Showing posts with label horticulture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label horticulture. Show all posts

Monday, July 14, 2014

Rose Garden teeming with color

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications
Photos by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo

One of Woodland Park Zoo’s not-so-secret spaces is actually adjacent to the zoo itself, the WoodlandPark Rose Garden. Established as a civic garden in 1922, the 2.5 acre space is cared for and kept by the zoo’s horticulture staff and our Lead Rose Gardener and rose-master, Matt Manion. The garden hosts nearly 200 varieties of roses, showcasing those that thrive in the Pacific Northwest climate.

Showing our appreciation for our dedicated horticulture crew!

Since 2006, the Rose Garden has been pesticide free. Pesticides pollute through rain runoff in Seattle, making it all the way to Puget Sound. Plus, we like to treat our animals to roses, and we wouldn't want them ingesting those toxins. Using the natural approach means building healthy soils, practicing smart watering and planting disease-resistant varieties. 

Matt says that these sustainable methods will work well in your own garden too. This time of year, he suggests that rose aficionados spend time dead-heading their plants. Summer pruning (referred to as dead-heading) keeps rose plants blooming throughout the season. Dead-heading removes withering flowers from a rose bush so that the hips do not form. By diverting energy that would be used for hip development, the plant can focus on producing new flowers. You can learn more about rose care and sustainable gardening by visiting the garden.

We took a summer stroll through the aisles of 3,000 roses and found just a few to share with you here.

A David Austen rose type, Grace has a particularly fruity scent.
An All American Rose Selection, this Hybrid Tea rose is called Whisper.
Diana Princess of Wales, shows off its beautiful blushing petals. This Hybrid Tea rose is a tribute to"England's Rose"the beloved Royal Princess.
Double Delight, another All American Rose Selection, is a Grandiflora rose with brilliant colors.

A rose by any other name? With countless varieties of roses, the names of each cultivar are extensive, creative and sometimes humorous. Rose cultivars can be descriptive, referencing color, scent or taste, but some names allude to fictional characters, pop culture or even a favorite pet.

Senior gardener Matt Manion works on some summer pruning. With 2.5 acres of rose beds, the rose garden keeps our hort crew busy! Some of the not-so-pretty roses are given to our residents, such as gorillas or bears, who are more than pleased to gobble them up.
Taboo, a luscious red Hybrid Tea rose.

The Woodland Park Zoo rose garden is open from 7:00 a.m. until dusk every day of the year. The garden sits outside zoo gates and entry is free to visitors.

Ballerina, a Hybrid Musk rose is teeming with delicate, pearly pink petals.
Honey Bouquet, a Floribunda beauty.
Lagerfeld, a  pale violet Grandiflora introduced in 1986 is named after a famous designer, can you guess who?
Betty Boop, a gorgeous All American Rose Selection Grandiflora rose... as fragrant as it is beautiful. We really need to work on the digital scent technology aspect of this blog!

Don't forget to stop and smell the roses on your way to the zoo!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The orchid and the fungi: true love and mycorrhizal cheating

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications
Photos by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo

With Valentine’s Day on the way, you might find yourself selecting flowers—perhaps a beautiful orchid—for your partner. But did you know orchids have their own partners?

Orchids and certain fungi share a symbiotic relationship. The idea of symbiosis, whose Greek roots mean “living” and “together,” sounds almost romantic. Yet when it comes to symbiosis—the relationship between two species in which one species is dependent on the other—not all is created equally (i.e. “It’s complicated.”)

Dendrobium speciosum in our Tropical Rain Forest exhibit.

If symbiosis were a box of chocolates (we’re really going hard with this Valentine’s Day theme), it would come in different flavors—some sweet, and some you want to spit out.

Mutualism is any relationship between individuals of different species where both individuals benefit.

Commensalism describes a relationship between two living organisms where one benefits and the other is not significantly harmed or helped.

