Summer Camp at the Washington Park Arboretum is starting its fourth year with more weeks and themes than ever. Kids from 6-12 years can go on weekly adventures featuring bugs, birds, frogs, trees, weeds, and even an art and cooking show.
Get out and stretch your legs this spring! The UW Botanic Gardens are going to some familiar and not-so-familiar places this spring. Explore a new garden, and maybe even get some ideas for your own yard!
Coming up soon is our first Wednesday Walk with John Wott. Dr. John Wott, Professor Emeritus and former Arboretum Director will lead a walking tour and share insights on the history, design, and changes over time of the Washington Park Arboretum. This tour is also well-suited to visitors with limited mobility. This season’s tour will be of the Witt Winter Garden, which will be in full bloom!
Our next adventure takes us to the Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden, located in the Highland community. This garden has a very limited amount of visitors each year, so this may be your only chance to see this Northwest treasure! The curator, Richie Steffan, will show us how the Miller Garden uses early flowering bulbs and perennials to create a delightful and vibrant spring garden.
Have spring ephemerals caught your attention this year? Come visit the Cottage Lake Gardens in Woodinville to immerse yourself in one of the most famous, the trilliums! We will be having an elegant tea, followed by a talk and a tour of the gardens, which features all 48 species of trillium.
In addition, we always offer our Free Weekend Walks every Sunday, starting at 1pm, and meeting at the Graham Visitors Center at the Washington Park Arboretum.
You can register online for any or all of these lovely tours, or call 206-685-8033.
The winter blooming shrubs Hamamelis, or Witch Hazels, are currently at peak bloom sending out their lovely aroma and luring visitors into The Witt Winter Garden. This plant and other winter bloomers will be featured during the month of February on our Sunday Free Weekend Walks.
This large shrub or small tree is native to North America, Europe and Asia and features the species Hamamelis virginiana, H. ovalis, H. venalis, H. japonica & H. mollis.
The origin of the plant’s common name comes from the Old English word ‘Wych’, meaning ‘bendable,’ and has evolved into the modern spelling of ‘Witch.’ The limbs of this plant were traditionally used for Dowsing which is how it came to be know as Water Witching.
Hamamelis is Latin for “together with fruit” which refers to the simultaneous occurrence of flowers with maturing fruit from previous year. These fruits can split explosively at maturity, ejecting seeds up to 10 meters.
Native Americans used Witch Hazel bark to treat sores, tumors, bruising and skin ulcers. Boiled twigs were used to treat sore muscles and a tea was used to treat coughs, colds and dysentery
The nutty seeds from the Witch Hazel were also a Native-American favorite because of their flavoring, which is similar to pistachios.
There is much to look forward to in 2014 for the University of Washington Botanic Gardens (UWBG) horticulture and plant records staff. It will be a rare year of “normality” between capital project implementations, the completed 2013 Pacific Connections Gardens (PCG) New Zealand (NZ) forest exhibit and the looming 2015 multi-use trail. Our resources will be focused on smaller scale deferred maintenance projects of several gardens and plant collections, catching up with plant labeling and mapping of our Pacific Connections Gardens and embarking on a few recently awarded grants.
Washington Park Arboretum (WPA)
On the grants front, this spring, Azalea Way and the Japanese Garden will be receiving new cherry trees, along with funding to support future maintenance, thanks to the Japanese Embassy’s Nationwide Cherry Blossom Planting Initiative. Fourteen cherries will be installed of various types, ranging from the tide-and-true classical hybrids to the newer, disease-resistant cultivars. We hope to tap into the services of our volunteer Azalea Way stewards force to help in their planting, establishment and future care.
We just heard that we were awarded $33 thousand from the UW Green Seeds funds, a grants program that engages our UW community in sustainability research that will have a direct affect on reducing UW campus’ carbon footprint. Our 1 year study will allow us to purchase 2 new utility vehicles, 1 electric and 1 bio-diesel, which will be the test subjects of a research project titled: “Grounds Utility Vehicle Carbon Footprint Comparison Study”. Results and conclusions will be disseminated at the end of the study to UW Grounds Management, Seattle City Parks and Recreation, and other local municipalities and private organizations that employ utility vehicles to perform grounds maintenance tasks.
