Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Kruckeberg Botanic Garden - for the love of botany

Young, juicy needles of Dawn Redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides from China. They are so soft when they emerge after winter, I think they look completely edible...

As I wrote in my previous post, the Pacific Northwest coast of North America is a real plantsmen's paradise. The botanical and horticultural interest and knowledge here are amazing, and I've often called this area for a "horticultural hotbed". I guarantee that I don't exaggerate one single bit. The propitious growing conditions here allow an extremely wide range of plants to thrive, so many gardeners embrace the possibilities with open arms and minds (to a degree that I sometimes quite miss a good garden design focused discussion...).

A soft green carpet of Oxalis oregana, the Oregon oxalis or sorrel. It is native to the Pacific Northwest.

The Kruckeberg Botanic Garden is a iconic testimonial for the botanically oriented spirit of the Pacific Northwest. Founded in 1958 by Dr. Arthur Kruckeberg and his late wife Mareen Schultz Kruckeberg, who both were botanists and horticulturalists (Dr, Kruckeberg retired from the University of Washington as Professor Emeritus of Botany in 1989), it became the showcase for their love for plants in general and for the Pacific Northwest species in special. In a now mature, naturalistic woodland setting, over 2000 species of plants (many of which are rare) from all over the world grow in complete harmony with natives from the area. Without being design oriented, the garden offers many pleasing views and vistas along its winding paths, but clearly its soul is its exquisite inhabitants and the excellent planting combinations they form with each other.

Parrotiopsis jaquemontiana from the Western Himalayas; it belongs to the witch-hazel family, Hamamelidaceae. One of the "I've never seen this before"-plants for me...

A bit more common... Anemone 'Robinsoniana'. I couldn't resist buying one for my garden, their soft lavender flowers are so lovely.

The Kruckeberg Botanic Garden is also home for MsK Rare Plants Nursery that Mareen started in 1969 and named after her initials; it still operates on the site. Her aim was to provide Northwest gardeners with interesting plant material. Most of the plants she sold were grown from seeds and cuttings from the garden; a combination of natives and carefully selected exotics, many of them from China and Japan. I was surprised to see the range of its offerings; many tables were filled with healthy plants not often seen in commercial nurseries, and large "flats" with groundcovers as rare Smilacinas, Anemones and many rare other species stood in the shade of huge conifers, waiting for the appreciating gardener to take them home.

Abundant offerings from the MsK Rare Plants Nursery.

Besides their garden and the nursery, the Kruckebergs worked to form and were active in several horticultural societies and interest groups in the Northwest, like the Washington Native Plant Society, the Hardy Fern Foundation and the Northwest Horticultural Society. Also, Dr. Kruckeberg published several botanical and horticultural books. The most well-known of them is Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest, which he wrote together with Mareen; it became a classic and one of the 50 top American gardening books chosen by the American Horticultural Society.

Alert, young shoots of an unidentified member of the Acer family. 
Today, the Kruckeberg Botanic Garden is owned by the City of Shoreline and the non-profit Kruckeberg Garden Foundation is committed to maintaining the garden. Mrs. Kruckeberg passed away in 2003, but Dr. Kruckeberg still lives as the property; he recently celebrated his 90th birthday and still works often in the garden. Unfortunately, I didn't have the honor to meet him, but just visiting his and Mareen's garden made me feel completely connected with the gardening roots of the area; this very place was and still is one of the "horticultural hotbeds" from where botanical and horticultural excellence spread to the rest of the Pacific Northwest. Luckily it is now well protected for the coming generations of gardeners.

A double white Trillium grandiflorum, probably one of the more common plants in the Kruckeberg garden....

(I am completely exhausted by my blogging program - I don't know what is happening, but it throws many of my pictures horizontally and makes them look like they are not in focus, plus editing has become really hard.. I'm exploring for alternatives...) 


Ruben said...

Kan tänka mig, att det är en speciell grönska som oxalismattan ger. Plantförsäljning med härligt välväxta och fräscha plantor - vilken dröm!! Gick förbi höga vagnar med penséer idag, men oj vilken bedrövelse!!

Ha det gott!

fer said...

The first photo is amazing! it looks like a great place to do gardening