Mother (and father) Russia

July 22nd, 2011 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan









We had made our presence felt in Vladivostok, now it was time to take our act on the road.  First stop:  Userisk, a large town due north, to present to a group of college students at the Pedagogical Institute.  These students were a mix of Geography and Ecology majors.  I majored in geography as an undergrad and almost all of the electives I took in grad school had to do with ecology, so I felt right at home.  Before going on, we had a sit down with the director of this 101 year old university and a few of his professors.  We learned that pedagogically speaking, Russian schooling is based more on the German system than the American one.  Students are in large part still viewed as empty vessels needing to be filled with knowledge by their teachers.  I illustrated this mentality by taking a bottle of water and pouring it into an empty cup (the things we do to communicate when language isn’t an option).  One of the professors picked right up on the analogy, took another empty cup and pretended to throw the water out under the table, mimicking a common response from students who are force-fed their education.  We all had a good laugh.  He went on to tell us that educational reform is happening in post-Soviet Russia, but as with all large movements, it just takes time.

I started my talk with a 5 minute crash course on the geography of Puget Sound (as requested by the professor) and then dove into the “what, who, why, and how of EE” that I presented the day before at the conference.  During the “what” I explained how EE has been such a difficult thing to pin down in the U.S. in part because in English the word “environment” can have a plethora of meanings depending on who you ask.  The word “education” is equally divisive.  So when you put the two words together, one can see how difficult it could be to arrive at a clear definition.  This logic doesn’t work in Russian.  They have a very specific word, “ekologia”, that they use for environmental education and it’s very similar to our notion of ecology.  So while this started us off on a slightly confusing foot, it did lead to an interesting discussion and help turn our presentation into more of a dialogue.

I ended my part with a challenge.  In one of my slides, I showed a brief timeline of educational reform in America that included only a few noteworthy dates.  One was the launching of Sputnik in 1957 that led to the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.  This was the act that provided federal funding to states and helped make public education accessible to everyone (keeping America competitive with the USSR).  The next major reform I discussed was the “No Child Left Behind Act” of 2001 which in turn led to the more recent “No Child Left Inside Act”.  The main motivation behind the latter is to help ensure America’s leadership position in the emerging “Green Economy”.  So the challenge I laid down for these Russian teachers in training was to ask if they were willing to sit idly by and watch us take that lead.  The most challenging issues we face today are global ones; I figure a little healthy competition of who can be greener can only be good for society – certainly better than “who can have the bigger nuclear arsenal”.

By the time Sally finished her part of the presentation on the Mountains to Sound Greenway, the students were ready to jump out the windows of our now breathy conference room.  We’d talked straight through lunch, so we called it a day and said dasvidanya.  We had a 5 hour drive ahead of us to Kavalerava (Nadya’s hometown), and in addition, had been invited to visit a “nearby” natural history museum located at the edge of a large zapopriendik (protected area).  The woman who ran the place, and managed the associated EE program, had been in attendance the day before in Vlad, and wouldn’t take no for an answer.  So while it was out of our way and put us a little behind schedule, it turned out to be really cool and I’m glad we did it.  The drive out there was our first real chance to get a feel for the forest in Primorsky Krai.  It reminded me of where I grew up in Shenandoah Co., Virginia.  Lush green pastures set amidst rolling tree covered hills carved by meandering streams.  It was hard to imagine tigers and leopards in such a setting, but sure enough, when we arrived to the museum, we saw them in the flesh.  Granted they were poorly stuffed and somewhat dusty, but it was still quite impressive.  And the big cats are but a smidgeon of the biodiversity in the Russian Far East.  Housed within this quaint one room exhibit must have been several thousand specimens representing all the various taxa groups and collected on site.  Mongolian bears, wild boars, little deer with vampire fangs, countless insects, and a rich stock of birds and reptiles as well.  We’d learned the night before from Alexander that Russia has something called “The Red Book” listing all their threatened/endangered species.  It turns out that a majority of these species are endemic to Primorsky Krai, and a fare number of them were on display for us here in the boonies.










