Six Mosses to Know in the Moss Garden at Bloedel Reserve

January 27th, 2015

Many plants are iconic to the Pacific Northwest, at least in the minds of those who live here.  Around Western Washington, Sword Fern, Salal, and Western Hemlock are well known and well represented at the Bloedel Reserve.  In Eastern Washington we recognize Ponderosa Pine and Sagebrush.  Those of you transplanted to Washington may recognize other hallmark plants from your point of origin.  Such plants are facets of the places we know as “home”.

One group of plants we all recognize though is mosses.  They are the green, cushiony carpets of our forests and the drapery on our trees.  But they occur not only in wet areas but in almost all terrestrial environments.  In Eastern Washington where I grew up, there is moss out in the hot sand, hidden under the sparse shade of Sagebrush, dormant in the blazing summer to awaken with the autumn rains.  Even the ice-free areas of Antarctica sport mosses. One of them, Ceratodon purpureus, incidentally, is the same species you and I clean off our roofs.  But even if we do not know what species they are, we do know they are mosses.

Upon finding a moss, however, greater than 99% of us will have no idea what species we are looking at.  They are a cryptic plant group that is daunting even for many botanists to identify, joining the ranks of grasses, sedges, and willows.  But, as any botanist will also tell you, learning to identify the more difficult plant groups is not impossible.  It just takes patience.  Sometimes a lot of patience.  And perhaps a little magnification in the form of a good hand lens.  Learning a few of the easier mosses is a good place to start.

The next time you visit the Moss Garden at Bloedel Reserve, look for these six mosses listed below.  They are among the easier mosses to identify.  Treat it as a botanical treasure hunt.

Bent Leaf Moss

Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus

Family Hylocomiaceae

This moss is quite possibly the easiest moss in our area to identify and many of you probably have it in your yards at home.  In fact, it’s a common lawn moss in our area.  Most of the ground moss along the sunnier parts of the paved road in front of the Moss Garden is Bent Leaf Moss.  This species gets its common name because each leaf is “bent” 45 degrees downward (a useful recognition clue).

What to look for:

  • Grows on the ground, especially in yards and disturbed areas.  Likely to be found in the sunnier parts of your garden than in full shade.
  • Light green to yellowish-green color.
  • When viewed from above, its vertical growing stems look like stars (figure 1).
Figure 1.  Bent Leaf Moss.  Note the “starry” appearance when viewed from above.

Figure 1. Bent Leaf Moss. Note the “starry” appearance when viewed from above.

Figure 2.  Bent Leaf Moss growth habit.

Figure 2. Bent Leaf Moss growth habit.

Figure 3. Large patch of Bent Leaf Moss in the northwest corner of the Moss Garden.

Figure 3. Large patch of Bent Leaf Moss in the northwest corner of the Moss Garden.

Menzies’ Tree Moss

Leucolepis acanthoneuron

Family Mniaceae

Oh, this is a tree moss?  It must grow on trees, right?  Nope.  It is called a tree moss for a reason, but you need to get on your hands and knees to see why.  Look for it on the ground.  When you think you’ve found a patch of it, push the individual plantlets apart to see them better.   If you’ve found Menzies’ Tree Moss, each plantlet will look like a miniature tree.  For the majority of mosses in our region, this habit is unusual.  Only Climacium dendroides, simply called “Tree Moss” has a similar habit, but so far is unknown at the Bloedel Reserve.

What to look for:

  • Grows on the ground in shadier spots than Bent Leaf Moss.
  • Light green color.
  • Tree-like growth habit of individual plantlets where the main stem branches heavily near the top.
Figure 4.  Menzies’ Tree Moss plantlet displaying its “tree” like growth habit.

Figure 4. Menzies’ Tree Moss plantlet displaying its “tree” like growth habit.

Figure 5.  Close up of a Menzies’ Tree Moss patch.  The “whiskers” are immature sporophytes (spore producing structures).  They are not always present.

Figure 5. Close up of a Menzies’ Tree Moss patch. The “whiskers” are immature sporophytes (spore producing structures). They are not always present.

Figure 6.  A patch of Menzies’ Tree Moss.

Figure 6. A patch of Menzies’ Tree Moss.

Juniper Haircap Moss

Polytrichum juniperinum

Family Polytrichaceae

If you’ve ever taken a botany or biology class and learned even a little about mosses, you’ve probably seen pictures or even specimens of this moss.  Moss life cycle diagrams frequently depict this species, probably with good reason: this species grows on every continent, even Antarctica.

There are several look-alikes for this moss.  Some are other species of Polytrichum.  Others are related species of Pogonatum and Polytrichastrum.  Pogonatum contortum is very common in the Moss Garden but can be distinguished from Juniper Haircap Moss by its lack of reddish-brown awns at the ends of its leaves.

What to look for:

  • Bluish-green, un-branched, upright plants.
  • Each leaf ends in a reddish-brown awn (a narrow, bristle point).  This can usually be seen with the naked eye, but magnification is helpful.
Figure 7.  Juniper Haircap Moss.

Figure 7. Juniper Haircap Moss.

