Glimpse into the past – Arboretum Club House

June 23rd, 2016 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

by John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

Arboretum Club House, March 27, 1959

Arboretum Club House, March 27, 1959

In the early days of the Washington Park Arboretum, the Arboretum Club House and Floral Hall exhibit space was the venue for many flower shows, exhibits and functions.  It was the only facility where public functions could be held in the Arboretum.

 

Conifer Exhibit in the Floral Hall exhibit space, November 21, 1955

Conifer Exhibit in the Floral Hall exhibit space, November 21, 1955

On April 7, 1968, a fire was discovered at 7:00 a.m. in the Club House.  Vernon E. Kousky, a UW student walking through the Arboretum, reported it to Pablo Abellera, who lived in the foreman’s house (which currently houses the education offices).  They called the Safety Division on campus, which notified the Seattle Fire Department who had extinguished the fire by 7:50 a.m.

The entire south half of the building was gutted and the rest was badly scorched and charred.   It was not worth trying to repair the remainder.  Scorched books belonging to the Seattle Garden Club were removed by Mrs. Rex Palmer.  Crockery and cutlery belonging to the Arboretum Foundation were salvaged from the cupboards.

Fire debris, April 8, 1968

Fire debris, April 8, 1968

The UW Physical Plant removed the remainder of the building the following week.  The cause of the fire was apparently an electric motor used to drive a pump for the sewage system located under the SE corner of the building, where the fire apparently started.

Brick from the Club House fireplace, one day after the fire

Brick from the Club House fireplace, one day after the fire

The Summer 1970 issue of the Arboretum Bulletin contained a lengthy description of a plan to replace the Floral Hall complex, approved by the UW Board of Regents.  It would be a multi-use building complex providing office space, floral exhibit space, laboratories, an auditorium, a library, an herbarium, a visitor center, greenhouses and other supporting facilities.  The projected cost was $1,200,000.  Obviously this became mired in the politics of the day and never moved forward.   The current Graham Visitor’s Center was finally constructed in 1985, after approval in the earlier Jones and Jones Arboretum Plan.

Conceptual image of the proposed Floral Hall complex, 1970

Conceptual image of the proposed Floral Hall complex, 1970

 

 

 

The Wonderful World of Monocots

June 7th, 2016 by UWBG Horticulturist

Monocotyledons, commonly referred to as monocots, are flowering plants whose seeds typically contain only one embryonic leaf, or cotyledon.  A quarter of the world’s known plants are monocots. They are the most economically important group of plants to humans today in agriculture, horticulture, forestry and fiber industries.  Here are a few samples of monocots in our plant collections.

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum or Center for Urban Horticulture (June 1 - 12, 2016)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum or Center for Urban Horticulture (June 1 – 12, 2016)

1)  Allium schubertii                                                                            (Ornamental Tumbleweed Onion)

  • Dried seed heads look like starry tumbleweeds or shooting star fireworks
  • Located in the Soest Herbaceous Display Garden, bed 6 at the Center for Urban Horticulture

2)  Austroderia richardii syn Cortedaria r.                     (Toetoe Grass, Plumed Tussock Grass)

  • Ornamental grass native to New Zealand
  • This “pampas” grass seems to be behaving itself in the Pacific Northwest, unlike others that do seed around and could be considered invasive.

3)  Phormium colensoi                (Mountain Flax, Wharariki)

  • One of two species in the genus Phormium; both are endemic to New Zealand.
  • Fiber from its broad, sword-like leaves, can be made into Maori baskets.

4)  Phyllostachys nigra                 (Black Bamboo)

  • Native to China, but widely cultivated elsewhere
  • Known for its ornamental beauty and prized for decorative woodworking
Close-up photo of fruit from a Chinese Windmill Palm tree

Close-up photo of fruit from a Chinese Windmill Palm

5)  Trachycarpus fortunei                (Chinese Windmill Palm)

  • Only palm that is reliably hardy to the Puget Sound area
  • Dioecious, with male and female flowers produced on separate trees
  • Sample of mature fruit cluster and frond

To locate specimens of these plants, please visit our interactive map:
http://depts.washington.edu/uwbg/gardens/map.html.

