A glimpse into the past: the early years of FlorAbundance

April 2nd, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John A. Wott, Directory Emeritus

The first major plant sale in Seattle (now called FlorAbundance) was sponsored by the Arboretum Foundation as a fund raiser for what was then the University of Washington Arboretum. The sales were originally held in a small building called Floral Hall, which later burned down. As the plant sale grew, it was moved to the small cluster of buildings on the northern end of the Arboretum.

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An eager crowd of shoppers line up waiting to get into the 1982 FlorAbundance sale. Photo by John A. Wott.

When the Graham Visitors Center and its larger parking lots were opened in 1986, this increased the available sale area. Eventually the sale outgrew this location as well. First, it was moved to an outdoor area on the Naval Station Puget Sound grounds where the volunteers almost froze with the cold winds. Then for several years it was held in the E-1 Parking lot on the University of Washington campus.   Although the parking lot had plenty of space, it also had hot sun, beating winds, and no shelter from heavy rains. It also had little electricity and water. After the Puget Sound Naval Station was “given” to the City of Seattle and become Warren G. Magnuson Park, Building 30 became an ideal home for many years. While that building underwent renovation during 2012 and 2013, the sale returned to the Arboretum. This year, FlorAbundance will again return to Building 30 at Magnuson Park.

For many years, the Plant Sale was managed through the Unit Council, an organized sub-group of the Arboretum Foundation. The many AF Units were represented in the Unit Council. The AF members often raised the plants which were sold, or the chair of each section (e.g. trees, perennials) secured those plants from nurseries. Today it is primarily a vendor’s sale composed of area nurseries and garden centers.

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A sale volunteer decked out in a floristic fancy hat. Photo by John A. Wott

Both pictures were taken by me on May 5, 1982 during the first sale I attended. The first shot shows the line-up of attendees at the entrance from Foster Island Drive onto Arboretum Drive. When the rope was dropped, there was a massive stampede to grab the most unusual plants. For many years, after that, it was my privilege to manage the massive line-ups for the cashiers. The second picture features Lee Clarke, a long-time volunteer (and resident poet). Many of the volunteers loved to dress up and wear fancy hats. They obviously enjoyed the customers and working for the Arboretum and its sales.

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A glimpse into the past: A view of Azalea Way 70 years prior

March 7th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

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Azalea Way from Lake Washington Boulevard. Photo by H. G. Ihrig 1944

This view looks from Lake Washington Boulevard toward the southern end of Azalea Way. The photo was taken by H. G. Ihrig in May, 1944. It shows the opening of Arboretum Creek along Azalea Way as it flows north from the culvert under Lake Washington Boulevard. Note the large weeping willow trees as well as the large open grass path we all know as Azalea Way. The wooden bollards with the long grass growing under them are also noteworthy of the time.

On the extreme left is the entrance to East Interlaken Boulevard. The small kiosk located at the intersection was built by the Works Progress Administration crew. The kiosk was later destroyed and removed.

The intersection appears much the same today, with a few minor changes. Besides being widened, formal concrete curbs along Lake Washington Boulevard have been added.

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A glimpse into the past – Rhododendron Glen before the canopy filled in

February 6th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

Today it is difficult to find much open space when you walk about the Washington Park Arboretum. Often you have trouble seeing the sky. I have often heard visitors remark, “How I love the Arboretum, it never changes, only seasonally.” Several years ago, I had a gentleman tell me that he drove through the Arboretum daily and it had not changed a bit in 25years. It is interesting how subtly plants go up and around us, without us realizing it – that is, until we need to prune or remove them.   Plants, particularly conifers, in the Northwest can grow almost every day of the year, anytime the temperature is above 40 degrees F. No wonder we have such large conifers!

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View east from Interlaken boulevard toward Rhododendron Glen 7-16-1948

This is a picture taken July 16, 1948, soon after the Washington Park Arboretum officially began. It was taken from the lower part of East Interlaken Boulevard looking east across Lake Washington Boulevard. In the center is Rhododendron Glen. Look at the sparseness of trees and shrubs and you can actually see the “Glen” from East Interlaken Boulevard. You can also see the small meandering stream coming down the hillside and the small pond along Azalea Way.

Today the curatorial and maintenance staffs need to manage the growth of the plants, the collections and the native matrix (native trees that are not accessioned). It is a challenge to allow enough space for plants to grow to their intended size and shape. They make decisions on pruning and removal on a daily basis. The decisions they make enable us to enjoy the true beauty of each plant as well as the beauty of the panorama.

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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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A Glimpse into the Past – Azalea Way before the Azaleas

November 7th, 2013 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

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Grading Azalea Way in the Washington Park Arboretum circa 1938

Seventy-five years ago, work was beginning on the creation of the “University of Washington Arboretum” in Washington Park, as the Dawson/Olmsted plan had been accepted.   This month’s photo was taken by Frederick Leissler, landscape architect for the Seattle Parks Department, labeled as 1938-39.  It shows the grading to create Azalea Way.   Leissler actually developed the first preliminary sketches in 1934 for a comprehensive plan of the Arboretum, but the sketches were not accepted.