We left the museum, now really behind schedule, and high-tailed it to our next destination.  Nadya’s parents had arranged a fancy dinner to welcome us, but we had one very special stop to make before hand to meet Nadya’s grandparents.  “Salt of the earth” is the best phrase I can come up with to describe them.  These are the Russians that live in the pages of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, skin leathered by years spent in the soil, backs and hands as strong and capable as adults half their age.  We had found “mother (and father) Russia”.  I have no idea what they must have thought about their granddaughter showing up with us to their little plot in paradise, but I could see the pride swell in both their eyes as they embraced.  We sat and gorged ourselves on freshly made crepes topped with strawberries, cream and honey and time suddenly ceased to exist.  It came out that Nadya’s grandfather had once been in a choir, and so naturally we asked for a song, and just as naturally, he sang one.  His bellowing voice filled our little kitchen concert hall belying his 80+ years – a haunting melody about a white daisy that still echoes in my head.  In the dying light, we left their farm reluctantly and arrived to dinner around 11pm to find Nadya’s parents fuming.  It was obvious that they had been waiting for some time, and that we were the only reason the restaurant was still open.  Part of me felt bad, but most of me didn’t care, our delay had been worth every heartfelt note.

We’re Big in Vladivostok

July 21st, 2011 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan








We woke early and excited (and maybe just a little nervous).  Today was our big day where we were the featured presenters at an environmental education conference organized by Vlad BG.  We’d seen this event on our itinerary prior to the trip and not thought much about it, but now it was being billed as a much bigger deal that several higher-ups would be attending, the U.S. Consulate for Vladivostok among them.  There would also be a couple TV crews.  I suddenly regretted not brining a dress shirt or tie.  Oh well.

The conference was being held in the auditorium of the nearby Institute of Marine Biology.  Vlad is a major port serving this part of the world, and a fishing hub to boot.  As such, marine biology is much better funded than botany, and this favoritism was reflected in the well-kept building beautifully perched on the shoreline overlooking Peter the Great Bay.  The interior was bright white, pristine and filled with natural light.  The auditorium was smallish, but the stadium seating allowed for at least 200 people.  There were about 60 in attendance for the conference.

Our colleagues from Vlad BG were up first, filling everyone in on their efforts to establish an EE program, and referencing their visit to Seattle.  It was a good segue into my presentation on the UWBG.  I’ve done a version of this presentation during the last few guide trainings, and could almost give it in my sleep, so I hadn’t felt the need to rehearse.  Delivering a talk through a translator, however, is a whole different ball of wax.  Fortunately, my translator was Tony, who knows the garden every bit as well as I do, so whatever gaps I left, he filled in.  It was very much a tag-team effort and as if by design, we finished exactly at our allotted time 45 mins.  There was 30 mins. carved out for questions, and to my surprise, the audience used every second of it – they were captivated!  It felt good to have come through for our hosts who had kind of gone out on a limb to have us there.











We took a brief lunch break and were then given a tour of the museum housed on the top floor.  It was modest in size, but really cool, featuring sections of a Blue Whale skeleton and countless other sea creatures large and small.  My favorite part was this hokie little video illustrating how whales evolved from land animals (I’ll try to attach it).  After our tour, it was time for Sally and I to give our joint talk titled, “Environmental Education:  Theory and Practice”.  I presented the first half going over the what, who, why and how of EE.  This was followed up by Sally using the Mountains to Sound Greenway as a case study and then back to me to talk about EE at the Arboretum.  To our great delight, the audience was very interested in all of it.  During the intermission afterwards people were gushing at how interesting my part had been and one woman even asked where I was published.  I felt like a rock star, especially b/c I had given a rough version of this talk during guide training last spring that nearly put everyone to sleep.

After our joint presentation, Sally presented more in depth on the Greenway.  She had managed to send her slides over well enough in advance to have them translated into Russian, and so tall Katya, one of the Vlad BG staff, was the one to actually deliver the information.  It was so robotic and quick, though, that Sally pretty much re-presented everything during the Q&A session.  While they have protected natural areas in the Russian Far East (“zapopriedniks”), this concept of working with business interests to link together large tracts of land as wildlife corridors is a new one for them.  This foreign way of doing things was beautifully illustrated by a question from Pavol who asked, “So how do you force the businesses to compromise with you”.  After Sally, there were a slew of very brief presentations from various groups doing EE in the region, including a high school student who spoke about how they were promoting “tiger day” at their school.  It was not the last we would hear of tiger day.

