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.

 

 

April Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

April 10th, 2016 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum, April 4 - 17, 2016

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum,
April 4 – 17, 2016

1)  Acer mandshuricum                Manchurian Maple

  • The Manchurian Maple is native from Eastern Siberia into China and strongly resembles Acer griseum and Acer triflorum.
  • This species is located in the Asian Maples Collection.

2)  Distylium racemosum                Isu Tree

  • The flowers of Distylium racemosum are petalless, but have attractive red calyces (whorl of sepals) and purple stamens.
  • The Isu tree is native to southern Japan, but can be found in the Witt Winter Garden and in our Hamamelidaceae Collection, east of Arboretum Drive near the Pacific Connections gardens.

3)  Pieris japonica                Lily-of-the-Valley Shrub

  • This shrub from eastern China, Taiwan and Japan begins the spring with showy terminal panicles of flowers that range from white to dark-red, followed by extremely colorful new growth which will fade to green in summertime.
  • Lily-of-the-Valley can be found at the Graham Visitor Center, the Witt Winter Garden and Rhododendron Glen.

4)  Rehderodendron macrocarpum

  • This native of southwestern China and Vietnam is a member of the Styracaceae family and displays typical Styracaceous white pendent flowers in Spring.
  • Though a relatively small tree in the Pacific Northwest, Rehderodendron macrocarpum is a dominant component in its native habitat.
  • Specimens can be found along Azalea Way near our Puget Sound Rhododendron hybridizers bed as well as in the Witt Winter and Woodland Gardens.

5)  Viburnum bitchuense                Bitchiu Viburnum

  • This native of Korea and Japan has pink buds that open to wonderfully fragrant white flowers.
  • Viburnum bitchiuense can be found just across Arboretum Drive, outside the east doors of the Graham Visitor Center.

A Subtle Side of Spring

March 28th, 2016 by UWBG Horticulturist

Spring is not typically known for its subtlety around these parts, but upon its early awakening many plants warrant a closer look. Enjoy!

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum, March 21, 2016 - April 4, 2016

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum,
March 21, 2016 – April 4, 2016

1)  Acer palmatum ‘Katsura’                     Katsura Maple

Close-up of Acer palmatum 'Katsura'

Close-up of Acer palmatum ‘Katsura’

  • One of the first Japanese maples to leaf out each spring. The small, five-lobed leaves emerge pale yellow-orange, with brighter orange margins.
  • Found in the semi-dwarf group of Japanese maples.
  • Specimen 19-10*A is located in grid 30-4E.

2)  Ginkgo biloba                     Maidenhair Tree

  • Emerging leaves are “mini-mes” of the actual size.
  • Also seen are emerging male cones.
  • This sample is taken from the Graham Visitor Center specimen located in the northwestern corner of the parking lot.

3)  Larix laricina                     Tamarack or Eastern Larch

  • Deciduous conifer native to eastern North America
  • Cutting sample shows newly emerging needles and last year’s cones.
  • Specimen is located in grid 33-5W, Pinetum.

4)  Photinia beauverdiana var. notabilis

  • Rose family deciduous shrub from China
  • Hairy, white newly-emerging leaves and flowers on cutting sample
  • Specimen is located in grid 33-5W, Pinetum.

5)  Ribes sp. (maybe R. menziesii)                     Gooseberry (maybe Canyon Gooseberry)

  • Though this Ribes sp. has not been positively ID’d, it is indeed a gooseberry because it has spines.
  • Not the eye-catching Ribes sanguineum flowers, but beautiful nevertheless.
  • Thicket is located behind the Stone Cottage.

Glimpse into the past – A Tale of Two Kames

March 27th, 2016 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

Almost no one is aware that the Washington Park Arboretum is the location of two kames. “Kames, what is that?” everyone asks. Wikipedia tells us that “a kame is a geomorphological feature, an irregularly shaped hill or mound composed of sand, gravel and till that accumulates in a depression on a retreating glacier.”

