A Day in the Life

August 20th, 2014 by Lisa Sanphillippo

imagine
you are outside. The sun is shining, illuminating the new growth on the western red cedars. It’s been a great growing season and the plants at Washington Park Arboretum are thriving. The backdrop of evergreen trees is a lovely frame to all of the native and non-native plants in the collection. Now, if they would just get here!

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Photo by Lisa Sanphillippo

Just when you thought you couldn’t wait any longer, here comes the bus holding 60 scheduled school-aged children just bursting with energy and excitement to be out of school and outside on such a fine day as this. Today, you will be teaching 15 of them the Native Plants and Native People program. What is native? What is invasive? Who was born in this state? Who are the Puget Sound Salish People? The kids get engaged by the questions you ask. You are showing them their participation and input is valuable.

You will focus some of their amazing energy into a running game about what it is people need to survive. After they have run out some of their shenanigans, you might point out that most everything folks need to survive comes from plants. And with the Puget Sound Salish People, they didn’t just use any old plants; they used plants that are native – original to this place.

Photo by Jacob Smithers

It will surprise you how many of them know what a western red cedar looks like. The J-shaped branches and the flat leaves are very familiar to most of them. But, you can still teach them about western hemlock and its different length needles and puzzle-piece bark. Douglas fir might be new to them, too. Though, once the children see the deep and creviced bark and the way-up high branches, it will be hard for them to forget. Maybe you will tell them the story of the mouse looking for a safe home during a forest fire using the cones of each to differentiate and describe the three trees. You know that story will create a great memory for them about how to identify all three trees.

You will show them artifacts made by local Ethnobotanist, Heidi Bohan. They will get a chance to touch and hold a model of a cedar weaving, fishing spear or canoe bailer. Each made to demonstrate how plants can be used to create a beautiful and useful object that could help a person survive and thrive. When you ask the kids what they use in their everyday lives that is made from plants, you are impressed that the list they give you is so long.

Photo by Jacob Smithers

When you show them to salal and Oregon grape plants and tell them about how berries from each were mixed together along with huckleberry to make a delicious berry cake sort of like a fruit roll up, you can see that they are almost ready for lunch! To distract them, you get them going on the hands-on activities.

This is your favorite part, because they have to work together as a team – just as Puget Sound Salish people of the past and present – to understand how to use a fire bow and drill or to build a single wall of a plank house or to learn how to cook food below the ground. It’s a great distraction because they’ve forgotten about their hunger for a moment as they dig in to the task at hand.

Jacob Smithers

It’s nearly the end of the program, now. You gather them together and ask each person to tell you something they learned or liked from the field trip. It is thrilling how many of them remember that the western hemlock makes sunscreen, how Douglas fir has mouse butts in the cones or that homes can be made without nails.

You thank them and walk them back to the start where their bus will come for them and take them back to school. You hope they will remember today as a positive and fun day. You hope the time here will aid them in their classroom work. Most of all, you hope they will continue to love and learn about plants and one day be a person who advocates for and serves the environment.

You head back to the work room to talk with your fellow guides about the kids and their chaperones and to put away the activities and props from the program. You are tired – sheesh, kids take it out of you – but you are proud to be a part of something important and worthy.

This is the kind of day we get to have at University of Washington Botanic Gardens Washington Park Arboretum. Is it the kind of day you might like?

Our Volunteer Garden Guides bring their knowledge and skills to teach about native plants, forests, pollination, photosynthesis, wetland plants and animals, ecosystems and habitat. We provide training, curricula and enrichments so each person is confident and comfortable teaching.

Consider donating your valuable time and expertise to connecting kids to nature through field trips. We welcome you to be a part of our incredible team of staff and volunteers. We can tell you will fit right in.