Scot Medbury, in preparation for his M.S. thesis (The Olmsted Taxonomic Arboretum and its Application to Washington Park, Seattle; 1990) interviewed Leissler shortly before the landscape architect’s death. Copies of Leissler’s archives are available in the Miller Library.   The Leissler plan, along with several others including one by Otto Holmdahl, were not accepted.  The accepted plan was funded with a $3000 gift from the Seattle Garden Club, which hired James Dawson of the Olmsted Brothers firm.

Leissler wrote the description on the back of the photo, giving the details, “In the Grading of ‘Azalea Way’, over 50,000 cu. yds. of dirt was moved and several thousand cu. yds. of cow manure and peat moss worked into the soil”.  (signed Fred Leissler, Asst. Dir.)   This was no small feat back in 1938.

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Described by Leissler: “In the Grading of ‘Azalea Way’, over 50,000 cu. yds. of dirt was moved and several thousand cu. yds. of cow manure and peat moss worked into the soil”

As we meander along the three-quarter mile path today, we are indebted to those persons of vision who created one of the world’s most magnificent grass public walkways.  I am reminded of a warm July afternoon in the mid-1990s, when members of the Board of Directors from the Huntington Botanical Garden practically all lay prone in the middle of Azalea Way, in awe of this green oasis bordered by statuesque Northwest conifers. Today thousands of Northwest residents and visitors make this a regular walk.  The next time you walk Azalea Way, why not wonder what those creators might be saying if they “walked beside you today!”  Do it soon!

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A glimpse into the past – 60 years of beekeeping at the Arboretum

October 4th, 2013 by UWBG Communication Staff
A few of Moen's original bee hives. Photo courtesy of Arboretum Foundation

A few of Moen’s original bee hives. Photo courtesy of Arboretum Foundation

By Director Emeritus John Wott

The Puget Sound Beekeepers have long been involved with the Washington Park Arboretum. When retired Coast Guard Captain Carl Henry Moen was looking for a location for the fledgling Beekeepers Association hives in the 1950s, he made a deal with Arboretum Director Brian Mulligan to place 10 towering hives in a hidden location in the Arboretum (still located there today!). They actually started with 6 hives, which they purchased for $10.00 each from a beekeeper’s widow. Brian was delighted to have bees in order to make sure the many bee-pollinated plants in the Arboretum would bear fruit and seeds.

Captain Moen, a native of Toledo, OH, became interested in bees at the age of 19. When he retired from the Coast Guard in 1954, his wife Laura and he moved to Seattle, where he actively pursued for 40 years the caring, teaching, and rescuing of bees. He often appeared on TV and was known to drive for miles in order to rescue a hive in a bewildered homeowner’s house or garden.

In a 1980’s news story, Captain Moen said he had hived 1118 swarms, and had directed 1138 swarms to members in over 25 yrs. He was known to deal with 200 swarm cells per day. His grandson in 2002 recalled seeing the back of Captain Moen’s Dodge Dart full of dead bees. Family folk lore says that he placed a queen bee in the casket of a deceased friend so that the friend would always have bees and honey on the other side. The Captain died in 1991 at the age of 91.

Photo courtesy of Arboretum Foundation

Photo courtesy of Arboretum Foundation

The site of the Arboretum hives was updated in 2002 when the Beekeepers Association moved their monthly meetings back to the Graham Visitors Center where they still meet. Since then, the site has been continually updated and cared for by the Association. The bees are an important part of the life cycle of many Arboretum plants, and are often used in the children’s programs.

Captain Moen always claimed that the honey made from in the Arboretum hives was the best, because the bees “sampled” so many different plants. Next time you  are in the GVC, stop by the Gift Shop and purchase some Arboretum honey, still  sold in many seasonal variations. Better yet, join the Puget Sound Beekeepers Association and own your own personal bee hive.   (Pictures, Arboretum Bulletin 64:2, Summer 2002.)

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A glimpse into the past – remembering the original New Zealand garden

September 10th, 2013 by UWBG Communication Staff

by Dr. John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

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Sign for original 1993 New Zealand High Country garden.

In mid-September, 2013, we will dedicate the “The New Zealand Forest”, the largest-ever built garden in the Washington Park Arboretum. It is one of the new gardens in the ever growing “Pacific Connections” area.  On November 21, 1993, which was a rainy blustery Sunday afternoon, we dedicated “The New Zealand High Country”, the first Arboretum garden of New Zealand natives. The Honorable Denis McLean, New Zealand ambassador to the United States, and Mrs. McLean, along with many Kiwis were present. It was followed with a party in the Graham Visitors Center hosted by the Seattle-Christchurch Sister City Committee, one of the garden’s sponsors. It was the beginning of a dream, now being manifested, by Dr. H. John Bollard, New Zealand Consulate and also Garden contributor and his supportive wife Eve. Eve made cucumber sandwiches for the event and we lavished on New Zealand wines and cheeses.

