Winter scenes

It’s December 20, winter solstice eve, and it is appropriately grey and misty, typical Seattle weather for the season. Winter is good for projects that take too much time for the busy growing season; I’m trying to use up all of our  supply of 2x4s to replace the rotting borders around the garden beds. None of the borders have exactly the same dimensions so they all need to be measured and cut to order.  And, of course, with shifting, uneven settling and the pressure of tree roots, they’re rarely at right angles anymore. It’s always a challenge to work on something old and worn. Replacing a part often involves accidentally breaking something else or discovering that the work planned is just the beginning of the work that needs to be done. It’s worth keeping that in mind when the bill comes in for repairs on whatever object or structure you hold dear. If you feel sticker shock, try doing the repair work yourself and you’ll gain a new appreciation for the unpredictable effects of entropy and the time it takes to fix them.

IMG_2180

Rotting old boards are ready for the dumpster. Large tree root at lower left of the picture is pushing up the wooden borders in parts of sections D and E. It’s hard to argue with the root system of a giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum). The inconvenience is a small price to pay for having such a glorious tree in the garden.

IMG_2183

This mighty sequoia on the east edge of section D is only a little more than a century old. It’s big…really, really big.

IMG_2177

Freshly cut 2x4s I’ve transported by bicycle trailer from behind the greenhouse up to the Medicinal Herb Garden shed. The excellent cargo trailer was made by Colin Stevens of  Haulin’ Colin and Cyclefab, two local manufacturing businesses. I can’t recommend them enough.  http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2014/11/19/the-bicycle-story-colin-stevens-is-seattles-bicycling-mad-scientist/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the design of the Medicinal Herb Garden were a little less formal, it would be a relief to be rid of the wooden borders altogether, but a complete redesign of the garden isn’t likely, so….it’s better to have solid borders than decayed, broken borders.

IMG_2181

Some of the new borders in section E. If you visit the garden, please do me a huge favor and walk on the gravel paths, not on the wooden borders, tempting though it may be to practice your balance beam skills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got a little snow and some cold weather beginning on December 1 but it wasn’t much and it didn’t last long. The waters of the Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean warm our winters. When we do get bitter cold air slipping down over the Cascades from Alberta,  it usually fades away within a week or two.

IMG_2172

Section A beds dusted with snow.

IMG_2173

Snowy scene in Cascara Circle.

IMG_2171

Olive trees (Olea europea) wrapped for the cold. Nighttime temperatures got down to about 23 F. Olives can handle that, uncovered, with just a little damage to the newest leaves, but wrapping them is easy and it’s better to be safe than sorry. I want to harvest some olives next fall!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_2178

Canada wild rye (Elymus canadensis) seed heads. Where would we be without the grasses?

IMG_2179

Prairie mimosa (Desmanthus illinoensis) is as striking in winter as when flowering in summer. Such strange infructescences, I haven’t noticed birds picking the seeds from them. Maybe the juncos (Junco hyemalis) eat them after they’ve fallen to the ground.

IMG_2188

This picture was taken on December 19.  Tea (Camellia sinensis) plants flower from late fall into winter around here.

IMG_2182

Cones from the giant sequoia. They blew down in a recent storm. Though green now, as they dry they will turn brown and the scales will shrink, allowing the small, flat, winged seeds to drop out of the cone. Ideally for the tree, this happens when the cone is  still attached to the branch and the seeds can be dispersed widely by the wind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

faint mist at first light

longest night meets shortest day

by the Salish Sea

 

See you in the garden.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cranberries

Many years ago, I struggled for a solution to the drainage issues in section C of the Medicinal Herb Garden. Section C is on a south facing slope and that is a good thing for growing many plants. Unfortunately, the west side of the bottom half of the slope is the low spot and that is where the water drains to…and stops. One solution has been to turn off the irrigation heads in some of the beds but another solution has been to grow plants that like it moist. A pleasant surprise has been Vaccinium macrocarpon, our native, eastern North American cranberry.

Vaccinium macrocarpon (cranberry) section C

Vaccinium macrocarpon (cranberry) section C. This is how it looks when flowering.