The conference ended around 5pm, there was another hour or schmoozing and picture taking, and everyone could finally take a big breath of relief.  We had done it and it was a complete success.  But our day was not over, not by a long shot.  It turned out that we now had a meeting to go to with an organization known as the Phoenix Foundation located in downtown Vlad.  I would have been pissed about this if not for the character we would meet when we got there, Alexander, my new hero.  He’s a former botanist turned biology teacher turned EE activist who is sharper than a tack with the energy of a Jack Russell on speed.  The small outfit of which he is a part (I think they are 6), is dedicated to stopping poachers, raising awareness of Primoria’s incredible biodiversity, and developing educational materials for teachers to use in the classroom.  They’re also responsible for making tiger day something of a national holiday around these parts.  To top it all off, he took us up on the roof for a bird’s eye view of Vlad.

Vlad BG

July 20th, 2011 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan








We woke early, after what felt like the best night’s sleep I’d had in years.  Evenings in Vlad are on the cool side, perfect for sleeping.  After a rather strange breakfast of buttery succotash pasta, a fried chicken leg, and fried egg, we headed over to the botanical garden to have a look around and tag along on a series of tours lined up in honor of “Environmental Education Week”.

1st impressions:  The main building looms behind a large metal gate with a turnstile (yes, unlike us, they have a gate and fence and charge admission).  The 4-story tan brick building topped with an assortment of HVAC equipment and antenna resembles a TV station or hospital, and is more than just a little intimidating.  But outside waiting for us was a familiar face, Valya, one of the three women who had visited Seattle last Sept., and with her she had her newborn son, Vladislav (did I mention we are in Russia?).  Any apprehension I felt dissolved at once.  We were taken inside and greeted by their young and charismatic director, Pavol Krestov.  He studied in BC, and speaks very good English.  After some brief niceties, it was time to get to work.  There were 3 tours scheduled, and the first one was to start momentarily.  It should be noted that these tours did not exist before Albina, Valya, and Nadya’s visit to Seattle last fall.








The first group was composed of about 40 kids ranging in age from 6 – 16.  They were part of a program that aims to help children deal with abusive home lives.  This was not just some softball group lofted over the plate to make their program look good to us visiting Americans, this was a challenging population by any standard.  Shockingly, Pavol himself welcomed the group and kicked off the tour by jumping right into a discussion about the sun as the source of all energy and plants’ ability to photosynthesize.  No introductions, no ice-breakers, none of it – straight into lecture.  It was clear from the get go that they do things a little differently around here.  After the intro, the group was divided into 2 smaller groups (one younger, one older) and the lecture continued.  Tony and I went with the older group.  Olga led the first part that took place in the greenhouse, short Katya picked it up from there with a tour of the display gardens, and Valya wrapped things up with a few games.  If it sounds like this program was all over the place, that’s because it was.  And while my overall impression was “information overload”, it did give us a good chance to see the garden!

The layout is very different from UWBG.  The place is jam packed full of plants, organized by genus with a focus on pretty annuals.  The plants themselves are arranged in rows giving it the feel of a nursery or even a farm.  Indeed, there is even a small chicken coup housing some spectacularly colored varieties that lends to this feeling of being on a farm.  Not all of the garden is arranged in this way, there are some very well designed beds that feature a wide variety of plants, perennials and annuals alike, but we spent much of our time during 2 of the 3 tours in the ornamental section.  The 3rd tour was in the wooded area that makes up about 80% of Vlad BG’s grounds.  It’s a beautiful mixed forest populated by birch, oak, fir and pine.  The understory features a handful of fern species, several deciduous shrubs (Ribes among them), a few berry bushes and various ground huggers.












The tours were well recieved by the public and it was great to see so many people show up despite the enormously inhibitive road construction going on outside the gates.  It was also great to see so many different guides leading these tours, speaking to the strong sense of teamwork the education program promotes.  They may not have much in terms of resources to work with or financial support, but what they do have going for them is their people…in this way, our two organizations are very much alike.  The tours ended around 5pm.  We dined at a nearby Armenian restaurant and spent the rest of the evening/night prepping for tomorrow’s big event – a regional EE Conference organized by Vlad BG to be held at the Institute of Marine Biology.  It was a pretty big deal, and we were the main event.  The look of anxiety Nadya wore on her face said it all – don’t blow it.

