Mixed Greens Blog

Mixed Greens Blog
Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest

03
February
2009

Aromatherapy in the Winter Garden

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You may have gone to the Washington Park Arboretum in the springtime with your honey, but if you’ve never been in the dead of winter and experienced the heady, tropical-like fragrances in the Witt Winter Garden, you need to go soon (and don’t forget your camera). For the next few weeks the witch hazels, sarcococca, wintersweet and daphnes will be putting on a multi-media show you won’t want to miss. Call me a party-pooper but instead of watching the Super Bowl on Sunday, I set up the DVR and headed out for the Arboretum.

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The witch hazels alone are worth the trip. Each flower is a tiny explosion of crinkled papery petals in colors ranging from coppery orange, buttery yellow to russety red. Every variety has a slightly different fragrance making their euphonic combination certain to lure any winter-born insects directly to their sugary nectar and sticky pollen. The Native Americans boiled the twigs and branches for medicinal purposes but just breathing in the incredible aroma was healing to my lingering cold.

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Some winter-bloomers like sarcococca and wintersweet are more shy and discreet about captivating pollinators. Some people believe they bloom early to avoid the springtime competition for attention. They may have relatively small blossoms but they don’t withhold their heavenly fragrances.

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Equally enthralling are the figures of bare trees as they stand proudly without leaves to mask their shape. A stunning grove of Chinese Red Birches flaunt their pinkish bark. Such a rich display of bark is only revealedĀ  during the coldest months of the year.

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Do yourself a favor and go enjoy the show before spring comes along and starts strutting its stuff. You may be interested to know that our Washington Park Arboretum was developed in the 1930’s using WPA funds given during the New Deal Era to stimulate the economy and create jobs for the unemployed. Way to look out for us, FDR…………..

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3 Responses »

  1. What a great way to bring ‘light’ into a mid-winter day, a walk outside with attention to fragrance. Witch Hazel and Wintersweet in name alone are enough to waken the senses. I happen to love the stripped down beauty of winter’s landscape anyway, but aside from pine needles and sap I hadn’t hoped for flowers & fragrance right now. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for this beautiful homage to our beloved Winter Garden at the Arboretum. Every New Year’s day my partner & I start in the Witt garden and then stroll through the trails and wetlands. I never cease to be amazed at the beautiful trees, birds and evidence of wildlife right here in the city. This year we caught a glimpse of 2 gorgeous bald eagles up in a birch tree. A guy rowing by in his kayak told us they are a nesting pair that have been spending a lot of time hanging around. I love it that a guy in a kayak knows the park so well he can teach me something as I walk around in the frost and drizzle.

  3. Sally, it was a surprise to me as well the first time I went. Our Northwest version of a tropical garden…
    Lorene, I didn’t make it down to the wetlands this time but that is a another beautiful area to explore. Thanks for the reminder.