  • UW Botanic Gardens Volunteer Garden Guide Training begins September 5th with a kayak tour of the Washington Park Arboretum and continues the following week.
  • For more information about becoming a volunteer and training, please contact Lisa Sanphillippo, School Programs Coordinator, at 206-543-8801 or lsanphil@uw.edu.
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UW Student Reflection

January 9th, 2014 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan

My experience as a volunteer at the UW Arboretum…

It was the first quarter of my freshman year at the University of Washington. I was enrolled in an environmental studies class, and we, the students, were given an option between doing a book report and volunteering for “service learning.” Man, was I glad I chose to volunteer, because my time at the arboretum was great.

The arboretum is an escape from the city without leaving the city. There you are, standing in a metropolis, but you’re surrounded by tall trees, whistling birds, and sweet silence; it’s oxymoronic. I was living in a dormitory at the time, and the constant shuffle of neighbors, or the bumping music of the guys four doors down, kept me on-edge, not relaxed. But, once in the arboretum, all that white noise was gone. Even though I was there to volunteer and to work, I found myself energized upon leaving.

Philip & his fellow volunteers worked to give our Pollination Garden some much needed love during fall quarter.

Phillip & his fellow volunteers worked to give our Pollination Garden some much needed love during fall quarter.

My time at the arboretum was mostly spent in the vegetable garden and in the pollination garden. Some days I would pull weeds, till soil, and flip compost, others I would dig up cobblestones and carry gravel. But everything I did was not strenuous. It was simply a light task. Other volunteers had similarly stress-free work. Some were assigned to lead field trips and tours around the park and others researched plant species that would suit the habitat.

I have not been to a place with more polite people than the arboretum. Everyone from the lady at the front desk to Patrick, my supervisor, greeted me with a smile each time I came by. If you happen to see Patrick when you’re there, ask him about his travels in South America; he’s got some cool stories.

If you’re thinking about volunteering, I highly encourage you to do so. My experience at the arboretum was exactly what I was looking for: chill, soothing and stress-free.  

-Phillip Janecek

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Trees Cheer for Community Volunteers!

April 30th, 2013 by UWBG Horticulturist

As we bid adieu to relentless April showers, let’s also praise a fond farewell to over 300 relentless April community service volunteers that helped support the stewardship of our beautiful botanic gardens. Because of them, May flowers have never looked and smelled soooo good.

Student Conservation Association 2013 Earth Day at the Washington Park Arboretum. Photo curtesy of SCA.org

Student Conservation Association 2013 Earth Day at the Washington Park Arboretum. Photo curtesy of SCA.org

The 3 Big April events:

    1. April 13, Earth Day in the Arboretum w/ Student Conservation Association – see photos http://www.flickr.com/photos/the-sca/sets/72157633264603184/
    2. April 19, UW Partners w/ Starbucks for Earth Day at CUH and Farm- see video

  1.  April 25, Ivy Out w/ Seattle Prep  - a few photos below
Seattle Prep students removing ivy in the hollies

Seattle Prep students removing ivy in the hollies

Seattle Prep students removing ivy in Pinetum

Seattle Prep students removing ivy in Pinetum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few of the impressive metrics:

  • Over 22,000 sq feet of invasive plants removed (ivy and blackberry)!
  • Over 60 yrds of mulch spread!
  • Over 1500 native plants planted!
  • Over 20 yrds of ivy hauled!
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Training Dates Announced

January 16th, 2013 by Lisa Sanphillippo

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UWBG School Programs serve over 6,000 kids a year and we could not possibly do it without the help of our volunteers. We are hiring volunteer Garden Guides now and have two dates to get folks started on their journey to engage kids in the great outdoors.

Saturday February 9th from 11:00 – 3:00 pm and
Saturday February 16th from 11:00 – 3:00 pm

Guides need only attend one training, but are welcome to both. Both trainings will cover an introduction to the University of Washington Botanic Gardens as well as round table and in the field discussions about class management, interpretation techniques and age appropriate teaching.

2-way viewer for Paige

February 9th we will focus on our Plants 101 and 201 programs and February 16th we’ll focus on Wetlands 101 and 201. New guides will learn what the big ideas of each program are, how the student’s age affects the level and amount of information given and how to use the props and activities in the field.

