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

July 2nd, 2015 by Pat Chinn-Sloan
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (June 22 - July 5, 2015)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (June 22 – July 5, 2015)

1)  Quercus gilva                    Evergreen Oak

  • Native to China and Japan
  • Reaches heights of 90-100 feet in its native range
  • Located in the Oak Collection along the South Oaks Extension Trail

2)  Rhododendron calophytum           Beautiful-face Rhododendron

  • Native to China
  • Large species rhododendron capable of becoming a tree
  • Located along trail between Loderi Valley and the Woodland Garden

3)  Sequoia sempervirons  ‘Cantab’                     Coast Redwood

  • A cultivar of the coast redwood with unique needles
  • Specimens vary in form from shrubby to tree-like
  • Located in the north end of the Pinetum, along the Pinetum Trail

4)  Thujopsis dolobrata                    Hiba Arborvitae

  • A Japanese native
  • Capable of reaching 100 feet or more in Japan, yet large specimens are rare in the Seattle area
  • Located along the south slope of the Woodland Garden

5)  Viburnum rhytidophyllum                    Leatherleaf Viburnum

  • Native to China
  • Large evergreen shrub recorded to heights of 30 feet
  • Located along the trail through the Viburnum Collection

June Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

June 15th, 2015 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (June 8 - 21, 2015)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (June 8 – 21, 2015)

1)  Cornus controversa           Giant Dogwood

  • A rounded deciduous tree bearing spreading, tiered branches and alternate, elliptic leaves, C. controversa can potentially reach 40 feet in height.  White flowers are borne in large, flattened cymes in early summer.  Following the flowers, masses of deep red fruit develop, changing to blue-black.
  • Native to China, the Himalayas and Japan, C. controversa is less cold tolerant than our native dogwoods.  This specimen is located along Azalea Way near the Hybrid Bed.

2)  Kalmia latifolila           Mountain Laurel

  • A dense, bushy shrub with glossy, dark green leaves and large corymbs of cup-shaped flowers, Kalmia latifolia is native to North America.  Thought by many to be our country’s most beautiful flowering shrub, it is the state flower of both Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
  • This specimen is located along the lower trail, near Rhododendron Glen.

3)  Quercus robur  ‘Concordia’           Golden English Oak

  • A standout specimen amongst the late spring flush of green, Q. robur ‘Concordia’ offers us bright yellow young foliage which will eventually turn color in the fall.
  • It is located on the east side of Azalea Way near the Woodland Garden.

4)  Pterocarya stenoptera           Chinese Wingnut

  • A large spreading tree with long pinnate leaves and winged green fruit produced in pendent spikes up to 12 inches in length.  Wingnuts are a member of the plant family Juglandaceae.
  • This specimen is located at the south end of the nut flats, just west of Azalea Way.

5)  Staphylea pinnata           Bladdernut

  • A deciduous shrub up to 15 feet high, S. pinnata is known for its curious bladder-like fruits in late spring and early summer.  This specimen is located amongst the True Ashes, west of Azalea Way.

Meet Our Summer Education Staff

June 9th, 2015 by Sasha McGuire, Education Program Assistant


Once again our Summer Camps have grown. Now spanning 10-weeks, we will host hundreds of budding scientists and naturalists at the Washington Park Arboretum and the Center for Urban Horticulture. Our amazing staff comes from all over North America and possesses tremendous experience and knowledge.

Michelle_BrownellMichelle Brownell, Garden Guide

Michelle grew up in Springfield, IL and earned her bachelor’s degree in wildlife ecology from Michigan Technological University in Houghton, MI. For the last two years, she has lived in St. Petersburg, FL and recently relocated to Seattle. While in Florida, she worked as a substitute teacher and taught robotics classes for the Sylvan Learning Center. Her two summers in Florida were spent working as a summer camp instructor for Mote Marine Laboratory and the Florida Aquarium. She has worked for seven seasons at various Boy Scout and YMCA camps throughout the US and Canada. Michelle loves the outdoors and enjoys hiking, backpacking and camping.

