Glimpse into the past – Seeps and shifting soils

February 3rd, 2016 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

by John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

Last month we discussed how rapidly trees grow and change the landscape.  It is interesting how physical landscapes also change and often actually shift and move due to changes in temperatures. Visitors to the Pacific Connection Gardens, specifically the New Zealand Forest, have seen the renovation of the Lookout which restored its former shape and size. It is perched high above a steep bluff which looks northward over Azalea Way and the large pond with the University of Washington in the distance.

The steep wall was buttressed by stone work, and originally a pathway allowed visitors to precariously descend from the area of the Lookout to the green grassy basin surrounding the pond.

Bank before reconstruction, 7/2/1967

Bank before reconstruction, 7/2/1967. Photo by B. O. Mulligan.

This entire hillside “sheds” much water and after every rain, it is quite squishy and treacherous. In fact, sometimes you can even see slippage cracks. The Works Progress Administration men laid a series of wooden pipes to assist in drainage but these have almost totally failed. Thus it has been a challenge to manage this entire rockery and drainage system.

Originally built in the 1940s, the photos shown here detail a reconstruction project of the bank and pathway in July 1967. The first photo above is before reconstruction.  The others detail the new path and stone work, all taken on July 13, 1967.

Upper portion of new steps, 7/14/1967. Photo by B.O. Mulligan.

Upper portion of new steps, 7/14/1967. Photo by B. O. Mulligan.

 

New steps down bank, 7/14/1967. Photo by B.O. Mulligan.

New steps down bank, 7/14/1967. Photo by B. O. Mulligan.

 

New steps constructed on bank, 7/13/1967. Photo by B. O. Mulligan.

New steps constructed on bank, 7/13/1967. Photo by B. O. Mulligan.

 

Top of bank after clearing and new rock work. Photo by B. O. Mulligan.

Top of bank after clearing and new rock work. Photo by B. O. Mulligan.

As you can see, it has very uneven steps, typical of the designs of that day. Over the years, there have been many slippages and the path has been closed due to safety issues.  Currently there is no easy way to ascend/descend that slope.

The current photo taken on January 24, 2016, shows a view of the rockery which obscures most of its beauty.

Current view of rockery, Lookout above, 1/24/2016. Photo by John A. Wott.

Current view of rockery, Lookout above, 1/24/2016. Photo by John A. Wott.

The last photo shows water gushing from old pipes and seepage ways.

Water gushing from hill side and banks, 1/24/2016. Photo by John A. Wott.

Water gushing from hill side and banks, 1/24/2016. Photo by John A. Wott.

UW Botanic Gardens staff is currently reviewing this entire area in order to restore its integrity, handle the drainage issues, and eventually make it all more easily accessible.

 

Glimpse into the past – Trees Have a Habit of Growing

December 17th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

It is said that humans “have a habit of growing.” We grow tall in our formative years, and most of us also grow wider in the later years. We could also say that trees have a habit of growing. Tree species grow to specific heights and widths. Some smaller trees obtain their normal mature size in a few years, while the larger species may grow for years and years. In fact some large forest trees may continue to grow for hundreds of years.

In our urban sites, native conifers are capable of continuing their growth for hundreds of years. Any time the temperatures are in the 40s or above (which happens just about every day of the year here), the chlorophyll molecules are busy manufacturing sugars.

When we visit a park on a regular basis, we are very unaware that the trees we see are growing larger every day. I remember someone once saying, “I visit the Arboretum every year, and the plants have not changed at all over the last 25 years.” Rubbish! The Arboretum changes daily due to this continuous tree growth. The conifers gradually grow larger and larger and suddenly, their size can “ambush” us. I am sure most of us have had the experience of suddenly realizing that the cute little evergreen we planted 20 years ago is now overpowering the house.

View of Section C, Nursery and Seedling beds

1. A view of Section C Nursery and the Seedling Beds where thousands of plants have been started. Fred Leissler, asst. dir. 1935- 37

This series of pictures shows such a progression of growth. The first picture above, taken by Fred Leissler, Assistant Park Director in 1935, shows seedling trees of western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla)  planted along Section C of the Nursery and Seedling Beds as a screen and windbreak. The picture notes indicate that thousands of plants had been started there in those sunny beds. Note that Arboretum Drive E. is a wide lane.

Pictures 2 and 3, below, show the same trees on January 15, 1950, just 15 years later, and already making a sizeable screen.

46b. Hedge of Western Hemlock, 30 ft., A. macrophyllym, 1-15-1950

Hedge of Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) outside nursery. Trees of Oregon maple (Acer macrophyllum) on left. January 15, 1950. By E.F. Marton, UW

 

Hedge of Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) outside nursery. Tallest specimen about 30 ft. January 15, 1950. By E. F. Marton, UW.

