A glimpse into the past – Leissler’s 1934 design for the Arboretum

December 3rd, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

by John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

An historic document connected to the early “life” of the Washington Park Arboretum has been found.  It is the (believed) first design for the Arboretum, prepared in 1934 by Frederick Leissler, landscape architect in the Seattle Department of Parks.

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Copy of the Leissler Plan for Washington Park Arboretum

Scot Daniel Medbury in his M.S. thesis The Olmsted Taxonomic Arboretum and its Application to Washington Park, Seattle (1990), documents this plan (pg 99). Scot was able to interview Mr. Leissler shortly before his death.  Notes from these interviews are located in the Miller Library and UW Library Special Collections.  Medbury states “[Leissler’s] design was monumental in the Beaux-Arts style, and included a gigantic conservatory rising above an axial and symmetrical series of planting beds.”  Medbury reported that Leissler had adapted a design he made when he was a student that won a national prize for the first Arboretum plan.  The plan called for an intensive development and as Leissler himself was later to recall, “the plan would have cost a fortune to build.”  In a later draft, Leissler emphasized three main rock gardens, the “Alaska Rock Garden,” the “Northwest Rock Garden,” and the “Rock Garden of the Orient.”

It’s an interesting story of how I learned of the document’s existence. Leissler passed the original copy (signed by both Frederick Leissler and Hugo Winkenwerder, Dean of the UW College of Forestry) to Jon Stewart, a friend and colleague at Oregon State University. Recently, Mr. Stewart shared it with Raymond Williams, professor emeritus from OSU and a personal acquaintances from my time at Purdue University.  It so happens that Steve Garber, a long-time Arboretum Foundation member, former Foundation president and Japanese Garden Society officer is Raymonds’s brother-in-law.  Mr. Garber, in turn, brought it to my attention, and all of us are now involved with finding a permanent home for the document.

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Raymond Williams, professor emeritus, Oregon State University; Jon Stewart, owner of the document and donor, friend of Frederick Leissler; Steve Garber, Washington Park Arboretum long-time supporter. Taken August 2, 2013

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Steve Garber; John Wott, Director Emeritus, UWBG; Brian Thompson, Miller Library Manager and Curator of Horticultural Literature; Julie Coryell, Japanese Garden Society enthusiast and long time supporter.
Taken July 9, 2014


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Tool rules from a seasoned horticulturist for home gardeners

December 3rd, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

UW Botanic Gardens Horticulturist Neal Bonham has been gardening at the Washington Park Arboretum for years. He’s the go to person on staff for power tool repair. When asked if he had any rules for home gardeners for optimal tool use he grew philosophical, “I’m reminded of the anecdote of someone asking a Taoist butcher how often he sharpened his knife. He answered ‘I never sharpen it. I only cut between the joints.'”

tool photo

Use the right tool for the job for best results.

Neal’s practical rules for hand tools are:

“Use stainless steel tools whenever possible – they don’t need care.

“Never lay tools on the ground – that’s how you lose them.

“Don’t fight nature. That is, if a branch is too big for your pruners, use a saw. If your shovel or fork hits an object you can’t move with one hand, stop trying. Nature will win and your tools will lose.

“The old adage is ‘there’s a proper tool for every job.’ The value there is that is that you will appreciate the abilities of each tool.”

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

November 29th, 2014 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (November 24, 2014 - December 7, 2014)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (November 24 – December 7, 2014)

1)    Araucaria araucana      (Monkey Puzzle)

  • Native to Chile, no other conifer quite like it!
  • Seeds are used to make an alcoholic ceremonial drink called mudai.

2)   Picea glauca      (White Spruce)

  • Native to northern temperate forests of North America.
  • Captain Cook made a spruce beer, possibly curing his crew from scurvy.

3)   Pinus cembra      (Swiss Stone Pine)

  • Native to Alps of Central Europe.
  • Try a Royal Tannenbaum cocktail made with Zirbenz Stone Pine liqueur!

4)   Pseudotsuga menziesii      (Douglas Fir)

  • Native to our “neck of the woods”.
  • McCarthy’s Clear Creek Distillery (in Portland OR) makes a green spirit from Douglas Fir buds called Douglas Fir eau-de-vie.

