Plant Talk

Inside The New York Botanical Garden

What’s Beautiful Now: June Moments

Posted in What's Beautiful Now on June 14 2019, by Matt Newman

June is a colorful month among the flowers where the lushness of summer finally takes its place on grounds. Beyond the brilliant tropical greens of the newly opened Brazilian Modern: The Living Art of Roberto Burle Marx exhibition, there’s plenty to discover across our 50 collections as we near the warmest season of the year.

Orlaya grandiflora

<em>Orlaya grandiflora</em>
Picture 1 of 6

Herbalism in the Garden

Posted in From the Library on June 14 2019, by Esther Jackson

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.


Cover of Grow Your Own Herbal RemediesFour titles from Workman Publishing bring herbalism to the home and help readers develop and save botanical recipes and techniques.

Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies: How to Create a Customized Herb Garden to Support Your Health & Well-Being (2019) is the second book from Maria Noël Grove, author of Body into Balance. Grove is a Registered Herbalist and a Professional Member of the American Herbalists Guild.

Those who have read my past reviews will not be surprised to hear that I suggest readers do heavy independent research before ingesting any of the plants that Grove features. Thankfully, Grove also encourages readers to take this step. The book is broken into three sections: Skills for Making Medicine, Remedy Gardens, and Healing Garden Herbs. I found the first section to be extremely interesting, as Grove details many ways in which plants can be prepared and preserved for the home. Beyond having an application for herbalism, these methods would be interesting to home cooks and food preservers. The second section details which plants should be used to treat which ailments, according to Grove, and the final section includes herb profiles.

Read More

The Archival Process

Posted in Garden News on June 13 2019, by Plant Talk

Jane Dorfman is a former Mertz Library Reference Librarian & Exhibitions Coordinator and current NYBG Volunteer.


Photo of Maguire
(l-r) Bassett Maguire, Celia Maguire, and NYBG curator John J. Wurdack in preparation for Neblina II expedition, 1957

After Bassett Maguire’s death, Celia Maguire worked tirelessly to ensure her husband’s scientific legacy. She did so by organizing the vast amount of his personal and professional papers and material and, with the assistance and support of the Mertz Library, made the Bassett Maguire Archive a reality.

When Stephen Sinon, William B. O’Connor Curator of Special Collections, Research and Archives, invited me to work on the Bassett Maguire Archive project, it never occurred to me that I would spend nearly 1,000 hours over four years sifting through more than 100 boxes and several carts filled with personal and professional papers, artifacts, slides, photographs, maps, and masks, plus worldwide correspondence from prominent scientists, as well as from his two wives and mother. At times it was a bit overwhelming and I often felt, with this mountain of boxes in front of me, that Dr. Maguire’s “Lost World” of Cerro de la Neblina, was my lost world too.

Read More

Temperate Garden Plant Families

Posted in From the Library on June 6 2019, by Esther Jackson

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.


Photo of Temperate Garden Plant FamiliesTemperate Garden Plant Families: The Essential Guide to Identification and Classification (2019) sets out to provide gardeners, horticulturists, and plant enthusiasts working with plants of temperate climates information about key families including identification and classification. The book is authored by Peter Goldblatt, an Iridaceae expert recently-retired from the Missouri Botanical Garden, and John C. Manning, a senior specialist scientist at the South African Biodiversity Institute who also works with Iridaceae. The two have collaborated on no fewer than 15 works.

The book’s introduction covers the basics of family classification, plant nomenclature, and plant morphology for readers. 92 of the familes in Temperate Garden Plant Families are arranged alphabetically, with 35 families described with related families. Not all plant families are included—just those for which there is horticultural interest in temperate regions. In many cases, historic families are recognized because they are morphologically distinctive clades (for example, Agapanthaceae and Alliaceae), a useful approach given the arbitrariness of rank and its hierarchical nature, so that these groups can still be diagnosed, whether called families or subfamilies or tribes.

Read More

#plantlove: Jillian Elbaum, Manager of Adult Education

Posted in People on June 5 2019, by Matt Newman

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 Jillian Elbaum, Manager of Adult Education.