Hedge of Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) outside nursery. Tallest specimen about 30 ft. January 15, 1950. By E. F. Marton, UW.

Along Arboretum Drive, other species of conifers were planted in rows during this time and into the late 1950s. These were mostly native species, such as the Western redcedars (Thuja plicata) in pictures 4 and 5 below.

4. Hedge row of Leyland cypress, December 14, 2015

4. Hedge row of Western redcedar (Thuja plicata), December 14, 2015

 

46e 0151214_141442

5. Hedge row of Western redcedar (Thuja plicata), December 14, 2015

However, one of the final plantings of this type were of the newly introduced Leyland cypress (× Cuprocyparis leylandii), which is a cross between the Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) and the Alaska yellow cedar (Xanthocyparis nootkatensis). These were sent to us from Hillier Nurseries in England via the Institute of Forest Genetics in Placerville, CA. They were planted at the north end of Arboretum Drive E., just to the west of the Greenhouses (and current Plant Donations area).

These trees, while extremely fast growing, have proved to be inferior landscape trees. They have weak, soft wood, and are prone to wind damage. They are best used as a tall sheared hedge and kept under 20 feet. Our trees were planted out in the late 1950s and grew rapidly. One large specimen, shown below in picture 6, toppled on December 10, 2015, probably due to root removal by the lowering of Arboretum Drive for the construction of the Graham Visitors Center in 1985 (west side), and the recent heavy rains. This is an excellent pictorial example of continuous tree growth and how conifers grow and grow and grow. It is also an example of the need for continual evaluation and management of trees and their appropriate placement in the landscape.

6. Toppled Leyland cypress, December 10, 2015

6. Toppled Leyland cypress, December 10, 2015

 

Glimpse into the past – a Surplus of Cedar

November 24th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor
1937, splitting cedar fence uprights

1937, WPA splitting cedar fence uprights

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

One of the four primary forest trees of the Pacific Northwest is Thuja plicata, or the Western red cedar. There are “giants” of this species still growing after hundreds of years in protected sites in this state, but most were logged in great quantities as the lumber mills in the Pacific Northwest grew. The Washington Park Arboretum land, originally owned by the Pope Lumber company, was logged in the late 1880s and then basically clear cut of any remaining harvestable trees a few years later. Realizing that the city was growing up the hill, Pope sold the “developable” property and gave the drainage valley (now known as Arboretum Creek) to the City as open space in exchange for utilities which are all contained in the famed “Wilcox Bridge” over Lake Washington Boulevard East.

1937, WPA setting fence posts

1937, WPA setting fence posts

The red cedar produces many seeds and thus seedlings, and is an early invader of forest lands. It can germinate and grow under the dense shade of the big leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum). Since these trees are evergreen with many needles full of chlorophyll, they can photosynthesize every day of the year. They grow rapidly and tall. In the early part of the last century, Western red cedar seedlings flourished and produced many young trees in the fledgling Arboretum.

1937, WPA sawing cedar logs

1937, WPA sawing cedar logs

The University of Washington Arboretum (its original name) officially began in 1934. These were depression times, and there was little money to develop any of the ideas in the Dawson Plan which had been accepted. However, federal funds obtained through the State brought hundreds of men to work here through the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Even though fences around the Arboretum have been a subject of controversy, there seems to have always been some type of fence along the eastern side, bordering Broadmoor Golf Course.

1937, WPA puttingup fence uprights

1937, WPA putting up fence uprights

These photos from 1937 show men (often in their hats and reasonably dressy clothes) working through the WPA sawing, spitting and building a tall cedar fence. Since cedar is an extremely durable wood for use in northwest climates, the fence lasted for years as shown in a picture from 1951. Eventually it deteriorated and has been replaced by a tall rather unsightly wire fence.

When an inventory of the native matrix of trees was conducted in the 1990s, it was obvious that there was a ten year dearth of missing cedar trees, proving that the lumber for the fence was cut in the Arboretum. Another side bar is that many of the original drainage pipes were hollow cedar logs, some of which are still in use in the Arboretum. What a novel idea, using our own ecosystem for beauty as well as worth.

1951, from Sequoia to Deutzia, Phila.....note fence

1951, from Sequoia to Deutzia, Phila…..note fence

Glimpse into the past – Remembering Joan Pirzio-Biroli

October 26th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

by John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

JPB

Joan Pirzio-Biroli

On August 19, 2015, one of the original staff members of UW Botanic Gardens (Washington Park Arboretum) left this earth to tend to her new garden “in the sky.” Joan Pirzio-Biroli, known to everyone as “Jan” or “JPB” was officially employed as a research/extension program assistant at the University of Washington from November 10, 1980, until her retirement on November 1, 1991.

