Metro Parks Tacoma

Perennial Garden Tour

Perennial Garden map - located by Seymour Conservatory.
  1. Monkey Puzzle Tree
  2. Copper Tips
  3. Orange Ligularia
  4. Double Weeping Higan Cherry
  5. Bear's Breeches
  6. Angel's Fishing Rod
  7. Deer Fern
  8. Oakleaf Hydrangea
  9. Coral Bells
  10. False Spirea
  11. Witch Hazel
  12. Hellebore
  13. Redbud
  14. Butterfly Tree

The outdoor perennial garden adjacent to the conservatory showcases a selection of trees and perennial plants for visitors to experience in a natural setting.  The gazebo located at the center of the garden is the site of many weddings and special events.  It was donated to MetroParks by the W.W. Seymour Conservatory Foundation.  Both the gazebo and garden space are available to rent for events.

Three different types of plants grow in this garden and are highlighted in this tour.  Perennial shrubs (hydrangeas, crocosmia and hellebores) and herbs are able to renew themselves from buds on their rootstock each spring.  Deciduous trees (Double Weeping Cherry, Butterfly Maple, and Eastern Redbud) lose all of their foliage for part of the year.  The third type is an evergreen coniferous tree represented by the Monkey Puzzle Tree.

Monkey Puzzle Tree in perennial garden by Seymour Conservatory. Monkey Puzzle Tree / Plant Family: Araucariaceae / Genus and Species: Araucaria araucana 
The Monkey Puzzle Tree is the most primitive living coniferous tree - it is the closest living relative to species that existed over 300 million years ago.   The tree is named for its spiny-pointed leaves which prevent monkeys from climbing it.  However, there are no monkeys in the tree's native Chile, which makes the name a puzzle in itself!  The branches grow in circular arrangements (whorls) around the trunk.
Ethnobotany: The seeds are edible, and can be cooked like chestnuts. The native Pehuenches use the seeds to make flour.
Observe: The spiral pattern on the bark of the tree.
Native Habitat: Mountains of Chile and South Brazil
Grows in: USDA zones 7-10
Montbretia in perennial garden by Seymour Conservatory. Copper Tips, Falling Stars, Montretia / Plant Family: Iridaceae / Genus and Species: Crocosmia
This evergreen perennial has over 400 cultivars.  The flowers range from orange-yellow to brick red and bloom from early summer into the fall.  When the dried flowers are placed in water they emit a strong saffron smell.  The name is derived from Greek; krokos meaning saffron and osme meaning smell.
Ethnobotany: A yellow dye is obtained from the flowers and used as a saffron substitute for coloring foods.
Observe: The fountain-like foliage and enjoy the brightly colored flowers.
Native Habitat: Grasslands of South Africa
Grows in: USDA zones 5-9
Orange Ligularia in perennial garden by Seymour Conservatory. Orange Ligularia, Bigleaf Golden-Ray / Plant Family: Asteraceae / Genus and Species: Ligularia dentata
The Orange Ligularia has yellow-orange flowers bloom from June to August.  The flowers look like daisies with petals that point downwards.  It grows best in partial to full shade with moist soil.  New leaves emerge purplish-red, but soon turn to brownish-green on top and purplish beneath. This cultivar variety is very similar to the Ligularia dentate variety 'Desdemona' which is slightly smaller and produces slightly smaller flowers.  These two varieties look so similar that most people are unaware that these are actually two different cultivars (plants developed by breading two or more similar plants).
Observe: The large heart shaped leaves and the dark purple stems.
Native Habitat: China and Japan
Grows in: USDA Zones 3-8
Double Weeping Cherry Tree in perennial garden by Seymour Conservatory. Double Weeping Higan Cherry / Plant Family: Rosaceae / Genus and Species: Prunus subhirtella var. pendula 'Yae-shidare higan'
Since ancient times the Japanese have revered the cherry tree. The Higan cherry is known for its spectacular flowers that bloom in April.  The deep pink blossoms have 20-25 petals each.  The leaves change color from reddish brown to dark green, and finally become yellow in the fall.  This tree is a cultivar of the Oriental cherry tree; but it grows only 20 – 30 feet tall. Despite its name, this tree is fruitless.
