July 2016 Plant Profile: Phormium cookianum

July 1st, 2016 by Kathleen DeMaria, Arboretum Gardener

Phormium cookianum at the Washington Park ArboretumThis smaller, lesser known relative of Phormium tenax is one of only two species found in the genus Phormium, and is credited as the parent that gives the graceful arching form to many hybrids. The plant is a native of New Zealand, where it is widely grown for its valuable fiber; hence the name, Phormium, which is Greek for basket. Māori used the leaves of both species for weaving baskets, mats, ropes, clothing, fishing nets and head-bands. Using a sharp mussel, leaves were cut and the fleshy green substance was stripped off down to the fiber. After the fiber (called Muka) was exposed, several more processes of washing, bleaching, dying and drying would yield fibers of various strengths and softness.

The handmade flax cording and rope had such great tensile strength that they were used to bind together hollowed-out logs to create ocean-worthy canoes. It was also used to make rigging, sails, roofs for housing, and frayed ends of leaves were fashioned into torches for use at night. Roots yielded materials to make medicine, and nectar and pollen were obtained from the flowers to make face paint.

Phormium cookianum at the Washington Park Arboretum

Combining function and form, P. cookianum boasts yellowish-orange flowers on towering spikes that, unlike the vertical flower spikes of P. tenax, angle out from the plant’s crown. The seed pods resemble long black bean pods, and can weigh the inflorescence back nearly to the ground. This Phormium can grow in sun or partial shade and will tolerate fairly dry conditions but prefers moderate water.

This summer is the first year our Phormium cookianum is blooming here in our nascent New Zealand garden, and the show is not to be missed. In the United States we mostly use Phormium as a strong architectural element in the garden and a fantastic hummingbird attractor, but in New Zealand this monocot’s connection to the history of a nation cannot be unwoven.

Botanic Name: Phormium cookianum (syn. Phormium colensoi)
Family: Asphodelaceae
Common Name: New Zealand Flax, Wharariki in Māori
Location: New Zealand Garden in the Pacific Connections, Washington Park Arboretum
Origin: Endemic to New Zealand
Height and Spread: 4-5 feet tall. Mature clumps can be 8-10 feet wide with leaves 2-3 inches wide.
Bloom Time: June/July in Seattle, November in New Zealand

Phormium cookianum at the Washington Park Arboretum

June 2016 Plant Profile: Primula bulleyana

June 1st, 2016 by Catherine Nelson, Adult Tours Program Assistant

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 12.42.10 PMPrimula bulleyana was discovered in China in 1906 by Scottish plant hunter George Forrest (1873-1932). It was named in honor of Mr. A. K. Bulley of Ness, Neston, Cheshire, (county in NW England) for whom [Forrest] collected.¹ He described his first sighting as follows: “Where marshy openings occurred, the turf was gaudy with the blooms of a multitude of herbaceous plants, [and] I saw miles, really, of Primula Bulleyana [sic] …”²

The UW Botanic Gardens has much smaller groupings displayed at the Pacific Connections Garden (in the China Entry Garden), but they still make a stunning impact. They are also peppered alongside the small, shaded creek in the Woodland Garden amongst Darmera and Skunk Cabbage.

Primula bulleyana is prized as a garden ornamental and has won the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. This primrose performs best in damp soils alongside streams or ponds and can take sun or shade. The grouping in the China Entry Garden is in soil with average moisture and full sun and they look particularly healthy, so it seems to be an plant that can adapt to various garden situations. The florets are also fairly tolerant of cold winter temperatures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Botanic Name: Primula bulleyana

Family: Primulaceae

Common Name: Candelabra Primrose, Bulley’s Primrose

Location: Woodland Garden, Pacific Connections Garden/China Entry Garden 110-08*A

Origin: Northwestern Yunnan and Southern Sichuan regions of China

Height and Spread: 20-24” tall, up to 12” wide at base. These primroses can spread easily from their seeds.

Bloom Time: Spring

Description: semi-evergreen, herbaceous plant, bearing 5-7 whorls of florets along the stem and lanceolate leaves with a lovely reddish petiole and mid-rib.

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¹ Notes from the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh 4(19): 231–232, pl. 39A, 42. 1908.

² http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/plants-fungi/primula-bulleyana-bulleys-primula

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.

 

May 2015 Plant Profile: Paeonia suffruticosa subsp. rockii

May 6th, 2015 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

IMG_0069The peony has been a staple in gardens for hundreds of years and the UW Botanic Gardens has a wonderful representation of the genus this month at both the Washington Park Arboretum (WPA) and the Center for Urban Horticulture (CUH).

This month we are highlighting a spectacular peony that’s currently in bloom in the Pacific Connections Entry Gateway. Visitors stopped in their tracks by the large, dinner plate-sized blooms  which emit a wonderful scent. This is a pink form of the typically white flowered P. rockii. Found in Northwest China in Gansu Province. This species is characterized by a deep purple pattern in the center of each petal.