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If you would like to fill nature with children and teach them about plant science, ecology and more, contact Lisa Sanphillippo at 206-543-8801 or lsanphil@uw.edu for more information.

We value our volunteers for their time, experience and dedication! We hold enrichments, training and other educational opportunities regularly. Call or email now to become a treasured part of our team.

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UWBG Recognizes Volunteer Contributions

November 14th, 2012 by Tech Librarian, Tracy Mehlin

Written by Cassie Benz

On October 18, 2012, UW Botanic Gardens and the Arboretum Foundation celebrated their volunteers with an annual Volunteer Recognition event.  We enjoyed fabulous food, from delectable appetizers to yummy barbecue to delicious desserts.  Directors Sarah Reichard and Paige Miller graciously honored our volunteers, speaking of their dedication and importance to UWBG and the Foundation.  This past year UWBG volunteers contributed 6,258 hours and Foundation volunteers contributed 13,931 hours.

Sharlene Walsh was the Arboretum Foundation Volunteer-of-the-Year.  Molly Cleland received the annual Brian O. Mulligan UWBG Volunteer Award.  Many thanks go to Sharlene, Molly and all our volunteers.

 Become a volunteer and join the fun!


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Thank You NAIOP! New Video Shows Hardworking Volunteers

November 9th, 2012 by Tech Librarian, Tracy Mehlin

Members of the Commercial Real Estate Development Association joined forces at their 2012 Community Enhancement Day to spiff up the Center for Urban Horticulture. Projects included invasive plant removal, small construction projects, painting, planting and much more.

Hoop-houses were rebuilt, Stairs from the McVey Courtyard to the Event Lawn were built, and the weed-prone gravel paths were replaced with stamped concrete in the Soest garden (photo right).

UWBG director, professor Sarah Reichard, remarked: “Of special interest to the faculty and students: the wet beds are rebuilt and look gorgeous. Get that wetland research going now!”

CUH is sparkling now thanks to our NAIOP friends, community members and the  UWBG Horticulture staff.

Watch the action:

Video posted with permission.

 

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WPA guides always learning more

November 6th, 2012 by Catherine Nelson, Adult Tours Program Assistant

The WPA guides and education staff recently visited Seattle’s Dunn Garden on one of our enrichment tours. We visit local gardens regularly as part of our commitment to further education so that we, as guides, can provide WPA visitors a great tour experience.
The Dunn Garden, like the arboretum, was designed by James Dawson of the Olmstead Brothers landscape design firm, While the WPA was designed in the 1930’s as a natural park to house the plant collection, the Dunn Garden is a private formal garden surrounding residences and predates our park by almost 30 years.
The two gardens have other connections. Ed Dunn, son of garden founder Arthur Dunn, served as the Arboretum Foundation president in the late 1950’s and was instrumental in the installation of the Japanese Garden. Many of the plants Ed Dunn installed in his garden were species he acquired through the WPA, purchased as extras by him when the arboretum would receive new collection plants.
Other similarities occur – I noticed that the Dunn, like the WPA, also featured some Douglas Firs with Hydrangea anomala vines growing up their trunks. I asked our docent if this was a Dawson design feature and was told that this was the influence of Elisabeth Miller, who was very involved the both gardens and founded the CUH’s Miller Library.
One of the most amazing features of the Dunn is the presence of many mature East Coast specimen trees like Sugar Maples, European Beech, and the largest Magnolia I have ever seen personally. The garden covers several acres separated in a variety of styles and is beautiful even in late autumn. I plan to return in the spring when flowers will be in their glory because I can only imagine how breathtaking it must be. The Dunn Garden is closed for the winter, but open again for tours in April, 2013. I highly recommend a visit . For more information their web site is www.dunngardens.org.

