This summer the garden is abuzz with students installing sculptures in the meadow and artists siting new works.

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ALL THAT birdsong and quiet leafiness at the Kruckeberg Botanic Garden is deceptively bucolic. This summer the garden is abuzz with students installing sculptures in the meadow and artists siting new works.

The garden is now an official city of Shoreline park, operated in partnership with the Kruckeberg Botanic Garden Foundation. The garden’s more than 2,000 species of plants were collected, planted, tended and propagated by Art and Mareen Kruckeberg over 50 years. While the four-acre garden includes a great many Northwest natives, it gracefully incorporates plants from around the globe.

Access will be easier once the new parking lot is completed this summer. Nature camps and toddler classes bring children in to run the paths and search for flowers and insects. Visitors stroll the gardens on weekends to see how huge ceanothus and embothrium can grow in our climate. The plant sales are mobbed with gardeners hunting for rare, unusual and native plants they can’t buy elsewhere.

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“I asked myself how we could improve the experience for visitors,” explains board Secretary Eric Swenson. “We don’t need more plant species … Let’s bring in the arts.” And with the help of Ros Bird, public-art coordinator for the city, it’s happening.

The collaboration began with Bird encouraging Seattle Pacific University sculpture students to become public artists. For the past four summers the students have responded by designing site-specific pieces for the Kruckeberg garden. Inspired by the mix of native and exotic species, students strung gauzy bridges high in the canopy to communicate the connections between trees from different continents. The bridges’ translucent material introduces an air of mystery into the garden.

The treasure-hunt feeling continues through packing crates emblazoned with foreign labels and words, placed as if they’d fallen from the sky. The story is that the crates spilled out exotic seeds that sprouted into trees. One group of students built a low platform around several trees to encourage visitors to slow down and take a closer look. The student work will be in place through September.

Sculptor Tony Angell, a former student of Art Kruckeberg (now 92 and still living on the property), has loaned the garden one of his pieces for two years. “Surf Birds” looks at home in a garden so near Richmond Beach, and one where more than 40 kinds of birds have been spotted. As part of the Shoreline Sculpture Stroll, an abstract by Rodger Squirrell and a glass piece called “The Sea, Within” by Lin McJunkin have taken up residence in the garden for a year.

Even with bronze birds and glass sculpture, Swenson says firmly, “We aren’t creating a sculpture garden. This is a botanic garden enhanced by a full range of regional artists.” To think that the history of Northwest botanical exploration is preserved in this park adds to the wonder of the place.

Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of “petal & twig.” Check out her blog at

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