Yesterday I visited the Washington Park Arboretum, a huge urban green space on the shores of Lake Washington just east of downtown Seattle. The Arboretum was designed by James Dawson of the Olmsted Brothers firm (Frederick Law Olmsted is noted for the plan for New York's Central Park together with Calvert Vaux), and was developed in the 1930's.
On totally 230 acres of land almost in the middle of the city, the Arboretum has over 20,000 trees, shrubs and vines, more than 10,000 of which are catalogued in collections. 4,600 different species are cultivated varieties from around the world. Collections include rhododendron, azalea, mountain ash, pine, spruce, cedar, fir, crabapple, holly, magnolia, camellia, and Japanese maple.
I found it quite amazing to see such variety of plants (some of them trees over 30 meters high) so centrally located in Seattle. It is a great asset for the inhabitants of a city to have this kind of green area to enjoy - during our visit, the park was full of families, joggers and citizens just enjoying their day in the cool shade of the trees.
The plan of the park lends itself well to walking and jogging around, the paths wind and curve gently in the landscape and there is always something new to discover behind the bends. Some of the "displays" (if you can call living trees so...) are arranged in botanical order, which makes them somewhat boring. Clumps of different species of mountain ashes are far more botanically interesting than visually so. But there are areas of great esthetic interest, as the Joseph A. Witt Winter Garden, the Woodland Garden or the Japanese Garden. For the moment, the climbing roses are in bloom and I saw a spectacular Rosa mulliganii climbing up a young Western red cedar, Thuja plicata (which was about 15 meters high, see below). It made the tree look like a young bride covered in white roses or... a Christmas tree in the middle of the summer!
What I would have liked to see in this arboretum was plant tags on all trees, even the largest ones, showing the exact names of the species. Now I could only find them on the smaller trees and shrubs, which made me a bit disappointed as I really wanted to learn about the trees of this part of the world. Otherwise, the Arboretum is definately worth a visit and there's a risk that it will become one of my favourite places in Seattle!