Photo of Jillian Elbaum

I spent a summer working in the Jerusalem forest on an organic farm. More than just a CSA, and the source of bountiful produce to the local community, this farm also provided employment for young adults who had been kicked out of school or previously incarcerated. Working side by side with the other farmers as we tended to the endless rows of tomatoes, they told me about how coming to work each day gave them a sense of peace. They felt valued. I didn’t know there was a phrase for this until I came to NYBG. “Horticultural therapy.” I feel so lucky for the opportunity to foster the power of plants each day in the NYBG Adult Education program, where Horticultural Therapy is just one of the many life-changing programs offered.

#plantlove: Liz Pulver, NYBG Landscape Design Instructor

Posted in People on June 4 2019, by Matt Newman

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 Liz Pulver, an #nybgadulted Landscape Design instructor at The New York Botanical Garden.


Photo of Liz Pulver

I got into the field of landscape architecture because I love plants and design, but I often spend long hours working in the office. Paired with the demands of city life, it can take a lot out of me, so visiting NYBG is like a tonic for my city soul.

As soon as I step off the train and walk into the Garden, I feel calmer. There are soft, wide open spaces all around, lush green lawns, and the most majestic trees. Whatever happened at work or during the day seems to wash away, and I feel like I can breathe again. It reminds me: this is why I do what I do.

Peony Paradise

Posted in What's Beautiful Now on June 4 2019, by Claire Lyman

Paeonia 'Paree Fru Fru' (Herbaceous)

<em>Paeonia</em> 'Paree Fru Fru' (Herbaceous)
Picture 1 of 3

It’s peony paradise at the Garden right now! We’re racing through peony season this year with the tree peonies done, the intersectional peonies halfway through their flowering, and the herbaceous peonies now at peak bloom. Here’s a little primer to help you understand the differences between these bombastic spring beauties.

Herbaceous peonies have stems that die back to the ground in the winter, and are the most common peonies found in home gardens. Intersectional peonies (also known as Itoh peonies) are a delightful hybrid cross between tree and herbaceous peonies that exhibit a wonderful blend of traits. These peonies produce tree peony flowers and leaves on plants that behave like herbaceous peonies, dying down to the ground in winter and reemerging each spring. You will also find more yellow hues in Itoh peonies than herbaceous. Finally, tree peonies have woody stems that remain year round, with deciduous leaves and a distinctive flower form.

From the Palm Dome: Vershaffeltia splendida

Posted in Horticulture on June 3 2019, by Matt Newman

Get to know Vershaffeltia splendida, one of the palms in the Haupt Conservatory collections that we’re working to maintain and protect during the restoration of the structure’s palm dome. Hear from our Director of Glasshouse Horticulture, Marc Hachadourian, on this plant’s origins and unique qualities, just one of countless species facing the escalating challenges to our world’s biodiversity.

Victoria Johnson’s Research Takes Her to the LuEsther T. Mertz Library

Posted in Humanities Institute on May 31 2019, by Plant Talk

Photo of Victoria Johnson
Victoria Johnson

Victoria Johnson, Associate Professor of Urban Policy and Planning at Hunter College, studied at The New York Botanical Garden’s Humanities Institute during the summer of 2016 as a Mellon Visiting Scholar, sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Dr. Johnson conducted research for her biography of David Hosack (1769-1835), an American doctor best known today as the attending physician at the July 1804 duel between his friends Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. In 1801, Hosack founded the Elgin Botanic Garden, a pioneering medical research garden where he amassed thousands of native and non-native species and trained a generation of doctors and botanists. His former land is now the site of Rockefeller Center.

In her research at the LuEsther T. Mertz Library and Archives, Dr. Johnson drew on primary sources connected with Hosack’s life and work, including plant catalogues from the Elgin Botanic Garden and botanical treatises Hosack had brought back from his studies in Britain as a young doctor. She also studied archival sources connected with Hosack’s botany students as well as dried plant specimens collected for the Elgin Botanic Garden by Hosack and his students (held today by the William and Lynda Steere Herbarium).

Dr. Johnson’s work was published in 2018 as American Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic (Liveright/W. W. Norton, 2018). The book was named a Notable Book of 2018 by the New York Times and was one of five finalists for the 2018 National Book Award in Nonfiction. For more information, see americaneden.org.

Read More