IMG_2170

Cranberries on a frosty morning in section C.

IMG_2169

Washed and ready for cooking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not only are they easy to grow in a damp, sunny spot, but they produce an amazing amount of fruit per square foot and the plants are only 6-8 inches tall. They are spreaders, so in the right spot you can grow a reliable, trouble-free (at least they have been for me over many years) crop that will keep expanding on its own. Being bog plants, they don’t like a heavy clay/silt soil which is often the sort of wet area we encounter in urban yards, but you can amend your soil with a lot of organic matter and see how it works.  Keep at it, experiment! Think like a bog. If I can grow olives in Seattle (I have a jar of olives from Medicinal Herb Garden trees curing in my refrigerator right now… really.), you can grow cranberries in your sodden yard.

Most people add sugar when cooking cranberries but they make a deliciously tart sauce just as they are, simmered with a little water until they start popping.  They’re high in vitamin C and antioxidants, and the refreshing, mouth puckering juice is commonly used to prevent and treat urinary tract infections.

The great state of Washington is currently the fifth largest producer of cranberries in the USA. To be honest, we are a very distant fifth and a lightweight compared to the number one producer, Wisconsin, but we have two beautiful mountain ranges, a desert and the Pacific Ocean and not nearly so many mosquitoes, bitterly cold winter days or hot, muggy summer nights, so let us be content.

There are two closely related species represented in the Medicinal Herb Garden, the lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) and the small cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos). Neither has produced fruit…yet, but I’m hopeful. Both are circumboreal, extending all the way up into the arctic tundra. The lingonberry appears to grow no further south than British Columbia on the west coast but the small cranberry has been found in western Washington, especially out on the Olympic Peninsula. I haven’t run across it yet but I’m looking.

If cranberries aren’t a food-medicine, I don’t know what is. And you don’t need a wet yard; you could grow them on your deck in a big tub of peaty sand…or sandy peat. Just keep them wet and give them plenty of sun. Home grown cranberries for Thanksgiving definitely give you bragging rights. Good luck.

 

 

such tart crimson fruit

dotting the bogs and tundra

ruby red treasure

 

 

See you in the garden.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Fall colors

Lately I’ve been sowing more cover crops, collecting and cleaning seeds and updating the garden’s plant inventory and the index for our international seed exchange program, spreading compost and wood chips, and reflecting on the changing seasons. It’s impossible to miss the circular nature of life and the seasons and the moon and stars above when you work in a garden and pay attention. I try to pay more attention every year, but there is so much to see and so much I’m blind to. I’m suddenly noticing the wide variety of spiders in the garden. I keep walking through their webs which seem to be everywhere at the moment. I will do a blog post on garden spiders but not right now. Instead, here are some pictures of fall colors, before the winds blow them all away.

Acer saccharum (sugar maple) north of section B

Acer saccharum (sugar maple) north of section B. It’s too big for its location and it shades my olive trees, but it is a spectacular tree when its leaves turn color. And without sugar maples, we wouldn’t have maple syrup for our pancakes and waffles. Think about that…

Lindera benzoin (spicebush) north of Cascara Circle

Lindera benzoin (spicebush) north of Cascara Circle. Make a refreshing tea from the leaves and twigs. The bright red fruit can be dried and then, as needed, ground up for spice. It is often described as a substitute for allspice but it has a distinctive taste that will likely stump your dinner guests.  The fruit also make a great autumn trail nibble, used as you would wintergreen berries (Gaultheria procumbens), something to chew on while you stroll.

Ginkgo biloba (bai guo ye) section C border.

Ginkgo biloba (bai guo ye) section C border. It looks like the Chemistry Building is falling over in this shot but I just checked and, never fear, it still stands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mespilus germanica (medlar) woods north of Cascara Circle. An underappreciated relative of apples and pears, much more popular in Europe, the medlar is eaten when soft, the pulp, like spiced applesauce, squeezed into one's mouth. They stay fairly small. Maybe you should plant one in your yard.