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More Service Learning at the Arboretum

June 12th, 2012 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan

Posted on behalf of Will Pleskow, UW student and UWBG volunteer service learner


 

I never thought weeds would be so endless and time consuming but I certainly have a new perspective on weeding after many back-breaking hours digging out seemingly endless little green plants. All of the planting and weeding that I have done and will do take place right outside the greenhouse in a secluded part of the Arboretum used for plant propagation. The vegetable garden has lain fallow for many months so as you can imagine the weeds were quite healthy at the start of the quarter.  The two primary weeds are shotweed (Cardamine hirsute) and horsetail (Equisetum sp.).  Horsetails were some of the first land plants to evolve on planet earth and continue to make their impact on gardens as well as my back.

Shotweed is a small  plant that has green leaves and sometimes a yellow-white flower budding from the middle. It’s native to North America, Europe, and Asia. It’s part of the mustard family and is the only weed I encountered at the Arboretum that is edible. Shotweed flowers early in the spring up until autumn.  After budding Shotweed develops seeds in pods that are highly sensitive and will often burst upon being touched “shooting” its seeds flying in a close proximity to its mother plant. The easy distribution of seeds is what makes this plant multiply and infest so quickly. Often times removing all of the shotweeds visible with the naked eye is not enough as their seeds may still lie around buried in the soil.  Due to shotweed distinct qualities it makes it a difficult weed to eradicate and is therefore very prevalent in many parts of the world.

Horsetail is about 1 – 2 feet tall and sticks straight up with whisker-like leaves coming off the sides that give it its distinct look and name. Horsetails, like ferns, are plants that reproduce with spores rather than seeds. Despite its irritating affect when dealing with in the garden, this fascinating plant is a “living fossil” and one of the oldest land plants on earth dating back some 375 million years. This remarkable weed is found everywhere in the world except Antarctica. The horsetail prefers wet sandy soils but is adaptable to almost any type of soil. The stalks start deep beneath the ground, which make it hard to dig out, and also very enduring. In addition, it is also unaffected by many herbicides so the only way to remove this weed is by hand. Horsetail along with shotweed makes for a very lethal duo in the garden and creates a situation where one must constantly be weeding to sustain a healthy garden.

With the new experience I have gained by volunteering at the Arboretum this quarter, I plan to grow and cultivate a sustainable and environmentally friendly garden of my own. This ties directly with what we have been discussing in class and the strong importance professor Litfin places on “knowing where your food is coming from.” I hope one day to have a garden of my own where I can grow my own plants and provide food for myself from my very own garden. This service learning project has been a great opportunity to get hands-on experience with growing and cultivating food in an environmentally friendly and healthy way.

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Green Weed Managment

June 8th, 2012 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan

Posted on behalf of UW student and UWBG volunteer intern, Mitch Halliday.

Mitch volunteered at the Arboretum this past quarter as one of our “Greenhouse and Vegetable Garden Caretakers”.  The endless task of weeding the garden beds obviously had an impact. 


Mitch and his girlfriend planting beets, beans & kohlrabi

 

Vinegar Weed Killer:

Vinegar contains a weak acid, Acetic acid.  By applying this vinegar to the soil, it lowers the pH, increasing the acidity, of the soil from a range that is tolerable to an intolerable level.  Most vinegars have an acid content of around 5%, a more concentrated solution of 10% to 20% will more effectively kill weeds.  This is not however a miracle solution, at the right strength this organic weed killer will kill the leaves of any plant it comes in contact with, but not the roots.  Which makes this treatment most effective on young weeds which do not have enough energy stored in their roots to successfully regrow.  Repeated applications will be needed to permanently disable more established weeds.

Vinegar Weed Killer Recipe[1]

• 120 mls (4 ounces) Lemon juice concentrate

• 1 liter (1 quart) white or cider vinegar

Spray bottle for applying organic weed killer Simply mix the two ingredients together in a spray bottle and you have your organic weed killer formula.

Spot spray it directly on the weeds, being careful not to spray desirable plants. For the most effective result the best time to spray is during the heat of the day.

