A rhodie from China that can grow 2 ½ foot leaves when mature, a fuchsia from New Zealand that hugs the ground and produces red berries, and a monkey-puzzle tree from a lineage that goes back to Chile — a country with no monkeys — are a few of the unusual plants one sees strolling the just-opened Pacific Connections Garden.
Click through the University Week slide show to see these plants and others, then pay a visit to the garden at the south end of the arboretum. Those wanting a free, guided tour of the new garden can take advantage of guided weekend walk programs the first and third Sundays this month and next. The tours, led by knowledgeable guides, start at 1 p.m. at the Graham Visitors Center. No advance registration is needed.
The garden is the largest addition to the Washington Park Arboretum since its founding in 1934.
“The project is unprecedented in scope and scale in the history of the arboretum,” David Zuckerman told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Zuckerman, a UW College of Forest Resources employee, supervises the arboretum’s horticultural staff and served as UW liaison during construction of the new garden when it came to such things as soils, drainage, growing plants and plant protection.
The arboretum, a part of the UW Botanic Gardens, is a Seattle park where the UW manages the collections and works cooperatively with the city and the Arboretum Foundation.
“Designing and constructing Pacific Connections involved every one of the UW’s horticulture and curation staff,” says Fred Hoyt, facilities and grounds manager for UW Botanic Gardens who, during the project, worked closely with Seattle Parks and Recreation Department’s project manager Andy Sheffer, especially concerning the plant collections and their organization. “The knowledge and effort these employees brought to the project are reasons why the gardens were done on time and have already been documented for scientific purposes.”
The Pacific Connections Garden has plants representing this region and parts of four other countries in the Pacific Rim with climates similar to ours: China, New Zealand, Australia and Chile.
In this first phase covering 4 acres, five entry gardens have been planted and an interpretive shelter built. In coming years, another 11 acres will be developed with trails from the entry gardens leading to five forests planted from the ground to the canopy with native plants of the different Pacific regions. While the entry gardens have cultivars meant for growing in gardens — to give landscapers and home gardeners ideas of what might thrive in our area — the forested areas will be filled with plants typically found in the wild.
“The intent is, you will feel transported. You will be plunged into a different type of forest, a different type of landscape,” Randall Hitchin told the Seattle Times. Hitchin is plant-collection manager for the UW Botanic Gardens and was responsible for securing the plants for the Pacific Connections Garden, turning to mainly West Coast and Canadian nurseries and suggesting substitutions when needed.
He also led expeditions in recent years to the Siskiyou area of Oregon to collect seeds and cuttings that produced some of the plants in the Cascadia garden. UW plant propagator Barbara Selemon is growing others for use in the Cascadia forest. Taking care to screen out plants that might be invasive, plans call for collecting seeds and cuttings by hand during expeditions to the other four countries in the future.
For the opening, UW Botanic Gardens previewed MP3 audio guides, one for the Pacific Connections Garden and one for the demonstration gardens at the UW Center for Urban Horticulture. The guides will be available for download for free later this month at http://www.uwbotanicgardens.org. Those without their own MP3 players will be able to rent them from the arboretum’s Graham Visitors Center and the Center for Urban Horticulture’s Merrill Hall.
UW Botanic Gardens is part of the UW College of Forest Resources. The entry gardens and shelter were built with $500,000 from the city’s Pro Parks levy, $2.2 million from the Arboretum Foundation — which includes private donations — and $50,000 from the UW. The UW also contributed significant staff time to the project — developing plant lists, procuring plant materials and developing educational and interpretive materials.
Donations to continue developing the garden can be made by calling 206-325-4510 or at https://www563.ssldomain.com/arboretumfoundation/give/give_form.cfm.