June 28, 2015

Van moves on

Van and his Bernese, Gibson, taking a stroll after a Pruning class.

Our beloved Van Bobbitt just completed his final spring quarter teaching at South Seattle College.

Van led the Landscape Horticulture program for 16 years as instructor, faculty senator and Arboretum at South coordinator. He will continue serving on the Arboretum at South Committee, working with influential people to improve the Arb and promote it in the community. And, he will no doubt catch up on some world travel.

Before teaching at South, Van served at the WSU Cooperative Extension and for nine years coordinated the statewide Master Gardener program. In 1982 he began work as the first Coordinator of Continuing Education at the new Center for Urban Horticulture, before the facilities were built.

His list of credentials and awards is long, but his students remember him as the man who made time for us, who helped us succeed, who helped us find and use our talents, who found us jobs and connections in the green industry. He always said his greatest pleasure, besides teaching us the plants, was seeing a former student who is now employed with a prestigious landscaping firm, in a teaching position themselves, or succeeding at their own small business ventures.

Van received a BA in Botany from Central Washington University, then took a Masters of Science in Agriculture from CalPoly San Luis Obispo, and certification in Public Relations from the University of Washington. During a sabbatical in 2010, Van visited 13 hort teaching programs from BC to California, gleaning ideas for the program at South, and the Ecological Restoration classes grew out of that.

He is a contributing author and peer reviewer to several NW plant guides and publications; a Certified Arborist, Certified Nursery Professional and Oregon Tilth Accredited Organic Landcare Practitioner.

Along with his distinguished career in the green industry, he has earned honors and awards from the Washington Native Plant Society, WSU Extension, Plant Amnesty, University of Washington, Master Gardeners of Washington, Washington State Dept of Natural Resources, Washington State Nursery and Landscape Association, and the Seattle Colleges.

May 13, 2015

one walk, two great gardens

Come for a walk through the Arb, bring the kids and pets, and enjoy blooming color, a scolding from Bossy the hummingbird, and the shade of large conifers. Many songbirds come through now, and if you don’t see them, you’ll hear them. Wander through the Coenosium, a community of rare and delightful conifers, and enjoy the running creek there.

As you pass the Gazebo walking east, you’ll reach the shared entrance with the Seattle Chinese Garden. Enter here and visit the Knowing the Spring Courtyard, artisan-built with water, rock, plants and architecture, the four essential elements of a Chinese garden. Continue through and find water lilies blooming among carp in the pond at Song Mei Pavilion. Dazzling Tibetan peonies shine in the bamboo grove, and the giant carp seeks the moment it can become a dragon and fly away.

When you’re done, visit the NW Wine Academy just to the south of the Gardens. Wednesday through Friday afternoons, you can enjoy a complimentary wine-tasting.

January 25, 2015

It was a very good year!

The Arb at South gained press and good changes in 2014.

The Arb was named one of the "10 Must-See Gardens" in the May issue of Seattle Metropolitan magazine.  http://www.seattlemet.com/slideshows/slide-show-10-secret-seattle-gardens-may-2014#slide=10

Our beloved Coenosium Rock Garden on the Arb's west edge was awarded Reference Garden status by the American Conifer Society, along with a gift of additional trees for the collection. It is one of only five public gardens in the Western region designated by the Society. Its western region president, David Olszyk, described the garden as "a beautiful melding of the obsessive collector and the artist. This place is truly a work of art."

The Seattle Chinese Garden opened to the Arb's east edge creating a shared entrance, so visitors can now saunter through the Arb and visit the Seattle Chinese Garden as well. It makes a really nice walk; and because the pups love it here, the SCG now allows leashed pets to visit with their people.

The Helen Sutton Rose Garden construction was completed, with new raised beds of Montana slate to give the roses more warmth and drainage. And 30-plus MLK Day of Service volunteers moved the shrub roses back into the beds, so I can hardly wait to see the bloom-fest this spring and summer.

Timber Press included the Arb at South in a new and popular book, The Pacific Northwest Garden Tour: The 60 best gardens to visit in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia http://www.timberpress.com/books/pacific_northwest_garden_tour/olson/9781604694512

January 12, 2015

coming soon to a neighborhood near you

When spring migration is under way, bright-colored visitors to the Arb will be on view. Some of our birds stay all year, including the bossy Anna's hummy who surveys its garden kingdom from the top of the crape myrtles. Raptors are residents, too: Eagles, Cooper's and Red-Tailed hawks, and Barred owls. 

The Arb at South is bordered by West Duwamish Greenbelt, the largest forest in the city. Here, the wildlife live their lives undisturbed by us, visiting the Arb then retreating to their nests and families in the cover of old native plants and brambles.

When you visit the Arb at South, keep your ears open — it's the best way to 'spot' birds, who are often identified by their calls or songs rather than a sighting. If you hear someone unfamiliar, it's likely a migrant songbird.

December 30, 2013

Who cooks for you a-all?

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Dogs love the Arb at South. There’s so much to explore, and they enjoy the varied terrain. So I had my two, a pom and silky terrier, out on the paths before dusk. We walked through the Erickson Norwegian garden, which is ringed with mature jacquemontii birches and carpeted with heather. A tiny bridge takes you back out to the main east/west path.

At that point we were strafed by a Barred Owl (Strix varia), who perched in a Bosnian pine over the creek. It rested about 12 feet up, and turned its head to watch us carefully. Barred owls will defend their territory or young, but my pom Teddy is quite small, and I’m guessing the owl was getting a better look.

The Barred Owl is primarily a bird of eastern and northern U.S. forests and is a recent arrival to Washington, out-competing the Northern Spotted Owl. It’s similar in size to the great horned owl, but has dark eyes and no ear-tufts. Its barring pattern is crosswise on the neck and lengthwise on the belly. Its call if translated to English would sound like “who cooks for you, who cooks for you a-all.”

The Great Backyard Bird Count starts on Feb. 14 this year. I look forward to collecting sightings for the Arb at South.

June 13, 2013

Bombus flavifrons

Saw these sweet Yellow-banded bumblebees, Bombus flavifrons, browsing a variety of flowers in the Tropical Fusion garden. These bumbles hold on to a plant's anthers and buzz, basically 'shaking the tree' to retrieve pollen. This is called sonicating. They are found widely in the US and Canada.