5)   Taiwania cryptomerioides      (Coffin Tree)

  • Native to eastern Asia.
  • Imbibe too much and you may wind up in a box made from this tree. :(

 


* All references to alcoholic drinks are from the book, The Drunken Botanist
by Amy Stewart, ©2013,  Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

NOTE:  Use our interactive on-line map for location and other information on the above
http://depts.washington.edu/uwbg/gardens/map.shtml
[Enter Latin name in search box in the upper right corner.]

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Stories from the Forest Grove: Childhood, Wildness, and Learning

November 26th, 2014 by Joanna Wright

Joanna Wright is a long-term substitute for Fiddleheads Forest School. Here she reflects on the essence of Fiddleheads and its context within the blossoming movement toward experiential, nature-based learning.

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On my first day at Fiddleheads Forest School, one of the preschoolers leads me to his “magic spot” to meet the owls. “Up there, see that bulge?” We peer into the hemlock canopy. “That’s a mother owl and her baby. They’re sleeping right now.” By his evocation, the inquisitive face of a barred owl appears in my mind’s eye. “I have some bones from the owl pellets, they’re in here.” He kneels down purposefully and lifts a single scale of a pine cone, revealing a small pile of rodent bones stashed underneath. To anyone else, that thumb-nail-sized scale is just another bit of forest floor. To him, it’s the lid to his treasure chest, and a link to the owl friends perched above him, keeping him company in his magic spot.
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Fiddleheads Forest School, an outdoor preschool in the Washington Park Arboretum, is among a small but rapidly growing number of early childhood learning centers offering what Richard Louv has called “Vitamin N” — opportunities for developing connection with nature.

There is no shortcut to nature connection, no cheap, quick way to acquire it and be done. Real relationship with the natural world arises from direct, open-ended experience. Fiddleheads and other forest preschools come out of an understanding of early childhood as a unique time for this kind of experience. Full of energy, creativity, and curiosity, young children are tuning into the world through their senses; the familiar yet ever-changing environment of our forest grove classroom offers a rich landscape of discovery.

In his recent talk in Seattle, Jon Young, founder of Wilderness Awareness School, emphasized that children have an innate capacity for nature connection, and to grow that capacity they need unstructured, unsupervised time outdoors. They also need reciprocity; mentors who will listen with genuine interest to their stories and observations, and ask them questions that lead to new experiences, new questions.

While “unsupervised” is not realistic in many settings, including ours at Fiddleheads, we use clear safety boundaries to enable freedom of exploration. Curriculum is used to support child-led learning.

There is plenty of open time in our day, during which the children choose what they want to do. Play is the children’s serious work. In an organic way, they engage in activities according to their interests and energy levels, as well as the dynamics of the group. As teachers, we support the children’s engagement by actively keeping our perception open to what is really going on for them, and promoting skills that can help them when they encounter the edges of their comfort zone, knowledge, and awareness.

Curricular elements are called forth by the ecological and social dynamics in class. Science and art projects help us delve into and express our observations of the natural world. A “peace table” creates a space for reflection and conflict-resolution. Materials are brought in, complimenting what the forest provides, with which to exercise fine- and gross-motor skills. There is a strong social/emotional element throughout, using tools for self-awareness, self-regulation, communication, cooperation, and celebration of individuality.

P1030486One of the few things structured into every day is time in our “magic spots.” Each child has their own magic spot, which they return to over the course of the year. The only “rule” during magic spot time is that no one can disturb someone else who is in their magic spot. Sometimes, a child in their magic spot will turn their attention outward, using their senses to explore what is around them. Often though, the children use the time to turn inward, sometimes talking to themselves, enjoying uninterrupted time in their own company. While each child’s magic spot is within eyesight of a teacher, we give them enough distance to have the sensation of safe solitude. This is a rare opportunity in childhood today, and witnessing it makes me realize how vital it is. They are invited to stay in their magic spot as long as they wish, and when they return, we have circle time and snack, sharing stories from our magic spot with the group.