 Figure 8.  Note the reddish-brown awns on the leaf tips of Juniper Haircap Moss.

Figure 8. Note the reddish-brown awns on the leaf tips of Juniper Haircap Moss.

 Figure 9.  Juniper Haircap Moss.

Figure 9. Juniper Haircap Moss.

Lanky Moss

Rhytidiadelphus loreus

Family Hylocomiaceae

If you pay much attention to the scientific names here, you’ll notice that this moss belongs to the same genus as Bent Leaf Moss listed above.  They are related and somewhat similar. Both occur commonly on the ground though Lanky Moss will more often be seen on logs or stumps. Both are also often dominant ground covers and tolerate some sun well, but Lanky Moss seems to tolerate shade better than Bent Leaf Moss.

A third species of Rhytidiadelphus¸ R. triquetrus (Goose-necked Moss), is in the Moss Garden too.  It is distinct from its two sister species but is much less common.

What to look for:

  • Yellowish green, usually with reddish color in the stems.
  • Lacks the “starry” look of its sister, Bent Leaf Moss.
  • Irregularly branched.
  • Leaves of the main stem spreading, not pressed against the stem as in the look-alike Spear Moss.
 Figure 10.  A mat of Lanky Moss.

Figure 10. A mat of Lanky Moss.

Figure 11.  Close up of Lanky Moss stem, showing spreading leaves

Figure 11. Close up of Lanky Moss stem, showing spreading leaves

 Figure 12.  Lanky Moss stem.  Note the irregular branching habit.

Figure 12. Lanky Moss stem. Note the irregular branching habit.


Dicranum sp.

Family Dicranaceae

I am not sure exactly which species of Dicranum is growing in our moss garden.  Possibly there are more than one residing species.  With about 20 species in the Pacific Northwest, they can be difficult to tell apart, but I wanted to include it here simply because it stands in the Moss Garden enough to attract the attention of the occasional moss hunter.

What to look for:

  • Bright green leaves.  Much brighter than the surrounding species such that this moss really stands out visually.
  • The leaves are curved to one side (see figure 14).  This trait is not unique to Dicranum, but if you find curved leaves on a bright green moss, you’ve probably found the Dicranum in the Moss Garden.

Forms smallish clumps on logs or humus.  This species does not seem to form large, dominant mats in the Moss Garden.

Figure 13.  Dicranum.  Note the bright green color.


Figure 14.  Close up of Dicranum showing curved leaves.

Figure 14. Close up of Dicranum showing curved leaves.

Figure 15.  The Dicranum in the Moss Garden is noticeable by its bright green color against the darker or more yellowish mosses.

Figure 15. The Dicranum in the Moss Garden is noticeable by its bright green color against the darker or more yellowish mosses.

Spear Moss

Calliergonella cuspidata

Family Amblystegiaceae

Spear Moss resembles Lanky Moss and the two can be hard to tell apart.  To make things worse, they both grow in similar habitats (on the ground, often in yards, although Lanky Moss is more common in natural habitats).  In some places in the Moss Garden they can even be found growing intermixed.  Despite the similarities though, they can be distinguished if you know what to look for.

What to look for:

  • Growing on the ground or less commonly on stumps or logs.
  • Leaves pressed close to the reddish main stem, not spreading.  Leaves on the lateral stems (usually not reddish) tend to spread more.  This differs from Lanky Moss that has spreading leaves on the main stem.
  • The main stem has a spear-like appearance (hence the common name).  To see this, look at the pictures below and imagine the main, reddish stems without their lateral branches.  The growing tip of the main stem appears as the spearhead, so to speak.
  • igure 16.  Spear Moss.  Note the yellowish color.  The main stems can have a reddish color to them like Lanky Moss.

    Figure 16. Spear Moss. Note the yellowish color. The main stems can have a reddish color to them like Lanky Moss.

     Figure 17.  Overall habit of a Spear Moss stem.

    Figure 17. Overall habit of a Spear Moss stem.

     Figure 18.  Two Spear Moss stems.

    Figure 18. Two Spear Moss stems.

What Next?

Print out this article, grab your magnifier, take them with you to the Moss Garden at the Bloedel Reserve, and look for these mosses.  When you think you’ve found one, spend some time looking at it.  Develop a mental image.  You may find that learning to identify a moss is not so much about special features and habits, but more about textures and color shades.  That is how you will remember the moss the next time you encounter it.  Not that you shouldn’t learn the features that distinguish the species; they are what helped you learn the mosses.   With this, you will also learn that studying mosses takes patience.  Often that is more important than a magnifier.

If you think you want to continue learning mosses, these are three books I’d recommend:

  • Kimmerer, Robin W. 2003. Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses. Oregon State University Press.
  • Pojar, J. and A. MacKinnon.  1994.  Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast.  Lone Pine Publishing.
  • Vitt, D.H., et al.  1988.  Mosses, Lichens, and Ferns of Northwest North America.  Lone Pine Publishing.