This type of peony is referred to as a “Tree Peony” by most gardeners. Although it’s not technically a tree, it is a woody shrub that does not die back and should not be cut down in the autumn like the more common bush peonies many people know. But like the bush form, it takes a few years before the plant is established and starts blooming well.

Both types are generally planted in the fall, but potted plants can be purchased and planted just about any time of year (except when the ground is frozen).

 

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Family: PAEONIACEAE
Genus species: Paeonia suffruticosa subsp. rockii
Common Name: Rock’s Peony, Joseph Rock Peony, Ziban Mudan
Location: WPA – Pacific Connections – China Entry Garden
Origin: NW China, Gansu Province
Height and Spread: 5-7′ height x 6′ width spread on mature, undisturbed plantings
Bloom/Fruit Time: April-May

 

May 2014 Plant Profile: Paeonia suffruticosa (Rockii Group)

May 6th, 2014 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Paeonia rockii type Joseph Rock’s Peony has been prized by gardeners and avid collectors for decades. Botanist and  plant explorer Joseph Rock earned the honor of having this exquisite flower named after him.

Peonies are divided into two basic types; the bush or herbaceous peony and the so-called tree peony. With similar flowers, the main difference between the two are their bloom times and their growth habit. Herbaceous peonies die back down to the ground each winter and bloom later in the season (May-June) whereas the tree peony, which isn’t really a tree, is more like a shrub with stems and branches that do not die back to the ground and flower mostly in May. Paeonia rockii is a tree peony.

Tree peonies are long-lived shrubs with exquisite flowers, but they take careful placement and a lot of patience until they’re well established.

They are best planted in the autumn so they are able to start forming new roots over the winter and it’s critical that they are planted in a location with full/part sun, well drained soil, good air circulation, and protected from strong winds that could damage the brittle branches. They can take several years to get established to consistently bloom each year and they also resent being transplanted.

Paeonia rockii

 

 

Common Name:  Joseph Rock’s Tree Peony
Location: Pacific Connections – China Entry
Origin: Gansu, China
Height and Spread: 6-8′ tall and about 5-7′ wide
Bloom/Fruit Time: Early-Mid May

 

A few selections of P. rockii can also be found growing at the Seattle Chinese Garden.

A Kiwi Botanist in our Mist

October 31st, 2013 by Kathleen DeMaria, Arboretum Gardener
Bec shows Kathleen how the Maori harvest Muka, the inner fibers of Harakeke (Phormium tennax) to be used in the fabrication of  various fibers used as rope, roofs, shoes, etc.

Bec shows Kathleen how the Maori harvest Muka, the inner fibers of Harakeke (Phormium tennax) to be used in the fabrication of various fibers used as rope, roofs, shoes, etc.

The misty October revealed a great surprise to New Zealand horticulturist Kathleen DeMaria while she was installing signs for the new ‘Lookout Loop Trail’ near the recently restored Lookout Gazebo.  Kathleen and fellow horticulturists Rhett Ruecker and Roy Farrow peeked through the fog and barely saw a highly engaged woman taking notes on the new New Zealand Forest.  As it turns out, this woman was Rebecca Stanley,  Auckland Botanic Gardens Education Officer and former plant ecologist with the Auckland Regional Council. Bec, visiting the US west coast on holiday, graciously offered to spend some time with Kathleen in the garden on the following Saturday. The two plant-geeks spent 4 hours walking through the foggy New Zealand forest. Bec’s encyclopedic knowledge regarding the ethnobotanic uses of plants and the cultural requirements of plants was astonishing, and her willingness to share it all, as well as her educational delivery style were delightful. She offered sources for seed, suggestions for books, names, emails and information about who she knows throughout New Zealand that would be interested and willing to help UWBG grow our own New Zealand forest.  Personally, and as a representative of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, I would like to thank Rebecca for all of her time and information, it was a delightful walk in the garden topped off with a delicious lunch at Cactus Cafe and a visit to the downtown library. Thanks so much, Bec! All photos courtesy of Julie Postma.

