticulture (now a part of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens) has produced numerous students, staff, and faculty who have continued on to illustrious horticultural careers. A few days ago, I received this photograph of Dr. Harold B. Tukey, Jr., founding director, and associate professor James R. Clark. They are examining a tree experiment in the nursery area of the Center.  Since the then-new Merrill Hall is in the background, without Isaacson Hall, I would date the picture in the spring of 1985. It was obviously taken by the Seattle Times, for publicity of the newly developing Center, which would become an international model.

Dr. Clark and I were the two early faculty hires for the Center, and he arrived a few months after I did in the summer of 1981.  He holds a B.S. in Plant Science, an M.S. in Horticulture from Rutgers University, and a Ph.D. in Plant Physiology from the University of California, Davis.  He was a faculty member at Michigan State University from 1971 to 1981.  He was extremely instrumental in the early development of the Center from 1981 to 1991.

Upon arrival, Dr. Clark quickly developed programs in urban forestry and tree physiology.  He proved that garden sites closer to our major highways often had higher concentrations of heavy metals.  He worked closely with nurserymen and arborists, as well as the public.  In his work with the late Marvin Black, Seattle City arborist, who was responsible for putting trees back on Seattle streets, he studied the adverse growing conditions for street trees in Seattle.  He also worked with the new immersion exhibits in Woodland Park Zoo.

Dr. Clark and I shared the wooden “chicken coop-like” Medicinal building still lounging near the Botany Greenhouse on campus from 1981-84. It also housed our secretary Diana Perl. It was Dr. Clark who suggested that we teach a required course on public speaking for all our graduate students, which ultimately became the first Center for Urban Horticulture-taught course on campus.  Upon his departure, I taught the course until I retired in 2006.   Dr. Sarah Reichard continues that legacy.  Over the years, I have heard from people all over the world that they can tell the “Center for Urban Horticulture-trained students,” who know precisely how to deliver both a scientific talk and an extension-style public presentation.

Dr. Clark went on to become vice president of HortScience, Inc., located in Pleasanton, California. It is a consulting firm providing horticultural, arboricultural and urban forestry services.  Dr. Clark has developed a model of sustainable urban forest management, is experienced in designing and implementing field research, and frequently serves as an expert witness.  He is also the coauthor of four books and has published over 30 articles in scientific journals including Arboriculture & Urban Forestry (formerly Journal of Arboriculture), Journal of the American Society of Horticultural Science, Arboricultural Journal and Journal of Environmental Horticulture. He continues to lecture on arboriculture and urban forestry worldwide.  He is recognized internationally by the International Society of Arboriculture and has received many rewards including the Alex Shigo Award for Arboricultural Education.

Glimpse into the past – Dreams of an Arboretum at the University of Washington

July 15th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

Recently, I was browsing The Long Road Traveled by Henry Schmitz, from 1973, in preparation for a presentation about the Washington Park Arboretum.  I believe it is important to review how the leadership of the University of Washington was the catalyst to create the Arboretum. Almost all of this “glimpse” is the writing of Dr. Schmitz, but in a very condensed form.

The University of Washington seems to have wanted an arboretum from very early in its history. Shortly after his election in 1891 as a member of the State legislature, Edmond S. Meany became chairman of the legislative committee concerned with the acquisition of a new campus for the University. There are indications that he promoted the project in part by claims that it would provide an arboretum for the State as well as a campus for the University. If this is true, it was undoubtedly a method to elicit support from the lumber industry, which was not entirely without influence at that time in the state legislature. The late Herbert Condon used to relate a delightful story about a member of the legislature whom Mr. Meany was attempting to interest in the selection of the Union Bay area for the new campus-arboretum. The legislator listened to the arguments and then said, “Meany, I will help you get the area, but tell me-what in hell is an arboretum?”

