CUH Update – October 2010: UW Classes, plant evaluations and fall color

October 11th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Acer japonicum 'Aconitifolium'

Classes in UW are in full swing as is the fall landscape at UWBG. Color is just beginning to show on our deciduous trees and the fall-blooming perennials are slowly waiting in the wings to burst into flight and glorious bloom here at CUH. After a inconsistent and late summer, fall seems to be right on queue as the weather slowly cools and our usual autumn tasks are well underway: fertilizing the lawn, planting and transplanting, monotonous raking and gathering of fallen leaves in either cold wet or windy weather, and one of my more favorite task is evaluating the year’s successes and failures in order to plan for next season.

Our formal evaluations were actually done on a crop of hardy perennials supplied to us by Blooms of Bressingham. For years we’ve received material and grown them on for people to see, but it was just last year that we resumed our formal trials and gave “BLOOMS” our feedback on how well their plants performed. This season, I decided to step it up; I recruited a enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteer to help me with maintenance and evaluations based on a set of criteria. We noted things like flowering period, stem and foliage quality, and pest and disease resistance. Maintenance practices were also jotted down to determine a variety’s overall performance throughout the growing season. I hope to develop an exclusive page that will feature photos of each variety under evaluation and our findings. There are some exceptional varieties and a few that never should have entered the market based on our criteria. So, stay tuned for those results!

Helichrysum Pink Sapphires - a brand new variety drawing much attention as it completes its 2nd year of evaluations.

One of the more exciting things to observe as an employee is being able to access “behind the scenes” to see the number of student projects taking place. Graduate students and post docs run various experiments and several classes make use of our facilities to set up labs and it’s all very fascinating to see. At times I feel like I’m so out of touch with recent developments and research, but it’s reassuring to know that there are hard working individuals answering various questions concerning our ever-changing ecosystems and landscapes.

Both the students and the general public have a most treasured resource here at CUH that’s celebrating its 25th anniversary. The Elisabeth C. Miller Horticultural Library is one of the best in the nation providing both novice and professionals a tremendous number of resources related to gardening and plants. Be sure to check our calendar for upcoming events to celebrate.

Our Douglas Conservatory has never really lived up to its name as our collection of indoor plants have consisted of only random hand-me downs from various sources who didn’t want to bother with them and tropicals left over from seasonal containers, but with a few doing reasonably well. I asked one of our volunteers to work with what we have and create a more appealing composition. Here’s what we came up with:

With fall being an ideal time to plant and transplant, expect a few changes as we play another round of musical plants. Look out for new plantings, a lot of digging and thinning and, hopefully, a few pleasant surprises come spring. There’s plenty to do as we shift in the seasons and I invite you all to come and visit and see the transformation before your eyes!

R

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September 2010 Plant Profile: Begonia grandis ‘Heron’s Pirouette’

September 14th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Probably one of the most elegant of all late summer to fall blooming perennials, this hardy begonia has been loved and admired by many avid gardeners since plantsman, Dan Hinkley, brought it back from Japan in 1997. It is somewhat late to emerge in the spring and it grows from a hardy tuber. The large, almost succulent leaves and stems provide a backdrop to airy inflorescences that dance in the breeze and soft pink, bubble gum flowers have a very faint, but pleasing fragrance. They produce little baby bulbils on the nodes of the stems so there’s always volunteers to share with gardening friends!

Common Name: Hardy Begonia
Location: Soest Garden Bed 5 (with a few volunteers in Bed 7 where it used to be)
Family: Begoniaceae
Origin: Japan
Height: 15-24″
Spread: 1.5-2ft.
Bloom Time: August-October
Bloom Type/Color: Pendulous racemes of soft, shell-pink with bright yellow stamens.
Exposure: Part to Full Shade
Water/Soil: Well drained, but consistently moist.

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CUH Update September 2010

September 14th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

I can’t believe summer is almost officially over. What a seesaw of a season we had! Cooler than normal average temperatures, a few heat waves; nothing really stuck around long enough, and bloom time on some of the plants his year was really all over the place!

Oh well, it has been a busy and hectic summer that seemed to almost get away from us from time to time, but the plants can always be expected to put on a show for all to see and we take great pride in showcasing some of the best for the Pacific Northwest.

Several changes loom ahead as we painfully absorb the severe budget cuts we’re being forced to take. It’s been a challenging at times to stay motivated and just carry on as usual; however, the wonderful people I work with and our frequent visitors are always there to remind me of just how fortunate we are to just have jobs during these tough times and how great it is to work for a botanic garden. At times, I have to just tell myself, “Do it for the plants!”