From Russia with Love

July 19th, 2011 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan

Greetings from Vladivostok, Russia!  Our visit here is the second step in an environmental education exchange with the Vladivostok Botanic Gardens (Vlad BG) that began last September when a small team of educator/botanists came to Seattle to learn all they could about EE.  They spent much of their time at the Washington Park Arboretum (WPA) learning about our various programs and taking part in our Saplings Guide fall training.  Our small team is comprised of Sally Kentch, of the Mountains to Sound Greenway, me of the UWBG, and Tony Allison who splits his time between both organizations.


After spending almost 36 hours in transit, crossing the international date line and traveling into the future, it was nice to reach terra firma.  We were greeted by our hosts, welcomed by some familiar faces, and whisked away to our new home away from home.  En route, we quickly learned first hand that Vlad is in the process of preparing for the 2012 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Conference, and the whole place is under construction, including a 60 miles stretch of highway leading into the city.  I had never seen a 6-lane gravel/dirt highway, but there it was.  Like Seatac, the airport is located well outside the city, so we had about an hour in the van before reaching our hotel located directly across the road from Vlad BG.

En route, we stopped by the post office to register (Russia likes to keep meticulous tabs on all foreign visitors) and began to acclimate.  I was comforted to see so many familiar trees and plants, and very pleased to see so many garden plots lining the red-brick and grey-concrete apartment buildings.  The most prevalent crop?  You guessed it, POTATOES!

Our accommodations were nothing to write home about, but compared to a bench in the Bejing airport, it might as well have been the Ritz.  And at $20/night, we were stretching the generous grant funding from our benefactor to the fullest.  We freshened up, caught much needed power naps on perfectly firm beds, and then it was off to a welcome dinner at a nearby restaurant hosted by Vlad BG’s EE staff – a small group of mostly 20-somethings with high-hopes for the future and fountains of passion and determination.  They were very excited to meet us and have a chance to practice their English.  Sally and I don’t speak a lick of Russian, but fortunately Tony is fluent.  We found out just how fluent during a 20 minute toast expressing our appreciation to our young hosts and our commitment to helping them in any way that we could.  It turns out that toasting is a big part of Russian culture, and Tony’s was just the beginning.  After we’d all had a chance to say piece, and fill our stomachs, we parted ways until tomorrow when we would tag along on and evaluate 3 different tours at Vlad BG.  We hit the bed hard that and slept like little Russian babies. 

Chile Tour 2011: A Joyful Romp Around Chile

February 4th, 2011 by Sarah Reichard, UW Botanic Gardens Director

Now that I have been back a couple of days, this is the phrase that keeps coming back to describe our trip. We were happy to be there, happy to be experiencing everything together, and amazed at how much we did in such a short time. At the end of the trip we were trying to remember our first full day and it seemed like months, rather than weeks, had passed.

friends photo

Susie Marglin and Dan Hinkley joyfully rock out after dinner at Patagonia Camp

The first part of the trip was a joyful romp through the gardens of gardens designed by Juan Grimm. The Allende garden was one marvel after another of both design and horticultural skill. The Muller and Grimm gardens combined spectacular scenery with well-chosen and placed plants and other garden elements. We also enjoyed the fine foods and wines of the northern areas.

The Lakes District found us frolicking through temperate forests with plants that were both exotic to us, like Philesia magellanicaand common, like monkey puzzle (Auracaria auracana). The Valdivian rain forest was especially exciting, because there are so many gorgeous plants we can potentially grow here. Some, like Gunnera tinctoria and Embothrium coccineum, have found their way into collectors’ gardens, but there are so many more.  Dan stayed behind for a week to collect more for potential use in future gardens at the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, so stay tuned!

We finish with a truly joyous stay in Patagonia, exploring Torres del Paine National Park. Everything there was wonderful! Patagonia Camp, where we stayed, had amazing views and food and it made a perfect home base. My blog entry about us not returning was only half in jest. That first day we walked around with huge grins on our faces, taking in the scenery and plants in something of a daze. We saw chunks calve off the icebergs with a huge splash into the lake, orchids in full flower, baby guanaco chasing each other like puppies, and an Andean condor soared beneath our cliff, giving us full view of its splendor. We had sunny weather there that our guides said they had not seen for months.

Each of us found our individual joys. I was very pleased that Spanish came back to me very quickly. The first day, in a jetlagged fog, I tried to order a double latte at Starbuck’s (yes, they are all over Santiago) and got two lattes instead. Hey, it got the job done. But just a week later words were returning to me and I was conversant, if not fluent, and that made me very happy. I also learned I love yurts. I did not know this about myself, but I found great joy in my cozy yurt with a view. I now want a yurt of my own, preferably with a view of Torres del Paine.

sunrise photo

The sunrise is reflected on the Torres del Paine massif - as seen from laying in bed in my yurt!

One of the greatest joys was in being together, sharing such an intense experience with amazing people. Some of us knew each other at least a little at the start, but all of us were friends by the end. I look forward to our planned reunions and to sharing future experiences with them.

I want to thank Tracy Mehlin for her support on the technical end of this blog. I knew going into it that there would be challenges and computer access and speed were certainly difficult once I left Santiago, but by sending updates over my Droid phone, we were still able to keep you all abreast of our activities.

Where will UWBG go next? We are talking to Holbrook about possibilities, so stay tuned!

Chile Tour 2011: Hiking Through Herds of Guanacos

January 27th, 2011 by Sarah Reichard, UW Botanic Gardens Director
Hiking in Torres del Paine by S. Reichard

Our group hikes through steppe vegetation in Torres del Paine

Last night we met with our guides to learn about the hikes possible for today. We had requested a long hike to the base of the Torres del Paine massif. It was clear they did not want to do this hike and warned us of the steepness, high winds, and danger. The other hike was all unicorns, rainbows, and puppies. Well, more like pictographs, guanacos, and fox cubs.

group photo by iceberg

Our hikers to the iceberg overlook

This morning Dan and a few brave hobbits started early for the long journey to Mordor. The rest of us slept in and had a lovely three hour hike through Andean steppe vegetation.


Manuela the naturalist photo by S. Reichard

Our naturalist guide, Manuela (with head scarf), helps us identify yet another Patagonian plant

Guanacos in Chile by S. Reichard

We saw herds of guanacos on our hike, including young frolicking together and several mothers with young.


baby guanaco photo

These three baby guanacos entertained us for some time with their playing

We saw herds and herds of guanaco. The young are adorable and several of us want one. Guanaco are related to camels and it really shows in their head shape.

Unfortunately, we saw almost as many bones and carcasses as live ones. Our guide said they call this area the cafeteria for pumas. We thought it would be cool to see one catch a guanaco,  but no.

vertebrea photo by S. Reichard

We found ample proof that puma hunt the guanacos here. Jim Heg holds up a vertebrae.

We also saw fox, condors, eagles, and oh yeah, a bunch of cool plants. We had lunch by a huge waterfall. We understand Dan’s group made it to the base, but they have not returned to camp yet.

Tomorrow we will say a sad farewell to Patagonia, though because we ate the Berberis buxifolia fruits, we will return someday. We will return to Santiago and late Saturday we will start the journey to Seattle. We all feel like the visits to Juan Grimm’s gardens were on another trip. It has been fantastic and our group is the best assembled – ever. We have loved traveling together and learning from each other.

When I get back to Seattle I will post better photos and some reflections on the trip. In the meantime, adios.

Chile Tour 2011: Roughing it in Patagonia

January 26th, 2011 by Sarah Reichard, UW Botanic Gardens Director
Patagonia scene by S. Reichard

We are in Patagonia. STOP. Weather is great. STOP. Yurts are fabulous! STOP. We will not be returning. STOP. So sorry. STOP. Have a nice life. STOP

This may have been the most satisfying day yet. We all chose to do a hike that included an overlook to Gray Glacier and Gray Lake beneath it. Huge blue icebergs were in the lake- we saw two big chunks calve off as we hiked, splashing into the water with huge spray. The Torres del Paine massive was in the background. Sad to say, the plants took a bit of a backseat to the spectacular scenery, but we saw Escallonia rubra and E. Virgata, a couple of orchid species, and several other cool species.