Located just east of Lake Washington Boulevard E. and just north of the intersection with Boyer Avenue S., the two kames were given the names Honeysuckle Hill and Yew Hill. They were originally the planting sites of collections for plants in these families. To clarify the taxonomy, this is the Caprifoliaceae/Adoxaceae (Honeysuckle/Adoxa) family. If you find a plant with opposite leaves and pithy stems (the inside of the stem looks like stryofoam), this is the family. The yew family is known as the Taxaceae family, a coniferous family which includes mostly smaller evergreens. These site names were originally noted on the 1936 Dawson Plan for the Arboretum, completed by the Olmsted Brothers firm.

View across Azalea Way, west to Honeysuckle mound. April 14, 1948

View across Azalea Way, west to Honeysuckle mound. April 14, 1948

The photo above depicts a view looking west across Azalea Way, toward Honeysuckle Hill, on April 14, 1948. Notice that there is very little vegetation along Azalea Way, and the kame has been almost entirely mowed and covered with grass. A few remnant native trees remain. (Note: the photographs labeled by then-director Brian O. Mulligan called them mounds rather than hills or kames.)

View north from Honeysuckle mound to Yew mound. April 7, 1959

View north from Honeysuckle mound to Yew mound. April 7, 1959

The second photo, taken on April 7, 1959 (ten years later), is a view north from Honeysuckle Hill toward Yew Hill. Notice already how much taller the trees are and how many more trees are present. Today, these kames are almost entirely obscured by the vegetation and barely noticed by visitors. Nevertheless, they are an important geological legacy in the Arboretum.

 

Construction Started to Expand Public Access at Arboretum

March 25th, 2016 by UWBG Communication Staff

Photo: The Berger Partnership Whether you’re a first-time visitor to the Washington Park Arboretum or have been coming to the gardens for decades, a new trail project will take you through plants you likely haven’t seen here before.

Construction has begun on the new Arboretum Loop Trail. Once finished, this paved, multi-use 1.2-mile trail will connect to Arboretum Drive, creating a highly accessible 2.5-mile path through plants and trees from around the world—many of which are rare or threatened species. The paved path will create more opportunities for pedestrians, wheelchair users, slow-moving bicycle riders and families with strollers to exercise and explore once-hidden parts of the Arboretum year-round.

Much of our work will benefit existing plant collections by adding new specimens, replanting with native species that provide richer food and shelter for wildlife, and removing unhealthy and invasive plants. Portions of Arboretum

Detail of the construction map. Source: City of Seattle

Detail of the construction map. Source: City of Seattle

Creek will be day-lighted, and important wetland habitat will be restored.

Throughout planning, design and construction, the health of Seattle’s flagship public garden has been a top priority. We moved what we could, propagated what we couldn’t, and rerouted the Loop Trail to protect rare, unusual or very large trees that could not be moved. In total, just 137 of the Arboretum’s 10,000+ trees will be removed, and we intend to reuse all of the tree material onsite in restoration projects and other work.

As part of mitigation for the current phase of the SR 520 bridge project, the Washington State Department of Transportation is providing $7.8 million to help complete portions of the arboretum’s 20-year master plan, which was adopted in 2001 after years of public input. This paved path is a jewel of the master plan.

More information is available on the City of Seattle project site.

March 2016 Plant Profile: Abies grandis

March 1st, 2016 by UWBG Horticulturist

By Ryan Garrison, UW Botanic Gardens Horticulturist

There is a tree on the bank of Arboretum Creek that has seen the entire history of the Washington Park Arboretum, being almost certainly a legacy of the historic site vegetation.1 The seed that would eventually become this giant likely fell to the ground about the year 1896 when the site was logged by its previous owner, the Puget Mill Company.  It would have been a tiny seedling when the land was acquired by the City of Seattle in a series of purchases in 1900 – 1904. It probably went unnoticed by John C. Olmsted and his assistant, Percy Jones, when they arrived in Seattle on April 30, 1903.2 Within a month they had outlined a plan for the City’s future park system, including Lake Washington Boulevard, a mere stone’s throw from this tree. It somehow managed to survive the myriad trials that a tree must overcome to reach maturity. It has endured such adversities as snowstorms, temperatures as low as 0°F, and hurricane force winds. Through it all, it has reached inexorably upwards, and now towers above everything around it.