The kids at Fiddleheads have taught me many things, including how to have fun outdoors, no matter what the weather. During the week of downpours in early November, we all checked our “puddle armor” (rain gear) and went splashing and running through the Arboretum. We caught raindrops with different kinds of buckets, plastic ones, tin ones, becoming percussionists in the storm. We measured puddle-depth with sticks and turned giant magnolia leaves into boats. One day after school, I was biking home along Lake Washington in a deluge so thick I could hardly see, and found myself laughing out loud, flooded with joy, welcoming the rain. I would be warm and dry soon enough; for now, I was fully feeling the world’s wild weather. The capacity for such raw delight has always been there in me (and is part of what brought me to teaching), but for it’s accessibility in that moment, I have preschoolers at Fiddleheads to thank.

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The rain was followed by a cold snap — clear, blue skies, frosty mornings, and air that nipped at our noses and toes. Suddenly, many more leaves came down in our classroom, carpeting the ground in browns and golds. We went on long hikes to keep warm, buried each other in leaf piles, examined exquisite ice crystals that popped out of wet ground, shaped like clumps of spaghetti. The mushrooms that we had been watching all autumn began to give themselves back into the ground, visible reminders of the cycle of life.

One day, we found a dead house finch in the forest grove. It caught the interest of several kids, who spent much of the morning observing it closely and talking about what might have happened to it. They decided to place it in a little hole in the ground under the magnolia tree, choosing not to cover it, so that they could watch the decomposition process.

After a tender delivery of the bird to its resting place, three of the boys transitioned seamlessly into an imaginative game in which one of them was a dying bird, being cared for by the others. I watched from a distance as they wrestled with this encounter with mortality. When I described the scene later to one of the boy’s parents, she said the family’s cat was quite sick and elderly, and they had been talking about how it might not be alive for much longer. We wondered together about the connections the boy was making between the experience with the bird and his beloved cat.

Meanwhile, winter deaths and dormancies are accompanied by signs of life; indeed, they are experientially inseparable. Falling leaves are revealing winter buds, reminding us on the coldest of days that spring will come, and that the trees know it. How deeply calming it is, to be surrounded by those non-judgmental, patient, rooted beings that give the forest its shape and texture. Many of them germinated there before we were born and will be there after we have gone. It seems to me that their simple, powerful presence is inherently grounding for the children and adults alike.

I feel fortunate to be a part of the Fiddleheads community. I am excited to see how it develops, and curious about the blossoming movement of which it is a part. What are these forces, drawing us back to the forests, the wetlands, the wildness of inner and outer landscapes? Who will we become, if we listen, if we respond? Time will show us. The children will show us.

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November Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

November 10th, 2014 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (November 3 - 16, 2014)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (November 3 – 16, 2014)

 

1)    Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii  ‘Profusion’  (Beautyberry)

  • Native to western China.
  • Ornamental purple berries on display in autumn months.
  • Specimen located north of the Wilcox Bridge by the parking lot.

 

2)    Gaultheria mucronata    ‘Rubra’

  • Native to southern Chile.
  • Formerly known as Pernettya, this particular variety has carmine pink berries.
  • Specimen is located in the Chilean Gateway Garden.

3)   Grevillea victoriae    ‘Marshall Olbricht’

  • Native to Australia. This cultivar is from a seedling, possibly a hybrid, named for the co-founder of Western Hills Nursery in California.
  • Exotic orange flowers persist throughout winter – loved by hummingbirds.
  • Specimen located in the Australian entry garden at Pacific Connections.

4)   Quercus cerris   (Turkey Oak)

  • Native to southern Europe.
  • Notable for hairy caps on the acorns. Trunk can reach six feet in diameter.
  • Specimen located in the Viburnum Collection near Lake Washington Boulevard.