Mespilus germanica (medlar) woods north of Cascara Circle. An underappreciated relative of apples and pears, much more popular in Europe, the medlar is eaten when soft. You squeeze the pulp, which looks and tastes like spiced applesauce, into your mouth.  The trees stay fairly small. Maybe you should plant one in your yard.

Zanthoxyllum simulans (hua jiao, Sichuan pepper) this one, covered with fruit right now, is at the edible bus stop, adjacent to section B of the garden. The shrubs are spiny members of the citrus family, the Rutaceae, and the fruit make your mouth tingle.

Zanthoxyllum simulans (hua jiao, Sichuan pepper) This one, covered with fruit right now, is at the Edible Bus Stop, adjacent to section B of the garden. The shrubs are spiny members of the citrus family, the Rutaceae, and the fruit, one of the ingredients in 5 spice powder, make your mouth tingle.

Bletilla striata (bai ji) border areas and section F. It's been called the easiest orchid to grow. And the autumn foliage and seed pods hold their own in the borders.

Bletilla striata (bai ji) border areas and section F. It’s been called the easiest orchid to grow. And the autumn foliage and seed pods hold their own in the borders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aronia melanocarpa (black chokeberry) in border areas all around the garden. The berries are alleged to be a 'super food' but the leaves offer brilliant autumn foliage. I've planted a lot of them in the borders.

Aronia melanocarpa (black chokeberry) in border areas all around the garden. The berries are alleged to be a ‘super food’ and
the leaves offer brilliant autumn foliage. I’ve planted a lot of them in the borders.

Lycium chinense (gou qi zi, goji berry) section C. Good for what ails you, the fresh goji berries taste like a cross between a sweet pepper and a tomato.

Lycium chinense (gou qi zi, goji berry)
section C. Good for what ails you, the fresh goji berries taste like a cross between a sweet pepper and a tomato.

Aconitum carmichaelii (monk's hood, fu zi) section F. Yes, it's flowering in November. The days have been warm enough for some pollinators to keep making their rounds.

Aconitum carmichaelii (monk’s hood, fu zi) section F.
Yes, it’s flowering in November. The days have been warm enough for some pollinators to keep making their rounds, but not for long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smilax rotundifolia (common greenbrier) section B. I picked the seeds to grow these plants on Cape Cod, on one of the last walks I took  with my dear old dad.

Smilax rotundifolia (common greenbrier) section B. I picked the seeds to grow these plants on Cape Cod,in a marsh, on one of the last walks I took with my dear old dad.

Cercis canadensis (eastern redbud) woods north of Cascara Circle. It's a bit ghostly at this time of year.

Cercis canadensis (eastern redbud) woods north of Cascara Circle. It’s a bit ghostly at this time of year.

Opuntia humifusa (eastern prickly pear) xeriscape bed. Yes, that is a small prickly pear fruit sticking out of the cactus pad.  When the nearby Opuntia engelmannii get a bit bigger, they should produce significantly larger fruit.

Opuntia humifusa (eastern prickly pear) xeriscape bed.
Yes, that is a small prickly pear fruit sticking out of the cactus pad.
When the nearby Opuntia engelmannii get a bit bigger, they should produce significantly larger fruit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vaccinium spp. (blueberries) border west of Cascara Circle. No garden should be without blueberries. Mmmm.....blueberries!

Vaccinium spp. (blueberries) border west of Cascara Circle. No garden should be without blueberries. Mmmm…..blueberries!

Tricholoma magnivelare (Americn matsutake) This is the taste of autumn in the Pacific Northwest. It is also the largest matsutake button I've ever collected.

Tricholoma magnivelare (Americn matsutake) This is the taste of autumn in the Pacific Northwest. It is also the largest matsutake button I’ve ever collected.

 

 

 pale matsutake

spicy whiff of autumn woods

pine mushroom fragrance

 

 

See you in the garden.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

End of an era

When I wandered into the Medicinal Herb Garden in 1992, I was looking for ideas. My housemates and I had carved out a large vegetable garden on a vacant lot and we wanted to add an herb garden. The day I arrived, I could see the place could use some weeding, so I decided to volunteer. I looked for who was in charge and quickly found Doug Ewing, manager of the UW Botany Greenhouse.