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 – Changes in the Landscape

June 1st, 2016 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

by John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

Currently there are many physical changes occurring in the north end of the Washington Park Arboretum, due to the construction of new SR-520 bridge. Local residents often remark that these changes will “disfigure” the natural landscape which has always been there. The truth is, this area has been greatly changed and altered over the past one hundred years, ever since the level of Lake Washington was lowered.  In fact, there is little left of its “original” shape. It has been dredged, moved, filled, planted and re-planted.

Many of the boggy areas in Washington Park, even starting from Madison Street north, have been filled with debris and served as neighborhood dumping sites. The areas north of Foster Island Drive/Lake Washington Blvd. E. were all fill sites. Now as the ramps come down and new changes occur, it will change once again.

The following photos show some of the changes in the 1940’s.

Photo looks north over the former city dump off of E Miller Street, across Union Bay, toward Laurelhurst, soil being added and plowed in.  March 1947.

Photo looks north over the former city dump off of E. Miller Street, across Union Bay, toward Laurelhurst, soil being added and plowed in.  March 1947.

Photo shows area being covered with soil.   November 1947.

Photo shows area being covered with soil.   November 1947.

Photo across fill…present location of ramps….looking west toward Simon poplars (Populus simonii ‘Pendula’).  November 1947.

Photo across fill…present location of ramps….looking west toward Simon poplars (Populus simonii ‘Pendula’).  November 1947.

Photo after seeding.   November 1947.

Photo after seeding.   November 1947.

Photo looking toward lagoon area where many lindens are planted.   November 1947.

Photo looking toward lagoon area where many lindens are planted.   November 1947.

Photo with more plantings. January 1, 1949.

Photo with more plantings. January 1, 1949.

 

Spring Pushes Forth at the Washington Park Arboretum

May 23rd, 2016 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (May 16 - 30, 2016)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum
(May 16 – 30, 2016)

1)   Ostrya carpinifolia                Hop Hornbeam

  • This small-to-medium-sized tree (40-50’) is native to southern Europe and southwestern Asia.
  • The common name refers to the fruit which resembles the fruit of Humulus (Hops).
  • Ostrya is from Greek, meaning “bone-like” in reference to the trees dense hard wood.
  • Located north of East Foster Island Road, east of the Broadmoor entrance.

2)  Picea mariana ‘Doumetii’                Doumet Black Spruce

  • This selection of Picea mariana is a popular slow-growing shrub with blue green needles and a dense conical growth habit.
  • Located along Arboretum Drive on the north end of the Magnolia Collection.

3)  Pinus x schwerinii                Schwerin’s Pine

  • Schwerin’s Pine is an interspecies cross between Himalayan White Pine (Pinus wallichiana) and Weymouth Pine (Pinus strobus). It was found by Earl Schwerin in his park in Wilmersdorf (near Berlin, Germany) in 1905.
  • Our fine specimen is located north of the Crabapple Meadow near the service road.

4)  Pterocarya macroptera                Large–Winged Wingnut

  • Native to northern China, the Wingnut is a fast-growing, medium height tree to 50-70 feet tall and 40 feet wide.
  • This tree boasts ornamental spikes of fruit with broad wings in long pendulous spikes.
  • This tree can be seen in fruit east of Arboretum Drive and south of the Crabapple Meadow. Look for the long bright green chains before you reach the service road.

5)  Tillia cordata ‘Bicentennial’                Bicentennial Littleleaf Linden

  • This selection of the popular street tree is known for a dense and conical form.
  • Its moderate size makes Tillia cordata useful in areas where space is limited.
  • Littleleaf Linden is known for its sweetly-scented spring flowers. Tillia fruit are held below a stiff bract similar to that on a maple seed which acts like a “helicopter” as it falls.
  • A fine specimen can be seen at the intersection of Arboretum Drive and East Foster Island Road.

May Colors Appear Just in Time for Mother’s Day!

May 7th, 2016 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (May 2 - 15, 2016)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum
(May 2 – 15, 2016)

Happy Mother’s Day!

1)  Philadelphus coronarius

  • Native to southeastern Europe and Asia Minor, this shrub is located within the Sorbus Collection. It is perhaps the best-known species of mock orange in gardens because of its sweet smell. The fragrance of its flowers is pleasing out-of-doors, but may become too strong if the plants are numerous or near sitting room windows.
  • Philadelphus is a member of the plant family, Hydrangeaceae.