Bailey_CraigBailey Craig, Garden Guide

A lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest, Bailey loves nothing more than learning in the outdoors with students of all ages! She graduated from the University of Washington in 2011 with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology: Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation and has since earned graduate certificates in Museum Studies and Education for the Environment and Community. Bailey has enjoyed conducting Biological research in South Africa, the San Juan Islands, and in laboratories at the UW, but she has found that working with kids is what she enjoys best. Since the 9th grade she has been combining her love of science with her passion for education and conservation by working and volunteering with the Seattle Aquarium, Pacific Science Center, Woodland Park Zoo, and IslandWood. Bailey is currently coaching gymnastics and pursuing a Master’s in Education from the University of Washington and she is thrilled to spend her summer exploring the gorgeous Arboretum with Seattle’s youth. Bailey loves reading, dancing, teaching, eating tacos and grilled cheese sandwiches, and meeting invertebrates.

Katy_JachKaty Jach, Garden Guide

Katy grew up on the east side of the mountains in Yakima, Washington. She enjoys hiking, rafting, swimming, and just about any activity where she can be outside! In addition to exploring nature, Katy also loves to explore other parts of the world. In fact, she has lived in two South American countries; both Ecuador and Argentina. Katy is a current junior studying Spanish and Education at the University of Washington. Last summer, she worked as an assistant instructor at the Yakima Arboretum and is very excited to continue to do similar work here in Seattle!

Morgan_LawlessMorgan Lawless, Garden Guide

Born and raised in Syracuse, Morgan went to the University of New England in Southern Maine and stayed in New England several years after graduation. She has worked outdoor education through a program called Nature’s Classroom. Teaching outside is the reason she decided to go to Islandwood and get her Master’s in Education. She is excited about working at the Arboretum this summer! Morgan really enjoys spending time outside near any body of water.  She loves looking for creatures that live in the water. She also likes hiking and reading.


Casey_O'KeefeCasey O’Keefe, Preschool Garden Guide & Extended Camp

Casey studies Biology at University of Washington and has been involved with science education since she was in high school. For the past two years she has taught summer camps at Pacific Science Center. Casey has experience volunteering with Mountains to Sound Greenway and works on undergraduate research at UW. She is excited to share her love of nature and wildlife during her first summer at the Arboretum!


Morgan_WrightMorgan Wright, Preschool Garden Guide
Morgan was born in British Columbia and lived at WindSong Cohousing until moving to Seattle in 2000. She graduated last year from the Community, Environment, and Planning program at the University of Washington. Since then, Morgan has traveled to Israel, ridden her bicycle from Seattle to Yellowstone, interned for YES! Magazine, and continued the work she loves best: teaching and caring for children of all ages. She is passionate about community, education, and ecology. In her free time, Morgan loves to bike, cook, make art, and spend time with her family and friends in Seattle.


Dave_GiffordDave Gifford, Camp Coordinator
Originally from Philadelphia, Dave has been exploring and teaching in the Pacific Northwest for over seven years in a number of different programs. Recently he taught at the University Child Development School and at environmental education programs in the Seattle area including Islandwood on Bainbridge Island. Last Summer Dave was a Garden Guide at the Arboretum and is excited to return as the Camp Coordinator. Dave loves hiking the Cascades and exploring the beaches of the Sound. He also enjoys working on community projects and volunteering

Plant Profile: Stewartia monadelpha

June 5th, 2015 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor

This small tree, commonly grown for its stunning reddish-brown bark, offers exceptional features throughout the year. Stewartia monadelpha, otherwise known as tall stewartia or orangebark stewartia, is just getting ready to come into bloom this month. Its white camellia-like flowers burst forth in early summer, followed by interesting brown seed pods and rich russet fall color. This species is planted in UW Botanic Gardens’ collections at both the Washington Park Arboretum and Center for Urban Horticulture.