Our afternoon hike was also fabulous and we saw two Andean condors soaring beneath us on the cliffs. I got photos on my Canon but will have to wait until I am back in the world of fast computers to include them in the blog.

Our phenomenal weather continues. Our guides say there are only a few days a year like this here. We could hike in just t-shirts and jeans. It looks like it may continue tomorrow, our last field day (boo!).

Berberis buxifolia ice cream by S. Reichard

This was dessert tonight. The purple ice cream is from Berberis buxifolia, which legend says if you eat, you will return to Patagonia. This was the best dessert ever.

Chile Tour 2011: Exciting Days in the Lake District

January 25th, 2011 by Sarah Reichard, UW Botanic Gardens Director
Araucaria forest in Chile by S. Reichard

Monkey puzzle trees frame Volcan Lanin

Auracaria! Embothrium! Drimys! Oh my! We have had exciting few days in the Lake District, seeing old friends from our gardens and being captivated by new ones. We arrived in the area and nearly immediately went into the Andes to see Auracaria auracana in the wild. While this species brings both love and hate in Seattle, including among our group, everyone agreed it looked splendid in the wild, silhouetted against Volcan Lanín. We also did a short hike in the area, seeing lots of Alstroemeria aurantiaca (a weed here, though native) and Mutsia spinosa. Embothrium coccineum was flowering too.

Araucaria photo by S. Reichard

Nita Jo Rountree and Shelagh Tucker take photos of Susie and Jennifer Marglin

Yesterday we did a fantastic hike most of the day in a private conservation area that is designed to preserve Aextoxicon punctatum, a rare tree that almost does not exist in the wild because of its harvest for wood. The Valdivian rain forest here was really exciting and we raced from plant to plant exclaiming over the Luma apiculata, the ferns both huge and tiny, and sweet-smelling Myrceugenia. As we walked, we spotted the orange flowers of Mitraria coccinea on the path – this epiphyte was up high and we mostly saw it this way. I grow it in-ground in Seattle and it does VERY well for me. The forest was thick with vines of the Chilean national flower, Lapageria rosea, which may be my very favorite flower of all time. I grow it in Seattle and cherish the flowers, though it may be hard to grow in the colder parts of our area. Sadly, we were about six weeks too early to see it flower, though if all those vines had been dripping in flowers, you would probably never see us again. This hike would have been outstanding for the fabulous forest, but the fact that it was also set among the spectacular scenery along the Pacific Ocean did not hurt.

fitzroya photo by S. Reichard

Fitzroya cupressoides (alerce) is related to our native western red cedar and is considered rare due to overharvest

We also did a hike in Lahuen Nadi Park, which is set aside to protect Fitzroya cupressoides (alerce) another tall tree now rare because of over-harvest. This forest was also a humid forest, but very different from the other. The underbrush was thick with native bamboos (Chusquea species) and some of my beloved Drimys winteri. Lapageria relative Philesia magellanica was just opening here (Dan impishly tucked one behind his ear and tried to convince me that it was Lapageria – he had me going for about 2 seconds). It is similar to Lagageria, but smaller and less deeply colored. We also saw the wonderful flowers of Desfontainia spinosa, another favorite of mine, though only very high up. These flowers look like orange candy corns dangling from branches with holly-like leaves. I grow this in Seattle, but have not gotten it to flower and recently my mountain beavers attacked it, so I don’t know if I will ever get it to flower.

Philesia magellanica photo by S. Reichard

Philesia magellanica is a beautiful shrub that grows both in the ground and as an epiphyte

Herbarium in Santiago photo by S. Reichard

Children working the vegetable gardens of Herbarium, near Santiago

I would be remiss if I did not recount our last day in the north as well. We visited an inspirational place near Santiago called “Herbarium” which has nothing to do with herbaria such as our Hyde Herbarium. Instead, they focus on horticultural therapy and the use of plants to heal those with physical and mental problems. Perhaps most important, they work with kids 3-14 that are from families with problems. Somewhat similar to Seattle Youth Garden Works, a collaboration we share with Seattle Tilth and work with at-risk teenagers, this program provides children with healing and learning.

