May Colors Appear Just in Time for Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day! 1)  Philadelphus coronarius Native to southeastern Europe and Asia Minor, this shrub is located within the Sorbus Collection. It is perhaps the best-known species of mock orange in gardens because of its sweet smell. The fragrance of its flowers is pleasing out-of-doors, but may become too strong if the plants are numerous or near sitting room windows. Philadelphus is a member of the plant family, Hydrangeaceae. 

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"Story Time" at the Washington Park Arboretum

The stories of people and plants are intricately intertwined.  The plants of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens have many stories to tell, and here are just a few to wet your whistle.  Explore our website at to look up and locate plants in the Arboretum and learn more of our stories. 1)  Abies grandis – Grand Fir                “Fir Above It All” This particular tree has witnessed the entire history of the Washington Park Arboretum.  

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April Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

1)  Acer mandshuricum                Manchurian Maple The Manchurian Maple is native from Eastern Siberia into China and strongly resembles Acer griseum and Acer triflorum. This species is located in the Asian Maples Collection. 2)  Distylium racemosum                Isu Tree The flowers of Distylium racemosum are petalless, but have attractive red calyces (whorl of sepals) and purple stamens. The Isu tree is native to southern Japan, but can be found in the Witt Winter Garden and in our Hamamelidaceae Collection, east of Arboretum Drive near the Pacific Connections gardens. 

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A Subtle Side of Spring

Spring is not typically known for its subtlety around these parts, but upon its early awakening many plants warrant a closer look. Enjoy! 1)  Acer palmatum ‘Katsura’                     Katsura Maple One of the first Japanese maples to leaf out each spring. The small, five-lobed leaves emerge pale yellow-orange, with brighter orange margins. Found in the semi-dwarf group of Japanese maples. Specimen 19-10*A is located in grid 30-4E. 

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

1)  Chaenomeles cathayensis                   Chinese Quince This deciduous shrub is native to slopes and forest margins in western Hubei Province. Light pink flowers in spring are followed by large oblong fruit which are unpalatable raw, but make fragrant jams and jellies when cooked. Like other quince, Chaenomeles cathayensis’ arching branches are armed with stiff thorns. Two specimens can be seen in the old field nursery south of the Crab Apple Meadow near Arboretum Drive. 

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February Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

1)  Pinus greggii This three-needle pine from northeastern Mexico is closely akin to P. patula but less ornamental.  Its oval-conical cone clusters stay closed on the branch for several years.  This specimen and the others described here can be found within Crabapple Meadow, along the east side of Arboretum Drive. 2)  Pinus jeffreyi Native mainly of California in the Sierra Nevada and Siskiyous, this lofty tree is said to grow to 200 feet in the wild.  

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Late January Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

Sleeping Beauties 1)  Oemleria cerasiformis                Indian Plum The Indian Plum adheres to Benjamin Franklin’s advice in Poor Richards Almanac: “Early to bed, early to rise. . . .”  This shrub goes to sleep early, beginning to slowly defoliate in late summer.  However, it is one of the first to leaf out, and flowers early in the spring.  It can be found throughout the Arboretum, and is just beginning to awaken. 

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January Color Brings in the New Year at the Washington Park Arboretum

Witt Winter Garden 1)  Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ Midwinter Fire Dogwood Though the species normally has red twigs and purple fall color, this outstanding cultivar has golden-yellow fall color followed by red-blushed, yellow twigs. This dogwood is native to northern Europe into northwestern Asia. Full sun is required to obtain the best winter stem color and this dogwood will slowly colonize an area via suckers from its shallow roots unless controlled. 

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Deck the Halls

Boughs used as winter decoration are often from plants in the genus Ilex. Many Ilex, or holly species are dioecious, meaning that male and female reproductive organs are separated on individual plants. This trait promotes cross-fertilization which increases genetic variability, but can decrease seed-setting efficiency.  Solitary individuals are unable to be pollinated, therefore it is necessary that male and female plants grow in close proximity or female plants will not produce berries. 

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December Color Appears at the Washington Park Arboretum

Conifer trees occasionally mutate into unusual forms, often slow-growing natural dwarfs. Thousands of these have been in cultivation for centuries. The Arboretum has only a few in its collection, sadly neglected in grid 37-1W – a corner of the Oaks area.  Here are five examples: 1)  Chamaecyparis lawsoniana  ‘Lycopodioides’ Translated: “a form of Lawson’s false cypress that looks like Lycopodium” – a genus of club moss that’s said to resemble a wolf’s foot. 

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