The Seattle Arboretum was founded in 1934, but the Pacific Connections garden is a brand new piece of it – five eco-geographic forests planted in the last 10 years. As the below metal sculpture sign displays, they represent the Pacific Northwest (Cascadia), Chile, New Zealand, Australia, and China, all areas with temperate climates. Many of the species planted at the garden are threatened in their natural habitat.
Below is another metal-sculpture sign comparing rainfall in the five regions. All of them are similar in total annual precipitation, but China has more summer rainfall than the other four regions.
Features of the existing arboretum are all around: below are a walkway and a drainage hardscaped with large and small rock.
The first area I came to was the Australia forest.
This young Eucalyptus is leaning west, looking for more sun. The area behind the camera has been cleared to give it more morning light
In the New Zealand section, the unusual shrub known as the wire netting cotoneaster, a distant relative of our Pacific Northwest dogwood. You can see how it got its name.nickname.
New Zealand has so many plants that are found nowhere else. Below is another odd looking native tree / large shrub, the narrow leafed lacebark.
Narrow leafed lacebark’s weepy habit
Here is a Pacific Northwest native western red cedar, Thuja plicata, common to moist forests in this area. But this one looks completely different because it is a cultivar (a plant found in the wild and selectively bred to attenuate its form or growth habit). It is known as the whipcord, a shrub or even grass-like dwarf,
Whipcord, the Western red cedar cultivar
The bottom of the original wild form – a tall western red cedar tree
Western red cedar is revered by Native Americans, who have used almost every part of it for something
The idea behind the Pacific Connections garden fascinates me. When in grad school studying the semi-arid chaparral vegetation along the U.S. – Mexico border, I learned that similar looking, but completely unrelated plants grew in central Chile, where climate and rainfall were like California. Chile’s flora is almost completely isolated from the rest of the world, yet its coast is a mirror image of our west coast. As one heads south, desert grades into semi-desert, then dry coniferous forest, humid coniferous forest like the Pacific Northwest, Canada, and southeast Alaska, and finally into sub-polar Patagonia at the southern tip of America.
Below are shots of the Chilean conifer, Araucaria arcancana. Chilean pine or Pehuén, it’s common name in Chile. The taxonomic name is from the indigenous Pahuénche Araucanian peoples of southern Chile.
Striking Araucaria branches. The tree is described as almost “reptilian” in botanical literature, and as fossil-like, because individual trees can live 1,000 years, and because they have grown in Chile for 200 million years, since the dinosaur era.
An Araucaria catches some winter sun. The Cahuénche Araucarians collected its edible nuts which are said to taste something like pine nuts.
Oddly enough, the Araucaria is known here and elsewhere in the world as the “monkey puzzle”. The Missouri Botanical Garden website attributes the name to a comment made by an 19th century English botanist who mused that a monkey would be confused trying to climb its branches. Well there are no monkeys in Chile, just sayin’. A pretty misleading name.
Chinese Paperbush shrub also known as “Nanging gold”. In the past its bark was used to produce high quality ornamental paper
Well, there’s lots more, but that’s enough for now. if you have the chance, go there. It’s a place of beauty, and also very relaxing …. see below