5)   Wollemia nobilis   (Wollemi Pine)

  • Not a pine, but a member of Araucaceae, the family of the Monkey Puzzle Tree.
  • Wollemia was known only from fossil records until it was discovered in Australia’s Wollemi National Park in 1994 by David Noble, hence its name.
  • Our specimen is growing at the bus turnaround on Arboretum Drive.
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Arboretum Loop Trail nears construction start

November 5th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By Audrey Wennblom

An artist's rendering of one of the bridges on the Arboretum Loop Trail. Image courtesy the Berger Partnership

An artist’s rendering of one of the bridges on the Arboretum Loop Trail. Image courtesy the Berger Partnership

At long last, the Arboretum Loop Trail (ALT) appears to be just a few months away from the start of construction. “Right now, it looks like the tentative start date would be late spring 2015,” said Raymond J. Larson, Curator of Living Collections for the UW Botanic Gardens. “The idea is to start after most of the rain has passed and to do construction over the drier months.’’

Depending on the the bids received, Larson said the project may be done in two phases. The first phase would be from E. Madison Street to the Boyer/Birch parking lot along E. Lake Washington Blvd. (across from the Holly Collection), he said. The second phase, in 2016, would be from the Birch Lot to the Graham Visitors Center. Larson said, however, that it could also happen all at once. “It depends on a variety of factors,” he said, “and the contractor selected.”

But before any work begins, “the first thing we will do in the field is contract out the transplanting of collections,” said David Zuckerman, Horticulture Manager for the UWBG. “This work will begin as early as this fall sometime, even if it’s just root pruning,” he said.

The ALT is expected to have several benefits for the Arboretum.  “First, it will get people into areas of the arboretum that are currently less well known and visited,” Larson said.  Most people don’t make it to the viburnum collection or know where it is, and don’t get through the Flats (where birches, poplars and the creek is) much of the year because the ground is too wet and there are no trails there, Larson said.  “The ALT will also open up a new route through the largely undeveloped southern hillside across from the Japanese Garden and will provide another way to access the Pacific Connections Gardens,” said Larson.  That is an area currently difficult to navigate and where it is easy to get disoriented (especially for new or occasional visitors), Larson said. Access is going to be much better and the park should feel bigger, he said.

The collections themselves will also benefit. “We will have many new planting areas that will be accessible and viewable,” Larson said.  Some of these will anticipate future phases of the Pacific Connections China and Chile ecogeographic gardens.  “Where the trail crosses through these areas we will be planting plants from those areas along the way,” Larson said.  Other areas will see the addition of a diversity of new plantings that strengthen existing collections (viburnums, oaks, rhododendrons, etc.). “There are going to be a lot of new plants going in, and areas with a lot of ivy and invasives will be refreshed,” he said.

All of this adds up to a better visitor experience—finding your way more clearly as you navigate through the gardens. The north end will be enhanced with better sightlines and a clearer, more obvious connection to the Graham Visitors Center, where the trail forms a loop with Arboretum Drive E, Larson said.  It should feel less hidden and more welcoming.  Some existing blind spots will be improved and in general areas should feel refreshed.  “We think this will be a popular walking and bicycling trail, and the loop connection should help people better experience more of the park,” Larson said.

More Information

Seattle Department of Planning and Development trail project page

Seattle Parks and Recreation trail project page

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A glimpse into the past – a very low tide on Foster Island

November 4th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John Wott, Director Emeritus

For many years both Lake Washington and Union Bay had variable water levels throughout the year.  The Army Corps of Engineers allowed the water of the Lake Washington system to drop several feet in order to have enough capacity for heavy spring rains and snow melt.  This frustrated many dock owners and also led to significant shoreline erosion.  Today they try to maintain a steady level, although it is difficult to predict both rainfall and rate of snow melt.

The photograph taken on September 12, 1958, show an extremely low water level on the north end of Foster Island. Currently the water level is usually near the top of the large stone works.  The gentleman standing there gives a perspective of at least a six foot drop.

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Low tide on Foster Island in September 1958.

Looking west is the University of Washington Stadium, which depicts only the southern section (now demolished and rebuilt in 2012). The campus buildings are quite low and mostly indistinguishable, and the smoke stack from the UW heating plant has been replaced with the newer large one.