Dew  on Phormium tennax in the New Zealand garden

Dew on Phormium tennax in the New Zealand garden

Bec helps Kathleen assess the health of Olearia nummulariifolia in the NZ forest

Bec helps Kathleen assess the health of Olearia nummulariifolia

Bec discussing perecipitation patterns in the Otago region of NZ

Bec discussing precipitation patterns in the Otago region of NZ

One theory for the 'New Zealand Dead Look' of so many plants: Moa, wingless birds now extinct, were thought to have poor eyesight, so plants would mimic dead plants to avoid predation by these voracious herbivores

One theory for the ‘New Zealand Dead Look’ of so many plants: Moa, wingless birds now extinct, were thought to have poor eyesight, so plants would mimic dead plants to avoid predation by these voracious herbivores

seed capsule of Leptospermum scoparium, or mānuka, the tea tree. This name arose because Captain Cook used the leaves to make a 'tea' drink when he and his scurvy sickened crew arrived in New Zealand

Seed capsule of Leptospermum scoparium, or mānuka, the tea tree. This name arose because Captain Cook used the leaves to make a ‘tea’ drink when he and his scurvy sickened crew arrived in New Zealand

Light breaks through the fog on our walk back to the Visitors Center

Light breaks through the fog on our walk back to the Visitors Center

View from the woodland garden...deciduous trees are rare in New Zealand so Bec was delighted by our spectacular fall color

View from the woodland garden…deciduous trees are rare in New Zealand so Bec was delighted by our spectacular fall color

 

 

 

Celebrate New Zealand Forest at opening Sep. 15

September 5th, 2013 by UWBG Communication Staff

New Zealand Forest 2013The Arboretum Foundation, Seattle Parks and Recreation, and the University of Washington Botanic Gardens invite the public to join us to celebrate the official opening of the New Zealand Forest in Washington Park Arboretum (2300 Arboretum Drive East, Seattle) on Sunday, September 15, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Opening Celebration—organized in partnership with the Seattle-Christchurch Sister City Association and the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture—will pay homage to New Zealand’s culture and ethnobotanical history. It will feature a traditional Maori “haka,” or war dance, and a dedication ceremony with special guest Caine Tauwhare, a Maori wood carver from New Zealand who carved the slats for a park bench in the new forest.

Event Schedule:

  • 11:00–11:15 AM: Welcome
  • 11:15–11:20 AM: Haka dance performance by Te Tini A Maui.
  • 11:20–11:40 AM: Speeches by Darryl Smith (Deputy Mayor of Seattle), Jeffrey M. Riedinger, J.D., Ph.D., (Vice Provost for Global Affairs, University of Washington), Craig Trueblood (Arboretum Foundation Board President), and Rachel Jacobson (New Zealand Honorary Consul).
  • 11:40–11:45 AM: Procession from the Pacific Connections meadow to the New Zealand Forest.
  • 11:45 AM–12:00 PM: Ribbon-cutting ceremony, led by Jack Collins, chair of the Arboretum and Botanical Garden Committee chair.
  • 12:05–12:20 PM: Performance by Te Tini A Maui.
  • 12:25–12:50 PM: Poi and haka workshops by Te Tini A Maui.
  • 1:00–1:15 PM: Bench dedication with Maori carver, Caine Tauwhare.
  • 12:35–2:00 PM: Tours, family activities, and refreshments.

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Full press release.

August 2013 Plant Profile: Cortaderia richardii

August 6th, 2013 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Cort habitIn recognition of the installation of New Zealand’s focal forest at the Pacific Connections Garden, we highlight a stunning ornamental grass that certainly attracts attention at this time of year. The “toe toe” grass is a relative of the more common, but often troublesome Pampas grass (C. selloana).

C. richardii is far more elegant and their plumes arch and sway in a gentle breeze making a dramatic impact in the landscape. It takes full sun and is quite adaptable to poor soils. It is best used as a single specimen or as a grouping of 3-5 clumps so you can admire its form and habit.

Cort 2Like a few Ornamental grasses, it has the potential to re-seed in warmer climates, but it hasn’t been considered invasive here in the Pacific Northwest. Like any plant we’ve accessioned at UWBG, we will closely monitor its habit and take appropriate action should it ever become a problem. For now, we will enjoy it’s striking presence in the New Zealand entry at the Pacific Connections Garden and the South Slope of the Soest Perennial Garden.

Cort 1

Common Name: Toe Toe Grass, Plumed Tussock Grass
Location: Soest Garden – South Slope, WPA Pacific Connections New Zealand
Origin: New Zealand
Height and Spread: 5-7′  high x 5ft. wide
Bloom Time:  July with plume lasting through the winter months.

 

Planting Party in the New Zealand Garden

July 16th, 2013 by UWBG Communication Staff

Placing plantsPacific Connections Garden Stewards made history on June 20th when they planted the New Zealand High Country plants into the new Bollard Garden in the new  forest. They planted several species well over 20 years old. These include Nothofagus solanderi, Griselinia littoralis, Phyllocladus alpinus, Phormium colensoi, and Dodonaea viscosa. In addition to the Bollard Garden (aka The New Zealand High Country Display), the garden will include the Hebe Meadow, the Griselinia Bush, the Mountain Tussock, Snow Tussock, the Silver Beech Forest, the Phormium Fen and the Mountain Beech Zone. It’s looking like the New Zealand Garden is on track to open by September 15, 2013. Here are some pictures that Pacific Connections Steward Rhonda Bush took during the planting project.

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Along Azalea Way with Dennie Fee

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Neil Bonham moving Phormium

 

Winter Wrap-Up: Certainly NOT Boring…

March 29th, 2013 by UWBG Horticulturist

According to Cliff Mass, UW meteorologist, our past winter of 2012-2013 was the most “boring” on record. There were no major weather events such as wind storms, artic blasts, snowfalls in the lowlands or major flooding. This was indeed good news for the UWBG horticulture staff. Instead of spending the winter cleaning up after storms and worrying about how many plants would be affected from cold hardiness issues, we were able to focus on scheduled and planned work projects for a seasonal change of pace.  Here’s a rundown of several of these projects we were able to accomplish during this most boring winter.

Reclaimed View of Azalea Way from Lookout

Reclaimed View of Azalea Way from Lookout

An adjunct to the current Pacific Connections Garden – New Zealand construction work was taking on the long overdue renovation of the Lookout rockery and reclaiming the lost vistas from the Lookout viewpoints. Arguably the most interesting rock work in the arboretum, the rockery was essentially lost under overgrown plant collections. The crew certainly wasn’t bored with the thought of what new and exciting discoveries lay under the next pruning cut. When the Lookout gazebo reopens to the public, visitors will be able to see the pond and Azalea Way from inside the newly restored structure and experience the original 1941 design intent. In other words, the Lookout is once again a lookout. Also, check out the new  Rhododendron species planted along the Lookout trail in honor of Ben and Margaret Hall’s 80th birthdays. They are major supporters and donors of UW Botanic Gardens.

Raoulia australis close-up

Raoulia australis close-up

McVay Courtyard  Raoulia australis grndcvr

McVay Courtyard
Raoulia australis grndcvr

The McVay Courtyard renovation is mostly completed now thanks to Riz and Annie and contains many new additions. The original designer, Iain Robertson,  specified renewing the 3 distinct plant groups: Bulbs, Groundcovers and Shrubs. The existing grove of Acer palmatum ‘Aconitifolium’ which were carefully worked around and a few Osmanthus are all that remain of the original tree and shrub palette  Iain’s new design incorporates elements of interesting plant architecture, habits and striking bark. Hence his use of several types of Arctostaphylus, the unusual divaricating shrub, Corokia, Rhododendron moupinense, Rh schlippenbachii, and several tidy groundcovers that mimic inanimate forms, such as Raoulia and  Bolax. For the bulk of color, Iain chose a wide-range of spring and summer flowering bulbs.  Though the garden looks a bit austere at the moment, as any newly planted landscape does, we’re looking forward to a quick and healthy establishment and growth period this spring and summer. For those that miss the striking habit of the Nolinia, no need to panic, they were successfully transplanted  to the adjacent cistern slope and new stairs  to the south.
Washington Park Arboretum is once again a UW-Restoration Ecology Network capstone site. The student group known as the “A-Team” has designed a weir system in the north “wet” zone of the holly collection. They will be continuing construction and planting this spring. Ryan and company decided it’s better to flow with nature rather than fight it. This new feature will, over time, become a healthy wetland area and will immediately reduce both UWBG and City Parks maintenance input, i.e., mowing and weed control.

"A-Team" installing weirs

“A-Team” installing weirs

The Winter Garden was in showcase form as it should be during the winter. Roy has been busy procuring new plants primarily for the new drainage area in the SE quadrant of the garden. We’re looking forward to having an updated brochure and map next winter. There’s still time to catch some of the late winter, early spring flowering plants such as Corylopsis and Magnolia.
Gardeners, Rhett and Preston, took on the tatty northeastern most corner of Rhododendron Glen. Pruning out several years worth of Rhododendron rootstock growth and removing deadwood in the grove, removal of several poor or dead specimens, and lots of sheet mulching! Wow, I’ve never seen it so good and I’ve been around these parts a long time.

Chris and Darrin spent several days up at the double parking lot along the Broadmoor fence tackling deferred storm damage cleanup and improving view corridors. I would expect ne’erdowells will think twice about using this area for their dirty deeds for quite some time.

Adding soil to Chilean Gateway via conveyor belt system along LWBlvd


Adding soil to Chilean Gateway via conveyor belt system along LWBlvd

The Lake Washington Blvd curbside area along the Chilean Gateway is vastly improved as a result of over 120 yards of new soil  brought in to create “fingers” at the toe of the slope. This new design will hopefully deter pedestrians from walking through the Gateway and stepping on our plants. Also, with improved drainage, we now can grow Elymus magellanicus without drowning its roots. There are also several new Chilean taxa planted throughout the Gateway that over time as they get bigger will create that Wow! sensation, either up close or from a distance. They include: Gunnera magellanica, Ourisia coccinea, Mitraria coccinea to name a few.

Will spring be as boring too? The UWBG horticulture staff certainly hopes so.