Our curator, Ray Larson, is busy developing plant lists and procuring new plants for refreshing and embellishing many plant collections displays and exhibits. Our horticulturists will be installing exciting new cultivars and hybrids in the PCG entry gardens of Australia, Cascadia and China. Also, wild-collected specimens from our container nursery inventory will be planted out in the future China forest portion which was cleared during the NZ forest construction last year. We hope to receive several tree peony cultivars from the Seattle Chinese garden. The American Peony Arts and Cultural Association is promoting Luoyang peonies. These donations may be planted in the PCG China entry garden, in our original peony display along Arboretum Drive and/or over at the Center for Urban Horticulture.
Other gardens and collections of 2014 focus for small-scale renovations and/or new plantings include the Winter Garden, Camellias, Hollies, Maples, Pinetum and Viburnums.
On the Plant Records front, catching up with our backlog of labeling and mapping will be a major goal for all UWBG gardens and collections, specifically PCG’s NZ forest and Chilean Gateway. Mapping our collections has moved into the 21st century using sophisticated survey equipment to gather Geo-referenced points that will enable all sorts of modern applications for staff and public alike who want more information on the locations and data of our plant collections.
Center for Urban Horticulture (CUH)
The horticulturists at CUH will certainly not be any less busy or ambitious in 2014 than those at WPA. The following projects are either underway or in the works:
- New plantings for the McVay stairs will include a new bench, bringing back the solar fountain from WPA and, if room allows, also incorporating a container or two.
- Our “face” along 41st Street is undergoing a much needed “lift.” After the new fence is built, there will be opportunities for new plantings along it. Also, expect to finally see our “Welcome” signs get installed onto the long awaiting stands at both ends of our frontage.
- Speaking of signs, the tired-looking interpretive signs in the Orin & Althea Soest Herbaceous Display Garden will be replaced shortly. Also, keep your eyes open for changes and new plantings in a few of the Soest display beds.
- If funding comes through, the Fragrance Garden bed along NHS Hall is on the schedule for renovation this year as well.
- Goodfellow Grove will continue to be a focus of renovation, with considerable restorative pruning and thinning beds, path and lawn improvements.
- Later this year, clearing of vegetation around Central pond in the Union Bay Natural Area will take place in hopes of providing more habitat for shore-birds and increasing their diversity.
As you can see, there’s plenty of work to be done by the UWBG horticulture and plant records staff in 2014. And, yes, a sigh of relief to be able to broaden our horizons beyond all-consuming capital projects for the year to focus on these smaller maintenance improvements of our established gardens, grounds and collections. Please stay tuned for further posts and photos on many of these exciting changes to take place in 2014 at our botanic gardens.
Witt Winter Garden
1) Calluna vulgaris ‘Robert Chapman’ Heather, Ling
- This monotypic genus is native from northwestern Europe, through Siberia and Turkey, all the way to Morocco and the Azores.
- The species has over 500 cultivars – some noted for spectacular flower displays in summer, while others display fantastic foliage coloration in winter.
- C.v. ‘Robert Chapman’ has golden foliage throughout summer, which turns red in winter and spring.
2) Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ Bloodtwig Dogwood
- In winter, the yellow stems of this twiggy shrub brighten to a stunning display of reds and oranges, depending on sun exposure.
3) Danae racemosa Alexandrian, Poet’s Laurel
- This native of Iran and Turkey has no true leaves, only leaf-like modified stem tissue called phylloclades.
- Tiny, yellow flowers that grow directly on the stem produce dramatic red fruits in winter.
- Poet’s Laurel was used by the Romans and Greeks to crown exemplary athletes, orators and poets.
4) Garrya x issaquahensis ‘Carl English’ Silk Tassel
- A hybrid of G. elliptica and G. fremontii, this Garrya bears purple-tinged silvery flower tassels in winter.
- Both parents are native to the west coast of the United States.
5) Hamamelis mollis Witch Hazel
- This Chinese witch hazel has large, very fragrant, golden-yellow flowers in early winter.
The Washington Park Arboretum (WPA) staff was delighted to host the staff and interns from the Elisabeth C. Miller garden for an educational walk and talk Wednesday January 8th. The wind and rain didn’t stop this intrepid group of horticulturists from walking the Pacific Connections Gardens and the ever-changing, always stunning Joe Witt Winter Garden. The Miller Garden staff was gracious enough to bring several plants to gift to the WPA, continuing the Miller family’s legacy of supporting the University of Washington Botanic Gardens. A big thank you goes out to Roy Farrow (a former Miller garden intern and current WPA horticulturist) for coordinating this meeting of plant-world minds.