Doug and a large group of volunteers known as Friends of the Medicinal Herb Garden (FMHG), had been maintaining the garden since 1983. Before that there had been two gardeners who managed the collection and the seed exchange program. When the Pharmacy Department pulled its funding for the gardeners in 1979, the garden went into steady decline. Though the Botany Department assumed management of the garden, they had no additional funding for a garden manager. That responsibility fell on the shoulders of the greenhouse manager who already had a full-time job. It was an impossible situation.

But the prolonged efforts of Doug and the many volunteers of the FMHG saved the garden from disaster. Doug made the greenhouse available for volunteers to meet, help him and his greenhouse staff propagate plants for the garden, run the international seed exchange program and even to use some of the cramped office space.

In 1996, Doug convinced the Grounds Maintenance Department to hire me as a seasonal employee in the garden. By 1999 I was looking for a full time job and Doug lobbied for me here at the UW. I was hired in 2000 and I can honestly say I wouldn’t be here without Doug’s tireless efforts.

Yesterday was Doug’s last day at the UW. His sudden departure, much too soon for all us who know him, has left holes in our hearts. The UW just lost one of the best people it’s ever employed and will be the lesser for it. I can’t count the number of times I’ve arrived at the greenhouse after a stormy night to find Doug sleeping in the office, taking no chances that a flood or snow would keep him away. And there was never a worry about interrupting Doug with a question during his lunch break. He would put down his plate, head off to a far corner of the greenhouse with anyone who asked for his help and explain in great detail the natural history or the best horticultural practices for a particular plant, often forgetting to return to his lunch. His detailed knowledge of botany, horticulture, natural history and all of the intricate electrical and plumbing systems of the greenhouse, not to mention his endless inventory of corny jokes will not be seen here again. Alas.

Bravo, Doug; I’ll never match you and your limitless enthusiasm and preternatural dedication to the job but I’m a better person for having worked with you these many years and I hope some of your magic wore off on me. We miss you already.

Here are some pictures of Doug’s fan club who ambushed him before he could escape on his final day.

IMG_2132

Doug holding forth as his fans choke back their tears

IMG_2130

Everyone got a hug.

IMG_2128

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_2134

Doug and his wife, Emily. No one left the greenhouse with dry eyes.

Doug often joked that he would make his final exit from the greenhouse in a wheelbarrow.

IMG_2137

He gets his wish with Alan Trimble at the helm.

IMG_2138

Bon voyage, good friend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 outside, cold winds blow

but in this sheltered haven

 plants you raised live on

 

See you in the garden, Doug.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Autumn scenes

The nights are cooling off, there’s dew on my bike seat every morning (pretty soon it will be rain) and the sun has been breaking through the misty grey later in the day. It’s autumn.

I’ve been busy collecting seeds for our seed exchange program, sowing cover crops on the annual beds, deadheading the prolific self-sowers to make my job easier in the spring, and, as always, weeding.  There’s still a lot of green but the brown of spent flower stalks adds a skeletal contrast that helps remind us of the circularity of life.

Often, visitors to the garden in winter will ask why everything is dead. Of course, it’s not. Many herbaceous perennials are storing all their energy for the next year in their roots. Annuals that have completed their one year cycle will spread their seeds which will germinate in the coming years. And the weeds are always doing well. Don’t worry about the weeds.

Here are some images from the garden.

 

IMG_2114

whorlflower (Morina longifolia) section A

 

IMG_2116

goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) section C

IMG_2115

xu duan (Dipsacus asper) section B

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_2112

Chinese winter melons, dong gua ren (Benincasa hispida) The harvest from section C

IMG_2119

dang shen (Codonopsis pilosula) section E

IMG_2117

An array of Asian umbels, section C

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 dry leaves flitter down

paths ajumble in chestnuts

sky of cawing crows

See you in the garden.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Score one for the bees!

