Oliver Sacks’ newly released collection of essays, Everything in Its Place: First Loves and Last Tales (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2019), contains a wonderful chapter on ferns, one of Sacks’ early and enduring loves. Called “Botanists on Park,” the essay describes how he joins a troupe of fern hunters—he was a member of the American Fern Society—searching for rare specimens in the dry grit of old railroad beds along Park Avenue in New York City. They would be amazed to discover new varieties. As an amateur fern expert, Sacks had written a fascinating book about ferns, Oaxaca Journal, published in 2002, when he was already considered “the poet laureate of medicine,” a world-famous neurologist, and beloved professor.
In this new, posthumously produced book, Sacks writes about being a young boy living in London, and his many, cherished visits to Kew Gardens and the South Kensington museums—especially the garden outside the Natural History Museum. There he was fascinated by long-extinct fossil trees, like Sigillaria, and other “Jurassic” plants. In his essay “Remembering South Kensington,” he writes:
“I wanted the green monochrome, the fern and cycad forests of the Jurassic. I even dreamed at night, as an adolescent, of giant woody club mosses and tree horsetails, primeval, giant gymnosperm forests enveloping the globe—and would wake furious to think that they had long since disappeared, the world taken over by brightly colored, up-to-date, modern flowering plants.”
Late spring brings a richness to the Garden grounds in anticipation of the arrival of summer, with a cascade of flowers among the herbaceous peonies opposite the Conservatory, and the marching blooms of the ornamental onions popping up all along the Daylily Walk. The Native Plant Garden, too, is a spectacle you shouldn’t miss—reds, yellows, and greens fill this verdant landscape and create a utopia for local wildlife.
Claire Lyman is the Assistant Curator of Outdoor Gardens at The New York Botanical Garden.
The F. Gordon Foster Hardy Fern Collection was established in 1985 with the generous donation of Mr. Foster, fern hobbyist, lecturer author, and honorary fern horticulturist at NYBG. This core of donated plants was supplemented by hardy ferns already at NYBG and its Mary Flagler Cary Arboretum in Millbrook, N.Y. This sparked a massive wave of effort from a team of NYBG horticulturists and botanists to further develop, interpret, and create a long-term plan for the now sizable hardy fern collection. In 1987 John T. Mickel, Senior Curator of Ferns, and Joseph M. Beitel, Horticultural Taxonomist and Curator of Plant Records, wrote A Guide to The F. Gordon Foster Hardy Fern Collection at The New York Botanical Garden, which has remained an important resource on hardy ferns for the past 32 years.
We’re proud to present the newly named ‘The Divine Miss M’ in honor of Bette Midler on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of her 1979 breakout film, The Rose. You can find this “totally decadent” bloom here in our Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden beginning on Rose Garden Weekend, Saturday & Sunday, June 1 & 2. Learn more about this special new rose in this video!
Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office. She spends much of her time assisting researchers, providing instruction related to library resources, and collaborating with NYBG staff on various projects related to Garden initiatives and events.
Shrubs: Discover the Perfect Plant for Every Place in Your Garden (2018) by Andy McIndoe teaches readers about shrubs in the garden, and makes recommendations for appropriate plants in different growing conditions. McIndoe is managing director of Hillier Nurseries and Garden Centres in Hampshire, England, although Shrubs is written for North American audiences. The book includes information about choosing the right shrub, planting, and care, shrubs for challenging growing conditions, shrubs for restricted planting spaces, and shrubs with desirable characteristics. The format is useful. The plant recommendations can be suspect. For example, McIndoe recommends no fewer than five varieties of non-native Berberis. In four out of five instances, he notes that the genus is invasive in parts of North America. The plant profiles themselves lack what are arguably essential details. Full size and zones are noted, but not nativity, which makes the book far less useful for readers who are hoping to work with native plants. All in all, Shrubs covers a lot of ground. However, it is not useful as a single resource for those interested in the topic, especially for those who wish to garden with native plants.
Michael Hagen is Curator of the Native Plant Garden and the Rock Garden at The New York Botanical Garden.
NYBG is a founding member of the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), a network of now more than 50 leading botanic institutions and conservation partners. Working collaboratively since its founding in 1984, the network’s aim is to prevent the extinction of the imperiled native plants of the United States and Canada, with the only coordinated national program of off-site (ex situ) conservation of rare plant material, the National Collection of Endangered Plants. Believed to be the largest living collection of rare plants in the world, the collection contains over 1,400, almost one third, of America’s most imperiled native plants.
As an important conservation resource, the Collection is a backup in case a species becomes extinct or no longer reproduces in the wild, with live plant material collected from nature under controlled conditions and then carefully maintained as seed, rooted cuttings or mature plants. It is also a valuable resource for the scientific study of these rare plants, their life cycles and seed germination requirements.
As part of #plantlove at NYBG, we’re talking with people from all over the Garden about what inspires their passion for plants. Today, meet Kadeesha Williams, Community Horticulturist and Urban Agriculturist with Bronx Green-Up at NYBG.
I’m lucky to have grown up surrounded by plants. My parents come from farming backgrounds in South Carolina, so it was natural to raise their own food when they moved to NYC. I often think of my family’s community garden, Taqwa Community Farm here in the Bronx, as the place where I first had my experiences with plants. It isn’t, though.
When I was three or four, my father and grandfather kept a garden in our backyard, and I remember how lush it always was. There was a rose of Sharon bush that grew to the size of a small tree, two Persian silk trees, and forsythia along the fence. In the middle they grew tomatoes, cucumbers, collard greens, and cabbage. I felt tiny walking through that garden, like a fairy princess in a magical forest. I dream about that place often, even as an adult, because of how it shaped the world I desire. I don’t think I’ve ever shaken that dream, and I want to share the experience with everyone.
Being in a garden should remind us of how small we are, and that is a beautiful thing.
The Azalea Garden is filled with spring color for our Mother’s Day Weekend Garden Party! Here, see some of Senior Curator of Woody Plants and Landscape Project Manager Deanna Curtis’s favorite semi-evergreen varieties in bloom, along with other surprises you can find in this unmissable spring collection.
This Saturday, May 11, NYBG’s Bronx Green-Up is excited to present the School Gardens and Farms Bus Tour, highlighting three unique Bronx school gardens and farms that demonstrate a bounty of learning and growing.
As part of #plantlove at NYBG, we’re talking with people from all over the Garden about what inspires their passion for plants. Today, meet Daryl Beyers, Adult Education Gardening Program Coordinator and instructor at The New York Botanical Garden.
I grew up with a love-hate relationship with plants. I loved all the trees and flowers surrounding my childhood home but hated the three acres of lawn my father made me mow on the weekends. This consideration of plants as either inspiration or chore formed the horticultural ethic of my university studies in landscape design and my early professional practice in gardens. Then, while teaching my first gardening course at NYBG nearly a decade ago, I unearthed another plant-people relationship: “To grow a plant is to know a plant.”
The fierce curiosity of my students to learn and understand the how and why of gardening showed me how and why we all connect with plants. Our #plantlove manifests in many ways, such as through the care and attention given to a houseplant, the calming influence of a groves of trees, or the exuberance of walking through wildflowers. Every plant has its charm, but as they charm us we charm them too, into forms and functions that shape where and how we live. That’s what gardening is.