Stewartia monadelpha is a member of the Camellia family. The small, white cup-shaped flowers last up to four weeks and have petals with smooth edges. This tree is best grown in partial shade but can handle full sun in the Pacific Northwest. It makes an excellent specimen tree for the home landscape.

Common Name: Tall Stewartia or Orangebark Stewartia
Location: Washington Park Arboretum: Camellia collection, Winter Garden; Center for Urban Horticulture: Event Lawn
Origin: Japan
Height and Spread: 20-25’ tall, 15-25’ wide
Bloom Time: June

Summer blooms of Stewartia monadelpha

Summer blooms of Stewartia monadelpha

Exfoliating bark of Stewartia monadelpha

Exfoliating bark of Stewartia monadelpha

Stewartia monadelpha fall color

Stewartia monadelpha fall color

Stewartia monadelpha in winter

Stewartia monadelpha in winter

May Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

May 15th, 2015 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (May 11-24, 2015)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (May 11-24, 2015)

1)  Cytisus x praecox ’Luteus’           Warminster Broom

  • This broom is a hybrid of C. multiflorus and C. purgans and is located on Arboretum Drive in the Legume Collection.
  • Many of the brooms are blooming now or soon to bloom, including the pineapple broom, Argyrocytisus battandieri, whose fragrance earned it its common name.

2)  Erica arborea var. alpina           Tree Heath

  • While non-alpine tree heath can reach heights in excess of 20 feet, the alpine variety is the “short” one, reaching only 10 to 15 feet.
  • Alpine tree heath has white flowers versus light-gray, and the scent is reminiscent of honey.

3)  Hydrangea luteovenosa           Sweet Hydrangea

  • In full bloom now, this semi-trailing Hydrangea is located on the Ridgetop Trail in Rhododendron Glen.
  • Though widely distributed in western Japan, this species of Hydrangea is critically endangered in Korea.

4)  Rhododendron ‘Snow Lady’ x Rhododendron degronianum ssp yakushimanum

  • Hybrids are often created to blend two or more outstanding traits from two separate taxa into one single plant, e.g. flower color and leaf indumentum.
  • There are several areas in the Washington Park Arboretum, including Azalea Way, Loderi Valley, Rhododendron Glen and the Puget Sound Rhododendron Hybridizers bed, showcasing many hundreds of hybrids of Rhododendron.

5)  Syringa reflexa           Nodding Lilac

  • The buds of Syringa reflexa start out a rosy–red before opening to pink and eventually fading to almost white.
  • The specific epithet “reflexa” refers to the nodding habit of the flower heads.
  • Lilacs are located throughout the Washington Park Arboretum, though many are found just south of the Woodland Garden along Azalea Way.

May Dispatch from the Forest Grove

May 7th, 2015 by Kit Harrington


      Who doesn’t love spring? It’s the earth’s bright green answer to winter’s dreary grey; when all the world begins to grow anew. If autumn is a time for introductions and winter for exploration, then spring is the season for culmination. In autumn we ground the students in the important, fundamental lessons of the forest grove: clearly identifying the boundaries (both figurative and literal) of the classroom; teaching an awareness of self, social expectations, and emotional responses; guiding newfound interest in the natural world. Throughout the winter we build on these lessons through experiential learning, and when spring comes they have already taken root. So now it is May and already we’ve begun encountering the result of all this preparation—new tendrils of independence, exploration, and self-direction emerging from a solid foundation of confidence and respect. The children know what their needs are and they know how to get those needs met.