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

October 27th, 2014 by UWBG Arborist, Chris Watson
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (October 20 - November 2, 2014)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (October 20 – November 2, 2014)

1)   Euonymus hamiltonianus subsp. sieboldiana                      (Siebold’s  Euonymus)

  • Native to the eastern Himalaya 1
  • Ornamental seed pods on display in autumn months 2
  • Specimen located in the Spindle Tree Collection

 

2)   Illicium henryi      (Henry Anise Tree)

  • Native to western China 1
  • Red summer flowers turn to star-shaped fruits in autumn
  • Specimen located along Upper Trail near the Asiatic Maple Collection

3)   Lithocarpus henryi      (Longleaf Chinquapin)

  • Native to central China 1
  • Notable for “laurel-like, narrow, glossy leaves” 2
  • Specimen located along the Lower Trail near the Sino-Himalayan Hillside

4)   Osmanthus yunnanensis      (Chinese Osmanthus)

  • Native to southern China 1
  • “Less cold-hardy” than other Osmanthus species in Seattle 2
  • Specimen located in the Sino-Himalayan Hillside

5)   Polyspora kwangsiensis      (Fried Egg Plant)

  • Relative of the Camellia and Stewartia 1
  • Camellia-like flowers appear in autumn 1
  • Specimen located along Upper Trail near the Camellia Collection

 

1 Bean, W. J., and George Taylor. 1970.  Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles.  London: J. Murray.
2 Jacobson, Arthur Lee. 2006.  Trees of Seattle.  Seattle, WA: Arthur Lee Jacobson.

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Autumn Is Amazing

October 18th, 2014 by Catherine Nelson, Adult Tours Program Assistant

liquidambfallcolorThe Liquidambar styraciflua, or Sweetgum, is one of autumn’s most brilliantly colored trees, its leaves showing off every color in the spectrum.

The Liquidambar was wide spread, existing all over the Northern Hemisphere during the Tertiary Period (250-65 million years ago), but mostly disappeared due to glaciation during the ice age. Now this tree is native only to the SE United States and some areas of Mexico and Central America.  These deciduous trees can grown to 80-100 feet tall & live up to 400 years.  Its species name in Latin means ‘flowing with resin’ as the sweet resin in this tree was originally used for chewing gum.

They can be mistaken for maples as they have a similar palmate leaf. The Sweetgum leaf has 5-7 pointed lobes, but is usually flat along the bottom. They also have a distinctive spiky  brown fruit in autumn.

Our free Weekend Walks 10/19 – 11/16 will take visitors to view this and other deciduous plants in our collection.  Please join us.  See Visit > Tours for more information.

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October Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

October 10th, 2014 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (10/6/14-10/19/14)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (10/6/14-10/19/14)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1)   Franklinia alatamaha

Close-up photo of Franklinia flower

Close-up photo of Franklinia flower

  • Native to the Alatamaha River, Georgia, and discovered in the late 18th.
  • Genus contains just one species, and has long been extinct in the wild. Today’s plants all descend, it is believed, from those cultivated in Philadelphia under the name chosen by William Bartram in honor of Benjamin Franklin.
  • Specimen located along Arboretum Drive near the Camellias.

2)   Ilex crenata      ‘Mariesii’

Close-up photo of Rehderodendron seed pods

Close-up photo of Rehderodendron seed pods

  • A very slow-growing female holly with tiny leaves and black fruit. Collected in Japan around 1890 by Charles Maries and sent to Veitch Nursery.
  • Located within the Asian/North American clade in the Holly wedge.

3)   Rehderodendron macrocarpum

  • An upright deciduous tree with red young shoots and glossy dark green leaves.
  • Native to western China, seeds from macrocarpum were first collected in 1932 from a fruiting specimen on Mount Omei in the Szechwan Province.
  • This specimen is located in grid 36-B, northwest of the Winter Garden.

4)   Sorbus helenae

  • Very distinctive species only recently introduced to cultivation. White fruits and autumn leaf color make helenae an attractive tree this time of year.
  • Located about midway through the Mountain Ashes, west of the path.

5)   Viburnum odoratissimum

  • A vigorous, bushy evergreen shrub with glossy, dark green leaves and red fruit ripening to black.
  • Native to India, China, Burma, Philippines, and Japan.
  • Located in grid 12-8E along Arboretum Drive.
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