The Northwest Horticultural Society celebrates its 50th birthday with a lecture on American garden history by English author and historian Andrea Wulf.

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FOR A HALF-CENTURY, the Northwest Horticultural Society has brought national and international garden speakers to Seattle. Its lecture series has played a huge role in increasing the garden sophistication and cachet enjoyed in our corner of the country. So it’s fitting that the NHS is celebrating its 50th birthday with a lecture series.

Pacific NW Magazine: Oct. 2 Edition

Artist Cory Ench created this mural of the Kalakala along North Laurel Street in Port Angeles as a tribute to the steel, art-deco ferry that served the Puget Sound from 1935 to 1967. It’s one of many murals adorning the walls in the town’s historic central downtown area. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)
Artist Cory Ench created this mural of the Kalakala along North Laurel Street in Port Angeles as a tribute to the steel, art-deco ferry that served the Puget Sound from 1935 to 1967. It’s one of many murals adorning the walls in the town’s historic central downtown area. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

Author and historian Andrea Wulf will be here from England on Oct. 26 to talk about the history of gardening in America. Her talk, held at the Center for Urban Horticulture, will be based on her book “Founding Gardeners.”

Wulf lectures around the world, but rarely on the West Coast, so be sure to come celebrate one of our premier gardening organizations while learning about forays into horticulture by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.

A fresh perspective

It’s the time of year to come in from the garden and read a book, and I bet you’ll be as taken as I am with Hope Jahren’s memoir, “Lab Girl.” An award-winning geobiologist and geochemist at the University of Hawaii, Jahren tells the story of earning her Ph.D. at age 27, and her struggles to fund her research while making her way as a young woman in academia. It’s also a story about mental illness, love, eccentricity and partnership.

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The New York Times suggests that “Lab Girl” will do for botany what Oliver Sacks’ essays did for neurology. This is because Jahren weaves her unique, wonder-steeped, environmentally conscious perspective on plants into the story of her own evolution as a scientist.

She riles us up: “People don’t know how to make a leaf, but they know how to destroy one. In the last 10 years, we’ve cut down 50 billion trees.” And startles us: “You may think a mushroom is a fungus. That’s exactly like believing a penis is a man. Every toadstool is merely a sex organ attached to something more whole, complex and hidden.”

Jahren concludes, “Every book about plants is a story without an ending. For each of the facts I’ve shared with you, there are at least two baffling mysteries I’m aching to solve.” She shares a curiosity as familiar to gardeners as it is to scientists.

Community farm expansion

Urban agriculture is alive and growing in a residential area on the shores of Lake Washington. Seattle Tilth, in conjunction with Seattle Parks and an active friends group, is expanding its 7-acre Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands.

The expansion includes four new greenhouses, a children’s garden, farm stand, commercial kitchen and classroom and office space, all of which will help make the farm a year-round enterprise. The expansion project, designed by the Berger Partnership and CAST Architecture, is due to be completed in April. The farm is located at 5513 S. Cloverdale St. in Seattle.

Fall fireworks

The Northwest has a long season of autumn color. From early October until the rains set in, maples and mountain ash, sourwoods, ginkgos, viburnum and amelanchier turn shades of gold, red, purple and orange. Where to enjoy fall fireworks here in town?

Neighborhoods with magnificent old trees, like Seward Park, Mount Baker, Queen Anne, Magnolia and Ravenna, offer quintessential urban autumnal experiences.

Kubota Garden, a public park in the Rainier Beach neighborhood, and Seattle Japanese Garden at Washington Park Arboretum are rich in spectacular maples. The entire arboretum is colorful this time of year. Check out the smartphone version of the Arboretum’s newly upgraded interactive map, which you can use to find or identify specific plants, at bit.ly/wpatreemap.