     Confidence and self-control empowers the students to engage with the environment in new ways and overcome unexpected challenges. When the tree nest was accidentally dismantled, the children approached it as an opportunity and not a setback and have worked on it as a team almost every day during the weeks since. And now that the kids are adept at managing transitions, we get to spend more time exploring the surrounding area in small groups and taking short “field trips.” Currently, we are making a point of getting down to the garden at least once a week with the help of our wonderful interns and volunteers, but we look forward to adding in a story time or two at the library come June and possibly even a trip to the Center for Urban Horticulture. When Sarah and I left to speak at the BGCI Education Congress the children felt excited to have Joanna, Kate, and Alicia in the classroom and were able to continue to learn and engage and not feel overwhelmed at the change in teachers. From an adult perspective, these steps may seem small, but in early childhood they are huge accomplishments, reflective of many months of hard work and cooperation. The underlying self-regulatory skills that propel these achievements will play a crucial role in the success of both graduating and returning students next year as they encounter new peer groups and personal challenges.


     Cognitively, the preschoolers in both classes are at point where they are considering the lessons in a more abstract way, making connections between ideas and experiences and considering the implications of what they are learning. Over the past few months we have begun gently encouraging the children to strive to engage in more extended exploration and study on a particular topic, and to stay regulated and attentive throughout circle. In addition to being empowering, this level of concentration and control is allows the students to gain a deeper understanding of the topics we are learning about.

Learning to associate numeral and quantity with reptile countingOur natural science theme this year is “vertebrates” and the students are enjoying connecting their lessons at circle with their experiences in the field. We moved from mammals to birds and over the past two weeks began studying reptiles and more recently, amphibians. The children learned that reptiles are cold-blooded, lay leathery-shelled eggs, and have scales. We discussed and read books about common reptiles including snakes, lizards, and turtles. A number of the children built their own reptiles from the bones up, adding scales to cover the body and using materials from the forest floor to make a nest. A “Reptiles of Washington State” matching work provided fodder for discussion and gave children the opportunity to match pictures as well as words. A sensory tub with sand, eggs, and reptiles became a center for socialization and imaginative play. At circle time the children learned silly and informative songs about turtles and boa constrictors. A walk to the Azalea Way pond allowed for some first hand experience with reptiles here at the arboretum. Upon our return from the Education Congress the children shared their delight at discovering two painted turtles swimming around a large koi fish! We hope to return there soon for more discoveries.

     Last week our wonderful stand-in teachers Joanna and Kate introduced our new amphibians unit. The children listened to stories about amphibians and enjoyed a new amphibian sensory tub with water. Over the next week and a half we will continue to learn about amphibians and their life cycles and contrast their characteristics with those of reptiles. We will keep our eyes peeled for salamanders both in the water and out and are hoping that we can find some chorus frog tadpoles to examine as well. In addition we will be further exploring camouflage among amphibians and reptiles and do some experiments to help us better understand why clean water is essential to the life of a healthy frog.


     Another new material in the forest grove is the beautiful scrapbook Joanna started last week with the help of the children. Since then drawing pictures of our classroom and areas we visit around the arboretum has become a hugely popular, collaborative effort. It is a wonderful way for the children to reflect and remember and it helps us grown-ups better understand how the students perceive their world. We look forward to continuing this project throughout the rest of the school year and in the coming years as well, and see it as an important tool for documenting the learning that goes on up in the forest grove.


     When Sarah and I returned from St. Louis we brought with us a new book, the aptly named How to Find Flower Fairies by Cicely May Barker. We chose to introduce it because of the creative way the authors use the pop-up book format to encourage children to peer into, under, and around objects in their environment. It immediately became an incentive for engaging with the environment in precise, very thoughtful ways. In small groups, the children enjoy discussing their own perspective on fairies and whether they are real, and these conversations provide an opportunity to practice listening to and respecting different opinions.