The last two are for identification.   The one by Pojar and Mackinnon is especially good, not just for learning mosses, but other local native plants as well.  Gathering Moss is an outstanding introduction to the world of mosses written for everyone to read regardless of level of familiarity with mosses. It’s not really about identification, but if you liked mosses before reading it, you will love them afterwards.  You will never look at them the same.  

Written by Darren Strenge

Darren Strenge is the Plant Health Manager for the Bloedel Reserve where he has worked since the late 1990s, managing irrigation, plant pathology, the Reserve’s First Detector Program, and various other garden jobs.  Prior to that he was a researcher in the plant sciences and holds a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture and a Master of Science in Botany.  Darren has a broad range of botanical interests but has a soft spot for the “underdog” plants: mosses, ferns, lycophytes, and others sitting in the shadow of the showy flowering plants.

Back Stage@Bloedel: Lower Japanese Garden – North Stairs

September 25th, 2014

???????????????????????????????A Japanese garden is successful when it engages you visually. It achieves this when its design is strong, when it
lacks nothing, and when it contains nothing extra.



This summer the Reserve undertook the renovation of the stairs at the north end of the Guest House. The above picture shows the problems with the hardscaping and landscaping that were addressed in the renovation.  A steep, uneven, set of stairs led from the Rock Garden to the basement of the Guest House. The stairs were there because when the Guest House was built, the Rock Garden wasn’t a rock garden – it was a swimming pool. The stairs were installed to provide access to changing rooms in the basement. The existing transition, from disciplined Japanese Garden to immaculately maintained Stroll Pond, was overgrown and wild. Visitors did not use the stairs because they could not see where they led – the sightlines were blocked. It was time to redo the stairs so that they properly connected the two, were safe and solid, with the views opened up.


About the time the Reserve was established, the swimming pool was filled in and became the Rock Garden. The growth of the Reserve as a public place means that there are now many visitors. To make a proper transition between the Japanese Garden and the Stroll Pond, the path had to be opened up, and the sightlines improved. In the above picture you can see red-flag survey markers, and Andy and Tatyana discussing the routing of a new set of stairs last summer.


This is one of Tatyana’s design studies. It contains many of the elements that were installed.For example, aggregate pavers come about halfway down the path, then the path surface transitions to rock shapes. The path comes down in a gentle curve and joins the gravel path leading to the Stroll Pond. This would make a smooth transition between the Japanese Garden and the Stroll Pond.



These photos show the top and bottom of the existing stairs at the start of renovation. The first picture shows the interface with the Japanese Garden. The second picture shows the preexisting stonework. The long piece of exposed aggregate in the first photo and the rocks in the second photo must be removed. Because the aggregate and the rocks can’t be handled manually, an excavator is required. An excavator would seriously damage the Japanese Garden, so the decision was made to work from the downhill direction.



Access to the work site for the heavy machinery was via a path crossing  the turf from the staging area. Here, Joe and Sean are laying down the last of the plywood to protect the turf from the vehicle tracks. This is a good example of practices used at the Reserve to minimize the impact on surrounding areas when heavy machinery must be used.

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With the path in place, Tom moves the excavator upslope and picks up a section of exposed aggregate. From there he goes down slope where it is loaded onto the Bandit for transport to the shop. Rod walks alongside to balance the load. Once at the shop Andy [Moss] and Spencer will cut the aggregate into pavers for use on the new path.

Simultaneously, the gardeners removed vegetation that was interfering with the sightlines. Joe, Sean and Andy are moving a stand of mahonia and Philip is removing a stand of ferns. Most of this vegetation was transplanted to other places in the Reserve.

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With the site cleared, reconstruction can begin.


Tom is a key member of the team. Because he is operating in close proximity to personnel and delicate structures, he must be aware of his position at all times. He has to have a delicate touch with objects that weigh as much as a ton. He is often asked to “nudge” a riser or a rock to its final position. The Cat track loader is used to move the boulders to the
site where the excavator can pick them up and place them.

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Note the chain securing the boulder for transport. Load control and balance are full-time concerns for Tom. Hardscaping is built up using two types of stone. The flat quarried pieces are used for risers and the boulders are used for guide rocks. Dan bought the quarried stone from Rock Mountain in Redmond, and boulders from Marenakos in Preston.

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A hardscape design is implemented by placing the risers, the guide rocks and the connectors in such a way that they form a unified design.
Dan and Andy must take into account size, shape, orientation, color, and surroundings. They must keep a mental image of the design in mind before much of it is visible – this is no small task.
Picking and placing the hardscape objects is art, not science. How well it’s done determines whether the finished product is a coherent design or a jumble.


The hardscaping is now almost complete, with all risers and guide rocks in place.
Here’s what remains:

  • Irrigation
  • Connectors
  • Landscaping

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What looked reasonably finished several days ago has now been dug up again – this time for irrigation. In addition to irrigation, Darren has also put in a pass-through pipe. Dan Blossom recommended this provision because it allows changes to be made to the underground routing of pipes and wires without disturbing the hardscaping.