 

Weed Killer #2[2]

  • 1 tbsp gin
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dish detergent
  • 1 quart water

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and pour into a spray bottle. This method will kill the roots, but will prevent growth afterwards for 3-5 days, so it should be used  in an area that you do not intend to plant in.

 

Traditional Methods[3]:

  1. Weeding, we all know how tedious and back-breaking it can be, but it is the most effective natural method of controlling weeds.  To make things easier on yourself weed after it has rained or wet the ground around weeds to make them easier to pull out.  An investment into a few weeding tools will go a long way as well.
  2. Pour boiling water on weeds.  Making pasta or boiling potatoes for dinner?  Instead of pouring that hot water down the drain, pour the water your weeds and they will shrivel and die in a few days.
  3. Blackout.  All plants need sunlight to survive, weeds are no different.  By layering newspaper or scrap paper (it’s biodegradable) over the weeds and blocking out the sunlight they will die.
  4. Eat ‘em.  Many of the weeds present in our gardens are in fact edible.  Dandelion leaves, for example are excellent in a tossed salad.  I would suggest picking up a book about wild-forage from a library or book store.
  5. The hardest of all, Learn to love them.  Maybe it’s time to appreciate these little plants for their natural beauty, hardiness, and pervasiveness.

 


[1] “Organic Weed Killer Formula: Natural Homemade Vinegar Weed Killer Recipe..” Sustainable    Living on a Small                                Farm the Permaculture Way. Web. 6 June 2012. <http://www.small-farm-permaculture-and-sustainable      -living.com/organic_weed_killer_formula.html>.

[2] Richford, Nannette. “DIY: How to Make Organic Weed Killer.” Yahoo Voices.  Web. 6 June 2012.                                               <voices.yahoo.com/diy-organic-weed-killer-1393951.html>.

[3] Yeager, Jeff. “Homemade Organic Weed Killers.” The Daily Green. Web. 6 June 2012.                                                                   <http://www.thedailygreen.com/green-homes/latest/homemade-weed-killers#fbIndex1>.

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Service Learning at the ARB

May 17th, 2012 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan

Posted on behalf of Alyce Flanagan, UW student intern

our first planting


This spring one of my classes gave me the option of doing a service-learning project instead of writing a research paper. I jumped at the opportunity to gain some sort of real world experience instead of sitting in the library.  I ended up volunteering in the vegetable garden at the UWBG Arboretum, and it has been an enjoyable experience.  It is great to have an excuse to spend a few hours outside, get dirt on my hands and learn about growing food.  The class that my arboretum service learning is connected to is Global Food Policy.  Modern cultures have become extremely disconnected from our sources of food.  Technology allows for the mass production of cheap food, and working in a garden has given me perspective on how what it takes to grow vegetables.

Food is a vital resource that is frequently taken for granted.  Growing and gathering food is something that was an integral part of our ancestors’ lifestyles.  In recent years, we have grown away from this routine.  Food is bought from the grocery store, and we have only a vague idea of where it was before that. My Global Food Policy class looked at where food was before it got to the store.  Our severe disconnection from the production of the food we eat is unfortunate, but it is a system that we are totally reliant on. Learning about food; where is comes from and how its grown, is the first step to not taking food and this its large scale production for granted.

Food sovereignty is an issue that relates to peoples right to decide what food they eat, where it comes from, and how it is produced.  In America, most people would say that they have the right to choose their food, but in reality, much of our food is under the control of a few big agricultural businesses.  Growing at least some of our own food is an important step towards food sovereignty.

future pickles

The vegetable garden at the UWBG Arboretum is intended to teach children about the process of growing food, and hopefully inspire in them an interest in growing their own food. Volunteering at the Arb has done just that for me.  Watching plants grow over the course of a few months is somehow exciting and motivational.  Hopefully sometime in the next few years I will be able to start a garden and become at least a little less reliant on the mysterious system that produces food that feeds the world.

I am looking forward to visiting during the summer and seeing how the garden has changed.

3 sisters garden

 

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