     “Are fairies real?” is a common question in the forest grove, and more than just encouraging imaginative play it has provided the children with a basis for using scientific principles to develop hypotheses, gather evidence and arrive at conclusions. We encourage the students to explore and experiment and come to their own conclusions, and the group is about equally split on where they stand in this regard. Too often in early childhood education we try to inhibit debate among young children, but Sarah and I believe it is impossible to teach conflict resolution without allowing the students to practice differences of opinion. When children freely express their own opinions and are encouraged to consider other’s, they develop a sense of self while simultaneously building empathy. Whether or not they “believe,” the process of searching for, discussing, and constructing elaborate new dwellings for these imaginary creatures wherever we go is enthralling. It is the shared journey, the tiny discoveries, and the potential of the unknown that lie at the heart of this experience and make it so compelling. Both Sarah and I consider the experience of magic during childhood as a provision for the grown-up conviction that anything is possible, and so it is wonderful to watch our little fairy scientists questioning and engaging with the natural world.


    Over the next few months there is still much more to do, more to learn, more to explore. We will finish our vertebrates theme by studying fish before moving on to an in-depth study of wetlands and habitats here at the arboretum. The garden will continue to play a central role in our natural science curriculum. Students will study plant life cycles, learn about native plants and noxious weeds, and come to understand the role of different insects on plant health. We will take our time learning and make sure to follow the children’s lead whenever possible. The depth of their learning is so much greater when they guide the process themselves.


     As an educator, I try to take the time to step back and just observe when I can. When the opportunity arises I will sit back on my heels for a moment and watch the kids at work; hands digging in the dirt, eyes peering intently into the undergrowth, lips curled into a faint smile. From this vantage point, it is clear that the past two years of learning and living in the forest grove have culminated in a group of children who are capable and empowered to do anything they set their minds to. At moments like these, I am absolutely certain that it is going to be an absolutely wonderful spring.

Tune in next time for more news of Fiddleheads and the Forest Grove….

All the best,

Kit and Sarah

Glimpse into the past – Mrs. Sawyer’s Bench

May 7th, 2015 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

Today’s visitors to the Washington Park Arboretum walk past historical artifacts not knowing why they might be there.  One of those is the Memorial Fountain dedicated to the late Mrs. W.W. Sawyer, along Arboretum Drive E. opposite Rhododendron Glen.


Finished fountain, bench and plantings. Photo by J. A. Wit

An article written by J. A. Witt, in the Arboretum Foundation Bulletin Summer (24:3, pg. 62) chronicles its dedication on Monday, February 21, 1961.  Mr. Sawyer and members of the Maude Sawyer Unit (No. 19), who made a handsome donation for its construction, were present.

“This charming and practical memorial….was designed by Dr. Donald J. Foote, a former member of the University of Washington’s Architect’s staff.  It was constructed by personnel from the mason’s shop of the UW Physical Plant Department, using granite blocks for the wall as well as the fountain basin.”  The site also originally had special collection plants of Berberis aquifolium ‘Compacta’ and Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna, surrounded by three camellia.

A series of pictures shows the site before, during its construction, and today. Like most artifacts in the WPA, they are in a state of decline. Twenty years ago, the running water fountain was changed to a hand-manipulated one. Later, the water was entirely stopped. The granite portion is still proudly standing and is easily seen.   Budget cutbacks in both state and city budgets do not provide funds to maintain these historical landmarks which are usually removed when they fall into total disrepair.


View on March, 11, 1958. Photo by J.A. Witt



Construction September 30, 1960. Photo by J. A. Witt


Construction September 30, 1960. Photo by J. A. Witt


Construction October 3, 1960. Photo by J. A. Witt


Mrs. Sawyer’s memorial bench today, May 6, 2015. Photo by J. A. Wott

The Boys and Girls and Their Boats

May 1st, 2015 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (April 27 - May 10, 2015)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (April 27 – May 10, 2015)

Opening Day crew races through the Montlake Cut, and the 1936 USA Olympic gold in rowing may never have happened without these following trees:

1)  Thuja plicata        Western Red Cedar

  • UW’s world-renowned boat maker, George Pocock followed the lead of Native Americans and used this Pacific Northwest giant for the hulls of his Pocock Classics.
  • The skin is made from a single plank of 3/32″ thick cedar and offers a combination of stiffness and springiness that eliminates the need for the extra weight of a hull.