Observe: Stand amidst the blooms.  What does it remind you of? A waterfall or…
Native Habitat: China, Japan, and Korea
Grows in: USDA zones 5-8
Bear's Breeches in perennial garden by Seymour Conservatory. Bear's Breeches / Plant Family: Acanthaceae / Genus and Species: Acanthus mollis
This perennial is a great addition to garden borders with its glossy foliage and tall flower spikes which bloom in late spring and summer.  The flowers can be whitish, lilac or rose.
Ethnobotany: Acanthus leaves were often used as inspiration for the motif on the top of Greek and Roman columns.  Acanthus leaves were crushed to form a paste to treat burns and scalds.
Observe: The tubular flowers growing on the large spikes
Native Habitat: Southern Europe and Northwestern Africa
Grows in: USDA zones 7b-9a
Angel's fishing rod in perennial garden by Seymour Conservatory. Angel's Fishing Rod, Fairy Wand, Wandflower / Plant Family: Iridaceae / Genus and Species: Dierama pulcherrimum
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds.
Native Habitat: South Africa
Deer fern in perennial garden by Seymour Conservatory. Deer Fern / Plant Family: Polypodiaceae / Genus and Species: Blechnum spicant
These delicate looking ferns prefer wet soil and full shade.  They grow in 8-20 inch high clumps that can get about 2 feet wide.
Ethnobotany: Chewing the young leaves can suppress hunger and thirst. Older leaves can be used for skin sores, and the leaves and roots can be cooked and eaten as well.
Observe: Look for the two different types of fronds.  Sterile fronds are angled toward the ground or are flat and have an elongated oval shape.  Fertile fronds grow upward, are deciduous, and are usually in the center of the clump.
Native Habitat: Europe and North America (Alaska, British Columbia, California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington)
Grows in: USDA zones 5-8
Hydrangea in perennial garden by Seymour Conservatory. Oakleaf Hydrangea / Plant Family: Hydrangeaceae / Genus and Species: Hydrangea quecifolia
The Oakleaf gets its name from the shape of its beautiful large (up to 8") leaves. These broad leaves often turn colors of brilliant red, orange, yellow and burgundy in the fall. The creamy white blooms develop in June, and gradually take on a pink tint.  Unlike the Bigleaf hydrangea with large balled flowers, the color of the Oakleaf hydrangea flowers cannot be changed by changing soil acidity.
Observe: The similarities and differences between the leaves on this hydrangea and the leaves on the Teddy Roosevelt Oak tree in front of the Conservatory.
Native Habitat: The Oakleaf hydrangea is one of the few hydrangeas native to the United States ranging from Tennessee to Florida and west to the Mississippi River.
Grows in: USDA zones 6a-9b
Coral Bells in perennial garden by Seymour Conservatory. Alum Root, Coral Bells / Plant Family: Saxifragaceae-Saxifrage Family / Genus and Species: Heuchera 'Plum Pudding'
Heuchera grow as tufts of foliage, from which spikes of small bell-like flowers bloom in late spring to late summer.  There are about 50 species which vary from only a few inches high to over three feet tall. Terra Nova Nurseries introduced this Heuchera in 1996 and named it 'Plum Pudding.'  Heuchera requires full sun to partial shade and has medium watering requirements.
Observe: The unique combination of pewter gray and deep purple foliage.
Native Habitat: North America. This particular variety is a hybrid.  Hybrids are not native to any location because it is created by mixing the qualities of different Heuchera.
Grows in: USDA zones 4-9
False Spirea in perennial garden outside of Seymour Conservatory. False Spirea, Meadow Sweet or Goatsbeard / Plant Family: Saxifragaceae / Genus and Species: Astilbe
These flowering perennials bloom May through June.  The flower clusters are plume-like and come in a variety of colors including pink, white, red, and purple. Plants grow about 18-24 inches tall and prefer full to partial shade.
Observe: The feathery-shaped flowers and fern-like foliage.
Native Habitat: China, Japan and Korea
Grows in: USDA zones 3-8

