Revitalizing the Arboretum

Funding restoration of plant collections, natural areas, and historic features

As part of, and in addition to, the 2001 Master Plan, the Foundation helps fund the restoration and enhancement of historic plant collections in the Arboretum, as well as the addition of new gardens. We also support the restoration of natural areas and features, such as Arboretum Creek. Following are descriptions of some key recent projects.

Japanese Garden North Wall and Pavilion Project

Designed by world-renowned garden designers Kiyoshi Inoshita and Juki Iida, the Seattle Japanese Garden in the Arboretum was dedicated in 1960. Some of the originally designed features—including a pavilion and gathering space near the north end of the pond—were not built at that time, for logistical and cost reasons. Moreover, the walls that were installed in the north section were constructed using basalt, which departed from the material palette (primarily granite) found elsewhere in the Garden. These walls are now beginning to crumble.

As Seattle Parks and Recreation and the Arboretum Foundation plan for the replacement of the walls and connecting stairs with hand-crafted granite masonry, they are working to complete a schematic design for the entire north section of the Garden in order to ensure that the current work on the walls will dovetail well with future plans for the pavilion and its surroundings. The 2001 Master Plan recognized the importance of the designers’ original vision by including the addition of the pavilion as a future project. The current effort, made possible by the generosity of local donors, represents the most exciting opportunity to improve our beloved Seattle Japanese Garden in many years.

Japanese Garden project rendering by Hoshide Wanzer Achitects/Berger Partnership.

Public meeting: 4:00 to 6 p.m., Thursday, November 16, 2023Wisteria Hall, Graham Visitors Center. Members of the public were invited to review preliminary design concepts and provide input. Hoshide Wanzer Architects and Berger Partnership, along with Arboretum staff, were present to answer questions.

Contact: For questions or comments on the Pavilion and North Wall Project, email us info@arboretumfoundation.org.

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Woodland Meadow Project

The current site, Crabapple Meadow, occupies the former field nursery for the Arboretum. Since the 1950s, when much of the early Arboretum planting was completed, it has functioned as one of the few large open spaces in the Arboretum. Presently, it is an open lawn ringed by a mixture of conifers, crabapples, large shade trees, and a remnant field nursery to the south. While the large lawn is used in the driest part of the summer months, poor drainage makes it unusable the rest of the year.

The new Woodland Meadow will serve as a year-round gathering and celebration space within the Washington Park Arboretum. The Arboretum team has high aspirations for augmenting programming that is inclusive for the whole community. The new Woodland Meadow will be designed to accommodate more active uses, with gardens and hardscape that allows for a range of events, including experiential community events, fundraisers, weddings and receptions, and concerts.

The current Crabapple Meadow site lacks infrastructure and is marshy during wet months.

Project background: In 2018, Friends of Seattle Olmsted Parks helped fund an Olmsted Legacy project scoping study re-envisioning Crabapple Meadow as a welcoming, year-round event and celebration space. A concept drawing produced by Seattle Parks and Recreation during the study helped the Arboretum partners in its plans to revitalize this area—designated as part of the old nursery in the original 1936 Olmsted Brothers design—into a functional, ecologically sound, and aesthetically pleasing garden. With generous funding from the Aldarra Foundation, the Arboretum partners hired the firm Mithun to design a concept plan for the meadow space.

Open House: 4:00 to 6 p.m., Thursday, December 7, 2023Wisteria Hall, Graham Visitors Center. Members of the public were invited to learn about the project and provide input.

Contact: For questions or comments on the Woodland Meadow Project, email us info@arboretumfoundation.org.

Rendering of concept plan being developed by Mithun.

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The Arboretum Creek Headwaters Project

The Arboretum partners are working with local non-profit Friends of Arboretum Creek, King County, Seattle Parks Foundation, and others to improve the ecology of the creek and watershed in and around the park. A key initiative is the Headwaters Project, which will help restore year-round waterflow to Arboretum Creek by reconnecting it to two groundwater seepages in the neighborhood uphill from the Japanese Garden.

In the Winter 2023 issue of the Arboretum Bulletin, Friends co-founder and Arboretum Foundation board member Larry Hubbell described the project and his organization’s vision of a future creek teeming with aquatic life and supporting numerous species of fish-eating birds. READ FULL ARTICLE >

Restoring Rhododendron Glen

In spring 2019, the Arboretum embarked on a plan to restore one its most special and beloved places: Rhododendron Glen. The project was made possible by a generous gift of $750,000 from long-time Foundation volunteer Mary Ellen Mulder and her husband, Gordon Mulder.

Located near the south end of the Arboretum, Rhododendron Glen dates to the 1930s and has it all: dramatic topography, tall trees, a babbling brook, and beautiful understory plants, including many unusual species of rhododendron. Over time, however, important parts of the glen lost their luster. Weeds infiltrated; the canopy became too dense in places, resulting in a loss of understory plants; trails deteriorated and were negatively impacting the stream; and key sections of the stream and its associated rock work were overgrown or have silted up.