Professor Edmond S. Meany

Professor Edmond S. Meany

It seems clear that for some years after the University moved to the new (and present) location selected by Dr. Meany’s committee, the development of an arboretum on the campus remained an important aim. The text calls attention to gifts of trees from the Seattle City Parks Department for planting on the new grounds.  On Arbor Day 1898, the Parks Department had presented the University with fifty assorted oaks and honey locusts. Later, Parks contributed an additional 2200 fine trees embracing almost thirty species new to the grounds, as well as a donation of a thousand perennials. These donations, along with a collection of five hundred more perennials from other sources gave impetus to a plan for the beautification of the campus.  These donations were said to “represent 42 natural orders and 179 species.”

A seed and plant exchange with eastern collectors was established by Dr. Meany to secure for the campus “as many rare and desirable species as possible.” Contributions of seeds were received from California, the Canadian Department of Agriculture, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Dr. Meany’s home garden was used entirely for growing seedlings of tree seeds received through the seed exchange. Since the city water mains had not yet been extended to his home, it was necessary for him to carry water in pails to the nursery beds. He was especially proud of the relations he had established with Kew Gardens and was greatly concerned that the seedlings survive.

College of Forestry Dean, Hugo Winkenwerder

College of Forestry Dean, Hugo Winkenwerder

Sadly, when the campus was cleared for the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, many of the trees planted in the early days by Professor Meany and others were destroyed. Nevertheless, the idea of an arboretum on the campus did not completely die. A few years later, Hugo Winkenwerder, Dean of the College of Forestry, with the enthusiastic support of Professor Meany, proposed to President Franklin Kane that the entire area below the railroad tracks be set aside for arboretum purposes. This proposal was approved by the President and the area was designated “Arboretum” on maps of the campus of that period.Progress was slow, and as the years went by, pressures developed on the campus for the construction of a golf course in the arboretum area. It was argued by the proponents of the golf course that the area could serve both purposes – the fairways and greens would occupy only part of the space and the remaining area could still serve as an arboretum. However, the golf course eventually took possession of the entire area and in late 1923 Dean Winkenwerder gloomily said that he “lost all hope of ever developing an arboretum on the University campus.”

Henry Suzzallo, UW President 1915-1926

UW President Henry Suzzallo

Although he recognized that an arboretum on campus was impractical because of the ever-changing patterns of land use by a growing university, Dean Winkenwerder did not for a moment give up the idea of developing an arboretum somewhere, and he conferred with President Henry Suzzallo to explore other possibilities. Even though it was President Suzzallo who had transformed the last campus arboretum into a golf course, he had a clear concept of the importance of a highly developed botanical garden and arboretum as a resource to the natural science departments of the University and to the people of Seattle and the State. He believed that the Arboretum should be developed jointly by the University and the City of Seattle.

Shortly after his conference with Dean Winkenwerder, Dr. Suzzallo addressed the Seattle Rotary Club to enlist the support of this important group of business and professional leaders for an arboretum in the Washington Park area. He said in part: “to the Board of Park Commissioners, that Board seems to have prepared Resolution No. 40 setting aside the entire area of Washington Park for a botanical garden and arboretum and giving the University of Washington certain privileges” (6th Day of February 1924).

Want to read the rest of the story? The Road Less Traveled is available for borrowing at the Elisabeth C. Miller Library.


Glimpse into the past – the Legend of the Flamingos and the Silver Egg

June 4th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

This month’s Glimpse is about the ‘Legend of the Flamingos and the Silver Egg’ featured at the recent celebration honoring Dr. Harold B. Tukey, Jr., and the founding of the Center for Urban Horticulture.  Dr. Tukey arrived in Seattle in May 1980 and one year later, several new faculty and staff were added.

During that time period, the American public had been ‘poking fun’ at the profusion of inexpensive (rather cheap) plastic ornaments which had been flooding our marketplaces.   The urban landscape took on a new look with its plastic balls, animals, statues, pet rocks, etc.  It was inevitable that a symbol from that urban environment should be chosen for the fledgling CUH.