Witch Hazel in perennial garden by Seymour Conservatory. Witch Hazel / Plant Family: Hamamelidaceae / Genus and Species: Hamamelis intermedia
Witch hazel can be grown as a small deciduous tree (15-20 feet) or a large branching shrub.  The hazelnut-like leaves are a gray-green in summer but turn yellow-orange in fall.  The plant has long-lasting, spider-like, fragrant flowers that bloom in late winter.  Flowers can be yellow to red depending on the variety.  Witch Hazel prefers acidic soils that stay moist and full sun to partial shade.  They should not be pruned.
The most well-known use of this plant is as an astringent.  The bark is harvested in the spring and used fresh or an infusion can be made with the leaves; both forms can be applied externally to relieve bruising, sore muscles, hemorrhoids, and other inflammations. Branches of Witch Hazel are often used for water divining (process of using a stick to find underground water storage).
Native Habitat: This plant is a hybrid named 'Arnold Promise' that is a cross between H. mollis and H. japonica; thus it is not native to any location.
Grows in: USDA zones 5-8
Hellebore in perennial garden by Seymour Conservatory. Hellebore or Lenten Rose / Plant Family: Ranunculaceae Family / Genus and Species: Helleborus x hybridus (orientalis)
This evergreen perennial blooms between February and April for six weeks or more in colors such as purple, pink, reds, whites, and near-blacks.  This popular garden plant flowers in early spring.  This plant can tolerate varying hot and cold temperatures, but prefers a moist, cool shaded area.
Ethnobotany: Hellebores are very poisonous.  Years ago they were used medicinally to cure coughs and wheezing in horses.  Some varieties have also used as rat poisons.
Native Habitat: Europe and western Asia.  This particular variety is a hybrid.  Hybrids are not native to any location because they are created by mixing the qualities of different Hellebore.
Grows in: USDA zones 4-7
 Redbud tree in perennial garden by Seymour Conservatory. Forest Pansy-Eastern Redbud / Plant Family: Fabaceae / Genus and Species: Cercis canadensis
This small to medium sized ornamental tree grows 20 to 30 feet tall.  Although it has an irregular growth habit when young, it forms a graceful, flat-topped, vase shape as it gets older.  The foliage emerges red-purple and becomes bronzed to dark green in summer.  This tree flowers in spring with lavender flowers.
Ethnobotany: The bark of this tree has been used to treat dysentery.  Birds such as cardinals and pheasants, white-tailed deer, and gray squirrels feed on the seeds.
Observe: The broad, heart-shaped leaves
Native Habitat: Eastern and Midwestern United States
Grows in: USDA zones 5-9
Butterfly Tree in perennial garden by Seymour Conservatory. Butterfly Tree / Plant Family: Sapindaceae / Genus and Species: Acer palmatum
Acer palmatum is a type of Japanese maple.  Japanese maples are a widely cultivated family of plants grow useful as small trees, large shrubs, container plants, and bonsai. The 'Butterfly' is a small tree with beautiful leaves that are blue-green with creamy white margins tinged with pink. The white portions on the leaves change with the seasons and are rosy pink in the spring and magenta in the fall.  The Japanese word "momiji" used to describe this tree means both "baby's hands" and "becomes crimson leaves."
Observe: When the wind blows, do the leaves look like butterflies?
Native Habitat: Japan, Korea, and northeast China
Grows in: USDA zones 5-8

The Conservatory Education Committee designed, researched, and photographed this plant tour in 2007.

Adriene L. Brown, Tacoma Community College
Megan Fish, University of Puget Sound
Sue Habeck, Tacoma Community College
Kathy Heimann, Blix Elementary
Amy Ryken, University of Puget Sound
Kathie Stork, Geiger Elementary
Lila Transue, Bellarmine Preparatory

Adriene L. Brown, Tacoma Community College

Book Design
Megan Fish, University of Puget Sound
Amy Ryken, University of Puget Sound
Materials donated by School of Education, University of Puget Sound.