My First Free Weekend Walk

July 31st, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

This is the first in a series of blog posts we will be sharing from our summer communications volunteer, Saffron Hefta-Gaub. Saffron is a sophomore at the Bush School in Seattle, Washington, and we are delighted to share her perspectives on UW Botanic Gardens’ spaces and programs. 

July 19th, 2015

Hydrangeas

On this lazy, hot, summer day, I embarked on my first event with the UW Botanic Gardens: the Free Weekend Walk. The great things about the tour are that it’s free, every Sunday, and open to all ages. The walking was brisk, and despite the heat, our guide Catherine kept us entertained. The theme of this day was Hydrangeas and Other Summer Bloomers. Themes like this switch every month to best fit the season.

Because I can’t drive, I was dropped off at the Graham Visitors Center, just before one o’clock. After inquiring at the desk, I waited until our guide came right on time, starting us out with a few introductory facts. I learned that the park was 230 acres, the majority of the land being owned by the city with the collections belonging to the Botanic Gardens. We were a group of twelve, including me, horticulturalists  and tourists alike. To begin, we circled around the parking lot, stopping by the greenhouse to see the large-leafed “dinosaur food” bog plant native to South America, with long, almost Pinecone-esque petalless  flowers. Behind the greenhouse was a gorgeous pomegranate tree, which, with the warm season we’ve been having, bore fruit.

After we looked at the various trees in the bright sun, we circled back around to the main path, which thankfully had patches of shade. It was 90 degrees out, mind you, and I had stupidly forgotten a water bottle. Our guide was good at keeping our minds off the heat, though my thirst for water preoccupied a third of my thoughts. The rest of my mind filtered through facts and phrases for this post, while another small section wanted to be binge watching my favorite show, though I shouldn’t mention that here, have to be professional. 😉

The tour, after all, was focused on the blooming hydrangeas, and the first one we accounted on the path was drooping from the drought. In fact, many of the plants we passed had brown, forgotten leaves. Facts from my 9th grade biology class kept popping up, an unplanned refresher in photosynthesis and the food web. The dead leaves on the underside of the trees were the plants’ way of conserving energy and water; leaves with less light had more energy going into growth than coming out of photosynthesis. We also spotted snag trees, dead plants that had become homes for insects, decomposers who feed off the bark. The insects attract hungry birds and bats, and soon you have full ecosystems on one dead tree.

Back to the hydrangeas: interesting tidbit, there are three kinds of hydrangeas: lace top, mop top, and the cone-shaped paniculatas. The flowerettes around the base of the lace top, when lifted up, are a signal to the bees that pollination should occur, and drop once there is nectar. Nature is amazing!

Next in our walk up the shadow scattered hill were the magnolias. Yet another thing that I learned was that because magnolias, evolutionarily, predate bees; the flowers are shaped and hang in a way so that they can be pollinated by ants and beetles. The magnolias have a nice citrus smell, and because of the unusual heat, many of the trees we passed were on there second bloom of the season, which our guide had never seen before. The magnolias also provided a much needed shade. Another tree we saw was the sassafras tree, the origin of root beer. The cool thing about the sassafras  tree was that was only one of two trees with the three kinds of leaf shapes: mitten, flame, and ghost. Seeing all the differently shaped leaves on this tree and the other species we passed was strange and interesting.

Magnolia

Finally, we got to the large collection of hydrangeas. There were many beautiful bushes, colored blue and white. Catherine informed us that these hydrangeas did in fact change color based on the PH of the soil. We also spotted a hydrangea that grew vine-like on a tree, but in a safe way. By now, it was time to turn back, and we headed on a gravel path through the forest, where it was shady and cool. The final fascinating fact I learned was that many of the magnolias and other “tropical” plants that thrive in the southeast United States are related to the plants of Asia, an offshoot from back when the land was all one continent.

All in all it was a great way to spend my afternoon. Our guide Catherine made it entertaining, educational, and we got in some exercise! All three e’s! The Botanic Gardens have my interest, and I am sure they will have yours if you take the chance to visit. The Arboretum is beautiful, the paths are easy to use, and with these guided tours, navigating and fact-learning is easier. I’d highly recommend it. :)

 

Summer Classes at the Botanic Gardens

June 6th, 2014 by Sasha McGuire, Education Program Assistant

Summer is the perfect time to learn about plants. Once you are finished with your class, you can actually put your new knowledge to work, whether its learning about unusual hydrangeas to add to your landscape, maintaining your trees or shrubs, or just getting outside to enjoy a farm tour!

Register Online!

Take a look at some of our upcoming classes:

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Enjoying the wonderful scent of lavender on last years tour!

Woodinville Lavender Tour

What could be better than smelling the scent of a bouquet of lavender? Smelling 3 acres! Join Tom Frei, Master Gardener, on his lavender farm and learn a little about the uses, the care and types of lavender. There will even be lavender teas and cookies as we listen to Tom, then a tour of the 25 varieties of lavender grown there.

Here’s what people had to say about last years tour:

“I really enjoyed this session. It was gorgeous, relaxed, useful, the snacks were tasty and the store was full of things I wanted.”

“I had a thoroughly enjoyable experience just learning more about lavender. Loved discovering this new gem and will definitely be back to visit the farm in the future!”

More information…

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One of the many lovely hydrangeas from the Washington Park Arboretum

 

 

Curator Talks: Hydrangea Family

Go behind the scenes and learn about the interesting and unusual members of the Hydrangea family. Curator Ray Larsen will discuss the rare, the weird, and his favorite members of the Hydrangea family. Take notes on the handy map that will be provided, and find them on your next trip to the Arboretum!

More information…

 

 

 

Hedges are often pruned in the summer

Hedges are often pruned in the summer

 

Pruning Shrubs and Trees: The Summer Advantage

Is your garden looking overgrown? Are you unsure of how to manage it? Summer may be the best time to prune it! Learn what can and can’t be achieved through pruning in the summer with certified arborist Chris Pfeiffer. This is a 2 part class that includes a lecture and a trip to a homeowner’s residence where we will have a practical demonstration! Let us know if your garden may be a potential candidate for the field demonstration section of the class.

More information…

 

 

 

compost

The “black gold” of the gardening community.

The Hows, Whys and Uses of Kitchen & Garden Composting

Take a quick tour into the world of compost! Join Master Gardener and compost enthusiast Fred Wemer for a look into the hows, whys and what you can do with compost made from your kitchen or garden in this FREE class.

More information…

 

 

 

 

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Part of the New Zealand Garden

Wednesday Walk with John Wott: Touring the Pacific Connections Garden

 

Wouldn’t it be great if you could travel through Cascadia, Australia, China, Chile and New Zealand all in one day? In the Washington Park Arboretum’s Pacific Connections Garden, you can! In this garden, you will find amazing plants from five countries connected by the Pacific Ocean. In addition to the beautiful entry gardens, you can venture more deeply into the plantings of Cascadia and New Zealand, and learn about the ongoing progress and future plans for the newest and largest project in the Arboretum this century.

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The strange-looking Monkey Puzzle Tree

Join John Wott, Professor Emeritus and former Arboretum Director, for a new series of walking tours at the UW Botanic Gardens’ Washington Park Arboretum. Dr. Wott will discuss the history of the Arboretum, overall design, and changes over time. Throughout the year, each walk will feature plants that offer us seasonal highlights. These walks take routes that are well-suited for visitors with limited mobility.

More information…

Class dates, locations and pricing can also be found our class catalog as well as additional classes.

You can always call 206-685-8033 or email urbhort@uw.edu with questions; we are happy to answer them!

Register online!