Another collection stunner blooming now

April 19th, 2015 by Catherine Nelson, Adult Tours Program Assistant

RhododendronoccidentaleAlong Azalea Way this time of year, as many of you know, the Rhododendron cultivars, Redbuds & Dogwood Trees are putting on their show of stunning blossoms.   Amongst all these flowering shrubs and trees it is sometimes hard to discern any individual plants, but its always worth it for me to stop at the group of Rhododendron occindentale at the North end of Azalea Way.   These Rhododendron species, commonly known as Western Azalea, get my attention because in addition to the clusters of pretty flowers (and unlike most Rhododendron species) they have a wonderful scent.  My nose could spend a lot of time near these shrubs.  This grouping of about 10 shrubs (located in the very NW bed along with several other pink/orange flowering cultivars) were planted in 1946 and now each plant stands about 8-10 feet tall.

The R. occindentale is one of two native west coast Rhodies (the other being R. macrophyllum, our state flower) and is found mainly in the mountain and coastal areas of southern Oregon and Northern California.   Because our climate and soils are similar, they are a plant that transfers quite well to our PNW gardens.  They are a slow grower which can take sun or shade and seem to adapt to a variety of soils.  Their native environments range from coastal marshes, river and lake sides and up to mountain meadows.  But that’s not all – the other perk to these shrubs is that they can bear a lovely orange/red fall foliage color.

Come along on one of our Free Weekend Walks and enjoy a guided tour of these and many other collection plants in their full spring glory.   No registration, visitors meet at the Graham Visitors Center at 1:00 pm each Sunday.

For more detail on these shrubs in their natural environment click the article link from Pacific Horticultural Society

Exciting News at Fiddleheads Forest School!

April 13th, 2015 by Kit Harrington

 

 


Listening and responding to the needs of our community is a cornerstone of the Fiddleheads philosophy. Sarah and I were absolutely astounded this year at the outpouring of interest our tiny school received. As word of the Fiddleheads Forest School spread, parents from all over the region took notice of the individualized attention we give to each child, our unique curriculum that thoughtfully integrates the specialized opportunities afforded by the environment to each student, and our remarkable forest grove classroom site where students develop a deep, mindful connection to their environment and to their peers. The result of all this care and consideration is that this year more than 90 families from as far south as Kent and as far north as Edmonds applied to become a part of the Fiddleheads Forest School community. The level of excitement and passion families expressed to us during tours, our open house event, in letters and over the phone had a profound impact on us both, and we knew immediately that we had a responsibility to respond.

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The Fiddleheads Forest School provides a unique experience built upon careful observation and reflection, and is unlike any other existing Forest School model. The level of interest in our program this year shows us that families are responding to the quality of experience Fiddleheads creates, and we want to make sure those families feel they are being heard. After our first year we resisted growth, choosing instead to focus our attention on developing our curriculum, community, and infrastructure. At Fiddleheads, we never want to grow just for the sake of it. We understand the extent to which growth can impact a school, and knew from day one that we would only move forward with expansion if we truly believed it was in the best interest of the children, the families, and the teachers. However, after months of careful consideration and reflection we finally determined that we now capable of expanding the Fiddleheads Forest School in a way that is sustainable while continuing to offer the sort of high-quality education that families have come to expect. These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of meetings intended to determine this growth’s direction, and after thorough deliberation we are finally ready to move forward.

SC_150410_680258Today we are excited to announce that in fall of 2015 Fiddleheads will be expanding to a full second site here at the Washington Park Arboretum! The new site is just across the road from the current classroom area and consists of a grove of native trees and plants adjacent to the arboretum’s Mountain Ash meadow. Just as beautiful but with its own unique features, we feel confident that this new grove is an ideal place to grow our program while still remaining connected as a school. As teachers, we will each attend to a separate site in collaboration with a second qualified lead teacher as well as student interns from the University of Washington and surrounding colleges. The two of us will continue to collaborate in our role as preschool directors to maintain a high level of quality and care throughout the program. While the classes will be distinct, children will regularly come together to engage in group activities coordinated by teachers in both classrooms. This expansion will offer increased opportunities for socialization among the students and collaboration among the teachers. We are deeply thrilled to move forward on this path.