2)  Rhododendron   ‘Favor Major’

  • Located just west of parking lot #5, this hybrid is showing its yellowish-orange flowers.

3)  Rhododendron   ‘Ruby Hart’

  • Located within the Hybrid Bed, this shrub certainly has been given an appropriate cultivar name.

4)  Robinia x holdtii

  • A member of the plant family, Leguminosae, the genus Robinia contains about
    20 deciduous trees and shrubs confined to North America. The name Robinia
    commemorates Jean Robin, herbalist to Henry IV of France.
  • Specimen is located in the Legumes.

5)  Styrax obassia

  • A broadly columnar deciduous tree bearing elliptic dark green leaves and bell-
    shaped white flowers, S. obassia is native to northern China, Korea, and Japan.
  • This specimen is located along the upper trail near Rhododendron Glen.

May 2016 Plant Profile: Kalmia latifolia

April 29th, 2016 by UWBG Communication Staff

kalmia photo

By Preston Pew

In western Washington, the month of May is usually marked by vivid springtime blooms of Rhododendron. A lesser known member of the same family as Rhododendron (Ericaceae), Kalmia latifolia is native to eastern North America, and is one of our most spectacular broadleaf evergreen shrubs. Its attractive qualities no doubt led both Connecticut and Pennsylvania to choose Kalmia latifolia as their state flower. Growing up to 30’ in the wild, in cultivation Kalmia slowly reaches heights of 8 to 10 feet, with a similar spread. Kalmia generally bloom later that most Rhododendron and are a good way to extend the blooming season. When not in bloom, alternate glossy deep green leaves and rounded habit give clues to its affinity with Rhododendron and Pieris. In bud, Kalmia are a special treat well before the flowers open. In early spring the small buds are covered in fine hairs. As the buds expand they develop pronounced ridges that make them resemble the dots of frosting found on decorated cakes. This fascinating geometric quality is enhanced by their arrangement in flat clusters. Inflated Kalmia buds then open to reveal five-parted shallow cups about one inch across. These groups of flowers are three to six inches across and range in color from pure white to deep pink. Several cultivars are noted for uniquely banded or spotted markings in varying tones of red and pink on their inner flowers petals. Kalmia cultivars ‘Star Cluster’, ‘Olympic Wedding’, and ‘Minuet’ are especially desired by enthusiasts for these markings. The genus Kalmia was named by Carl Linnaeus for his pupil Peter Kalm who authored a famous 18th century book Travels into North America.1

Family: Ericaceae
Genus: Kalmia
Species: Kalmia latifolia
Common Name: Mountain Laurel, Calico Bush
Location: Grid 30-3E at the intersection of Arboretum drive and the south Woodland Garden trail

kalmia photo

kalmia photo

1. Bean, W.J. Trees and Shrubs hardy in The British Isles, eighth edition. London: The Royal Horticultural Society, 1978. Print.

“Story Time” at the Washington Park Arboretum

April 25th, 2016 by UWBG Horticulturist

The stories of people and plants are intricately intertwined.  The plants of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens have many stories to tell, and here are just a few to wet your whistle.  Explore our website at to look up and locate plants in the Arboretum and learn more of our stories.

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum, April 18 - May 2, 2016

1)  Abies grandis – Grand Fir                “Fir Above It All”

  • This particular tree has witnessed the entire history of the Washington Park Arboretum.  It is almost certainly a remnant of the vegetation that existed before the site was logged circa 1896.  You can read more about this remarkable tree’s history on the March 2016 plant profile.

2)  Castenea dentata – American Chestnut
“A Blight to Remember”

  • Once upon a time in the eastern forests of North America, the mighty American Chestnut was a ubiquitous giant.  This tree could shape entire ecosystems, providing food and shelter to all manner of beasts and men.  It was said that the chestnuts would sometimes pile up so high you could scoop them up with a shovel.  This fast-growing timber tree provided wood that could be used to make almost anything a carpenter can build. Sadly, this tree has been decimated by “chestnut blight”, a fungus that quickly girdles and kills the tree.  The University of Washington Botanic Gardens is committed to the conservation of this tree and many other species that are threatened.