Since 2019, weeding, strategic opening-up of the canopy, and extensive new planting have had a transformative effect on the glen. Progress has also been made on the stream and pond restoration components of the project. Wetland and watercourse reconnaissance has been conducted in the larger glen area, and Berger Partnership was hired to develop the design. A pandemic-related backlog at the Army Corps of Engineers caused a permitting delay in 2020–21, however, the permits were acquired in summer 2022, and construction began in August 2022. The construction phase was completed later that fall. Intensive planting of the lower glen and restored stream took place from November 2022 through spring 2023, wrapping up the four-year restoration project.  

Project overview and updates:

Lake Washington Boulevard Corridor Project

In spring 2018, the Arboretum Foundation and its University and City partners launched a project to clean up and enhance the plant collections and natural areas along the Boulevard and Loop Trail corridors. The project was made possible by a generous gift of $275,000 we received from a longtime friend of the Arboretum. Work crews from the Student Conservation Association (SCA) helped launch the project by spending four weeks removing blackberry and other invasive plants along Arboretum Creek.

The funding has allowed us to hire temporary gardeners, purchase necessary equipment, and install many new plants along the creek and at various locations along the Boulevard and Loop Trail corridor. The Arboretum’s prized Viburnum Collection along the Loop Trail has undergone a major revitalization and enhancement. The SCA returned in the summer of 2019 for more weeding work in the Pinetum and Loop Trail wetlands. And our generous donor renewed their commitment to the project with gifts of $100,000 in both 2019 and 2020.

Project overview and updates:

Fred Hoyt Botanical Exploration Fund

In January 2021, Fred Hoyt retired as the Director of UW Botanic Gardens after a hugely influential 38-year career at the Washington Park Arboretum and Center for Urban Horticulture. In honor of Fred’s many accomplishments, the Arboretum Foundation established this fund to enable additions of wild-collected, rare or endangered plants to the Arboretum’s collections, with a special focus on Pacific Connections. Funds may cover future collecting expeditions, or partnerships with other gardens, nurseries or collectors.

The letter to Fred announcing the fund included this quote from UW Associate Professor Emeritus Iain Robertson, from a recent Historylink interview: “Fred has been one of the most important people in the Arboretum, probably more than anyone else has. He’s been constant over many, many years. And he’s been great at talking with people from different perspectives and making sure that every viewpoint is heard.”

More than 60 donors contributed to the launch of the Fred Hoyt Fund during our Spring Forward! gala on March 4, 2021. If you’d like to support plant exploration at the Arboretum, make a gift on our donate form, using the Comments box to designate the gift to the “Fred Hoyt Fund.”

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Centennial Summer Garden

In September 2017, the Arboretum opened its newest ornamental display—the Azalea Way Centennial Garden—to the public. Located by the pond at the south end of Azalea Way, the summer-themed garden celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Seattle Garden Club, which has a long and influential history in the Arboretum. It was created using a grant from the Garden Club, along with matching funds from the Foundation.

The centerpiece is a long, curving, stone bench offering views across the pond to the tree-clad hillside beyond. Hydrangeas are the summer-blooming stars of the show. Cultivars of Hydrangea macrophylla, H. serrata, and H. quercifolia lead the visitor through the garden. Calycanthus, Olearia, and Alangium round out the shrub layer, while plantings of rhododendrons and enkianthus connect the garden to the spring-flowering displays on Azalea Way.

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Guests Shower the Arboretum with Birthday Love at Opening Night

Guests Shower the Arboretum with Birthday Love at Opening Night

A total of 325 guests attended our annual Opening Night Party at the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival on February 13 and helped us raise more than $425,000 in support of core programs at the Washington Park Arboretum. This year’s party marked the 90th year of...

Our Marvelous Mountain Hemlock

Our Marvelous Mountain Hemlock

The mountain hemlock cultivar 'Bump's Blue' growing in the Arboretum. (Photo by Niall Dunne)Mountain hemlock is an incredible species, able to grow in an environment where conditions alternate between deep winter snows and harsh summer dry spells, and where growing...

New Plantings in the Arboretum: 2023 in Review

New Plantings in the Arboretum: 2023 in Review

Rhododendron pubescens in bloom in lower Rhododendron Glen. (Photo by Niall Dunne)In the latest issue of the Arboretum Bulletin, UW Botanic Gardens Curator of Living Collections Ray Larson writes his annual, in-depth review of new plantings in the Arboretum. Ray...

How you can help

Make a gift to fund collection renovation in the Arboretum (you can designate a gift in the “comments” section of our donation form). To learn more, please email our Director of Advancement, Clare Hausmann or call her at 206-325-4510.