Friday, September 26, 2014

Jim Ellis Freeway Park

Freeway Park in September 2013

Jim Ellis Freeway Park opened to the public on July 4, 1976.  It was built on a lid over the Interstate 5 freeway along the the Washington State Convention Center, to which it connects.  At 5.2 acres, it is by far the largest park in Downtown Seattle.  It was designed by the San Francisco Bay Area landscape architecture firm Lawrence Halprin & Associates under the design direction of Angela Danadjieva.  The park is dominated by a huge waterfall set among a series of plazas that are linked & enclosed by concrete planters, walls & smaller water features.  This is a very well-designed park with pleasant open spaces, plenty of shade from mature trees & a broad walkway that runs throughout.  There are benches & small lawns for sitting & reclining. It's a good place for a picnic lunch. The park & especially the waterfall are among the most interesting features of Downtown Seattle.  You can find the park at 700 Seneca Street.

For the first few years of its existence, Freeway Park was considered a success. It was architecturally & structurally innovative. It also showed how to make the most use out of limited urban space. Landscape architects from throughout the world came to see it.  It became popular with area employees & residents.  But over the years, the park became a bit seedy.  Vegetation matured & cut sight lines.  The park became darker & more difficult to navigate. The homeless became frequent park users.  Drug dealing was a problem. Security patrols were improved & illegal activity lessened. Concrete walls were reduced & trees were pruned to open up views & add more daylight.  There was general improvement of overgrown & deteriorated landscaping.  And all of those big trees are a welcome sight in the urban core.  I highly recommend a visit.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park

Basalt rocks from ancient lava flows

Erigeron (fleabane)

Artemisia tridentata (big sagebrush)

Plants of the Sagebrush Steppe

Petrified elm.  All photos were taken in October 2012

Click here for more photos of Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park.

Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park covers 7,470 acres in central Washington near the Columbia River north of Vantage.  The trail here is a 3-mile loop through an ecosystem known as Sagebrush Steppe, a highly xeric community of plants including big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) bitter-brush (Purshia tridentata) parsnip-flowered buckwheat (Eriogonum heracleoides) gray ball sage (Salvia dorrii) & bluebunch wheatgrass (Agropyron spicatum).  In October, the landscape was especially dry, although I was surprised to find some of the sagebrush in bloom.

15 million years ago, this area was filled with swamps & shallow lakes surrounded by forests. Swamp cypress grew on the edges of the lakes. Ginkgo, maple, walnut, oak, sycamore, and horse chestnut grew on the hillsidesDouglas fir, hemlock, & spruce grew nearby at higher elevations. Logs became buried in mud. 10 to 15 million years ago, lava floods spread over the area from fissures in the earth, covering the logs & allowing them to petrify. 15,000 years ago, during the last ice age, an ice sheet blocked the Clark Fork River & created Glacial Lake Missoula.  Periodically, the ice dam would fail, resulting in large floods that rushed down the Columbia River drainage, through the Columbia River Gorge & out to the Pacific Ocean. These floods exposed the petrified logs. Highway workers began finding petrified wood in 1927 while working on the Vantage Road. Crews from a federal Civilian Conservation Corps camp at Vantage began extensive excavations in 1936. The park was opened to the public in 1938.

Friday, September 12, 2014

August in Seattle

From top to bottom: summer squash, cherry tomato, purple broccoli, sunflower & chard.  These are all good choices for Seattle gardens.  Very large tomatoes ripen late in the season, if at all.  Cherry tomatoes produce much earlier.  Chard was bountiful this year.  All photos were taken at the Rainier Vista Sunrise Garden.

August 2014 in Seattle was significantly warmer & wetter than usual.  The mean temperature was 69.1F/20.6C, a full 3 degrees higher than normal.  Total precipitation was 1.81 inches/45.97mm, 0.93 inches/23.62mm more than normal.  The highest temperature was 96F/35.6C on 8/11, the lowest 52F/11.1C on 8/21.  There were 3 days with rain, 10 days with light rain, 1 day with hail, 9 days with fog (2 with visibility at less than 1/4 mile) 7 cloudy days, 14 partly cloudy days & 10 fair days.  The good thing about August 2014 was that there were only 5 days over 85F/29.4C degrees.  The extra rain helped keep the landscape green & lush.  Things usually begin to turn brown in August.   

Friday, September 5, 2014

Picardo Farm P-Patch

Picardo Farm P-Patch in September

Picardo Farm P-Patch in September

Picardo Farm P-Patch in September

Picardo Farm P-Patch in September

Picardo Farm P-Patch in September

Picardo Farm P-Patch is the oldest community garden in Seattle.  The P in p-patch stands for Picardo.  The Picardo family, Italian immigrants who arrived in Seattle in the 1890s, bought this property in 1922 in what had been the Ravenna Swamp & farmed it until 1962.  The swamp was essentially a peat bog & the soil here remains exceptionally rich in organic matter.  It is one of only 2 historical farms preserved in the City of Seattle.  This p-patch & the p-patch program were established in 1973.  There are 302 plots on 98,000 square feet owned by the Seattle Department of Parks & Recreation.  It is located in the Wedgwood neighborhood of northeast Seattle along 25th Avenue NE between NE 80th & 82nd Streets. 

In 2013, resistance to the new policy limiting the size of individual plots was centered at Picardo Farm.  It was said that one gardener there had more than 2,000 square feet of space, 10x the size of the average plot.  The P-Patch Program sets maximum & minimum plot size for each p-patch based on 2 criteria, the average wait for a plot & the p-patch size. In December 2013, 45 gardeners in 13 gardens (2% of all gardeners) had to reduce plot sizes.  Plot sizes are generally 50 to 200 square feet.