|Raised bed at the entrance gate -- Do I spy a Schefflera there?|
|Brian standing in the dry desert bed, chock full of Yuccas, Nolinas, Agaves, Palms and Aloes|
|Aloe (not sure what kind) with what looks like Agave parryi|
|Enormous trunking Yucca, with a teeny, tiny Aloe tucked underneath. The low-growing shrub in front is North African native Othonna cheirifolia (Barbary Ragwort)|
|Brian removing leaves of this enormous Melianthus major to pass among the crowd. The leaves smell like peanut butter.|
|Callistemon, Corokia cotoneaster, and Lobelia tupa|
|Yucca and Melianthus|
|There were huge clumps of Lobelia tupa blooming throughout the zoo|
|Baeckia gunniana, a Tasmanian native|
|I was quite impressed with the excellent plant signage -- better than some botanical gardens I've visited|
|Brian explained that you can tell this is a male monkey puzzle tree, by the small cones at the top|
|Drimys lanceolata -- a big, healthy specimen|
I was also quite impressed with the foliage combinations they've created at the zoo. It's obvious Brian and his team of volunteers have done some thoughtful, meticulous work here.
|A waterfall of golden Hakone grass, matched with a low-growing conifer with golden needles|
|Jazz hands horticulurist|
|Brian showing the crowd a broad-leaf Salix (willow) leaf, from the tall shrub on the right|
|Persicaria 'Red Dragon' and golden Hakonechloa macra|
As we entered the Asian forest section of the zoo, I noticed the interesting impressions of leaves and footprints that were embedded in the concrete path.
Apparently, according to Amy, an education specialist at the zoo who also accompanied the tour, there's a story in the animal tracks. In the concrete you can follow the tracks of a tapir, which is being followed by the tracks of a tiger, as well as the human bootprints of a naturalist. At some point the tapir tracks stop, and if you're eagle-eyed you can spot a pile of bones somewhere nearby in the undergrowth. Then the tiger tracks continue on. There's no sign of what happens to the naturalist.
|Path lined with bamboo on all sides|
|In the dry garden area, a fig tree was right at home. Here its large leaves also contribute to a tropical look.|
|Did I mention the interesting foliage combos?|
|I bet the zoo's Musa basjoo have been enjoying our hot summer. I can't help wondering how badly they got knocked back by the severe cold periods we had this past winter.|
|Fatsia japonica 'Spider Web' and bamboo|
|Big, shiny-leaved Farfugium|
I don't think I've ever been on a garden tour before where the participants were so whole-heartedly encouraged to touch and experience the plants. Brian mentioned the difficulty of managing plants inside the animal enclosures. I suppose the minor destruction humans can do pales next to a tiger or elephant lying on, eating, playing with or destroying it.
|Brian casts a mischievous spell on his audience.|
A passing child asked Brian if he was a zoo-keeper. "No!" he said, "I'm a plant-keeper!"
|Baby self-sown Trachycarpus fortunei|
|Pointing out the many different types of plants often referred to as rhubarb (here it's a Gunnera)|
|Looks like another Schefflera|
|Cannas, Bananas and Brugmansia|
|Double white Brugmansia flower|
|Planted "ruin" near the tiger enclosure|
|Brian points out the symmetrical shape of the Podophyllum leaf|
|Do I spy another Schefflera?|
|The double tiger lily beside him has produced bulbils, which Brian passes out to the crowd|
|Speaking of fabulous foliage...|
The tall plant at the top resembles stinging nettle, but isn't. Brian picked the leaves and rubbed them on his face to demonstrate.
|One of a handful of Wollemia nobilis, thriving throughout the park, in the ground!|
Earlier, Brian had mentioned our native Madrona, and when I first saw that orangey tree on the left above I thought it might be one. Nope, it's a Magnolia! An amusing mistake, if you know how Seattle's Magnolia Bluff got its name.
|This patch of Sarracenia is planted in a sunken kiddie pool, with a sprinkler right in front, creating ideal conditions for it to thrive.|
|Hibiscus moscheutos leaf (possibly 'Kopper King') was thoroughly budded up, ready to flower.|
|A lovely honeysuckle|
|A bee enjoying some Rudbeckia pollen|
|Striking Lobelia cardinalis, a North American native near the red wolf enclosure|
The Point Defiance Zoo is heavily involved with a long-term propagation program for the North American red wolf. Red wolves born at the zoo eventually get released into the wild. Read about it here.
|A zookeeper feeds the penguins|
|Armadillo, probably looking for grubs in the grass|
I included the armadillo picture for Jean, who gardens in the hot and steamy region south of "Hotlanta," and has to contend with armadillos digging in her garden and lying dead at the roadside. Do you read her blogs Secrets of a Seed Scatterer and Dotty Plants Greenhouse?
|In the children's area of the zoo, an enormous Lobelia laxiflora, a Zone 9-11 plant|
I can't help wondering what other plants I think of as tender to this region that they could grow in the ground here at the zoo. Aeoniums? Bromeliads? Jacaranda?
|While the Asian section focuses on big foliage combos, the children's area was full of bright, colorful flowers|
|I stopped to sit a spell.|
The hortculturist-led garden tours happen on the first Wednesday of every month and meet right inside the entrance gate at 10 a.m. They're free after you pay admission ($17 for non-residents of Pierce county, $15 for residents).
Yes, this place IS a zoo. But it's also a fantastic botanical wonderland.