Branches, Bark, and Buds: Winter Tree Identificaton

Do conifers confuse you? Do all deciduous trees look alike once the leaves fall? This class is for you, whether you simply need a refresher on tree identification or want to improve your existing skills. The class will begin at the Center for Urban Horticulture, with a review of basic tree identification techniques, use of taxonomic keys, and discussion of common landscape tree species and varieties found in the Pacific Northwest. This will be followed by an outdoor field session where you will practice what you have learned as we identify trees on the main campus of the University of Washington.

Taught by Bess Bronstein and Christina Pfeiffer

Free Family Weekend Walk: Swing into Spring

How do we know the seasons are changing? What lets us know that spring is on its way? Clues can be found all around us—especially outside! Adventure to the Washington Park Arboretum to embark on this seasonal investigation with us.

Bring the whole family for an hour and half themed walk. During this free public tour, we will stop along the way for games, hands-on activities and learning geared toward children (2-12 years old) and their caregivers. Tour groups gather in front of the Graham Visitors Center at 1:00pm, 2nd and 4th Saturdays February-June.

Family Nature Class

Join us for a Family Nature Class and make connections with the natural world that will last a lifetime! Through science-based exploration and outdoor play, preschoolers and their caregivers will experience the UW Botanic Gardens using their senses.

Each class begins with an opportunity to explore several learning stations based on the week’s theme where children can practice fine motor skills, sensory investigation, creativity, and pre-math and literacy skills. Station time is followed by an opening circle and hike where the group will play games, listen to a story and further explore the weekly theme. Family Nature Class is a great way to get outside with your preschooler, foster curiosity and explore the natural world.

Free Family Weekend Walk: Winter Safari

Did you know that there is something amazing to see and explore in the Washington Park Arboretum all year round? Get outside and play some winter nature games and activities with us while we take advantage of all the wonder winter has to offer!

Bring the whole family for an hour and half themed walk. During this free public tour, we will stop along the way for games, hands-on activities and learning geared toward children (2-12 years old) and their caregivers. Tour groups gather in front of the Graham Visitors Center at 1:00pm, 2nd and 4th Saturdays February-June.

Free, no preregistration necessary.

Pikes/Pines | Capitol Hill woodpeckers fit right in — drumming, developing microhousing

A Pileated Woodpecker. (Image: Brendan McGarry)

When I was eight years old, my family and I took a trip to the Olympic Peninsula. We spent a week camping along that rugged coastline, falling asleep to the crash of waves beneath gale twisted trees. Of that trip, I remember very little. Only one thing stands out clearly. It was here I met the Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus). At the base of a gnarled Western hemlock, I found a passion for birds that still burns deep.

Do you appreciate a different take on Capitol Hill from time to time? Subscribe to CHS today to support our writers and photographers — $1/$5/$10 per month

I used to have a hard time explaining why I liked woodpeckers so much. They’re no powerful birds of prey, nor are they elegant hummingbirds. Yet, woodpeckers play an integral role in forest ecosystems, even in the smaller patches we have on the Hill. They are built for a vertical world where their homes and food come from trees. Continue reading

Seattle has plan to retrofit its most earthquake-risky buildings

In 2016, CHS reported on 300 buildings around Seattle added to city’s list of hundreds of seismically risky “unreinforced masonry” structures that could crumble in a major earthquake. In 2018, the City Council might finally start to do something about it.

Monday, the council heard recommendations from the Unreinforced Masonry Policy Committee around requiring retrofitting across Seattle — and how to pay for it. But even with the renewed recommendations — embedded below — there is still only a fuzzy roadmap to putting new rules into effect:

Having briefed the Council this morning, it’s now in the Council members’ hands to decide how to move these recommendations forward in 2018: whether to once again make retrofit of URM buildings mandatory and under what timeline, which financial assistance programs to pursue, and whether ancillary programs such as the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance should be extended to provide additional aid for tenants displaced by retrofit work. Council member Bagshaw has been vocal about the need to address this issue for some time; it wouldn’t be surprising if she sponsored legislation to adopt the policy committee’s recommendations.

And bricks might not even be the city’s biggest challenge. There is growing evidence that concrete buildings engineered using outdated methods were some of the most vulnerable structures during Mexico City’s big quake in September. “Flat slab” construction is only restricted in parts of the United States.

Meanwhile, some Capitol Hill landowners are moving forward on their own. Last year, CHS reported on details of the voluntary retrofit of the Whitworth Apartments, a classic Capitol Hill apartment building at 17th and John.

The full presentation of recommendations from the committee is below. Continue reading

Botanical Sketching in Ink and Watercolor

Botanical Sketching in Ink and Watercolor (August)

4 Tuesday Mornings, 10am-12pm, August 15-September 5

Capture the essence of flowers and foliage in this 4-part class with simple quick techniques and portable materials! While using the beautiful perennial beds and borders at the Center for Urban Horticulture as a backdrop you will be guided in an intuitive approach to sketching with pen layering watercolor washes and gathering tips that can be applied to everyday sketching. A simple supply list will be provided. All levels welcome.

Cost: $95

Register at


Green Lessons from the Past, Green Action for the Future

Seattle Audubon Society recently released an oral history book written and produced by Constance Sidles: “Caring for Birds & Nature: 100 Years of Seattle Audubon.” This is not really a book about the past, however. It is a book to inspire all environmentalists today and in the future. In it are the stories of environmental warriors, teachers, volunteers, and ordinary people who cared about nature and did something to preserve it. We owe our parks and open spaces to them, and they have much to teach us about how to pass their legacy forward. Come and listen to Connie as she reads excerpts from this book and leads a discussion about how they did it – and how we can, too.

Instructor Constance Sidles is a master birder, former board member of Seattle Audubon Society, co-chair of Seattle Audubon’s Urban Nature Work Group, and an award-winning nature author.

Art and Nature: Seedlings and Watercolors

Learn about native seedling development and growth while also taking time to observe the individuality of our native plants by painting them with water colors!  We will cover how native seeds germinate and grow as well as have time to use water colors to catch the fine details of young native plants.  This class includes taking home a native plant seedling at the end of the class as well as any painting you make. Children are welcome, but class content will be geared towards an adult audience. Free, with a suggested $5 donation at the door.

With small slide below Interlaken, soggy March brings landslide concerns

An unbelievably soggy March has neighbors in the sloping areas on the north of Capitol Hill worried about landslides.

A small slide closed 14th Ave E between Boyer and Lynn to through traffic Saturday morning. With continuing rains, you can expect to see more mud.

March has already reached its average rainfall totals following weeks of even wetter than usual weather around Seattle.

CHS has reported on small slides over the years and concerns about the slopes of northern Capitol Hill and around Interlaken Park. Our nature writer documented the landslide risk of the area in 2014 including the Hill’s geologic past of glacial till and water-pooling clay:

Then we come in. The grade is altered, creating new faults. Hills are denuded of trees, which hold slopes and mitigate flooding. Barriers to natural water flow diverts it toward unforeseen consequences. People understandably want views and build on cliffs, changing the loads on hills. Generally things more even more unstable. West Capitol Hill, Interlaken, North Capitol Hill. Slides every decade going back in our modern record. I won’t tally the slides in Hill history — that would take too long.

For the most part, recent slides have been mostly limited in damage. In 2011, cracks from the sliding hillside forced an indefinite closure of Interlaken Drive. It reopened after repairs five months later.