There wouldn’t be much of a Medicinal Herb Garden without pollinators and the pollinators are resting easy because many of you and thousands of other citizens of Seattle signed a petition urging the Seattle City Council to enact a municipal ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides by the City of Seattle and on land managed by the City of Seattle. Thank you; the resolution to enact a ban on neonicotinoids passed unanimously. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Here’s the public statement on the petition site:

———————————————————————————————————————–

Seattle Municipal Ban on Neonicotinoids!

by Central Co-op and Seattle Sierra Club

One For The Bees!

On Monday September 22, the Seattle City Council, with Mayor Ed Murray concurring, voted unanimously for our resolution to enact a municipal ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides by the City of Seattle, and on land managed by the City of Seattle.

The resolution also calls for a national moratorium on neonics; calls on the White House Task Force on Pollinator Health to take action; on the EPA to suspend registration of this class of pesticides; on the US Congress to pass the Save America’s Pollinators Act; and on retailers in Seattle to not sell neonics.

Seattle becomes the largest city to take such a stand. This victory is a small step in the growing worldwide movement for pollinators, which are important for agricultural production, and for ecosystem health. Huge thanks to the over 4300 people who signed our petition, and to the 24 organizations who signed on to the resolution!

Thanks to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the NW Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, and the WA Sustainable Food and Farming Network, who helped educate us to greatly improve the final resolution that was adopted, and who each wrote letters of support to the City Council.

And thanks to the UW Medicinal Herb Garden, the Seattle Tilth Association, and PCC Natural Markets, whose early support and outreach helped bring this effort to public attention and build momentum for success.

Keep up the great work everyone, and look for further steps to build on this and make Seattle the Bee Friendliest city in the USA!

———————————————————————————————————————-

IMG_0909

Rosa gallica (French rose) section B

Pycnanthemum pilosum (mountain mint) section B

Pycnanthemum pilosum (mountain mint)
section B

Verbesina alternifolia (yellow ironweed, wingstem) section E

Verbesina alternifolia (yellow ironweed, wingstem) section E

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the pollinators

buzz of guardian angels

hovering nearby

 

See you in the garden.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Plants and…art

This is the month to be in the mountains in Washington. The berries are ripe, the bears are out on the slopes and the frosts have killed off the bugs. I’ve been basking in the glory of our Cascades and Olympics instead of writing blog posts and I’m about to head out again, but here are some pictures of plants and some art that was recently installed and will remain in the garden until some time in October. Don’t miss it and the rest of the art pieces around campus. This city needs a lot more public art and this collaboration between Mad Art and Arts UW is setting a good example.

Hortus Curiosus art installation by Saya Moriyasu and Maki Tamura in Cascara Circle. It's part of the Mad Campus series  and it is a delightful addition to the  garden. I wish there were art installations  rotating through campus all the time.  http://madartseattle.com/exhibits/mad-campus/

Hortus Curiosus art installation by Saya Moriyasu and Maki Tamura in Cascara Circle. It’s part of the Mad Campus series
and it is a delightful addition to the
garden. I wish there were art installations
rotating through campus all the time.
http://madartseattle.com/exhibits/mad-campus/

Hortus Curiosus

Hortus Curiosus

Hortus Curiosus

Hortus Curiosus

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six Swans art installation by Tory Franklin section D. It's part of the Mad Campus series. We are always honored to have art in the garden. http://madartseattle.com/exhibits/mad-campus/

Six Swans art installation by Tory Franklin
section D, also part of the Mad Campus series. We are always honored to have art in the garden.
http://madartseattle.com/exhibits/mad-campus/

Cynanchum auriculatum (bai shou wu) section A. This is the only plant I see covered with Dolichovespula maculata (bald-faced hornet) sucking its nectar. I'm not sure if they're effective pollinators but it's a pleasure to watch them feed. They appear quite docile. Maybe the nectar is narcotic.

Cynanchum auriculatum (bai shou wu) section A. This is the only plant I see covered with Dolichovespula maculata (bald-faced hornet) sucking its nectar. I’m not sure if they’re effective pollinators but it’s a pleasure to watch them feed. They appear quite docile. Maybe the nectar is narcotic.