A parasitic relationship is one in which one member of the association benefits while the other is harmed.

Amensalism is the type of relationship that exists where one species is inhibited or completely obliterated and one is unaffected.

Autumn Flowering Laelia, Laelia autumnalis
Miltassia sp.

For orchids, their complex symbiotic relationship is with certain fungi called mycorrhizae. Luckily for the orchid and the fungi, the symbiosis they share is a sweet one, mostly mutual. Orchid mycorrhiza is the symbiotic process wherein juvenile orchids rely on special fungal symbionts to supply them with carbohydrates and in exchange the fungi receive moisture and access to organic matter.

The roots of an orchid are full of moisture, and often surrounded by organic plant material—the perfect environment for fungi.

The majority of orchids grow in habitats where sunlight is limited (think shadowy mountainsides). Without sunlight it is nearly impossible for the orchids to produce chlorophyll (their version of Vitamin D). Because the orchids cannot produce enough chlorophyll, they depend on specific fungi to assist them. The fungi can digest organic matter that occurs in the surrounding area, converting it into simpler molecules such as sugar that the orchid can absorb.

Pansy orchid, Miltonia phalaenopsis

The young orchid is so reliant on the fungi that it must wait for the fungi to invade its seeds before the orchid even begins to germinate. During this invasion the fungi obtains nutrients from the host plant, while the orchid seeds receive a fungal energy boost (carbon). All orchids depend on mycorrhizae at some stage in their life-cycle.

Orchids rely on the fungus as they begin to grow, but as they mature some species begin to produce their own food source. Some orchids become photosynthetic, meaning they can produce their own organic carbon. While botanists are still researching this complex relationship, it appears that even orchids which are photosynthetic may still use the fungi as a back-up food source.

This all goes down between the root tissue of the plant and the mycelium of the fungus: hard to actually see, but very important!

The dangly root tissue of an orchid stretches out to find moisture, here in the zoo’s greenhouse you can see just how massive the roots appear.

What does the fungi get in return? Moisture and food. The mycorrhizae fungi digests vascular plant material found amongst the roots of an orchid. The fungus also keeps moist due to the water-rich root environment of the orchid.

A humid and moist environment is ideal for both orchids and fungi. Imagine how many awesome fungi live in the zoo’s greenhouse! 
A fungus, such as the white material shown here on this compost heap, covers the roots of the orchid.

Wait, so what is the juicy gossip about mycorrhizal cheaters? It is simply an informal term that refers to a plant which skips the traditional photosynthetic processes and instead gets its food from fungi that grow nearby. The plant is “cheating” the traditionally known method of gathering nutrients.

Burrageara ‘Living Fire’. hybrid between Vuylstekeara Edna and Oncidium maculatum.

What can we learn from this highly exaggerated parallel between love and symbiosis? Give a little, get a little.

Happy Valentine’s Day from our fungi to yours.

Phalaenopsis pallens

Goat-horned Epidendrum, Epidendrum capricornu
Tracy's Cymbidium, Cymbidium tracyanum

Roses are red, 
Violets are blue.
Orchids and fungi,
A love so true!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Autumn Bounty

Posted by Kirsten Pisto, Communications

We are officially knee deep in autumn with wind storms and red cups gone wild, darker evenings and Seattleites covered in fleece head to toe. But, not all is dark and dreary!  Woodland Park Zoo’s lush canopy, made up of more than 1,000 different species of plants, is ablaze with autumn’s finest colors.

Autumn is the perfect time to stroll the zoo and appreciate an essential part of Seattle’s urban forest. Come explore the fall foliage and get to know a few trees along the way. Start by downloading our mobile app and use the Tree Tour to explore some of the signature trees around the zoo. Watch them transform the exhibits, as well as our own environment, into a golden autumn dreamscape.

Not only do our zoo animals use the trees for shade, climbing and sometimes food, dozens of native and migratory animal species also come through the zoo to find shelter and feed from our canopy.

