Pacifica’s Guide to The Arboretum’s Pacific Connections Garden

The Washington Park Arboretum’s Pacific Connection Garden features beautiful and exotic plants from Cascadia, Australia, China, Chile, and New Zealand with the Pacific Ocean being the key factor in connection these parts of the world together. We love the plants from all of these regions, but we have a special place for New Zealand in our hearts, so let’s take a look at what makes the New Zealand forest so special.

The official name of this area of the arboretum is the New Zealand Focal Forest, and it was completed during the summer of 2013, which means that this year it should be looking great! Its 2.5 acres hosts 10,000 individual New Zealand native plants, which we can experience right here in the Pacific Northwest. The PNW and New Zealand have similar coastal maritime climates, which is why the connection is so strong.

The New Zealand Focal Forest boasts seven vegetation zones: two southern beech (Nothofagus) forests, three shrublands, and two alpine grasslands. There is an abundance of intriguing flora to see and here are a few of our favorites found in the New Zealand Focal Forest:

Hebe (Hebe pinguifolia). Hebe includes almost 80 species and is the largest plant genus in New Zealand. The arboretum’s focal forest hosts ten different kinds of hebe, which vary in appearance from flowery, purple bushes to leafy, matted shrubs.

(Chionochloa rubra). This hearty grass grows on hillsides across the South Island of New Zealand, and can grow up to be two feet tall. On a sunny day, the golden than red reeds, shine and sway with the wind.

New Zealand Tea Tree (Leptospermum scoparium). This evergreen tree has dense branching, smallish leaves and lovely white, pink or red blossoms. Don’t let the name fool you, this tree isn’t the source of tea tree oil. But, its blossoms’ rich nectar yields some of the world’s priciest honey.

While we are on the subject of PNW and NZ connections, here are a few fun facts:

1. At the Woodland Park Zoo you can spot the Kea, which is a large species of parrot from the forests and alpine regions of the South Island of New Zealand. Keas are mostly olive-green with bright shades of orange under their wings. The Kea is the world’s only alpine parrot.

2. Christchurch, which is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and Seattle are sister cities!