The planting was designed to mimic the appearance of a subalpine tussock grassland, complete with a trail meandering through a small “pass” created by boulders. It was planted with 93 individual plants, representing 29 taxa. Patterned after an idea from Timothy Hohn, curator, from his collecting trip to New Zealand, and Lynda Ransley, Edcuation Coordinator, the actual garden was implemented by Christina Pfeiffer, horticulturalist ; Tracy Omar, recorder;  and Barbara Selemon, propagator;  and assisted by Ian Robertson, landscape architect.

The Garden was built entirely by the UW Grounds staff. On that November Sunday, the high temperature  was 50 degrees F, falling to 27 degrees F that night. Twenty-one mm of rain (24.5 mm = 1 in) fell that night, and on Monday, the high was 28 degrees F, and low, 22 degrees F. The staff rushed to wrap up all the plants like burlap holiday presents. The week ahead was unseasonably cold. This was the beginning of hardiness testing for New Zealand plants.

The idea of eco-geographic collections in the Arboretum began with discussions between Clement Hamilton, Center for Urban Horticulture director and associate professor of taxonomy, and Timothy Hohn, curator. It later became one of the foci in the Master Plan, approved in 2001. I specifically remember Dr. Harold Tukey, founding  CUH director, in a earlier visit of New Zealand dignitaries whom John Bollard often proudly led through the Arboretum, waving his hand over an area in the south central part of the Arboretum and enthusiastically saying “this is where the eventual New Zealand Garden will be.” Although not in that exact location, it certainly will become a destination for future generations to enjoy.

The New Zealand Forest contains a reconstructed and expanded version of the Bollard-sponsored garden, a continuing living tribute to a man who never gave up his dream. Although now dimmed by the infirmities of age, hopefully he will still feel his legacy. We do! Don’t miss any of the celebratory activities for this new Garden in September!

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The program to the 1993 dedication of the New Zealand High Country garden at the Washington Park Arboretum.


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A glimpse into the past – Mulligan’s historic whitebark pines photo exhibit

August 5th, 2013 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

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Photo by Brian O. Mulligan circa 1949 of living and dead whitebark pines on pass leading to Ingalls Lake.

This picture is one of 30 mounted black-and-white photographs showing native (NW) coniferous trees (and a few junipers also). Brian O. Mulligan, then Director, Washington Park Arboretum, prepared these as an exhibit for the Royal Horticultural Society’s Conifer Conference, London, England, October 5 – 9, 1970. The photos were taken from 1949-1969 by Brian on his hiking trips, with wife Margaret, to various Western States from California to Wyoming. This specific picture is labeled “Living and dead Whitebark pines on pass leading to Ingalls Lake”.

Brian personally mounted and prepared the photographs and took the display to London. Brian was an active member of the Conifer Societies during his lifetime, and those groups often visited the Arboretum. In 1986, the bulk of the pictures were hung in the Dean’s (Director’s) Conference Room in Anderson Hall where they proudly reside today. They were specifically directed to the attention of Dale W. Cole, associate dean, College of Forest Resources, and the new exhibit was supervised by Steve Archie, College Administrator. Margaret can be seen in many of the photographs.

 

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A Glimpse Into the Past: Invitations for the CUH Opening

July 11th, 2013 by UWBG Communication Staff

by Dr. John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

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The invitation sent in 1984 to the opening celebration for the Center for Urban Horticulture.

The opening of the Center for Urban Horticulture was an event that captured international attention. The words on the official opening invitation stated,

This is the first department of its kind in the country. Pioneering research on plants used in cities benefits urban landscapes everywhere. The department’s teaching and public service programs are valuable resources for the Northwest. The Center’s fifty-two acre campus is being built entirely by private donations.

Shown in the photograph are several parts of the official invitation for its formal opening on September 27, 1984. Note that it was hand-written by Mrs. Pendleton (Elisabeth Carey) Miller, who was the prime organizer of the event. Also noteworthy are the guests who were listed on the invitation. They are Governor John Spellman, renowned plantsman Peter Coats, UW President William Gerberding, Provost George Beckman, Retired UW President Charles Odegaard; Director Harold Tukey; and Noted Arboretum Director Richard Howard. This was one of the first grand parties which Betty Miller and her friends held as the new Center for Urban Horticulture developed.

The Miller Library is one of the finest in the USA, and at one time the public outreach program (on all sites) had the second largest number of public contacts in the UW system (besides UW football). It continues to employ exceptional faculty and staff. It also continues to produce graduate students of the highest caliber and alumni are now listed in the “Who’s Who of Horticulture”. Over the years, CUH and the Washington Park Arboretum have become recognized throughout the horticultural world, and the system was copied across the USA as well as internationally. After 30-plus years, it still proudly carries on its mission.

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Friends write history of Yesler Swamp at CUH

April 30th, 2013 by UWBG Communication Staff

Many of us know of Henry Yesler, one of Seattle’s forefathers, but what is Yesler Swamp on the east side of the Center for Urban Horticulture? And why are the Friends of Yesler Swamp trying to restore this natural area on the edge of the Laurelhurst neighborhood?
Read this facinating history to find out.

Photo by Jean Colley

Photo by Jean Colley


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