Here are a few of our favorite fall finds:

This is Arbutus unido, which is native to the Mediterranean and has a beautiful fall berry. Photo by Kirsten Pisto/ Woodland Park Zoo.

Witch Hazel, sometimes called winterbloom, lights up the trail near sloth bears. Photo by Kirsten Pisto/ Woodland Park Zoo.

Stranvaesia shows off brilliant red foliage and festive berries. Photo by Kirsten Pisto/ Woodland Park Zoo.

Chokecherry, Persian ironwood and sweet gum tree flank the trail near the carousel, offering a bounty of autumn color. Photo by Ryan Hawk/ Woodland Park Zoo.

Red flowering quince, Chaenomeles speciosa, drape across the hippo pool. Photo by Kirsten Pisto/ Woodland Park Zoo.

Spirea offer cascading branches of gold and pink foliage.
Photo by Kirsten Pisto/ Woodland Park Zoo.

Even tough little lion cub paws need some soft leaf stomping once in a while. Photo by Kirsten Pisto/ Woodland Park Zoo.

An early November sunrise at the zoo.  Photo by Kirsten Pisto/ Woodland Park Zoo.

Come enjoy the leaves with us! Photo by Ryan Hawk/ Woodland Park Zoo.

Enkianthus, soaking up all the colors of fall, is native to Asia, ranging from the Himalayas to China and Japan. Photo by Kirsten Pisto/ Woodland Park Zoo.

Magnolia leaves drape the ground in thick layers near the Tropical Rain Forest exhibit. Some of the leaves are enormous! Photo by Kirsten Pisto/ Woodland Park Zoo.

It doesn’t get better than a giant pile of oak leaves! Photo by Kirsten Pisto/ Woodland Park Zoo.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Kookaburra exhibit gets a beak-lift

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications

…Or face-lift, you know, a makeover, remodel, renovation. Last spring, what started with some peeling paint and worn out walls in the kookaburra exhibit in Woodland Park Zoo's Australasia biome turned into a larger project. The exhibits crew spent the summer rebuilding the entire space.

Now, the exhibit's resident kookaburras, honeyeaters and masked plovers have settled back into their newly revamped digs, complete with a fresh coat of paint and luscious foliage.

Top: Honeyeater, bottom: Masked plover and right: Laughing kookaburra. Photos: Dennis Dow/WPZ. 

The crew did an awesome job designing a shallow wading pool for these birds that live near streams and marshes in their native Australia. They also installed proper lighting (with energy efficient light bulbs) for the collection of plants in the exhibit. Then the horticulture team added some beautiful vegetation that mimics an Australian forest, including grasses, undergrowth, pines, shrubs and vibrant flowering plants.

The birds were kept behind the scenes during the project. We missed seeing them, but it was worth the wait. Stop by the exhibit and check out the beautiful honeyeater, the graceful masked plover and our chuckling kookaburras, and let us know what you think of the remodel!

Here is a look at some of the elements in the project: 

Photo: Kirsten Pisto/WPZ.

The exhibit technicians rebuilt the walls, installed a wading pool and painted a new mural around the entire space. Here, Bill is putting the finishing touches on the floor before horticulture comes in.

Photo: Kirsten Pisto/WPZ.

Horticulture planted an assortment of vegetation native to Australia. The diverse textures give the space depth and color interest. Here are three types of grevillea. The plants themselves appear dissimilar, but the flowers are what define the grevillea species. (Top: Grevillea victoriae, Murray Valley Queen. Right: Grevillea lavandulacea. Left: Grevillea ‘Fire Sprite,’ a cross between Grevillea longistyla and Grevillea venusta.

Photo: Kirsten Pisto/WPZ.

Leptospermum earned the nickname tea tree when early Australian settlers soaked the leaves in boiling water to make Vitamin C-rich tea. Rumor has it Captain Cook even brewed the tea to prevent scurvy on his ship. 

Photo: Kirsten Pisto/WPZ.

An understory plant, Liriope spicata, or creeping lilyturf, is the perfect grassy ground cover for our exhibit. On the left, you can see the white berries it has in the fall and the lavender flowers in spring. 

Photo: Kirsten Pisto/WPZ.

Callistemon, commonly known as bottlebrush, offers bursts of magenta. 

Photo: Kirsten Pisto/WPZ.

Anigozanthos, a native Australian plant, is named for its resemblance to the paws of a certain Australian animal. Can you guess the common name? 

Photo: Kirsten Pisto/WPZ.

It is hard to mistake the yellow and red "paws" of the kangaroo paw plant, like furry front paws of a kangaroo. 

Photo: Kirsten Pisto/WPZ.

Kangaroo paw plant flowers after they bloom. 

Photo: Kirsten Pisto/WPZ.

And finally...the spruced up exhibit!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Roses a sweet treat for gorillas

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

Roses may symbolize love and beauty to us, but to our gorillas, they symbolize snack time! Thanks to the organic methods our gardeners use in the Woodland Park Rose Garden, any trimmings of our blooms are perfectly edible and safe to eat for our gorillas.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

In the summer, as the more than 3,000 rose plants in the nearly 90-year-old Rose Garden bloom, the zoo’s gardeners deadhead the plants, which means they remove old, spent blooms to keep the overall plant blooming longer. That waste could be composted, but zookeepers love to get their hands on the blooms to use as enrichment with our plant-eaters, most especially the gorillas!

Photo by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo.

The petals make their way into the gorilla exhibit two or three times a week in the summer at various hours to keep it interesting and unexpected for the apes. This week, we visited the gorillas on a Monday morning and watched the blooms and petals rain down on the gorillas as keepers sprinkled the flowers into the exhibit from a rooftop perch.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Our youngest gorilla, 5-year-old Uzumma, was the first to notice the keepers on the rooftop and she climbed high for a good look at what treat was to come. But it was Calaya, who remained on ground level, that got first dibs as the petals dropped down, spreading a feast all around her and the others.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

What a treat to see some of the gorillas pick up the blooms and actually stop to smell the roses (literally!) before taking a bite. 

Photo by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo.

The oldest of the gals in this group, Amanda, took two fistfuls of roses and headed away from the younger ones to snack in peace. Her snacking style seemed to lean toward stuffing her mouth with petal after petal after petal, while the others chomped on whole blooms all at once.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

Roses stimulate many of the gorillas' senses, making it an ideal enrichment treat. The organic gardening practices really bring out the fragrance of the flowers, with no chemicals masking one of nature’s most perfect scents. The taste is sweet and irresistible to the gorillas. With their sharp, color vision, the gorillas find the flowers and petals floating down from above as visually arresting as we do. Branches come with thorns and all, but with their thick skin and expert plant picking skills, these apes have no problem dexterously handling the treat.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

When we took the flower show over to our oldest gorillas, Pete and Nina, both 45 years old, the reactions were a bit slower but still enthusiastic. 

Photo by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo.

Pete prefers bamboo, but he didn’t exactly say no to the roses, munching from a handful of blooms that looked all the more delicate in his massive hands.

Photo by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo.

Nina let the petals rain down on her as she sat in her classic, comfortable style: tongue out, holding a stick, taking in the sun. After a while, she gave the blooms a taste, eating them whole, one after the other.

Photo by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo.

Thanks to the organic, earth-friendly practices of our zoo gardeners, we’ll be able to keep these rose treats going for the gorillas through the end of bloom season. Look for this enrichment on your next summer visit—even if you don’t see it happen live, you might just spot a leftover petal or two in the exhibits and you’ll know where they came from!

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Then don’t miss out on your chance to see the Rose Garden in its blooming glory. It’s free to visit and located just outside the zoo’s South Entrance off N. 50th Street and Fremont Ave. N.