 

This expansion to a second site adds an additional 28 spaces to our roster, meaning that we now have a total of 49 positions for families in our 2, 3, and 5-day programs. This will help us continue to meet demand by allowing us to accept between 18 and 20 new students each year. Over the past week we have begun contacting families already on our waitlist, and we are excited to announce that our second site is already filling up. Because we feel strongly about the developmental importance of maintaining age and gender balance, we are reopening the call for applications to fill a limited number of spots for girls turning 5 years old during the 2015-2016 calendar school year. Families interested in applying for these spots or being added to our current waitlist can fill out an online application. Those families who would like to be added to our 2016-2017 interest list can do so by submitting an email address here. Finally, if you are interested in becoming a part of the Fiddleheads Forest School community we encourage you to follow us on Facebook for up-to-the minute news regarding the school and the arboretum; as well as teacher tips, articles and reflections on the outdoor education movement here in Seattle and beyond. We feel so fortunate that many of you are already a part of the wonderful, supportive community here at the Washington Park Arboretum, and we are looking forward to a fantastic year ahead! Stay tuned for updates and future developments!

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Warmly,

Kit and Sarah
Teachers & Preschool Directors
UW Botanic Gardens Fiddleheads Forest School

Core Collection Highlight: Viburnum

April 5th, 2015 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Viburnum Collection at the Washington Park Arboretum (3/30/15-4/13/15)

Selected cuttings from the Viburnum Collection at the Washington Park Arboretum (3/30/15 – 4/13/15)

Our Viburnum Collection is recognized as one of the top three national collections. Our taxonomic display currently is home to over 100 different kinds and 330 living specimens.
[Description references: “Viburnums — Shrubs for Every Season” by Michael Dirr.]
Here are a few samples of this diverse and ornamental shrub.

1)  Viburnum carlesii var. bitchiuense        Bitchu Viburnum

  • Wonderfully fragrant flowers in early spring.
  • Closely allied to V. carlesii.  Botanists still debate whether to “split” or “lump”.
  • Located across from the Graham Visitor Center in full flower. Grid: 40-3E

2)  Viburnum macrocephalum       Chinese Snowball Viburnum

  • 6’-10’ rounded shrub.
  • Known for 3″ – 8″ wide, hemispherical cymes, hence the name “Snowball”.
  • Located along maintenance facility mixed-shrub border fence. Grid: 43-5E

3)  Viburnum propinquum

  • Large evergreen shrub with glossy three-veined leaves.
  • Known to be tender in cold Pacific Northwest winters.
  • Located in the Rhododendron Glen parking lot landscape. Grid: 12-8E

4)  Viburnum x rhytidophylloides ‘Alleghany’        Lantanaphyllum Viburnum

  • National Arboretum introduction in 1958.
  • Handsome dense evergreen shrub with abundant inflorescences.
  • Located in Viburnum Collection. Grid: 25-5W

5)  Viburnum utile        Service Viburnum

  • Rare in commerce, but important evergreen species for breeding.
  • Dirr doesn’t think it has much ornamental value. I (David Zuckerman) disagree.
  • Located in Viburnum Collection. Grid: 26-4W

Exploding trees, now showing at your local Arboretum

April 1st, 2015 by Kathleen DeMaria, Arboretum Gardener

March did not go out like a lamb, nor did it end with a whimper. No, this lion ended with a grand BANG!

A lightning strike from the massive thunderstorm that roared through Seattle yesterday was a direct hit on one of our largest trees in the Washington Park Arboretum.

Lighting strike as seen from the Columbia Tower. Photo courtesy of KOMO

Lighting strike as seen from a helicopter and from the Columbia Tower. Photos courtesy of KOMO

 

A Grand Fir located in the Oak grove at the north end of the Arboretum was obliterated with one flash. All that remains of a tree that was easily over 100 feet tall is a jagged snag and a circular field of debris extending at least 150 feet in all directions.

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Electricity always takes the path of least resistance, so arborists in places where lightning is common will install tree protection systems. These usually are metal rods affixed to the top of the tree with a metal cable running down the tree to a ground rod buried deep in the soil. This system allows the tree to avoid catastrophic explosions like the one we had yesterday. Lightning is relatively uncommon in the Seattle area, so none of our trees have lightning protection systems.

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So why did the tree explode instead of just breaking or cracking? Good question. A lightning bolt is hotter than the surface of the sun and has a strong electric current. The current is carried through the tree by the sapwood below the bark. This sapwood is composed of mostly water and when the bolt’s heat and electrical charge hit the tree, the water boils instantly and turns to steam; just like a pressure cooker, except the tree doesn’t have a steam release valve on top. So the result of the excessive heat and  pressure causes the tree to explode. This is not common, but the results are spectacular!

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We will never know why this tree was hit, but we have had a day full of speculation and mitigating safety hazards. Was the lightning attracted to this metal bolt inside the tree from a former cable?

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Was it just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Was it the high volume of spring sap running? Was it because it was the tallest tree in an open area near water? Was it all of these factors and some unknown? We may never know but we will never forget.