Wine tasting photo by S. Reichard

Our group tastes wines at the De Martino winery

We also spent time in the wine country, especially at a winery called De Martino. We had probably the best wine making tour I have ever had and then tasted three wines. The signature wine of Chile is the Carménère. The story is fascinating. The vines have been grown as merlot for years, about 15 years ago a French viticulturist was visiting and recognized it as different. DNA testing showed it was a different variety and now it is a very popular red wine.

We have been blessed with absolutely spectacular weather – crazy good, actually. Here in the Lake District it has been sunny and just perfect for hiking – warm, but not so hot that you overheat as you hike. I hope this continues the rest of our trip!

photo by S. Reichard

The new Chilean miners emerge! From left, Mary Palmer, Joanne White, Susie Marglin, Jennifer Marglin, Denise Lane, and Debby Riehl stand in a soil pit at the De Martino winery. The pit is used to monitor roots and water movement subsurface.


photo of hikers in Chile by S. Rechard

Our group of hikers in the coastal forest preserve for Aextoxicon punctatum, a tree edenmic to the Valdivian rain forests.

Tomorrow we head south for our final, and perhaps most exciting adventure – a visit to Torres del Paine National Park. None of us, including Dan or me, have been there before. Dan and I had to bear keeping a terrible secret from the group for a few days – when we first got here there was civil unrest over an increase in the cost of natural gas and tourism to the Park was blocked! It was resolved a few days ago and the adventure is on!

I hope you  guys are all good.


Chile Tour 2011: Wowed by the amazing gardens

January 19th, 2011 by Sarah Reichard, UW Botanic Gardens Director

Wow! No wait, that is not good enough. WOW! No, still not enough. WOWWOWWOWWOW!!!! We saw some amazing gardens designed by Juan Grimm, a Chilean architect who has designed over 300 fabulous gardens. On Monday night he gave us a talk about his design philosophy and showed many photos. His philosophy would fit into Seattle very well. He believes the garden should fit into the existing landscape and, while he uses non-native plants, he also uses natives, but arranges them as a garden. He integrates the house and the garden together. At that point, as I was writing (“like Windcliff” – Dan Hinkley’s home and garden – into my notes, Mary Palmer leaned over to me and whispered “like Windcliff!”). Señor Grimm also believes that the existing conditions should be taken into account and gardens formed around them. At one garden he designed there was hardpan. Rather than fight that, he created a garden with ephemeral ponds.

Grimm pool photo

The pool at Juan Grimm´s house

The first garden we saw with Señor Grimm was one he started designing in 1984 for Pedro Tomas Allende (yes, related to the famous Chilean Allende family). This 20 acre garden was a delight! Agapanthus, with flower heads as big as humans, with orange daylilies behind, with an overstory of palms native to Uruguay. The gardens went on and on, with beds of Clivia, an aviary, and so much more the mind reels. I am not a huge hydrangea fan, but behind his house he has a large pond and at the far side is a sweep of pink mophead hydrangeas that were gorgeous!

Allende - hydrangea photo

Hydrangeas, as viewed from Senor Allende's house

Allende garden photo

This is the entry to the Allende garden, with an overstory of palms from Uruguay and Agapanthus with flower heads the size of human heads!

In front of his house, leading to the main garden, there were stairs that were topped in grass that one ascended from a patio that had pavers of fossilized wood. The same pavers were repeated, polished, in the home. Señor Allende was very gracious and served us refreshments on his patio overlooking the pond.

The second garden was that of Tomas Muller, who is currently the Chilean ambassador to the United Kingdom. This is a very modern house, perched on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean. We were also able to tour the house, which features fabulous art by Chileans, along with the fantastic view and gardens. Here, he has created a very naturalistic garden, again with a mixture of natives accented with interesting non-natives, that blends into the native landscape beyond.

Muller garden photo

Jim Heg climbs the rocks at the Muller Garden

The last garden we saw was his own, again perched on a cliff above the sea, a bit too close for comfort for those of us with a healthy fear of heights. In fact, the deck off the master bedroom was literally perched at the edge of a steep cliff, with no railing at all. Not a house for children, pets, night-walkers, or partiers! But the house was again beautifully integrated into the landscape, with a pool at the edge of the cliff.

Grimm garden phots

The view from Juan Grimm´s bedroom balcony is beautiful, but the drop is steep and there is no rail, so be careful!