The stonework required to finish the path is connectors that link the riser sections. The photo above is from the top of the stairs. In this section the path is surfaced with pavers and cobbles.
The view below is from the bottom of the stairs. This connector is ocean pearl flagstone plus cobbles.
Dan handpicked the cobbles for size, shape and color, and he placed the cobbles in the connectors.

???????????????????????????????The final touches to the project are the plantings around the new hardscaping and restoration of the gravel path. Because the project objective was to create a smooth transition between two strong gardens, the plant palette has been kept very simple. The plants chosen grow low with muted colors – in other words, nothing attention getting.

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Stairs27Two thoughts in closing:

  • The view from the Stroll Pond path now invites visitors to the Japanese Garden
  • Dan and Andy’s collaboration has produced a masterpiece for the Reserve

Stairs28THE TEAM:


Andy Navage, Director of Horticulture
Dan Blossom
Tatyana Vashchenkov, 2013 Intern


Jim Allen
Spencer Allen
Philip Bloomquist
Jesse Conway
Joe DeMaio
Andy Moss
Sean Peterson
Darren Stenge


Austin Harper
Isaiah Miller
Genevieve Sawyer


Levengood Construction
o Rod Levengood, Tom Levengood

Dan Blossom Garden Design
o Dan Blossom


Sadafumi Uchiyama, Garden Curator, Portland Japanese Garden

The Bloedel Reserve thanks the Tateuchi Foundation. This project would not have been possible without their generous financial support.

Front Stage@Bloedel: Bloedel in Bloom

June 5th, 2014

Springtime is when the Reserve is most floriferous. Volunteer and photographer Elliott Green captured the blooming beauties in this photo essay. Enjoy! And if you are in our neck of the woods, stop by and see the blooms in person.

Location: The Glen
Plant: Rhododendron strigillosum

Location: Swan Pond
Plant: Rhododendron gandavense ‘sunbeam’

Location: Entrance Drive
Plant: Azalea

Location: Japanese Stroll Garden
Plant: Azalea (hybrid)


Location: Visitor Center
Plant: Rhododendron ‘pink wallpaper’

Location: Swan Pond
Plant: Rhododendron ‘hybrid’

Location: Christmas Pond
Plant: Primula pulverulenta ‘Bartley’s strain'; Candelabra primrose

Location: Christmas Pond
Plant: Primula japonica ‘Postfords white'; Candelabra primrose

Location: Gate House
Plant: Crinodendron hookerianum; Chilean Lantern Tree

Location: Japanese Garden
Plant: Cornus kousa; Korean dogwood

Location: Japanese Garden
Plant: Cotinus coggyria ‘Royal purple'; Royal purple smoke tree

Plant: Rhododendron with a bee

25th Anniversary Memories

April 25th, 2014

In honor of the Reserve’s 25th Anniversary, we asked the public to share their stories of the Reserve with us. We received wonderful memories and displayed them in the Visitor’s Center during Founder’s Weekend.

We wanted to share the stories we received with you. And, if you have any stories you would like to share please send them to: We will continue to collect stories for use in future events and publications.

Name: Krista Jenkins
Current City: Adelaide, Australia
Date of Memory: 1971

My dad was a gardener for Mr. Bloedel and was walking in the woods and heard an animal whimpering. He walked toward the sound, but then it stopped when he got near and he couldn’t find the source of the whimpering.

This pattern repeated for several days until one day he scratched his head and looked up. There, up in the branches of a leaning maple tree, was a little brown dog. It became our new dog, Maple, who we loved for many years after.

Name: Bruce Clark
Current City: Seattle, Washington
Date of Memory: 1980

In the summer of 1980 or 1981, I was in my early twenties and was working as a tree trimmer before heading to law school. My late mother, Anne Holt, was a fabulous gardner who lived on Agate Pass Loop Road and knew Richard Brown, then the director of the gardens.

I was hired for the summer to trim trees on the property, mostly to the west of the house. It was a great place to work and I was in and out of a lot of trees, mostly deadwooding to reduce hazards and to “clean up” the look of some of the conifers.

One day Richard Brown told me that Mr. Bloedel was a bit concerned that the trees were looking too neat – -that they ought to have some dead branches because that was their natural state.

As it happened, I was able to chat with Mr. Bloedel about this as we walked and looked at the trees. I was impressed with his deep appreciation for all of the trees given the familial connection with the logging industry. He told me, pointing at a Grand Fir, that back in the day those in the commercial logging industry regarding such firs as “trash trees” because they had little commercial value as compared with other conifers. He went on to express how his thinking had changed over time and how much he now valued the beauty of all the trees he had. I thought then, as now, that his comments reflected his connection to the forests here and provided motivation to create the natural monument that is the Reserve today.

Name: Virginia Abell-Clayton
Current City: Bainbridge Island, Washington
Date of Memory: Summer of 1992

As a docent I greeted a gentleman and his daughter. He introduced himself as a doctor from Los Angeles. When he notice the piano, he asked if he could play. Given permission, I was treated to a 45-minute concert worthy of Benaroya Hall.

When I expressed my delight and surprise to his daughter, she informed me that he was also a graduate of Juilliard.

Name: Anna Neff
Date of Memory: Christmas Eve, 1988

As Christmas approached in 1988, the weather was cold. Might it snow?  “Oh, please!”, sang our two daughters. And on December 24th it did begin to lightly snow. We were excited for the festivities that were to come on Christmas Eve. Everything was set for the relatives who would be arriving late in the day. Presents were wrapped, cookies were frosted,  songs were memorized. We were faced with a long afternoon. What shall we do?

We knew from articles that had appeared in the Bainbridge Review that Bloedel Reserve memberships had recently become available. I don’t remember which of us had the brilliant idea but the idea was, indeed, brilliant. Let’s bundle up and drive to The Bloedel Reserve, buy a membership and walk through the gardens. It was magical!  I don’t remember seeing another soul but we saw many little paw prints in the snow. We walked and giggled and sang, everyone pointing out one beautiful snowy sight after another.

When we finally piled back into the car, the girls were rosy-cheeked and tuckered out. I wish Mr. and Mrs. Bloedel could have heard the Bloedel Reserve stories the girls told their grandparents and aunts and uncles that evening.

We have been members of The Bloedel Reserve since that special day — December 24, 1988.  Every time I visit The Reserve, no matter the season or the occasion, I see the magical place that our two rosy-cheeked little girls discovered for the first time on Christmas Eve, 1988.

Name: Alice Frost
Date of Memory: 2009

The front door opened to the Visitor’s Center and a young man and older woman entered. I greeted them and asked if they would like a guided tour to which they replied that they would just like to wander.

Perhaps ten minutes passed when I looked up. The elderly woman stood there with tears streaming down her face saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” Her son told me that he was from New York and his mother was from Sri Lanka where a civil war had recently ended. She was crying from joy because she finally felt at peace. I was rather stunned, but said, “Please don’t thank me, thank Prentice Bloedel for creating such a peaceful sanctuary for all.” I was deeply moved by the experience and realized the natural beauty and serenity of the Reserve are important and universal to all.

Name: Beth Goodwin

Every time I come to the main house with my five year old son, he loves to sit and read the gardening books with me as well as look at the “Eaglet’s Progress” book. As I write this, he is escorting a four year old boy he met outside through the house.

We also treasure Christmas time with the trains and hot cocoa.

Name: Laura Cloghessy
Current City: Bainbridge Island
Date of Memory: August 2009

The first time we came to the Reserve was for a concert. The concert was on the front lawn. It was a clear day and the eagles were teaching the eaglets to fly, swooping back and forth. Bloedel Reserve couldn’t have planned it better if they tried. It was so beautiful and quite remarkable.

Name: Hannah (15 years old)
Current City: Austin, Texas
Date of Memory: July 18, 2013

Looking at the view of the ocean at the Bloedel house made me want to write about it. I want to be an author and this place was so picturesque, it may be just the setting for a future book. Thank you!

Name: Dave Hancock
Current City: Mercer Island, WA
Date of Memory: 1964

My mom was Mr. Bloedel’s secretary and I played on this property everyday. I loved flying to Bellingham with Mr. Bloedel in his de Havilland seaplane. He always let me play with the sheep and his dogs. He was the nicest man and always greeted me with open arms.

Name: Beatrice Roethke Lushington
Date of Memory: October 4, 2013
Current City: Seattle

The trip to Bloedel Reserve on the 4th October 2013, was full of memories beginning with the turn off at Agate and thinking of the day on August 1st 1963 when Ted Roethke went to Bainbridge to escape the vacuum cleaner at home. En route he met Virginia Bloedel and her daughter Lee who asked him to come for a swim and he was delighted to accept. We had seen that he had a blood clot in his arm the day before but he said it didn’t hurt. When he dove in at the pool it went to his brain. This was in the swimming pool at the newly constructed complex.

Years have gone by and I have heard that someone wanted to know where the poet died and had been told that the swimming pool had been filled in and made into a Zen Garden.

The Bloedels had met him not long before and had been won over by his charisma. The Bloedels were a devoted couple of whom I was very fond. Virginia, or Shinny as she was called, was very affectionate to me. I think they had lived in Vancouver when their two daughters were young and whisky was served with dinner.

Seeing the house I remembered the times Stephen Lushington and I were guests there after we were married in 1972.  I remember there were swans on the pond in front of the house.

Among the beautiful trees there is a large moss garden which made me think of Ted’s poem, Moss-Gathering.

Backstage@Bloedel: Cedar Removal

April 1st, 2014

The Overview:

The Reserve has a number of trails that go through woodlands. As woodland trees grow they sometimes become dangerous to people below. Because staff and visitor safety is the number one priority at the Reserve, when a tree is judged hazardous it must be secured. Two methods are commonly used – cabling or removal.
This cedar was located next to the glen access road, and one of its leaders hung over a heavily used visitor path. In this case the decision was to remove the tree.
To provide some context, this cedar was a tall tree. To get an idea of its size look at the picture below. Ken, standing to the right of the tree trunk, is six feet tall. We estimate the cedar’s trunk to be about 30 feet tall.
We estimate the tree’s height in excess of 80 feet.
So, why was this tree dangerous?

The Situation:

This particular cedar tree had three co-dominant leaders. Cedars usually have a single dominant leader.

Andy speculated that this tree had been topped some years ago, and that three leaders grew from the trunk. This had become a serious structural problem.

Over the years as the tree grew, the leaders became heavier, and a crack developed. The crack grew deeper due to included bark. Included bark is bark embedded between the leaders and the trunk. Embedded bark prevents formation of a branch bark ridge. The result was a weak union of the leaders to the trunk.

As Andy and Jim were walking in the glen, they heard a loud crack. When they investigated, they saw the crack and realized that the cedar was seriously compromised. They shut down the access road and visitor’s path.

Andy immediately called Westerlund Tree Service. Jon Westerlund’s company specializes in safing dangerous trees.

In this photo you can see evidence of the split. The fresh wood visible in the vertical crack shows where the trunk has failed.

The timeline was as follows:

The picture below is of the cedar as we left it on Thursday afternoon. Note that the leaders are leaning away from each other. We knew it would not take much – maybe just wind loads – to cause complete failure.

When we came back Friday morning we were relieved to see that the tree had not failed. Jon determined that the tree would be safe to climb if the gaps between the leaders could be stabilized.

Friday morning was calm. This was important for Jon’s climbers, who could not work safely if there was any wind. Jon’s climbers proceeded to secure the leaders with a chain and chain clamp. In the photo below, you can see how the chain kept the leaders from spreading.

The Solution:

They then rigged a brace system using lines to the ground to draw the leaders together. The picture below was taken Friday morning, after they had placed the brace and cranked the leaders in.

Below, the leaders have been secured with a chain and the brace has been rigged. The tree is now safe, and the climbers have partially de-limbed it.

This photo shows how the bracing has been cranked taut from ground level:

The brace solved the tree safety problem. The top photo is of the tree before any remediation has been done. The bottom photo is after the brace has been rigged and cranked taut. When you compare the photos, you’ll see that the original crack is now closed, and the lines which activate the brace are taut.

Now, with the tree secure and de-limbed, the climbers can safely reduce the leaders by successively cutting short pieces off, as seen above.

The Results:

The Team:

Bloedel representatives:

-Jim Allen, Gardener

-Ken Little, Arborist

-Andy Navage, Director of Horticulture

Contractor: Westerlund Wood & Tree Service

-Ben Fejeran, Climber

-Ikaika Rodrigues, Climber

-Jon Westerlund, Owner

Backstage@Bloedel: Upper Japanese Garden Renovation

March 6th, 2014

A Japanese garden is successful when it engages you visually.
It achieves this when its design is strong, when it lacks nothing, and when it contains nothing extra.

The upper Japanese garden consists of the entry path, the white granite rock garden, and the mounds visible from the deck of the Japanese house.

The objectives of the renovation were to:

· Rebuild the fences that parallel the entry

· Rebuild the mounds

· Place trees in the garden to complete the design

· Improve safety by leveling the pavers

The photo below is a “before” picture, taken in June, 2013.

This photo is an “after” picture, taken in February, 2014.

The differences between these views are described on the following pages. Problems are described with notes on the “before” picture; solutions are described with notes on the “after” picture.

This executive summary concludes with four paired pictures of the finished renovation. The first image in each pair is reproduced without any notes. We’ve done that so you can see what the final result looks like. The second image has notes describing the major design theme implemented in that view.

The Situation:

A: Sections of the entry fences were missing because a cottonwood tree fell across the path in December 2012

B: Pavers adjacent to the cedar were tripping hazards; there was no clear path around the rock garden

C: Overgrown vegetation obscured two medium-sized stones; the vegetation contributed no visual interest

D: This secondary mound did not contribute to the feeling of depth of view that was desired.

E: This primary mound is weak; it should tie horizontal features together

F: This large stone was partially buried; it did not relate to nearby stone elements

G: This mound was too low and did not relate well to the other elements, and it was infested with voles

H: The entry fences were replaced

I: Pavers were cleaned, then reset, leaving clear paths around the rock garden

J: With the vegetation removed and a dwarf white pine transplanted, the existing stones are now revealed

K: The secondary mound has been raised, irrigation added, and it’s been replanted; it now adds to the felling of depth

L: The primary mound is now part of a strong horizontal design theme. The large stone now relates to the stones in the rock garden; this ties the mound to the rock garden

M: This mound was excavated, new soil brought it and the area replanted

The Results:

N: The presence of the dwarf white pine on the left now guides visitors to look at the gate and the house as they enter

O: The dwarf white pine supplies visual closure to the right of the gate and separates the gate from the mounding area

P: The group of five stones in the rock garden are visually extended by the pair of stones on the left mound

Q: The strong horizontal lines in the mounds now complement the horizontal elements in the rock garden, deck and roof

R: The large stone on the mound now forms a group with the pair of stones in the rock garden, visually tying the mound and the rock garden



This document is an executive summary. Its purpose is to describe the major design themes underlying the project. If you would like more information about how the project was done you can look at detailed descriptions of the project phases. They can be found in the following companion documents:

· Upper Japanese Garden Renovation – Entrance

· Upper Japanese Garden Renovation – Mounds

· Upper Japanese Garden Renovation – Pavers

· Upper Japanese Garden Renovation – Trees

Renovation of the upper and lower Japanese Gardens is a major, continuing, project at Bloedel Reserve. The planning for the upper garden project started two years ago. Execution of the project has taken almost a year. It has required considerable effort by garden staff, interns, volunteers, contractors and consultants. A companion project, the Lower Japanese Garden Renovation, is currently being planned.

