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Originally published June 22, 2012 at 12:01 PM | Page modified August 28, 2012 at 12:06 PM

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Tracking Seattle's Olmsted past and other garden news

Also, beginning this year, scientists are allowed to name plants in English, freeing us from the tyranny of tongue-twisting trinomials, says Natural Garden columnist Valerie Easton.

Local news partner - Plant Talk

Valerie Easton writes in her blog about gardens and the people who make them.

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Our Olmsted history

finds a home

Seattle is rich in parks, private gardens and boulevards designed by the influential Olmsted Brothers firm responsible for New York's Central Park, among other iconic landscapes. Now the National Association of Olmsted Parks has received funding for an interactive, online database cataloging the Olmsted heritage here in the Northwest, with the hope it'll serve as a pilot project for the entire country.

Information on Washington's Olmsted landscapes (there are more than 220 of them) has been hard to track down, available only from the Library of Congress or the Olmsted National Historic Site in Brookline, Mass. Funded by $230,000 from the Washington Department of Transportation, Olmsted Online will make correspondence, drawings, maps and photos available to all.

It's hoped that this knowledge will inspire preservation of our own treasures, such as Seward and Volunteer parks, and landscapes open to the public like the Dunn Gardens, the University of Washington campus and the state Capitol grounds in Olympia. Project manager Linda Keenan would love to hear from people with letters, stories, documents and photos about Olmsted landscapes, at keenanlinda@naop.org. Olmsted Online is just getting under way; the plan is to go live by January 2013.

Botanical Latin headed

for extinction

Ever since the Renaissance, botanists and taxonomists have used Latin to describe plants and differentiate global flora. But the International Botanical Congress in Melbourne, Australia, voted to relax the rules.

Starting this year, scientists are allowed to name plants in English, freeing us from the tyranny of tongue-twisting trinomials. Not only can scientists skip the Latin names even in scientific papers, they can publish electronically in an attempt to speed up the process of getting newly discovered plant species on record.

Fresh-from-the-farm

flowers for all

Last May saw the launch of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, our first-ever, fresh-from-the-farm flower market. Based on the Portland model, it was a big success from day one.

Now the market is open to all of us on Fridays. For the first time, we can choose from the dazzling variety of flowers, greens, pods, cones and branches ourselves. The public is welcome to shop from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (with a $5 day pass) or just stop by to stroll the aisles and meet your local flower farmers. The market is in a historic Georgetown building at 5840 Airport Way S., Suite 201. For fresh sheets and farmers' bios, see www.seattlewholesalegrowersmarket.com.

A food forest beckons

Seattle is making national news with plans for a unique community food garden. The concept came from a permaculture project, with the idea of mimicking a natural woodland ecosystem using perennial and self-sustaining edibles.

Friends of the Food Forest hope to plant seven acres supplied by Seattle Public Utilities adjacent to Jefferson Park on Beacon Hill. From strawberries and vegetables to chestnut, apple and pear trees, every plant will be edible. It's hoped that the neighborhood will forage for berries, plums and grapes, and perhaps tend individual plots in the forest.

Will the Beacon Hill community be able to manage a complex, living landscape for the good of all? The answer will determine if other projects go forward here and around the country.

Beacon Food Forest will start with a 2-acre trial plot; the rest will be planted if all goes well. For more, see http://beaconfoodforest.weebly.com/.

Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of "petal & twig." Check out her blog at www.valeaston.com.

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