3)  Rhododendron ‘Lem’s Cameo’                “Halfdan Lem and the Rhodies of War”

  • Some of Halfdan Lem’s story was told to the Vancouver Rhododendron Society meeting of March 1993.  When World War II started, Mr. Fred Rose in England sent Lem seed and scions of many of his crosses and the resulting plants formed the nucleus of Lem’s breeding program.  By the mid-sixties, he had made over 2000 crosses and had about 50,000 seedlings.  One of his first introductions was “Lem’s Cameo”, an outstanding and popular variety.  Halfdan was reported to be quite a “colorful” character, and you can see some of his legacy in the Puget Sound Hybrid Garden.  Many other stories about Halfdan Lem may be found in the Journal of the American Rhododendron Society, which is available online.

Staff Spotlight: Catherine Moore Nelson

April 22nd, 2016 by Donna McBain Evans

Catherine began volunteering to lead adult tours and youth programs for the UW Botanic Gardens in 2006 and in 2011, she received the Brian Mulligan volunteer of the year award.

More recently, she became employed part-time as a Tour Program Assistant, leading tours, training and coordinating volunteer guides, and contributing to the UW Botanic Gardens blogs. Adding to her long list of skills, Catherine also now helps with the adult education program, setting up private group tours, driving the tram and helping to lead youth and family programs.

Catherine leading her Adult tour.

Catherine leading a tram tour.

Catherine and her family moved to the area in 1974 and she grew up on San Juan Island. After obtaining a B.A. in Greek Culture and History at Western Washington University in Bellingham,  she moved to Seattle to enroll in a Horticulture program at Lake Washington Technical College, graduating in 2005 as a certified horticulturist.  She now has her own business, focusing on long term garden care for clients.

“I love the variety of work I do at the UW Botanic Gardens, ” says Nelson enthusiastically, “I especially enjoy interacting with visitors and sharing the great wonders of the Arboretum with them–plants, botany and horticulture.” But, she adds, she also learns a great deal from visitors who come from many different states and countries around the world.

A friend of Catherine’s from the UW Botanic Gardens Education department enticed Catherine to volunteer.  Although she was initially intimidated by the training, she instantly became excited about being a part of such a great Arboretum.

Catherine’s favorite place here is the grove of Sequoiadendron giganteum in the Pinetum.

“Its so quiet there, I feel as if I am in a natural cathedral encircled by giant towering trees,” and, she admits, “I take visitors there as often as possible to see the 100 foot tall trees that are really still just babies.”

When Nelson is not driving trams or sharing her wealth of botanic knowledge,  she loves to read, watch movies or enjoy the outdoors camping, playing softball and having barbecues.  She doesn’t have a favorite plant, but is smitten by conifers and loves the Ericaceae family, and she adores plants with large, showy flowers.

Glimpse into the past – Trees need Tractors

April 20th, 2016 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

Managing a large garden requires large equipment. Often tractors and trucks can be kept in great working order for many years, but eventually they too will need to be replaced. Shredders, mowers, and machinery with many working parts need to be replaced every few years. Machinery costs were once totally covered in state and city budgets. In years past, tractors and trucks were also sometimes leased. With the severe budget cuts over the last several decades, staff has to now improvise and find creative ways to obtain and use larger equipment.

1949_Fleet

The photo on the left above, from 1949, shows the UW Arboretum fleet of four trucks and a Ford Tractor. The photo on the right shows the Ford Tractor , brand new in March 1948, hooked up to a new Hardie sprayer. In those days, widespread spraying for all types of pests was common. This equipment was obtained and supported through UW (State) budgets.

JohnDeere

This next set of photos shows Arboretum Foundation President Steve Garber proudly delivering a new John Deere tractor and loader – a $35,000 gift of the Arboretum Foundation on September 14, 1995. The photo below shows the same tractor helping to lift a new Drimys winteri into its planting site just last month, on March 18, 2016.

Tractor_2016

Both the UW Botanic Gardens and Seattle Parks and Recreation staff now also use a number of modern efficient carts in their daily operations (photo below).

Gator_2016

The funding need for equipment, both large and small, is never ending. Excellent working equipment lessens the work load for staff, and leads to more efficient maintenance. It too is part of the cost of Arboretum maintenance.

 

* Editor’s note: Learn about ways to support the equipment budget and other needs, crucial to the maintenance of UW Botanic Gardens, on our Donate page.