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One odd bonus of this amazing event is that lightning strikes are one of a few (non-synthetic) ways to fix nitrogen in the soil. Along with nitrogen-fixing bacteria and algae, the heat of a lightning flash causes atmospheric nitrogen to combine with oxygen to form nitrogen oxides. These oxides then combine with atmospheric moisture and are then delivered to the soil by rain, where it is transformed by microorganisms into nitrates that can be taken up by plant roots. Fascinating.

We know you never need an excuse to visit the Washington Park Arboretum, but we plan to keep the debris field intact for a few more days so any curious onlookers can come and check out our exploding tree. For your own safety, please stay behind the barriers, and enjoy the show.

 

 

 

Weekend Family Fun!

March 26th, 2015 by Sasha McGuire, Education Program Assistant

Get outside and explore the Botanic Gardens by day or by night with these new family-friendly hikes.

Park in the Dark

Night Hike ImageNight time is special at the Arboretum – the people and cars are gone, and the nocturnal animals move about. Night hikes are a chance for us to explore our senses, search for crepuscular and nocturnal movements in the forest and learn about night-related animal adaptations. Programs are designed for families with children aged 5-12 and run from 7:30-9pm on the 2nd Saturday of the month. Meet at the Graham Visitors Center!
Cost is $8/person
Register online or call 206-685-8033

**NEW**Dates 

  • July 11, 8:30-10pm
  • July 25, 8:00-9:30pm
  • August 8, 8:00-9:30pm
  • August 22, 7:30-9:00pm

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Family Nature Walks

Family Nature Walks focus on discovering the wonders of nature through fun and engaging activities, games, and exploration. Search for mushrooms, pretend to be a pollinator, or spot birds using binoculars!  This class is best suited for families with children ages 5-12. Walks will continue rain or shine (hopefully shine!) – dress for the weather and wear comfortable shoes that can get wet or dirty. The walks start at 10:30, the 3rd Saturday of the month and are 90 minutes long. Meet at the Graham Visitors Center!

Cost: $7/person (kids 3 and under are free, so don’t count them toward your payment)
Register online or call 206-685-8033

Themes (all programs are from 10:30am-12pm)

March Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum, Part II

March 23rd, 2015 by UWBG Arborist, Chris Watson
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (March 16-30, 3015)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (March 16 – 30, 3015)

1)  Acer tegmentosum  ‘Joe Witt’        Stripebark Maple

  • A small- to medium-size tree with distinct striped patterns along the bark and branches
  • Named for a former Washington Park Arboretum curator
  • Located in the Joe Witt Winter Garden

2)  Berberis x media  ‘Arthur Menzies’        Hybrid Mahonia

  • Multi-stemmed shrub with prominent winter flowers
  • Loved by hummingbirds as a source of winter nectar
  • Located in the Joe Witt Winter Garden

3)  Ceanothus  ‘Puget Blue’        California Lilac

  • A fast growing, medium-sized shrub
  • Known for small dark, evergreen leaves and purplish-blue late spring flower
  • Located along the fence in the Graham Visitors Center’s parking lot

4)  Magnolia x kewensis  ‘Wada’s Memory’        Hybrid Magnolia

  • Selected from a group of seedlings from nurseryman, Koichiro Wada
  • Known for large and abundant spring flowers
  • Two specimens flank Arboretum Drive near the Hydrangea Collection

5)  Nothofagus antarctica  ‘Puget Pillar’        Southern Beech

  • A medium-sized deciduous tree native to Argentina and Chile
  • Known for a somewhat fastigiate growth habit
  • Located along the shore near Duck Bay

Currently flowering in the Washington Park Arboretum

March 21st, 2015 by Catherine Nelson, Adult Tours Program Assistant

Chaenomelescathayensis

In the old Nursery along Arboretum Drive there is a group of Chaenomeles cathayensis (Cathay or Chinese Quince) shrubs in full bloom. This cluster of three shrubs make for a huge display as they are about 15 ft. tall and 20+ ft. across. Covered in these lovely pinkish white flowers right now, they will bear very fragrant pear sized fruits in the autumn.

Known in Chinese as Mu Gua, this plant is native to China, Bhutan, and Burma where the fruits are used in traditional medicine.

These fruits are not commonly used in cooking as their European Quince cousins are. They are quite sour and must be blanched and dried in order to process them for consumption. According to Purdue University’s New Crop Resource, they are valuable for the “high content of organic acids in the juice, distinctive aroma, and high amount of dietary fiber.”

 

Heath Family Highlights!

March 20th, 2015 by Sasha McGuire, Education Program Assistant
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Kalmia latifolia, a member of the heath family

Join Chris Pfeiffer to explore the UW Botanic Gardens collections this April. Spring brings flowers of course, and this 4 hour class has a focus on the blooms and habits of the Ericaceae – including rhodies, azaleas, and lesser known plants of the Heath family. You might also recognize blueberries, heather, madrona, and sourwood as belonging to this group.

