The Sound of One Leaf Flapping

This blog was submitted by Docent Judy Broom after a recent docent field trip. Readers are welcome to join the docent program. 

Ever tasted the flower of a Northwest native Big Leaf Maple?  (Herbal with floral notes and an earthy finish.)  Have you scratched and sniffed the tender new bark of a Sassafrass sapling?  Yes, it’s the selfsame tree which gave its roots to root beer. The new bark exudes a distinctive, lemony fragrance. Or have you perhaps huffed and puffed to the top of the Volunteer Park water tower to read about the long ago Olmsted design for Seattle parks and boulevards?

If you are a Dunn Gardens docent, you have done all of this and more. Group outings are both benefit and training ground for those of us who serve as volunteer guides to this northend garden, tucked away in a quiet residential area. 

A docent group on a field trip to the University of Washington campus with local tree expert Arthur Lee Jacobsen this week happily performed the taste test on Big Leaf Maple blooms as well as checking Sassafras twigs for scent. In past outings we have also been treated to tours of private gardens:  for example, a stumpery on Vashon Island, unusual if not unique on this side of the Atlantic.  Prince Charles has one, but it’s over there. We’ve visited and hosted other visitors to gardens in the gated Highlands residential community which, like the Dunn Gardens, bear the influence of the Olmsted landscape design firm.

We’ve toured Dunn’s seven acres many times with the head gardener, the curators, birders, guest arborists, and other expert plantsmen. We’ve studied color-coded maps of the garden, annotated with plant names and we’ve read the history of an early day Seattle fish-seller named Arthur Dunn who prospered and built a summer home at the site of today’s “hidden garden gem.”

Dunn Gardens is located at the confluence of local history and horticulture.  If you are fascinated by either or both, you must visit us.

The picture is of Docent Julie laughing with Arthur Lee Jacobsen.