My experience as a volunteer at the UW Arboretum…
It was the first quarter of my freshman year at the University of Washington. I was enrolled in an environmental studies class, and we, the students, were given an option between doing a book report and volunteering for “service learning.” Man, was I glad I chose to volunteer, because my time at the arboretum was great.
The arboretum is an escape from the city without leaving the city. There you are, standing in a metropolis, but you’re surrounded by tall trees, whistling birds, and sweet silence; it’s oxymoronic. I was living in a dormitory at the time, and the constant shuffle of neighbors, or the bumping music of the guys four doors down, kept me on-edge, not relaxed. But, once in the arboretum, all that white noise was gone. Even though I was there to volunteer and to work, I found myself energized upon leaving.
My time at the arboretum was mostly spent in the vegetable garden and in the pollination garden. Some days I would pull weeds, till soil, and flip compost, others I would dig up cobblestones and carry gravel. But everything I did was not strenuous. It was simply a light task. Other volunteers had similarly stress-free work. Some were assigned to lead field trips and tours around the park and others researched plant species that would suit the habitat.
I have not been to a place with more polite people than the arboretum. Everyone from the lady at the front desk to Patrick, my supervisor, greeted me with a smile each time I came by. If you happen to see Patrick when you’re there, ask him about his travels in South America; he’s got some cool stories.
If you’re thinking about volunteering, I highly encourage you to do so. My experience at the arboretum was exactly what I was looking for: chill, soothing and stress-free.
Tucked away behind the Cedrus knoll in the Arboretum’s Pinetum is the Euonymus europaeus ‘atrorubens’. At this time of year it is showing off its colorful seed pods, which hang all over the defoliated branches. A plant that has pink and orange fruits really catches your eye when you pass by.
This shrub is native to Europe and Western Asia and its common names are Spindle Tree and Cat Tree. It grows to 8′-10′ making it a good plant for a sunny spot in an urban garden. The flowers are borne in the spring and are insignificant, but the plant is used ornamentally for its red fall color and brilliant winter seed pods.
Our new course catalog for Winter/Spring is out and ready for registration. Whether you are a novice gardener, or an experienced horticulturist, you will find something to interest you. Why not take up watercolor or drawing, learn to be a beekeeper, forage for your own foods, or learn about our very own seed vault right in Seattle.
Interested in the background and stories of the Botanic Gardens? Go behind the scenes with our Curator Talks series, and discover the history of the Gardens’ most remarkable collections. Or if you feel the need to get outdoors, why not sign up for Wednesday Walks with John Wott?
Maybe take a tour with the Botanic Gardens! We will be touring the Elisabeth C Miller Botanical Garden to discover spring ephemerals and taking a trillium tour at the Cottage Lake Gardens in Woodinville (where we will get tea and snacks!).
For our professionals and advanced gardeners out there, we have the Master Pruner series, Woody Plant Study Group, and First Detector: Pest and Disease Diagnotics. These classes focus on material relevant to professional horticulturists, and include pruning for trees, vines, and roses, woody plant selection for location and aesthetics, and pest detection, identification and monitoring.
There you have it! There really is something for everyone this year. And you can sign up for any of them by registering online, or calling 206-685-8033.
1) Taxus brevifolia (Pacific or Western Yew)
- Native from southern Alaska to central California
- Chemotherapy drug Taxol was derived from the bark
- All parts of the plant are toxic except the fleshy red aril surrounding the little green cones
2) Salix (Willows)
- Aspirin is derived from Salicylic acid (component of Willow-bark extract)
- Medicinal use dates back to at least the 5th century BC when the Greek physician Hippocrates prescribed it to ease pain and reduce fevers.
- Lewis and Clark used willow bark tea as a remedy for crew fevers
3) Hamamelis virginiana (Witch Hazel)
- Leaves and bark contain hamamelitannin believed to be responsible for astringent properties, hemostatic properties, and antioxidant activity
- North American Indians distilled bark, leaves and twigs to make eyewash, treatment for hemorrhoids, internal hemorrhages, and gum inflammation.
- Considered a living fossil, Ginkgo is native to China
- Chinese people appreciate the dry-roasted nuts as a treatment for lung qi deficiency
5) Thuja occidentalis (Eastern arborvitae)
- One of the four plants of the Ojibwe medicine wheel
- Rich in vitamin C, thought to have cured many bouts of scurvy in mariners
Source: Moerman, Native American Ethnobotany; Van Wyk and Wink, Medicinal Plants of the World; Schafer, The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm