Stalwarts in the Snow

Published: 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Because I was living on site, it was a no brainer I would wander Dunn Gardens and capture the 2017 Christmas snow as far as my meager photography skills allowed. It was something of a private adventure since the garden was closed and the snow was unspoiled by  tracks, except those that appeared to belong to a coyote--they have been spotted in the neighborhood. Of course, I was spoiled for choice with respect to views.

What did take my attention was the great Osmantus burkwoodii. Those of us who work in the garden are particularly fond of this tree, partly because it is so sturdy and partly because it is the largest burkewoodii in the state of Washington. It looks over the Tennis Green, above the square of grass that the moles adore from below. Our Osmanthus reminded me once again, with its generous spreading branches, of a brooding hen watching over the space. On December 25, 2017, it also bore the weight of snow that fell on Seattle and in a camera frame looked like a picture from an old-fashiioned Christmas card.

If trees and shrubs have birthdays the variety Osmanthus burkwoodii dates to 1930. Its parents are the Chines Osmanthus delavayi and the Turkish/Georgian Osmanthus decorus. The name burkwoodii comes from a nursery in Surrey, England, called Burkwood. The word Omanthus is derived from two Greek words: osme which means perfume and anthus, which means flower. That is no oversell. The bloom is fragrant, white and tubular that usually opens up early April at the Dunn, ready to seduce pollinating insects. In counter point the plant produces black berries in the fall.

The other tree that took my attention is the Magnolia korbus, another of the Dunn's treasures that dates from the 1920s. Under the snow its appearance is similar to that in the spring.. For two weeks each year the tree is covered with thousands of white, star-shaped flowers. When the tree is in flower it is possible to stand in the middle of it on the gravel path and feel transported to a lovely secret world--a warmer and more forgiving one that that of the current month.

In 2018 visitors will find the Tennis Green rehabilitated. Branches from the high canopy trees have been removed to provide more light and the plantings that our horticulture staff has planned wil inject a freshness into the area. The Osmanthus burkwoodii will have further reason to look proud. In 2018 we also expect the magnolia to continue to blook in the spring and remain a beautiful plant in the garden. We will let you know when they both bloom so you can visit and enjoy these stalwart trees that were made even lovelier by snow, when they do their job of heralding spring.

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