Grand_fir_398

This remarkable tree is known as a Grand fir (Abies grandis), and this particular specimen truly lives up to its common name. Grand fir grows in the stream bottoms, valleys, and mountain slopes of the northwestern United States and southern British Columbia.3 It is not for board feet, but for its beauty that this tree is valued. The wood is too soft, yet too heavy in proportion to its little strength, to make first class lumber. Pulpwood offers its only commercial future, and there are so many finer pulping species that Grand Fir is little felled for any purpose and is usually left in the forest to make music and distill incense.4

Grand_fir_combo_598

Common Name: Grand, White, Silver, Yellow, or Stinking Fir

Location:  The bank of Arboretum Creek, in grid # 22-4W. It can be seen from many places in the Arboretum, towering over its neighbors.

Origin: Northwestern United States and southern British Columbia

Height and Spread: On optimum sites in the coastal lowlands of Washington, mature grand firs reach heights of 43 to 61 m (140 to 200 ft) at 51 to 102 cm (20 to 40 in) d.b.h.; occasionally they reach 76 m (250 ft) in height and 152 cm (60 in) in d.b.h.  This tree is approximately 140 feet tall and 4.1 feet in diameter.

Bloom Time: Time of flowering may vary over several months, depending on temperatures during the weeks preceding flowering. Flowering occurs from late March to mid-May at lower elevations of most coastal locations, and in June at the higher elevations of the inland locations. The cones, mostly yellowish-green and occasionally greenish-purple, ripen from August to September of the same year, and seeds are dispersed approximately 1 month later.

 

  1. Hitchin, R., “The native forest vegetation in the Washington Park Arboretum: community analysis and curatorial recommendations”, (MA thesis, University of Washington, 1998), 49.
  2. Washington Park Arboretum Historic Review, September 2003.
  3. http://www.na.fs.fed.us/pubs/silvics_manual/Volume_1/abies/grandis.htm
  4. Peattie, Donald Culross, and Paul Landacre. A Natural History of North American Trees. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2007.

February Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum (Part II)

February 29th, 2016 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (February 22, 2016 - March 7, 2016)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum
(February 22, 2016 – March 7, 2016)

1)  Chaenomeles cathayensis                   Chinese Quince

  • This deciduous shrub is native to slopes and forest margins in western Hubei Province.
  • Light pink flowers in spring are followed by large oblong fruit which are unpalatable raw, but make fragrant jams and jellies when cooked.
  • Like other quince, Chaenomeles cathayensis’ arching branches are armed with stiff thorns.
  • Two specimens can be seen in the old field nursery south of the Crab Apple Meadow near Arboretum Drive.

2)  Corylopsis glabrescens         Japanese Winter Hazel

  • A broadly-spreading deciduous shrub native to Korea and Japan, this plant is noted for its graceful habit and fragrant yellow flowers in late winter.
  • A relative of witch hazel, Corylopsis are a great way to extend the bloom time of the winter landscape.
  • Some beautiful specimens can be seen on the trail to Azalea Way, west of the Witt Winter Garden.

3)  Cryptomeria japonica  ‘Nana’                     Dwarf Japanese Cedar

  • Introduced to England from China by Robert Fortune in 1842, this slow-growing conifer is one of the earliest cultivars.
  • Our specimen, planted in 1960, is located north of the grove of Sequoia sempervirens in the Pinetum.

4)  Osmanthus x burkwoodii                      Hybrid Sweet Olive

  • A hybrid of Osmanthus delevayi and Osmanthus decorus, this large evergreen shrub boasts the beauty of the former with the toughness and adaptability of the latter.
  • Small tubular white flowers exude a powerful jasmine fragrance in spring.
  • Several specimens can be seen along Foster Island Drive near the entrance to the maintenance yard.

5)  Sequoia sempervirens  ‘Henderson’s Blue’                    Henderson’s Blue Coast Redwood

  • This vigorous, blue-gray needled tree is a cultivar of the species native to the central and northern California coast.
  • The species is in the family Taxodiaceae, which also includes Sequoiadendron giganteum and Taxodium distichum, two important North American natives.
  • Located north of the grove of Sequoia sempervirens in the Pinetum.