Hidden orchard transports visitors back in time
Tucked in an isolated clearing in the upper reaches of Seattle’s deeply forested Carkeek Park is Piper’s Orchard, a historic heritage fruit orchard. Many visitors to the park come upon the orchard quite by accident and are charmed by its ability to transport them back to a turn of the century farm.
To find Piper’s Orchard, start from Carkeek Park’s lower meadow parking lot and walk up along Piper’s Creek. The orchard is a 5-minute walk from the parking lot on an unpaved, slight upgrade. A second, steeper trail to the orchard leads down from the park entrance near the Environmental Learning Center. An alternative way to reach the orchard is by following the ravine from the park’s small southerly McAbee entrance. The McAbee parking lot and trailhead are behind a QFC grocery store on Holman Road, off of NW 100th Place at 6th Avenue N
Watch a video about Piper's Orchard here.
History: On a run through the park, Daphne Lewis discovers a hidden orchard
Bavarian-born Andrew W. Piper and his wife Wilhelmina (Minna Hausman) owned The Puget Sound Candy Factory, selling baked goods and candy from their konditorei, or confectioner’s shop, in downtown Seattle. A “Jack of all trades,” Piper was also a political cartoonist, painter, City Council member, and candidate for mayor. After Piper’s shop burned down in Seattle’s Great Fire of 1889, he opened a bakery in a tent in Nome, Alaska, then returned to north Seattle as a farmer and orchardist at Piper’s Canyon, now Carkeek Park.
The family planted an orchard with heritage apple varieties and a large vegetable garden. Minna and her son Paul took the fruits and vegetables into town to sell while Andrew Piper used the fruit to make pies for his shop. Andrew died in 1904.
In 1929, the City of Seattle created Carkeek Park on the Piper’s Canyon property, naming it for a British stonemason and Seattle artisan who donated $25,000 towards creation of the park. During the 1930’s, Depression-era workers built trails and shelters in the park, and later it was used for a loop road, picnic area and model airplane field.
On a run through Carkeek Park in 1981, Daphne Lewis noticed an apple tree in the underbrush. After investigating the area, Lewis, a landscape architect, discovered a number of trees belonging to the historic Piper Orchard. She went on to work with volunteers including descendants of the original Piper family to reconstruct the old orchard, uncovering more than 30 surviving fruit varieties on the one-and a half cleared acres. Lewis and the others, known as the Friends of Piper’s Orchard, formed the Piper’s Orchard chapter of the Western Cascade Tree Fruit Association. In addition to adopting and caring for the orchard, the Friends group planted more heritage apple varieties, including Wagener, Red Astrachan, King, and Wolf River.
Today Piper’s Orchard is part of a 216-acre park in northwest Seattle that boasts breathtaking views of Puget Sound and hundreds of spawning salmon each fall. It is one of Seattle’s greenest getaways, with six miles of walking trails, play and picnic areas, and a pedestrian bridge that leads over the BNSF Railway tracks to a sand beach on Puget Sound.
Trees & Site: A checkerboard of fruit trees dots a gentle hillside
Today Piper’s Orchard includes 82 fruit trees, 30 of which were originally planted by the Piper family.
The varieties chosen to replace the original trees which did not survive are from a list of fruit trees popular at the turn of the century.
A tree planting grid of 20 foot squares was apparent from the locations of the surviving trees, most of which are apple. Trees are noted on a grid marked A-L going up the hill, and 1-16 running parallel to the slope. About half have been added or grafted from old stock since the restoration in 1984.
Apple varieties include Wealthy, King, Gravenstein, Dutch Mignone, Red Astrachan, Rhode Island Greening, Bietigheimer, and Esopus Spitzenburg. In addition to the apple trees, cherry, chestnut, filbert, pear, walnut, and hawthorn trees are planted on the park hillside. Current map of tree varieties is available on the Piper’s Orchard website at: http://pipersorchard.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/piper-orchard-map.pdf
Orchard Restoration & Development: Create a Coalition of Support
In the 1980s, Seattle Parks and orchard volunteers put together a sustainability plan for Piper’s Orchard, complete with recommendations for future plantings. This sparked renewed interest in the educational opportunities that the orchard offered.
In recent years, Piper’s Orchard has been a gathering point for artistic events and festivals. These celebrations have included art installations, music events, along with an annual harvest event, the “Festival of Fruit.” See the Sidebar for a description of some of these past events.
The Friends of Piper’s Orchard are partnering with the City Fruit Orchard Steward program to involve even more volunteers to care for the orchard and celebrate with community events. Typical maintenance tasks will include winter and summer pruning, invasive plant clearing, mulching with wood chips, placing nylon “footies” or paper bags over baby apples to fight pests, apple thinning, and harvesting. These activities are frequently accompanied by live music.
And, of course, in September watch for the annual Festival of Fruit to celebrate the harvest season!
1. The “Bees and Blossoms” event in May 2013 combined guild planting, pollination education, picnicking and music. Friends of Piper’s Orchard hosted 33 students from Viewlands School and gave mini-talks about bumble bees, beneficial wasps, orchard mason bees, and pollination. After the talks, the students planted pollinator-friendly plants, part of the Permaculture Plan for the orchard.
2. Festival of Fruit: This event includes tasting and apple pressing, guided tour of the Orchard.
A small vineyard has been established on the east border of the orchard. The grape varieites planted there were typical when Piper's Orchard was planted.