14,000 babies recently arrived at the Burke—baby plants, that is. The first phase of landscaping for the New Burke is underway, with thousands of native Northwest plants going in on the north, west and south sides of the building.
Most of the plants were grown by Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center, a farm, education center and native plant nursery in Carnation, WA. Oxbow’s Native Plant Nursery is dedicated to preserving the diversity of native Northwest plants, and grows most of their plants from seed to protect genetic diversity.
“Not knowing what will happen in the future with the climate and the site, it’s a risk to have plants that are genetically exactly the same,” said nursery manager Bridget McNassar. “Diversity is like an insurance policy for plant survival.” Seeds were collected locally and from across Washington, including the Olympic Peninsula and the San Juan Islands, and some of the plants have been growing for three years in the nursery.
“The plants are in such amazing health—they are glowing with double the life we usually see,” said New Burke landscape architect Shannon Nichol of GGN. Nichol designed the west side of the building, along 15th Ave NE between NE 45th and NE 43rd to make people feel as if they are walking along the edge of a sunny forest. She was partly inspired by historic photos that show the landscape as a high, dry ridge.
While some trees were removed to make room for the New Burke, three trees will be planted to replace every two removed. New Douglas fir and madrone trees will dot the area to the west of the building, surrounded by drought-tolerant plants like salal and evergreen huckleberry. The fir trees are visible on the site today, but the madrones are tiny seedlings. They are difficult to transplant, so planting seedlings grown from local seed gives them the best chance to survive.
“This landscape has plants you see a lot in the wild and nurseries, but also many more unique understory plants, like wild ginger, fringecup, the inside-out flower, and bunchberry,” said McNassar. “This will expand our collective knowledge about the diversity that exists in our native landscapes.”
The Burke plans to label and interpret the plants around the building and use it as a teaching landscape. Plus, people can eat the huckleberries!
The next phase in the New Burke landscape involves clearing out the invasive underbrush to the north of the new and current buildings ; the current trees will be preserved. The final phase of landscaping, including the new parking lot and meadow featuring native camas lilies and prairie grasses, will be completed in advance of the New Burke opening in fall 2019.
Similar to the “inside-out” vision for the New Burke experience, we hope to provide a glimpse into the two-year construction of the New Burke Museum. Visit the New Burke Project page for answers to common questions about the project. The Burke Museum is open during construction of the New Burke! Plan your visit today.
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