2)  Pinus lambertiana        Sugar Pine

  • Keels of Pocock’s boats were made from this soft, even-grained Oregon native.
  • Sugar pine has very low shrinkage when it dries, so hull warping and cracking was kept to a minimum with this choice wood.

3)  Xanthocyparis nootkatensis        Alaska Yellow Cedar

  • Cheeks (two lowest timbers at the head rails) and washboards (thin planks fastened to the side to keep out water) were made from this honey-colored wood.
  • Pocock was especially fond of the way Xanthocyparis aged with Thuja plicata.

4)  Picea sitchensis       Sitka Spruce

  • Hand-carved seats and gunnels (uppermost plank in a hull) were made from these giants from Vancouver, BC.

5)  Picea engelmannii        Engelman Spruce

  • Oars used in rowing competitions are made from Engelman Spruce.
  • The oar consists of three bonded pieces made from one single plank of Engelman spruce split to make mirror-imaged sides, and another piece is cut for the center.

Resources:  http://www.pocockclassic.org, http://shipwrightjournal.blogspot.com

What and Where is the Sino-Himalayan Hillside?

May 1st, 2015 by Sasha McGuire, Education Program Assistant
Photo Credit: Scott Zona

Illicium henryi (Henry’s Star Anise)-found on the Hillside. Photo Credit: Scott Zona

Take a closer look at this often overlooked collection from the higher elevations of Western China and the Himalayan foothills. This area of the Arboretum, right off of Azalea Way, showcases some unique and unusual plants, and contains tremendous diversity. A great number of garden-worthy plants that thrive in the Pacific Northwest can be found here as well. You may even get some new ideas for your garden!

Plants found here include Osmanthus, Lithocarpus, Rhododendron, Stachyurus, and Illicium.

Ray Larson, UW Botanic Gardens Curator of Living Collections, will lead you on a journey through some of the most interesting plant collections in the Washington Park Arboretum. Learn about rare and unusual plants, collections based on genetics and eco-geographic habitats, and unusual stories of how these plants have made their way to us over the years. Each class will include both a presentation and walk through the collections.

What: A Closer Look: Sino-Himalayan Hillside
When: Tuesday, May 5th, 6:30-8pm
Where: Washington Park Arboretum, Graham Visitors Center
Cost: Just $5!
How: Register online, or by phone (206-685-8033)


April Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

April 19th, 2015 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (April 13 - 26, 2015)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (April 13 – 26, 2015)

1)  Acer cissifolium        Vine-leaf Maple

  • A three-leaf maple native to Japan.
  • The extraordinary racemes of tiny flowers give the tree a cloud-like appearance.
  • Located in the Asiatic Maple Collection.

2)  Acer rubrum        Red Maple

  • This popular street tree is native to eastern North America.
  • On this sample the petals have fallen, leaving the elongating peduncles and their tiny, immature samaras.
  • Located in grid 3-5E on Arboretum Drive.

3)  Cornus florida        Flowering Dogwood

  • Named for its showy bracts.
  • Native to the eastern United States.
  • These cuttings are from ‘Royal Red’ near the south end of Azalea Way and from an unlabeled white cultivar near the north end.

4)  Cornus nuttallii        Pacific Dogwood

  • A west coast native named for Thomas Nuttall– a British botanist and explorer.
  • Natural seedlings are scattered throughout the Arboretum.
  • This is the provincial “flower” and floral emblem of British Columbia.

5)  Cornus nuttallii x florida    ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’

  • So named because it was one of a few survivors of a flood at Henry Eddie’s nursery near Vancouver, B.C.
  • It is a hybrid of Cornus nuttallii and C. florida.
  • Several specimens are growing along Azalea Way.