Backstage@Bloedel: Mulch Preparation

February 1st, 2014

Before describing how mulch is prepared, let’s answer two questions:  what is mulch and, why is it used?

Mulch is a generic term for any surface plant covering.  Mulches can be organic, compost, rubber, plastic, or sand and gravel.  At Bloedel we make and use only composted organic mulch.

Mulch is used to limit weed growth, conserve water, insulate plants, provide plant nutrients, demarcate plant beds for mowing and maintain a neat appearance.

In the photo at below, you’ll see three plants embedded in a manicured lawn.  These plants, witch hazels, are located just inside the vehicle gate.  They’re virtually the first thing a visitor sees when entering the Reserve.

Mulch is used virtually everywhere the Reserve has maintained gardens.  Here are three examples.  The first photo is an example of a Sadler oak in a long lawn.  The second photo is of trees in a long lawn.  The third photo is a picture of the Gate House, with a Japanese maple in a manicured lawn.  Regardless of where they are planted, each has a layer of mulch.

Since most of the mulch is renewed annually, the conclusion is clear.  The Reserve uses a lot of mulch.

The above photo gives you an idea of how much mulch the Reserve uses.  Here you are looking at a year’s supply of dairy manure.  In this photo the manure has just started composting.  Bloedel buys 200 cubic yards of dairy manure annually to start each year’s batch.  Composting the manure breaks the organics down and gets rid of the smell.

Composting requires the material spend time at temperature as this allows microorganisms to break down the organic material.  Additional organic material, typically leaf compost and wood chips, are added to the manure to finish the mulch.

Since composting is an aerobic process, it requires oxygen.  Darren provides oxygen by turning the mulch.  In the photo above he is scooping a bucket.  As you can see in the photo below, he dumps the bucket to rebuild the mulch pile on a parallel line.  This insures that all the material is properly composted.

The steam you see in the photos is due to the fact that the pile is hot.  The target temperature in the interior is 120°F.  Darren tracks the temperature.  When it falls below this value, the microorganisms have used up their oxygen and they need to be restarted by turning the compost.  The compost is turned approximately every two weeks.

Sequence of mixing a small batch for composting:

Darren starts with a day’s worth of grass clippings.

He adds composted leaves from last autumn.

He scoops and dumps to mix.

He mixes the batch.

He moves it forward.

Darren dumps the finished batch where it will resume composting.

Leaves are collected from all around the Reserve.  Diann and Ken, below photo, are picking up leaves from the English elms in front of the Visitor Center.

Sean, above, is loading big leaf maple leaves into the Smithco.

Most of the leaves for composting come from Reserve woodland.  In the above picture you can see maple leaves about to be harvested from woodland.

Here at the leaf dump, Joe, Jim and Sean rake a trailer load of leaves onto the leaf pile. These leaves will compost for about a year before being combined with the manure to compost further and make mulch.

The result:

The team:

Jim Allen, Gardener

Joe DeMaio, Gardener

Diane Eckler, Arborist

Ken Little, Arborist

Sean Peterson, Gardener

Darrren Strenge, Gardener

Backstage@Bloedel: Florist Weekly Routine

January 9th, 2014

The Reserve’s florist, Cathy Tyler, and her dedicated group of volunteers keep the Visitor Center beautiful with fresh floral arrangements each week. This blog will will demonstrate how visitor favorite, Lucy the swan, is created, and will also show a set of photographs that illustrates the variety of displays Cathy and her team create.

Lucy is a pewter swan that was owned by the Bloedels. She was used to display flower arrangements in the entryway of what is now the Visitor Center. These days Lucy spends her time on the dining room table looking out the windows.
Depending on the time of year, Lucy’s feathers can be flowers or other greens. Lucy requires a change of feathers once a week. The feathers she’s wearing in the picture above are about to be replaced.  Lucy is one of 12 flower exhibits in the Visitor Center. All are changed weekly by the Bloedel florist, Cathy Tyler, and her volunteers.

All floral work is done in the workshop which is located behind the Visitor's Center.

In this picture Ernie is plucking out greens which can be used again. This is the first step in building a new display.

All display containers must be scrubbed clean. Here, Lucy is getting her weekly bath.

Displays require new greens and new greens require preparation. Prep is a two stage process.

Cathy is doing the first stage. She is washing new greens in hot water to remove insects and dirt.

Ernie is doing the second stage. She is pouring hot water into the buckets with new greens. Any green that has a stem is immersed in hot water for half an hour. This makes the stems absorb water, and that makes them last longer.

The next step in putting new feathers on Lucy is to give her a new foam block. The foam block holds the greens in position. A foam block is used for two reasons. First, because water can flow through it, greens stay fresher longer. Second, because the block absorbs water, it weighs the display down.

Lucy being fitted with her new foam block.

In this design Lucy’s feathers will be built up from five different greens. They are fir, pine, salal, mahonia and curly willow.

Cathy starts with the stiffest branches first. In this photo, fir branches have been put in around the perimeter.

Next, pine branches have been added. Pine is more flexible and can be used to give the arrangement more shape.

Cathy can now add leafy greens. In this case, the plants added are salal and mahonia.

Cathy positions Lucy to make sure her feathers are reasonably symmetrical.

Finally, Cathy adds some curly willow and gives the whole assembly a spritz from her spray bottle. With a final trim, Lucy will be ready to go back on display.

Cathy and a freshly arranged Lucy.

Here are some samples of other arrangements found at the Reserve:

Arrangement by Ernie

Arrangement by Cathy

Arrangement by Sigrid

Arrangement by Cathy

Arrangement by Cathy

Arrangement by Ernie

Arrangement by Cathy

Cathy Tyler, Florist, Bloedel Reserve; Ernestina (Ernie) Schwartzman, Volunteer; Sigrid Knight, Volunteer

Backstage@Bloedel: Christmas Garland, Visitor’s Center

December 19th, 2013

The garland and wreaths draping the entrance to the Visitor’s Center are a holiday tradition at Bloedel Reserve. The garland and the wreaths are all produced on site, using plant materials collected from the Reserve.

In this photo, Joe and Andy are fastening the large wreath to the iron railing at the front of the second floor balcony.

This photo was taken from the second floor balcony when the garland was half finished. The garland was assembled on a very cold morning. The space heaters made it possible to work outside.

Because the garland will be draped symmetrically from the flag post on the Visitor’s Center, the sides must be the same length. To make sure the lengths come out equal, the crew takes a 75 foot length of rope and divide it in half. They tie a knot for hanging the finished garland at the halfway point. This conveniently allows two teams to work on the garland, with each team taking one side.

The garland is assembled from plant material, most of which is gathered from the Reserve. In the photo below you can see piles of branches. The main greens are cedar, fir and pine. The garland is accented with holly and hinoki cypress. The branches are attached to the rope with paddle wire.

Sharon and Cathy are attaching branches to the rope.

Martha holds branches for Marianne to wire them. Assembling the garland took four people about three hours.

At this point the assembly of evergreens on the garland is nearing completion. Holly and hinoki cypress will be added to finish the garland.

Here you can see the two teams working. Martha and Marianne are working on the left arm; Sharon and Cathy are working on the right arm. The white knot which will hang the garland is visible in the foreground.

With the garland complete, Andy and Joe haul it up to the balcony and hang it on the flag post. This is done under the watchful eyes of the “garland assembly team”.

This photo is of the large wreath that Joe and Sean made. The greens are cedar, fir, pine, mahonia blossoms and holly.

This photo shows the wreath being hauled up by Joe and Andy with Sean’s assistance from below.

Completed project:

The Team:
Martha Goldingay, Volunteer
Sharon Kulfan, Volunteer
Marianne Mallabon, Volunteer
Cathy Tyler, Florist, Bloedel Reserve
Joe DeMaio, Gardener, Bloedel Reserve
Andy Navage, Director of Horticulture, Bloedel Reserve
Sean Peterson, Gardener, Bloedel Reserve

Backstage@Bloedel: Decorating the Staircase

December 13th, 2013


The staircase in the Visitor Center is decorated for the holiday season every year. This year’s decorations appear to be under the watchful eye of Mr. Bloedel, as seen in the photo below.

The decorations consist of five layers. The first layer is branches from the English elms that were removed from the front of the Visitor’s Center. The second layer is miniatur lights. The third layer is dried hydrangeas. The fourth layer is hand flocking. The fifth layer is glass icicles.

The Solution:

Here Cathy and Martha are stringing the lights on the elm branches.

Cathy is putting hydrangeas into the network of branches and lights.

Martha and Cathy are working their way up the stairs placing the hydrangeas.

Jan applies glue to the branches and hydrangeas with a brush while Cathy holds the box to catch any excess. This gives a "frosted" look to the decorations.

With the branches and hydrangeas prepped with glue, Deb applies the snow. Jan holds the box to catch any snow that doesn't stick.

This photo shows how the icicles blend in and complement the hydrangeas and the lights.

This photo shows how the icicles are attached. Each one is tied separately with black wire.

The Result:

The Team:

First Row: Cathy Tyler, Florist for the Reserve, Irene Holt, Volunteer. Second Row: Marianne Mallabon, Volunteer. Third Row: Deb Dameron, Volunteer. Fourth Row: Jan Hall, Volunteer

Martha Goldingay, Volunteer

Volunteers not pictured: Sharon Kulfan, Sigrid Knight, Helen Muterspaugh