Pycnanthemum pilosum (mountain mint) section B

Pycnanthemum pilosum (mountain mint)
section B

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proboscidea parviflora var. hohokamiana (unicorn plant) section D

Proboscidea parviflora var. hohokamiana (unicorn plant) section D

Proboscidea parviflora var. hohokamiana (unicorn plant) section D. The green fruit are edible. Later, the fruit becomes woody, and the husk splits away to reveal large seeds which are also edible.

Proboscidea parviflora var. hohokamiana
(unicorn plant) section D. The green fruit are edible. Later, the fruit becomes woody, and the husk splits away to reveal large seeds which are also edible.

Ipomoaea tricolor (grannyvine, morning glory) section C. Don't worry, it's an annual. It draws a lot of attention and gets its picture taken all day long when it's flowering.

Ipomoaea tricolor (grannyvine, morning glory) section C. Don’t worry, it’s an annual. It draws a lot of attention and gets its picture taken all day long when it’s flowering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helianthus mollis (downy sunflower) section D

Helianthus mollis (downy sunflower)
section D

Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower) section E

Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower) section E

Momordica charantia (ku gua, bitter gourd) section C. When ripe, the fruit split open to reveal the seeds, covered in red pulp.

Momordica charantia (ku gua, bitter gourd)
section C. When ripe, the fruit split open to reveal the seeds, covered in red pulp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lycium chinensis (gou qi zi, goji berry) section C

Lycium chinensis (gou qi zi, goji berry) section C.  It’s an easy plant to grow and can be cut back each year and still produce a lot of berries which ripen from late summer into winter. Why go to the health food store for goji berries when you can grow them yourself?

Monarda punctata (spotted beebalm) section B

Monarda punctata (spotted beebalm) section B

Belamcanda chinensis (she gan) section B. When in fruit, you can see how it gets its other common name, blackberry lily (though it's in the iris family, not the lily family)

Belamcanda chinensis (she gan) section B.
When in fruit, you can see how it gets its other common name, blackberry lily (though it’s in the iris family, not the lily family)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sophora flavescens (ku shen) section A flowers on upper branch, fruit on lower branch

Astragalus membranaceus (huang qi)  section A.
Flowers are on the upper branch and emerging fruit are on the lower branch.

Passiflora incarnata (maypop) section D

Passiflora incarnata (maypop) section D.  On rare years when the plants set fruit early enough, we get a few ripe ones (when the color changes from green to tan and they get puckered and fragrant, they’re ripe). They have a tropical taste like nothing else you can grow here. If you have a very sunny and protected spot and you don’t mind that the vines will emerge from the ground wherever they please each year, build a trellis for them and stand back.

Lathyrus japonicus (beach pea) section C

Lathyrus japonicus (beach pea) section C

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sesamum indicum (sesame) section C. You can see flowers above and immature seed pods below.

Sesamum indicum (sesame) section C. You can see flowers above and immature seed pods below. When the seed pods turn brown, the sesame seeds are ready to harvest.

Collinsonia canadensis (horse balm) section E

Collinsonia canadensis (horse balm) section E

Grindelia robusta (gum plant) section D

Grindelia robusta (gum plant) section D

 

 

 

 

 

 

Verbesina alternifolia (yellow ironweed, wingstem) section E

Verbesina alternifolia (yellow ironweed, wingstem) section E

Penthorum sedoides (ditch stonecrop) section D.

Penthorum sedoides (ditch stonecrop) section D.

Silphium perfoliatum (compass plant, cup plant) section D

Silphium perfoliatum (compass plant, cup plant) section D

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rudbeckia hirta (black-eyed Susan) section B

Rudbeckia hirta (black-eyed Susan) section B

 

 

with flowers and art

thinking of Kenneth Patchen

alight in dark times

 

 

See you in the garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Neonicotinoid redux

IMG_1274

Healthy bees… let’s keep them that way!