Besides gardens, we also visited some Chilean wine palms (Jubaea chilensis) near the national park set aside for them. We planted a few of these in the new Gateway to Chile garden in the Washington Park Arboretum last fall. These were huge and I am excited about the potential for our new display in the garden.

The group learns more about the Chilean wine palm (Jubaea chilensis), a rare palm that is included in the Arboretum´s new Gateway to Chile display

wine palm fruit photo

One of the reasons the wine palm is so rare is because the large fruits are a favorite food, so not enough young plants are regenerating

We have been enjoying wonderful food, especially seafood. Two and three hour lunches and dinners with multiple courses are common and we are all feeling a bit snug in our clothes. Fortunately, next week will involve much more hiking and hopefully we will work it off. Our group has also discovered pisco sours, a delicious blend of the clear brandy that Chileans are very proud of, with lemons, a bit of sugar, and a dash of bitters. They go down a little too easily! We have also been enjoying the excellent Chilean wines at lunch and dinner. Chileans certainly know how to live the good life!

tour group photo

We enjoy one of several leisurely lunches

But lest you think we have just been imbibing, we have also been enjoying the excellent fruit juices. This morning I had melon and peach juices (separately, not mixed) and they were amazing. We have also sampled raspberry and strawberry juices. Why don’t we have these wonderful fresh juices in the States?

Speaking of wine, tomorrow we tour the wine country and visit some of the oldest wineries in the country. We will cap the evening off with a dinner followed by traditional Chilean dancing, as we had at the dedication to the Gateway to Chile celebration last fall. On the 21st we are off to the Lake District and a whole new set of adventures.

Chile Tour 2011: UWBG Professor Sarah Reichard reports on a plant-filled tour of Chile

January 6th, 2011 by Sarah Reichard, UW Botanic Gardens Director

We’re off to Chile for gardens, forests, wine, and adventure! Dan Hinkley and I are taking a group of 12 free spirits to this beautiful South American country for two weeks of adventure and camaraderie.

It has been 23 years since I was last in Chile, doing field work for my Master of Science degree on Drimys winteri. It was a very different place politically, under the leadership of the military dictator, Augusto Pinochet. The country is now a democracy that elected a woman president in 2006, so I am expecting social change, but I hope the country is still as beautiful as I remember it. We will be going to many of the same places I visited in 1988, such as Volcan Osorno, where I recall seeing the monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria auracana) silhouetted against the dramatic snow-topped mountains – I expected to see dinosaurs come wandering by!

Volcan Osorno in Chile

Volcan Osorno looks little like Mt. Rainier, but the vegetation around it is totally different!

We have worked with Holbrooke Travel to provide a diversity of experiences for our group. We will start out in Santiago, where we will meet noted landscape architect, Juan Grimm. He will be taking us to several special award-winning private gardens, some of which he designed. While in the north we will also be spending a day in Maipo Valley tasting wines, including those of Vina Undurraga, one of the oldest wineries in Chile.

We then head south to the Lakes District, including Valdivia, where I spent much time while working on my thesis, so I am really excited to see it again. The emphasis on this part of the trip will be on the amazing forests of this region. We will be visiting a 160 coastal private reserve, where we will see rare native plants, such as Fitzroya cupressoides (alerce), which is related to our western red cedar.  We will also visit several national parks and see the Philippi Botanical Gardens at Temuco University – it is the oldest botanic garden in Chile.

Fitzroya photo

Fitzroya has been overused for wood and is now considered rare

Our final destination is one of the most beautiful spots on earth – Torres del Paine. This huge national park has spectacular rock formations and an amazing flora and fauna. The diversity of plant forms leads to large mammal populations, like guanacos, a few species of fox, and pumas. We may also see the Andean condor!  The weather there can be a little unpredictable, but we are hoping to hike and possibly kayak while we are there. We are going to be staying in yurts at Patagonia Camp, which sound really fun. The camp has been built to have minimal impact on the environment, while allowing guests to fully experience the nature that surrounds them.

Torres del Paine massif photo

This is the iconic Torres del Paine massif, which gives the National Park its name.

Technology permitting, and with the help of UWBG tech whiz, Tracy Mehlin, I will be blogging about our trip on this page, so check back starting around January 18th to join us virtually on this trip.

Sarah Reichard, Professor and UWBG Associate Director