The original Xylem and Phloem in the Center for Urban Horticulture courtyard, 1986

The original Xylem and Phloem in the Center for Urban Horticulture courtyard, 1986

The two first graduate students in the program, Sharon Buck and Cindy Maitland, decided that a pair of pink flamingos should be part of the CUH display and proudly presented them to Dr. Tukey on May 31, 1981, as members of the CUH Alumni Association.  The faculty and staff were excited and decided to hold a naming contest, voting by secret ballot, with the names of ‘Xylem’ and ‘Phloem’ chosen.  The following holiday season, and in subsequent seasons, the proud ‘parents’ were joined by a large silver egg in a CUH courtyard display.

The presentation of a pair of flamingos occurred for each new faculty and staff member hired, often appearing spontaneously on their front lawn or porch.   I was given a pair which I proudly named ‘Burt’ and ‘Ethel’, who proudly presided on my deck overlooking Lake Union.  Flamingos often appeared in many ways during the next few years around CUH.  In 1994, six appeared on my new home lawn, causing the neighbors to wonder about their new neighbor.

Today, flamingos come in many assorted colors and themes, including Husky mascot colors.   While reminiscing with Dr. Tukey at the Celebration, he remarked how much we were all full of the new doctrine for urban horticulture in the 1980’s, but the addition of the plastic flamingos brought us back to our relevancy to the urban environment.   Recently two of my new neighbors have been officially “Flocked” through a legitimate business.  While ‘Xylem’ and ‘Phloem’ have long disintegrated, their prototypes live on.

Modern garden flamingos, on display at a celebration of Dr. Tukey's founding of the Center for Urban Horticulture, April 2015

Modern garden flamingos, on display at a celebration of Dr. Tukey and the founding of the Center for Urban Horticulture, April 2015

More festive flamingos from the April celebration

More festive flamingos from the April celebration

Glimpse into the past – Mrs. Sawyer’s Bench

May 7th, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

Today’s visitors to the Washington Park Arboretum walk past historical artifacts not knowing why they might be there.  One of those is the Memorial Fountain dedicated to the late Mrs. W.W. Sawyer, along Arboretum Drive E. opposite Rhododendron Glen.


Finished fountain, bench and plantings. Photo by J. A. Wit

An article written by J. A. Witt, in the Arboretum Foundation Bulletin Summer (24:3, pg. 62) chronicles its dedication on Monday, February 21, 1961.  Mr. Sawyer and members of the Maude Sawyer Unit (No. 19), who made a handsome donation for its construction, were present.

“This charming and practical memorial….was designed by Dr. Donald J. Foote, a former member of the University of Washington’s Architect’s staff.  It was constructed by personnel from the mason’s shop of the UW Physical Plant Department, using granite blocks for the wall as well as the fountain basin.”  The site also originally had special collection plants of Berberis aquifolium ‘Compacta’ and Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna, surrounded by three camellia.

A series of pictures shows the site before, during its construction, and today. Like most artifacts in the WPA, they are in a state of decline. Twenty years ago, the running water fountain was changed to a hand-manipulated one. Later, the water was entirely stopped. The granite portion is still proudly standing and is easily seen.   Budget cutbacks in both state and city budgets do not provide funds to maintain these historical landmarks which are usually removed when they fall into total disrepair.


View on March, 11, 1958. Photo by J.A. Witt



Construction September 30, 1960. Photo by J. A. Witt


Construction September 30, 1960. Photo by J. A. Witt


Construction October 3, 1960. Photo by J. A. Witt


Mrs. Sawyer’s memorial bench today, May 6, 2015. Photo by J. A. Wott

Glimpse into the Past – Thirty Years of Horticultural Outreach

March 31st, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus.

When the Center for Urban Horticulture was established in the early 1980s, one of the programmatic goals was to create and carry out a comprehensive public outreach program into the community for gardeners and professionals. The University of Washington is not part of the federal land grant system and thus receives no federal or state monies for such programs, as is the case for Washington State University. Thus any resources and programs developed had to be self-supporting.