On June 29, on this blog I posted a piece called Our Toxic World , about neonicotinoid pesticides and the harm they do to our pollinators. I did so after being alerted to this issue by Webster Walker from Central C0-op. In the meantime, Central Co-op and Sierra Club Seattle Group have been busy drafting a resolution to help protect our vital pollinators. They are asking the good citizens of Seattle to support the resolution being brought before the Seattle City Council PLUS (Planning, Land Use and Sustainability) committee, to protect honeybees and other pollinators, by implementing a municipal ban on neonicotinoid pesticides.

Please read the draft resolution and, when you find yourself convinced that it is obviously the right thing to do, sign the petition. Please don’t wait. Do it now and pass the word. The authors of the draft resolution are hoping for 2,500 signatures by September 16. The Seattle City Council exists to serve the needs of the citizens of Seattle and we all need pollinators. Let them know you care.

The full text of the draft resolution is available here, and the petition site is here.

 

 

 

murmur of the hive

plum trees lush with dripping fruit

bountiful summer

 

 

See you in the garden.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tea

Coffee (usually Coffea arabica or Coffea canephora) is one of the many things Seattle is known for. No matter where you are in the city, you’re never far from a business that will sell you coffee, quite possibly coffee that was roasted down the block or in the back room. I enjoy coffee and drink it occasionally, but consuming it too often overwhelms my basic sense of calm and stability.

Coffee plant with immature fruit in the Botany Greenhouse

Coffee plant with immature fruit in the Botany Greenhouse

Mostly I drink tea (Camellia sinensis), and so do a lot of other people. According to the Tea Association of the U.S.A., half the American population drinks tea every day. The Turks drink more tea per capita than the citizens of any other country. They drink about 21 times as much tea as Americans. Bless them, the Turks. In the coastal town of Marmaris, having debarked after a ferry trip from Rhodes, I long ago had the experience of sitting in a tea house on a rainy autumn afternoon, drinking tea and smoking cigarettes. As soon as my cup started to run dry or my cigarette was burning low, one or another fellow customer paid for my next cup and offered, nay, forced another cigarette into my hand. Turkey was a much less prosperous country in 1989 when I visited and the extreme generosity of the tea house patrons stands in memory as an example of how to live in the world. I no longer smoke, but I still love tea.

Tea (Camellia sinensis) growing in the Medicinal Herb Garden

Tea (Camellia sinensis)
growing in the Medicinal Herb Garden

In case you imagine tea as an exotic, tropical or subtropical plant, you’re right and you’re wrong. Yes, it is exotic. It is native to southeastern Asia. The Chinese are the top producers of tea in the world, followed closely by India. Yes, it does well in the tropics and subtropics, but it is grown as far north as Vancouver Island  and Washington state as well as Cornwall in the U.K., all places where the marine climate buffers the winter extremes of the far northern latitude.

There is a large hedge of tea plants growing in the Medicinal Herb Garden on the south and west borders of section A. They are extremely hardy, broadleaved evergreen shrubs that do well in full sun but also in shade. If you plan to pick the leaves to make tea, your best bet is to give them full sun in Seattle. As long as they get some water, they put out a lot more growth in the sun. I harvest leaves, the new growth at the branch tips, in late spring to early summer. It is traditional to pick the top ‘two leaves and a bud’, the bud being the newest leaf which has not fully unfurled. The University of Hawaii has an excellent primer on processing tea at home. You can adapt their methods to your own preferences. For instance, they use a microwave to process green tea and I use a steamer instead. But their instructions are quite clear and easy to follow.

http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/FST-26.pdf

It’s surprising, considering the influence of Chinese and Japanese culture in Seattle, that there is so little tea growing in this city. Living on Beacon Hill, a  traditionally Chinese neighborhood, especially since the end of WWII , I walk the nearby streets, making note of what people are growing. An ancient goji berry shrub (Lycium chinense) grows on the border with my neighbor to the north. Loquats (Eriobotrya japonica) and Asian pears (Pyrus pyrifolia) are planted all over the place up here. But where is the tea? I don’t understand.