Jan was born in Davenport, Iowa, and was proud of her Midwestern heritage. She met her husband, Giacomo Pirzio-Biroli (Jimmy) in Baltimore, where she was an art historian at the Baltimore Art Museum and the National Gallery of Art. Her passion for art often showed through in her later editing and designing of early Washington Park Arboretum/Center for Urban Horticulture newsletters and posters. The couple moved to Mercer Island in 1952 where Jimmy became one of the founding doctors for Overlake Hospital. They had a life-long passion for each other and for the earth.

In the northwest, Jan shifted her passion to botany. It began with her own garden, which started as a thicket of pussy willows and maple saplings and was transformed over 50 years into an Eden of beauty and wonder. Early on, she volunteered at the Washington Park Arboretum, where she made life-long friends with both people and plants. Later she went back to the UW for a master’s degree in Botany, which she obtained in 1981. She was an extremely acute botanist and worshiped “Hitchy,” the revered Northwest botanist C. Leo Hitchcock. Jan and Jimmy raised a son and daughter who eventually married and built homes on the family property; she cared for her mother as she aged and was an editor of the Arboretum Bulletin. She threw show-stopping Christmas Eve parties, and we had many Washington Park Arboretum/Center for Urban Horticulture gatherings at their home. As a volunteer and employee of the Arboretum, she was respected by colleagues and friends alike for her passion for plants. She mentored many young botanists who admire her to this day. After her retirement from the Arboretum, she returned as a volunteer, continuing to lead her popular educational tours of the park.

Jan started work with Joe Witt in the crowded original Arboretum office. She also assisted Brian Mulligan with plant identification. She soon became the person answering questions, giving tours, identifying plants, and being Joe’s personal assistant. She felt that Joe was greatly overworked. It seemed like she knew the location and botanical information on every plant in the Arboretum. She was the first one to begin the arduous job of transferring all the huge hand-written plant curation cards to a new computer system, under the supervision of Timothy Hohn. Later this was taken over by volunteers, most notably Eileen MacDonald.

When I arrived here in 1981, I became Jan’s supervisor and I found her to be a talented, spirited, and most trustworthy employee. She was adamant about my needing to understand that gardening in the Northwest was not the same as in the Midwest. She was right! There was no way I could ever keep up with her encyclopedia of plant knowledge.

On my first July 4th weekend in Seattle in 1981, Jan and Jimmy asked me to accompany them on their new 38 ft sailing yacht moored in Anacortes. This was a delightful adventure….she had prepared fried chicken, fresh baked breads, salads galore, plenty of drinks, and every evening we caught our Dungeness crabs for dinner. I certainly learned about sailing. During the last night near Friday Harbor, the waters became very rough, and when Jimmy loosened the ropes the next morning, we took off at break neck speed, scraping the bottom of the boat on rocks, thankful later that it was not a severe problem. The winds eventually calmed and we smoothly returned to port. I will never forget that trip!

Jan wrote many plant articles, she published monthly newsletters of public activities in the Arboretum, and she led legendary Explorer Walks for years. She was extremely accurate as a writer and editor, but somehow the word “Arboretum” always seemed to be misspelled. I remember the horror the first time it appeared in bold headlines…Abroretum. From then on, I tripled checked every future newsletter to Jan’s great glee as well as embarrassment.

For many years, she supervised our Index Seminum Seed Exchange between botanical gardens around the world, supervising a large contingent of volunteers. She and Jimmy led several public class tours to eastern Washington to explore the eastern Washington plants and geology. I have returned over the years to several of these locations. I always will remember the exploration trips to set up the tours, one especially when we were trying to find a bog on Weyerhaeuser land, only to get totally lost with two frustrated leaders (a spirited Italian and a spirited Iowan)! But after finding the bog and stepping on submerged logs, we all accidentally slipped into it up to your hips, necessitating a very wet trip home. The trip returned to frivolity.

Upon her retirement in 1991, Prunus (Sato-zakura Group) ‘Ukon’, Accession number 273-91-A, was dedicated in her honor “for her 11 years of service as an Arboretum staff member. It was noted as being 6’ high when measured that December, and is planted in 60-3E, right across Arboretum Drive E from the Graham Visitors Center. The tree is still there, although now impacted by huge overstory trees and the Cherry Bark Tortrix.

R.I.P Jan….it was through dedicated spirited people like you, that UW Botanic Gardens exists today.…..your legacy lives on!

Jan receiving her 10-year service award from Director Harold B. Tukey Jr.

Jan receiving her 10-year service award from Director Harold B. Tukey Jr.

 

Jan hard at work on the Index Seminum

 

Jan sharing information at an open house in 1987

Celebrating Jan's 65th birthday

Celebrating Jan’s 65th birthday

 

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.

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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.

photo

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.

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

 

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.