Private funds were found to assemble the buildings on the UW East campus, which were built from 1984-1987. The addition of the Graham Visitors Center in 1986 at the Washington Park Arboretum added an additional site for Arboretum focused programs.  As programs grew, so did the staff to support them.  In the late 1980s and 1990s,  the annual total number of participants in classes, facility inquiry visits, tours, school programs, telephone inquiries, public open houses, library visits, as well as community lectures and tours at both the Center for Urban Horticulture and Washington Park Arboretum reached into the thousands.

The addition of Washington State Master Gardening clinics, classes and lectures greatly expanded both community gardening and professional landscape and nursery programs.  The school programs increased at the Washington Park Arboretum. Both programs became year round.  In the 1990’s, we often boasted that we were “second” in UW community outreach numbers, although quite some distance behind the UW Athletic events.

Since the beginning and continuing today, these programs have been lead by a talented group of staff.   Many people have started their careers with us and then gone onto “greener pastures,” making their mark throughout the country.

staff photo

Early outreach staff at the Center for Urban Horticulture in 1992: Jean Robins – Office Coordinator and Administrator; Larry Vickerman – graduate student and Class Coordinator; Dave Stockdale – Outreach Coordinator; Lynda Ransley – GVC Manager and Washington Park Arboretum Program Leader; Fran (Trinder) Myer – Budget and Fiscal Analyst; Rebecca Johnson – Building Rental Coordinator

In thirty years, there have been changes in the horticulture outreach environment:  public budgets have decreased; there is now a plethora of gardening information on the internet; and there is increasing emphasis on environmental, conservation, and restoration issues.  The baby boomer generation is retiring and today’s consumers have less interest in large gardens although they are more food and environmentally conscious.

Annual reports of specific numbers and program themes are archived in both the Miller Library and UW Archives.  The included photos are one glimpse of the continuing education and outreach staff  taken in December 1992.

staff photo

Early staff for Center for Urban Horticulture outreach program in 1992: Jean Robins – Office Coordinator and Administrator; Larry Vickerman – grad student and Class Coordinator; Professor John Wott, Faculty Supervisor; Lynda Ransley – GVC Manager and Washington Park Arboretum Program Leader; Fran (Trinder) Myer – Budget and Fiscal Analyst; Rebecca Johnson – Building Rental Coordinator.

Glimpse into the Past – Celebrating the Founder of the Center for Urban Horticulture

March 5th, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John Wott, Director Emeritus

In those divisive times of the late 1960’s and 1970’s, many new ideas began to form regarding how to live on, properly use, and safeguard the resources on our earth. This included groups from the “flower children” to academics. Learned horticulturists, botanists, and academics in the Northwest created a plan which called for the creation of a new academic unit at the University of Washington to be called the Center for Urban Horticulture. It would be different from traditional production horticulture which had been taught for hundreds of years.   Instead it would bring disciplines together which seldom or never interacted.

The Center for Urban Horticulture, the first of its kind in the world, and thereafter copied around the world, officially began its life when Professor Harold B. Tukey, Jr, from Cornell University arrived as its founding director in May 1980. Dr. Tukey’s family, including father and brothers, were well known in the horticulture academic arena. He first worked along with an administrator, Sally Dickman, in an office in Anderson Hall on the UW campus. He also was UW director of the Washington Park Arboretum and directed that staff, headed by Joseph A. Witt, curator. In 1981, two new faculty arrived: myself, John A. Wott, from Purdue University in April, and James A. Clark, from Rutgers University in June.

The initial promise of full state funds soon evaporated as the State of Washington rapidly slipped into a recession and all hope of state funds for building and future program building was futile. Never daunted, Dr. Tukey, aided by the good will of Provost George Beckman (who did provide what seed money he could), along with community horticulture stalwarts such as Elisabeth Carey (Betty) Miller began a campaign to raise the millions of dollars needed privately. As you now see today, they were successful. CUH, now a part of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, is an invaluable resource in the Northwest as well as nationally and internationally.

The accompanying pictures show scenes from the Ground Breaking Ceremony for the original Merrill Hall in 1983.


Elisabeth Carey Miller, Prentice Bloedel, Dr. Harold B. Tukey Jr. with their Champagne glasses at the ground breaking ceremony for the original Merrill Hall, 1983


Front row: Eulalie Merrill Wagner, Virginia Merrill Bloedel, Prentice Bloedel, Mary Gates, Marilee Boyd, Elisabeth Miller, George Beckman, William Gerberding, Mrs. Harold Tukey.
(center 2nd row, Marvin Black)

Glimpse into the Past – Remembering the First Northwest Flower & Garden Show

February 4th, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

A former staff member, Rebecca Johnson, shared with me a copy of the “First Annual Northwest Flower and Garden Show” program, held on Presidents’ Day Weekend, February 17-20, 1989.   On February 10, 2015, the 26th Show will open. I am proud to say that I have attended each one, including the Preview Party, a benefit for the Washington Park Arboretum. This 48-page colored glossy printed program was a synopsis of horticulture in the Northwest at that time.  The cover photograph, taken by the late Jerry Sedenko, features the Streissguth Garden, now a public garden on the slope of north Capitol Hill.

cover photo

This indeed was an exciting event, showcasing such a sizable indoor garden  display never before seen here.  A dream come true of the founder and owner, Duane Kelly, it was patterned after the fabulous shows of Boston, New York, and  Philadelphia.  Jane Pepper (Philadelphia) and Richard Daley (Mass. Hort. Society)  were advisers.  Duane’s vision and enthusiasm for the Seattle show is expressed in the “Welcome to the Show” program introduction.  The appreciation list is a glimpse of Northwest horticulture leadership including Dr. Harold Tukey, Nancy Davidson Short, Steve Lorton, Jerry Wilmot, Egon Molbak, and Ann Lovejoy as well as Kathleen Brenzel of Sunset Magazine.


The 25 gardens were built and sponsored by Molbak’s, Star Nursery, Iseli Nursery, Briggs Nursery, Swanson’s, Rodda and Sons, Weyerhaeuser Nursery Products,  Weyerhaeuser Specialty Plants, Price Ragen, Magnolia Lawn and Garden, Washington Park Arboretum, Barford’s Hardy Ferns, Furney’s, Seattle Water Department, Seattle Parks Volunteer Park Conservatory, Jackson and Perkins, Skagit Gardens/Wight’s, Highridge Corporation, Puget Sound Bonsai, Ikebana International, Big Rock Garden, Bamboo Brokerage, Columbia Greenhouse, FTD Florists, and Boeing Aerospace Company. There was also a children’s garden.  The entire garden layout plus all the retail booths were on the fourth floor.


The center section of the program contained colored pictures and short descriptions of 26 Northwest public gardens in an article written by Nancy Clark Hewitt in which she states that “the Northwest is blessed with an excess of natural beauty inspired by nature’s bounty.  A rich gardening tradition has developed here, and is to be showcased in the show. “


From the very moment of conception Duane wanted the Northwest Flower and Garden Show to be educational, and I was privileged to plan and lead these free lectures and seminars for those first years, then held on the sixth floor.  As stated by Duane, “these programs “represent the greatest amount of horticultural, floral, and landscape knowledge ever assembled under one roof in the Northwest.”  We were overwhelmed with attendees and early on struggled to contain waiting lines.  In addition the show offered free booth space to horticultural societies where the public could find answers and talk to local experts.

Over these 26 yrs, the NWFGS has changed with the times, but it is still one of the best indoor garden shows of the USA, if not the world.  Why not follow in the footsteps of thousands and attend the forthcoming Northwest Flower and Garden Show, “Romance Blossoms?”

A glimpse into the past – a remarkable issue of the Arboretum Bulletin

December 27th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus


Cover of Arboretum Foundation Bulletin , Winter 1945.

Recently I was given a copy of the Arboretum Bulletin, Volume VIII , no. 4, Winter 1945, by Lyn Sauter, who was the first librarian for the collection of books that became the Miller Library. Lyn started her cataloging work in the early 1980s. The editor was John Hanley, the first director of the University of Washington Arboretum.  Arboretum Foundation membership was five dollars, the phone number was SEneca 0920 and the address was 516 Medical Arts Bldg., Seattle 1, Washington.

The issue of 32 pages was devoted to rhododendrons.  The Table of Contents, on the cover, included articles by R.H.M. Cox – foremost horticulturist in Great Britain; G.G. Nearing – one of the few rhododendron authorities in the USA; letters from three prominent award-winning rhododendron growers in Washington State; a  most interesting report on the details about planting Azalea Way by Paul D. Brown;  Iris Weber – enthusiastic UW student studying rhododendron fertilization;  Lord Aberconway on magnolias;  a most intriguing short history about the Arboretum and the University of  Washington Campus; a detailed article on Rhododendrons by Dr. Hanley; and a List of recommended Rhododendron Hybrids compiled by the Seattle Garden Club members.  In this issue, there were extensive indexes as well the obituary of Col. F. R. S. Balbour.

The feature article contained 8 black and white photographs of rhododendrons: “The following group of rhododendron pictures, taken in the beautiful garden of Mr. and Mrs. Donald G. Graham, is displayed through their kindness and courtesy.”  I have included copies of the two of the featured pictures, although the texture of the paper is quite grainy.  Copies of the Arboretum Foundation Bulletins are archived in the Miller Library as well as with the Arboretum Foundation.


scan of a photo

“Azalea mollis ‘Primrose Yellow’ [sic],  Rhododendron ‘Pink Pearl’, Magnolia grandiflora, and Clematis montana.”

scan of photo

“Mixed grouping of Azalea Hinomayo [sic], Rhododenron Mrs. E.C. Stirling, Kalmia latifolia, and Clematis montana.”

(Editor note: Listen to a oral history clip from Donald Graham Jr about his dad’s interest in the Arboretum and rhododendrons)

A glimpse into the past – Leissler’s 1934 design for the Arboretum

December 3rd, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

by John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

An historic document connected to the early “life” of the Washington Park Arboretum has been found.  It is the (believed) first design for the Arboretum, prepared in 1934 by Frederick Leissler, landscape architect in the Seattle Department of Parks.

photo of plan

Copy of the Leissler Plan for Washington Park Arboretum

Scot Daniel Medbury in his M.S. thesis The Olmsted Taxonomic Arboretum and its Application to Washington Park, Seattle (1990), documents this plan (pg 99). Scot was able to interview Mr. Leissler shortly before his death.  Notes from these interviews are located in the Miller Library and UW Library Special Collections.  Medbury states “[Leissler’s] design was monumental in the Beaux-Arts style, and included a gigantic conservatory rising above an axial and symmetrical series of planting beds.”  Medbury reported that Leissler had adapted a design he made when he was a student that won a national prize for the first Arboretum plan.  The plan called for an intensive development and as Leissler himself was later to recall, “the plan would have cost a fortune to build.”  In a later draft, Leissler emphasized three main rock gardens, the “Alaska Rock Garden,” the “Northwest Rock Garden,” and the “Rock Garden of the Orient.”

It’s an interesting story of how I learned of the document’s existence. Leissler passed the original copy (signed by both Frederick Leissler and Hugo Winkenwerder, Dean of the UW College of Forestry) to Jon Stewart, a friend and colleague at Oregon State University. Recently, Mr. Stewart shared it with Raymond Williams, professor emeritus from OSU and a personal acquaintances from my time at Purdue University.  It so happens that Steve Garber, a long-time Arboretum Foundation member, former Foundation president and Japanese Garden Society officer is Raymonds’s brother-in-law.  Mr. Garber, in turn, brought it to my attention, and all of us are now involved with finding a permanent home for the document.


Raymond Williams, professor emeritus, Oregon State University; Jon Stewart, owner of the document and donor, friend of Frederick Leissler; Steve Garber, Washington Park Arboretum long-time supporter. Taken August 2, 2013


Steve Garber; John Wott, Director Emeritus, UWBG; Brian Thompson, Miller Library Manager and Curator of Horticultural Literature; Julie Coryell, Japanese Garden Society enthusiast and long time supporter.
Taken July 9, 2014