People of Seattle and anywhere with a similar climate, please start growing tea. Having processed both green and black teas from the Medicinal Herb Garden hedge, I can tell you that you can produce a high quality tea here. When most people think of Camellia, it’s usually the ornamental C. japonica or C. sasanqua with  large, red, pink or white flowers. C. sinensis is not as ornamental, though it puts out respectable, white and yellow flowers through the winter. But it does produce tea. Imagine Seattle in 20 years, when different neighborhoods brag about the terroir of their teas, teas that you planted! There are all sorts of studies on the positive health effects of tea, especially green tea, but let’s face it, most of us drink it for the caffeine and the taste and the wonderful rituals involving its preparation.

Forget about boxwood (Buxus sempervirens), forget about privet (Ligustrum spp.) and get some tea plants. Be the first one on your block with a tea hedge.  You won’t be sorry.

 

 

these shriveled green leaves

picked fresh when spring meets summer

fill our cups with tea

 

 

See you in the garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

High summer

We’re in the thick of it now; yes, it’s high summer. So far, it’s been a bumper year for tomatoes; my black krims and brandywines at home are covered with ripe fruit. This summer has been hot a lot. The olives in the Medicinal Herb Garden might even produce a crop worthy of the table. The same heat we are enjoying here is magnified on the drier, hotter east side of the state where huge wildfires (one of which, the Carlton Complex, is the largest in state history) have been burning for many weeks and causing a lot of damage. Hang in there, east-side friends.

I’m off again to the mountains for a backpacking trip, but before I leave, here are a few images from the garden.

Olea europea (leccino olices) section A border

Olea europea (leccino olives) section A border

Jaltomata procumbens (jaltomato, creeping false holly) section A

Jaltomata procumbens (jaltomato, creeping false holly) section A

Rosa nutkana (Nootka rose) fruit in Cascara Circle

Rosa nutkana (Nootka rose) fruit in Cascara Circle

I’m already collecting seeds from many of the garden’s plants and some fruit is ripening.

 

 

 

 

Leonotis nepetifolia (lion's paw) section C

Leonotis nepetifolia (lion’s paw) section C

Castilleja integra (wholeleaf Indian paintbrush) section C

Castilleja integra (wholeleaf Indian paintbrush) section C

Solidago canadensis (Canada goldenrod) section B

Solidago canadensis (Canada goldenrod) section B

Lion’s paw looks like a cross between a UFO and a Dr. Seuss flower. Hummingbirds love it. Stand nearby and you will see hummingbirds.

I’m growing three species of paintbrush this year. They are semi-parasitic, meaning they are partly parasitic and partly photosynthetic.

Goldenrod is another bee magnet. This picture was taken early on a cool morning, otherwise the flowers would be covered with bees.

Datura inoxia (sacred datura, tolguacha) section C

Datura inoxia (sacred datura, tolguacha) section C

Sagittaria latifolia (wapato) Cascara Circle

Sagittaria latifolia (wapato) Cascara Circle

Orthosiphon aristatus (cat's whiskers, Java tea) section C

Orthosiphon aristatus (cat’s whiskers, Java tea) section C

Sacred datura is a powerful entheogen which is, fittingly, pollinated at night, usually by hawk/sphinx moths (in the family Sphingidae).

Wapato tubers have spread through the Cascara Circle stream and are growing in any available muck. Next spring the ducks will be well fed. A pair visits every spring to feast on wapato.

Cat’s whiskers or Java tea is used to treat kidney stones and other urinary problems. It needs a lot of heat to be happy.

Limenitis lorquini (Lorquin's admiral)

Limenitis lorquini (Lorquin’s admiral)

Lorquin’s admirals are all around the Medicinal Herb Garden. Many of their larval host plants such as Populus tremuloides (quaking aspen), Prunus virginiana var. demissa (western chokecherry) and several species of Salix (willow) are represented in Cascara Circle. The adults visit a wide range of the garden’s flowering plants.

 

 

up above the world

tacking like a wind-whipped kite

Lorquin’s admiral

 

 

See you in the garden.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment