For two decades, the gardens didn’t have a curator, but now a UW grad oversees the plant collections for the Center for Urban Horticulture and the Washington Park Arboretum.


By Valerie Easton
Special to The Seattle Times

"THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON Botanic Gardens tied with three other schools for best college garden in the United States in 2015, as determined by Best Colleges Online. “We beat out Harvard!” exclaims new UWBG curator Ray Larson.

Yet this 230-acre green preserve on the shores of Lake Washington was without a curator for more than two decades. Director Sarah Reichard set that situation right recently by appointing Larson, a homegrown curator who is young, energetic, trained in horticulture and passionate about plants. Larson oversees the plant collections at the Center for Urban Horticulture and the Washington Park Arboretum.

Larson was a student at the Center for Urban Horticulture when I worked as a librarian there in the 1990s. I’ve long known him as a knowledgeable, hardworking guy with a great sense of humor and dedication. Perhaps because he grew up in Seattle, Larson deeply appreciates the deep green of the Arboretum’s Olmsted design. “The large native trees create the character of the place, and they’re something we’ll always preserve,” he says.

In the past 30 years, in response to global environmental losses and pressures, the Arboretum has stepped up its work in plant conservation. “We’re focusing on genetic diversity and sourcing plants from wild origin so we can preserve them,” Larson says. “Now we’re more like a zoo.”

His education has prepared him for both the artistic and scientific sides of his job. He holds degrees in history and economics, with a minor in art history, plus a master’s in urban horticulture…"

(This story was originally published on the Seattle Times website November 25, 2015 at 7:00 am and updated November 25, 2015 at 2:57 pm)