Meet Our Heritage Trees


In Spring I feel the nervous, itchy excitement of buds aching to open.

David Ferguson, (The Guardian, April 24, 2016)


We love that feeling Ferguson references because it contains a promise of pleasant days ahead. It fills us with thoughts of color and exquisite blooms in the garden. Although it is not evident in the above quote, the author was referring specifically to trees and how they help mark our lives across the year. 

Ferguson also notes that after being in large cities for a spell, he finds their electric pace and concrete planes exhausting. He wants to run loose in the woods as he did as a child in the long, free hours between the end of school and dinner.This is what I did in my childhood so the observation had a lovely personal resonance. It took me back to seeing the sunlight sliding through the conifers that marked the boundary between our house and a school, and where the scrappy neighborhood kids had adventures. 

Trees matter in other words. Outside of the oft-cited benefits, there is the undeniable grace that trees add to our lives in ways that cannot be quantified. And that sentiment is what is behind a 2019 Dunn initiative funded by the community organization, 4Culture. A grant secured by Quill Teal-Sullivan, our Director of Historic Preservation and Horticulture from 4Culture is enabling the garden to attend to a subset of our 150-tree canopy; the heritage trees. Specifically, the garden has been able to hire an arborist to inspect the trees and report on the health of each, thus setting the foundation for a treatment plan. 

We have fifty such heritage trees defined as being in place when the garden was established. This is true of the Douglas Firs, now towering, majestic, and inspiring stories. In 1915 they were saplings too small for harvest. Other trees, such as the Oak, Beech, Maple, Magnolia and Tulip Poplar were on the original plan for the canopy designed by the Olmsted Brothers over one hundred years ago. A couple of the trees, the Sargent’s Magnolia and the Cucumber Magnolia can boast the distinction of being Washington State’s Champions. The biggest of their kind in other words, and we can presume given spring is next on the calendar, aching to open their buds. 

The majesty of the trees is what gives them beauty. Their age strikes awe. They were planted when Europe, and subsequently America, was engulfed in the First World War. Such acts as creating a garden are those of faith that the world will rise to beauty and dignity again. Visitors in 2019 are the beneficiaries of that foresight. Unconsciously or not they will be impacted by the stately presence of the heritage trees as they stroll through the urban forest. These giants are the observers of history; collectively, exemplars of the rich Olmsted legacy; and the framers of an historic greenspace in a boisterous, crowded city. The Dunn Gardens want to keep them as healthy as we can for as long as we can and we appreciate 4Culture’s support in joining us in this effort. 

We look forward to providing updates this year as we celebrate our Heritage Trees in 2019. 









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