Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Visit to Seattle

I took a month-long break from istanbul to visit my mother in Arkansas and spend time in Seattle, the closest thing I have to "home" in the U.S. During the time I've been in Istanbul, I almost always visit Seattle in the autumn or winter, because tickets aren't cheap! This time I said "what the hell" and went in what to me is the most beautiful time of the year there, April and early May. And got an economical ticket to boot. It would have been even more economical if I hadn't missed my return flight and paid a $200 change fee...! But "sağlık olsun" as we say here - at leas we've got our health!

The first morning I woke up at the absurd hour of 5:00 a.m. and decided to takek advantage of the early morning light with a walk in Washington Park Arboretum. It was a lovely time to be there, the native trilliums were in bloom. The flowers are huge, nearly 4 inches across.

Another favorite spring plant of mine is western skunk cabbage; definitely a plant whose odor precedes it! A beautiful thing though, and definitely one of the more "exotic" looking of our Northwest natives, reminding us with its large yellow spathes that it has many relatives in the tropics, in the form of Anthurium, Amorphophallus, Dieffenbachia and Philodendron.

So you might be wondering, what was I doing when I should have been on my flight back to Istanbul? I was happily roaming the Elisabeth Miller Botanical Garden in the Highlands of North Seattle. Besides gazing at the many amazing plants thriving there, I also had a good laugh while teasing curator Richie Steffen, who had missed his flight back to Seattle when visiting Istanbul in 2001. I suppose it's good to pay off one's karma in advance.

The Miller Garden was once a private garden, planted by Elisabeth Miller, a woman who made major contributions to horticultural life in Seattle. When she died, she willed her garden to the city as a public botanical garden. Since the Highlands, where she lived, is a gated community, this brought its share of complications - visits are by appointment only. But if you are traveling to Seattle, it's well worth scheduling a visit. I guarantee you will see something you've never seen before!

The garden is home to an extensive collection of Epimediums, an exquisite Eurasian genus in the barberry family with delicate and often translucent flowers which are notoriouslly difficult to photograph directly. Though some of them also work as ground covers, most to my mind are better used as foreground specimen plants because you will want to get down and examine them close at hand.
Besides Seattle, I also spent ten days in the Ozarks of northern Arkansas. It's another amazing place botanically, and I was there in a very pleasant time, with lots of wildflowers in bloom and thankfully a minimum of ticks and no chiggers out yet. And I escaped just before the wave of pollen that is visible as a yellow haze over the landscape. In the next post I'll share some of the more notable wild plants growing there.

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