Northwest NEWS

April 22, 2002

Front Page

Life and times of a Chinese maple

by Bronwyn Wilson
   Senior Staff Reporter
   For years, the gnarly Chinese maple adorned the yard of an expansive colonial home built on a corner lot at Northeast 186th Street in Woodinville. In a landscaped garden among firs, the Chinese maple grew and thrived. Planted about the time Warren G. Harding was President of the United States, the tree lived in the garden throughout the Depression years, World War II, the Cold War and the Gulf War. It flourished into a show of green every summer and in the fall its dark, purplish leaves were a knockout to onlookers.
   It's believed that a wealthy sea captain planted the Chinese maple when he built the white two-story with pillars for his wife back in the 20's. Later on, a large family named Butler moved into the big house during the 50's, repainting the exterior a shade of yellow. In the 70's the family moved away. One Butler daughter, however, continued living in the house with her family for a few more years. Eventually, the old colonial home began to deteriorate and was slated for demolition. Bob Selg, a Bothell contractor, was hired to dismantle it while preserving its original architecture. As he began to take out flooring, doors, windows and other materials for re-cycling, Selg noticed the Chinese maple in the yard. It was too beautiful, he thought, to be plowed under by bulldozers and so he approached the developer and made arrangements to purchase it.
   Selg moved the Chinese maple, which had grown to a height of six feet, to his home in Woodinville. "There it has been for the last six or seven years," says Pam Miller, who is Selg's sister and owner of a day care in Bothell. Miller describes the tree's striking attributes. "It's real tangled and a beautiful old tree," she says. "It's kind of weeping, bonsai-looking. The branches twist and the crooks of the branches have moss in there."
   But though it's impressive to look at, Selg didn't plan to keep the tree. He wanted to donate it to the City of Woodinville, once construction of the new City Hall was completed. Miller explains the reason her brother decided to give the tree to the City. "For the history," she says. "And, he wanted to give it back to the City. That's where it belongs."
   On Tuesday, April 16, Total Landscape Corp. of Woodinville officially planted the ornate maple on City Hall grounds. There, it overlooks the ballfields and the metal flower sculpture. Senior City Planner Becky Perkins comments on the City's acquisition of the tree. "We're honored to have it here," she says. "It sits right outside my window. It's gorgeous."
   Selg family members and friends attended the City Hall planting and Miller says that she brought her day care kids to the event also. "So they can appreciate the value of giving back to the community," she explains. "Trees have history and meaning to our heritage."
   She adds that it's in her brother's giving nature to want the community to enjoy the tree rather than keep it for himself. "He's a quiet, good-deeder," she says. "He does a lot of really neat things, (such as this)."
   Selg not only wanted to give back to the community but also pay tribute to his son's best friend, Brock Loshbaugh, who lost his life this past February in a tragic accident. He wanted to dedicate the tree as a memorial to the friend who had enriched Bret Selg's life. Dan and Melody Loshbaugh, Brock's parents, attended the tree's City Hall planting.
   According to Perkins, the Tree Board is currently developing a program for community members who want to purchase a tree for planting in a public place as a memorial. "That's one of the things on the Tree Board's program this year," she says. As for community members who want to donate a tree to the City, Perkins says each case will be evaluated individually.