In addition to identification, we will also look at bloom characteristics, foliage types, landscape functions, care and pruning tips for long-term healthy plants.

Professional credits include ISA, CPH, ecoPRO, ASCA and PLANET, though you don’t have to be a professional to register. Plant nerds and homeowners are welcome!

Learn about this diverse group of plants with instructor Chris Pfeiffer, a horticulture consultant, instructor and garden writer with over 30 years’ experience in landscape management and arboriculture. Sustainable and efficient landscape techniques are a special area of interest and expertise. In addition to her private practice, she is a consulting associate with Urban Forestry Services, Inc. and an active volunteer with local community garden projects. She previously led landscape management efforts for the Holden Arboretum and Washington Park Arboretum. A frequent horticultural speaker, Christina has taught courses in pruning, arboriculture, and landscape management at Edmonds and South Seattle Community Colleges, and at the University of Washington. She holds degrees in horticulture from Michigan State and the University of Washington and is an ISA Certified Arborist. She is co-author with Mary Robson of Month-by-Month Gardening in Washington & Oregon (Cool Springs Press 2006).

Class information:

What: Arboretum Plant Study: Seasonal Plant ID and Culture – Spring Session

When: Thursday, April 30th, 8am-12pm

Who: Landscape professionals, homeowners, gardeners, plant enthusiasts

Where: UW Botanic Gardens – Washington Park Arboretum (2300 Arboretum Dr E, Seattle)

Cost: $65; increases to $75 one week before the class

Register: Online, or by phone (206-685-8033)

 

Picture courtesy Stephanie Colony

Picture courtesy Stephanie Colony

UW Botanic Gardens Summer Camps

March 17th, 2015 by Sasha McGuire, Education Program Assistant

It’s that time of year again when we pull out our calendars and begin to think about summer plans. Consider signing your child up to play and learn outside all summer! We are offering ten weeks of outdoor, nature-based summer camps at the Washington Park Arboretum. New themes have been added like Bird is the Word! and Bug Safari, and kept some of our favorites like Tadpoles and Whirligigs and Northwest Naturalists.

Weeks available as of 3/17/2015

Week 1st-3rd available 4th-6th available
June 22 1 1
June 29 1 6
July 6 Full 4
July 13 Full 4
July 20 Full 5
July 27 Full 4
August 3 Full 9
August 10 Full 9
August 17 Full Full
August 24 Full Full

Interested in working at our summer camp? We have multiple opportunities available!

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Summer Garden Guide

Preschool Camp Assistant & After-Camp Specialist

Preschool Camp Garden Guide

 

 

 

Early Spring Has Begun!

March 6th, 2015 by UWBG Horticulturist
Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (March 2 - 16, 2015)

Selected cuttings from the Washington Park Arboretum (March 2 – 16, 2015)

1)  Acer triflorum        Three Flower Maple

  • A small, slow-growing deciduous tree 20’ to 45’ where it is native in Manchuria and Korea.  An excellent landscape tree boasting light grey vertically-furrowed bark and vivid red and orange fall color.  The name refers to its flowers, which are borne in clusters of three.
  • Discovered by noted plant explorer, Ernest H. Wilson in 1917.
  • Located in the Asiatic Maples Collection.  Grid: 26-B

2)  Corylopsis sinensis var. calverescens        Winter Hazel

  • A medium-sized deciduous, broadly vase-shaped shrub in the Witch Hazel family.
  • Bean describes it as flowering in April.
  • Located in the Witt Winter Garden.  Grid: 34-1E

3)  Magnolia x loebneri‘Ballerina’        Magnolia

  • This small deciduous tree is a hybrid between M. x loebneri ‘Spring Snow’ and M. stellata ‘Water Lilly’.
  • The specific epithet honors Max Loebner, a German horticulturist, who made the first cross of this hybrid in the early 1900s.
  • Located on the west side of Arboretum Drive in the Magnolias Collection.  Grid: 28-4E

4)  Rhododendron thomsonii ssp. thomsonii        ‘Glory of Penjerrick’

  • A large evergreen shrub with a rounded crown noted for very early bloom time.
  • An early hybrid used as parent for many subsequent Rhododendron hybrids.
  • Located west of Azalea Way, north of the path to the Wilcox foot bridge.

5)  Sorbus caloneura        Whitebeam

  • This small upright deciduous tree is native to southeastern China and Tibet.
  • The leaves are heavily pleated, giving them the appearance of beech leaves.
  • Fruit are extremely hard and persist well into winter.
  • Located at the south end of the Sorbus Collection.  Grid: 20-4E