More than 320 acres of gardens and woodlands — including one of the oldest arboreta this side of the Mississippi — and one of the West Coast’s largest horticulture centers and libraries began operating this summer under the umbrella “University of Washington Botanic Gardens.”
“The new designation recognizes the conservation, research and educational outreach under way here, as well as the display of plants,” says David Mabberley, who assumed the title director of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens.
The botanic gardens include the Washington Park Arboretum, Center for Urban Horticulture, Elisabeth C. Miller Library, Otis Hyde Herbarium and Union Bay Natural Area, all of which retain their individual names. The UW owns and manages the plant collections in the Washington Park Arboretum and works cooperatively with the city and the nonprofit Arboretum Foundation there. This is not a move to change the arboretum’s name, Mabberley says.
“We support the unifying concept of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens while recognizing that the Washington Park Arboretum will retain its unique and important identity,” says Ken Bounds, superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation.
Mabberley initiated the approval process for the change within weeks of his arrival in Seattle earlier this year, where he took the helm of horticulture programs at the UW. The change is in line with premier botanic gardens around the world. The Missouri Botanical Garden, for instance, includes three off-site divisions as well as the main grounds.
“University of Washington Botanic Gardens is a streamlined way to address the various components,” says Deborah Andrews, executive director of the Arboretum Foundation, which has provided stewardship for the Washington Park Arboretum since 1935. “It comes at a time of forward momentum as we move toward upgrading collections and restoring the grounds.”
A major gifts campaign, “Pacific Connections,” is under way in support of the first phase of a 20-year master plan to comprehensively restore and enhance the 230-acre arboretum. Among other things, Mabberley had the experience while a dean with Oxford University of overseeing the refurbishment of gardens in the heart of Oxford, which were visited by thousands every year.
A mission statement, also developed this spring, states that the University of Washington Botanic Gardens will concern itself with “sustaining managed to natural ecosystems and the human spirit through plant research, display and education.” Conservation and research programs currently include the Rare Plant Care and Conservation Program — a member of the national Center for Plant Conservation — and restoration ecology where scientists are learning how to rehabilitate degraded ecosystems.
The gardens is a unit of the UW College of Forest Resources. The new framework complements and enhances the college’s strategic themes centering around the concept of natural resources and environmental sustainability, says Dean Bruce Bare.