Our wave of volunteers has subsided a bit as the upcoming school year approaches, but a handful have expressed an interest in continuing and we couldn’t be more pleased with the efforts they’ve provided these past few months.

New interpretive signage has finally been created and installed in the Soest Garden! After endless revisions, tweaks and printing snafus, they are mounted and ready for your viewing and learning pleasure! These signs are sort of a test run to see how well they hold up and how well they communicate the information we hope to provide about the plantings here. So, if you have any questions and/or comments, we would like to hear from you!

Each sign describes a bed\’s exposure, soil type, and amount of supplemental irrigation it receives along with just a few selections of plants suited to each condition.

Early September is peak time for cherry picking at CUH! Cornelian cherries, that is! Cornus mas, to be exact is an attractive small landscape tree and our grove along Mary Gates Drive draws many people who often climb the trees, break branches and stomp on the groundcovers, while we appreciate people picking and using the fruit, we politely ask that they refrain from climbing the trees or the fence and from ripping off branches. I feel like it’s the one thing we truly do (outside, that is) that allows us to provide the community with something besides gardening information, a venue for events, or just pretty gardens to look at and admire. I would love to see us hold a fall festival where we would invite them to take part and perhaps have them share the wonderful things they do with the tart fruits they so covet!

September is definitely the time to soak in the last rays of summer and see the gardens in their full splendor. I will try and take some more photographs and post them on Facebook, so if you haven’t joined the craze of social networking, it’s time to check it out! Or, just come and see us in the gardens!

facebook.com/UWBotanicGardens

Cheers,

Riz
Soest Gardener

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August 2010 Plant Profile: Lilium ‘Scheherazade’

August 5th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

A most outstanding hybrid lily known worldwide for its hardiness, vigor, and overall dependability in the garden. ‘Scheherazade’ was one of the first interspecific hybrids introduced on the market and began a trend that would revolutionize the world of lily breeding. Bred by L. Freimann using tetraploid (double the number chromosomes a plant typically has) forms of a cultivar called ‘Thunderbolt’ and a tetraploid form of the famous ‘Black Beauty’, you get a most unusual mahogany crimson edged in gold and later fading to cream born in profusion over stalks that have often been referred to as “Lily Trees”.

Lilium hybrid 'Scheherazade'

I counted over 40 buds and blossoms on ONE STEM! These are gently scented and not overpowering in fragrance like the Orientals (‘Stargazer’ and ‘Casablanca’) or trumpet lilies (Easter Lily). These were a donation from the great lily breeder and grower, Judith Freeman from The Lily Garden 2 years ago and now they’ve hit their stride.

Common Name: Scheherazade Orientpet Lily
Location: Soest Garden Bed 8
Family: Liliaceae
Origin: Garden Origin
Height: 5-7ft.
Spread: 1.5-2ft.
Bloom Time: July into August
Bloom Type/Color: Recurved tepals of rich mahogany crimson edged in gold cream.
Water/Soil: Well drained, moderately moist.

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CUH Update July 2010

July 8th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

We are experiencing quite a heatwave after weeks of cloudy, overcast and rainy days here in Seattle. We’re thankful for the sunshine and all, but the sudden warmth is a little unbearable without the transition to warmer temperatures we should have had in late May.

Everything is picking up with this surge of heat as irrigation is also in full swing. So WEEDS WEEDS WEEDS everywhere and we tackle as much as we can, but it’s so exhausting and uncomfortable working in such intense heat.

There are places to definitely cool off if you come for a visit: underneath the red oak in the Soest garden you’ll find a patch of grass and a wooden bench in which to sit and cool off and the site is a perfect spot for a little picnic. Another shady picnic site with a little more privacy is Goodfellow Grove.

Still too hot out? Swing by the Miller Library; get comfortable with a book or magazine and brush up on all things gardening!

Gonna keep it short and simple this time around and I hope you come visit us soon!

R

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June 2010 Plant Profile: Rosa ‘AUSboard’ [Gertrude Jekyll]

June 15th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

One of David Austin’s timeless tributes to the famous garden designer. In bloom since mid-May, this English Rose is one of the most captivating and richly scented of all his hybrids and does reasonably well for us in the Puget Sound region.

Common Name: Gertrude Jekyll Rose
Location: Soest Garden Bed 5
Family: Rosaceae
Origin: Garden Origin
Height: 4-6ft.
Spread: 5-6ft.
Bloom Time: May into early July. Mostly once blooming, but may repeat.
Bloom Type/Color: Deep rose/pink. Fully doubled, somewhat quartered when first opening
Exposure: Full Sun
Water/Soil: Well drained, moderately moist.

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CUH Update June 2010

June 15th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

June is turning out to be an incredibly busy month as the weeds have gotten away from me and so much seems to have landed on my plate all at once. Three gardeners and a handful of volunteers are trying to keep up with CUH grounds on a half time schedule; it’s never enough and we’ve almost gotten used to the fact that not everything will get the attention it needs right away. It seems sad, almost pathetic, that a world class botanical institution can’t operate the way it should, but we’re not alone. With the recession affecting just about everybody, we’re trying to absorb the hit, but it’s not encouraging when we have to expect another staff reduction this year and next. It’s a tense and unpredictable time right now.

The budget cuts have certainly sapped our energies during a time where we should be out and marveling at the landscape that surrounds us. Everything is in full swing and everywhere you turn, you find something that catches your eye and/or nose. Check out our June plant profile.

Being short on time, I’ll let a few photographs speak for themselves. I hope they inspire you to come visit and maybe think about volunteering a little bit of your time to help us get caught up. There’s always something to do and always something new to learn!

See you in the gardens,

Riz

A view of our Blooms of Bressingham trial beds. With both classic favorites and brand new introductions, these beds showcase some of the best perennials out on the market!

Another view of the Blooms of Bressingham Beds. Come visit us for an updated map and plant list.

One of the newer varieties is this stunning new sea holly, Eryngium 'Big Blue'

Speaking of “Blooms”…

Adrian Bloom, from Blooms of Bressingham, will be in town and UWBG will be sponsoring a lecture and book signing at Molbak’s that’s A MUST for hardcore perennial gardeners. I’m looking forward to meeting him in person and, hopefully, he’ll approve of our efforts. More more information about his talk, click here.

Most of the containers are now potted up. Just a little more warmth and regular watering and these will be busting out in foliage and flowers in no time!

Recall that we transplanted a mature Carpenteria californica in this bed. It looks to have survived well and is in fine company with a stunning mountain laurel and several dwarf strawberry trees

Kalmia latifolia 'Bullseye' - Mountain Laurel

Carpenteria californica

Bed 7 in the Soest Garden has filled in considerably and is punctuated by an elegant stem of a Himalayan Lily in full bloom. Can you spot it?


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May 2010 Plant Profile: Lupinus ‘The Governor’

May 12th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Lupines have long been staples in the perennial border. With their elegant line, exquisite colors and fine-textured foliage, they create accents, punctuation, and almost a wave of movement when used as a group in both the garden and in cut flower arrangements. We have just one lupine in the Soest Garden and it is a seedling strain known as ‘The Governor’. It is one of many Russell Hybrid lupines developed by George Russell in Yorkshire, England and one of the most striking perennials in the late spring garden. Interplanted with geraniums, catmint, and English roses, it’s the iconic cottage garden look that’s just so classic, it never goes out of style.

Lupinus 'The Governor' in full bloom in Bed 5 at the Soest Perennial Display Garden (Bed 5)

Common Name: The Governor Lupine
Location: Soest Garden Bed 5
Family: Fabaceae
Origin: Garden Origin
Height: 2-2.5ft.
Spread: Clumps to about 2ft.
Bloom Time: May and sometimes into June.
Bloom Type/Color: Dense open whorls of Pea-like blue and white flowers on erect spikes.
Exposure: Full Sun
Water/Soil: Well drained, moderately moist.

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CUH Update May 2010

May 7th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

May is always an abundance of activity in the garden. Whether April’s on and off showers played much of a role in how many plants are blooming right now, each year we’re overwhelmed with the work as temperatures begin to warm up and just about everything calls our attention; people make requests for things (they ask more questions and are more curious and observant about a lot of things like the endless weeds we’ve been trying to stay on top of) and even the plans themselves demand that they get the cutting back, pinching, top-dress of compost and irrigation they require in order to perform their best. It’s an ongoing challenge and with three part time gardeners overseeing all of CUH Grounds and the Union Bay Natural Area, we truly try our best with the time and resources we have.

The Fragrance Garden in early May 2010

Amidst the chaos of choking weeds and a flurry of events and activities that occur at this time of year, the gardens and the plants themselves somehow manage to put on a tremendous show and visitors are constantly delighted by it all. With our recent changes and game of “musical plants”, the Fragrance Garden is looking fuller and far better defined. It still has a ways to go and a few minor planting schemes have yet to be implemented, but for the most part, plants are more appropriately placed and most everything is thriving very well. The Soest Garden next door continues to be the signature piece of CUH Grounds with its beautiful borders and captivating selection of plants. Bed 7 has got to be the most exciting bed as a jewel box packed with treasures. Epimedium ‘Lilafee’ is absolutely at its peak as are the dramatic stems of Disporum ‘Night Heron’ that seems to draw a lot of attention. We are also expecting the blossoming of a rare variety of the Giant Himalayan Lily (Cardiocrinum giganteum v. yunnanese).

Bed 7 of the Soest Garden in early May 2010

Here is some eye-candy that should prompt a visit to CUH very soon because in a few weeks, they’ll be gone:

Tulipa batalinii 'Bright Gem'. A charmingly true and perennial tulip

Bergenia 'Bressingham White'. Lovely evergreen foliage and a nice floral showing in early spring.

Anemone Vestal

Anemone nemorosa 'Vestal' growing in the dry shade bed of the Soest Garden

The McVay Courtyard is in dire need of attention and direction as it needs to move forward with the next phase of its evolution. Phormium has had the toughest time the last two winters and I’m beginning to question their status as a perennial plant for the Northwest. Many people have begun to write it off as an evergreen perennial and simply treat it as an annual or a container subject. Even if phormiums die back down, they are fully capable of returning, but it takes a full growing season to actually get a substantial specimen and at that point, winter has returned. There are many potential substitutions and ideas for replacement. So, stay tuned and find out what takes place in the next few months.

With a few weeks delay, we are still preparing for the arrival of a set of new introductions from Bloom of Bressingham. The beds themselves are really coming along with many cultivars under evaluation in full bloom for people to see. I would very much like to get a set of volunteers to help with these evaluations and perhaps help maintain the beds as well. If this sounds at all interesting to you, please contact David Zuckerman, our horticultural grounds supervisor at dzman@u.washington.edu. If you’d like to learn more about what would be involved in evaluating and maintaining “BLOOMS”, please feel free to email me: rhr2382@uw.edu. I will post our report on 2009 plants next week and, hopefully, the new plants will have arrived by then!

Well, the weeds are calling and the lawn is SCREAMING to be mowed and edged. I hope the two classes and meeting in Isaacson Hall and conference in NHS don’t mind the noise too much. The two weddings and 3 outdoor workshops this weekend will thank them.

Cheers,

Riz

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CUH Update April 2010

April 1st, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

April 2010

It’s finally beginning to feel like spring. Yes, we have our occasional bouts of cool temperatures that threaten the tender young growth steadily coming to the fore, but in true spring fashion, plants flaunt the floral frenzy that this season is known for. A new wave of spring flowering bulbs can be admired and adored here at CUH as they fill the air with their potent perfume. A mass of daffodils and fawn lilies take center-stage in the Fragrance Garden and the Daphnes are still going at it strong as they aren’t only blooming, but also pushing new vegetative growth for more blooms next season!

Nearby NHS Hall, we have a lovely, but often overlooked relative of the kiwi fruit, Akebia quinata ‘Alba’, that is so elegant and deliciously scented, no one really notices it. It is a vigorous deciduous vine (in very mild winters it can be semi-evergreen), but it is easily manageable.

In our efforts to promote and encourage research and education, a section of CUH grounds has been designated for a test plot we’ve referred to as the “Climate Change Garden”. Spear-headed by Prof. Soo-Hyung Kim, his graduate students and CUH grounds staff have begun to install beds that will feature genetically identical species selected for their biological responsiveness to temperature. Read more about it here.

Things are picking up momentum as I type so I’m eager to get outside and get on top of our cutting back and dive into some serious weeding. If we have a break in the weather, the Soest lawn is crying out for another haircut!

Ornamental grasses have begun to push their new growth so it’s time to get most of them cut back to allow them to develop. As always, we use our hedge trimmers to shear the grasses down to make the job go more quickly. Those trimmers are then put to use on the hedges themselves as our stunning Osmanthus delavayi also gets a haircut following their wonderfully scented white blooms.

April is also the month we turn on our irrigation system. In the next couple of weeks, the irrigation crew from UW Campus will meet with our irrigation specialist, Annie Billota, to check that heads are working properly and we cover the areas we need to be watered. We then set the frequency and just tweak it during the season as needed.

It is an absolutely great time to visit CUH as there’s so much to see, smell and admire. As many gardeners begin to brainstorm for their landscapes this year, our gardens are a wealth of ideas and fascinating plants!

Riz

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