It’s the first official week of summer and the Garden’s beauty is at its most verdant. Dappled sunlight filters down through a filled out canopy in the Forest, while the Rose Garden continues to carry the torch for outdoor color. But elsewhere, like in the Native Plant Garden, Perennial Garden, and Rock Garden, you can find gems showing off their petals.
This year’s Humanities Institute Symposium again brought together a large body of students, scholars, horticulturists, foresters, environmental specialists, tree-lovers, and other researchers and professionals to explore a topic vital to this day and age. While last year’s symposium looked at the challenge of climate change, this year’s symposium, Plant Intelligence, was focused on an equally challenging question: Do plants have intelligence? Using the latest biological evidence, several renowned scientists explored this key question by sharing new discoveries in forest and lab, offering new insights into the inner life of plants. Their findings—including astonishing examples of plant signaling and information processing—challenged the audience’s common perception of plants and presented new paradigms for the understanding of nature.
Summer doesn’t officially kick off until June 21, but the Garden grounds are already well-prepared for the season of green. And among that green, from the Native Plant Garden to the Forest, you’ll find the bright peppering of color offered up by spring’s later blooms. Come for the roses at peak bloom this week, and stay for all of the little treasures you’ll discover during a walk through our 250 acres.
In June, purple foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) are in bloom at NYBG. Tall, striking spires with dozens of little finger-shaped blooms, foxgloves are native all across western Europe. Traditionally cultivated in English borders, there are about 20 different species. They bloom in colors from yellows, pinks, lavenders, and whites to purple, with dark spots inside the blooms.
The leaves form in large clusters during the first year, and there are no blooms. Large and fuzzy green, they look a bit like sage or even spinach. In the second year, the blooms appear and the seeds can eventually be collected for re-planting, or they may naturalize.
A folk myth about foxgloves claims that the foxes who make dens in the woodland hills wear the flowers on their paws when they attack rural villagers. Sometimes called “witches’ gloves,” the plant’s toxicity was known for centuries by herbalists. Other common names for the plant are also a dead giveaway to its potent effects, including “witches’ thimbles” and “dead man’s bells”.
The entire plant is poisonous, according to experts. But the leaves, in particular, contain more concentrated toxins.
It’s all about roses this week as we head toward our long-awaited Rose Garden Weekend at NYBG, June 9 & 10. The Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden is wearing all of its spring finery! Look for floribundas, hybrid teas, and more—all of them blooming in a confetti of pinks, reds, whites, and yellows. Elsewhere in the Garden, you’ll find the Forest greening out ahead of summer, an abundance of ferns and foliage in the Native Plant Garden, and of course the Hawaiian beauty of Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawai‘i—currently our Nolen Greenhouses are full to the brim with new plants ready to make their way into the exhibition in the Conservatory; look for them soon!
“You can turn your life around very quickly, which is exactly what I wanted to do.” Amy Roberts laughed as she described how NYBG’s Floral Design Summer Intensive reshaped her career in 2017. “I used to work in the art world, and I wasn’t happy. I had an epiphany that I wanted to be a floral designer, and I wanted to do that as quickly as possible. In April, I had never taken a floral course. By the end of the year, I was working as a full-fledged designer and wedding consultant for Starbright Floral Designs! Where else can you do that?”
Roberts is one of many students who changed their life’s course by taking one of NYBG’s Summer Intensives—in Floral Design, Landscape Design, Gardening, Horticultural Therapy, or Botanical Art & Illustration. Each Program gives students the opportunity to accelerate their progress toward an NYBG Certificate, a well-known and respected credential that helps students stand out as they embark on new careers.
The diverse rooms of the Perennial Garden are coming into fashion this week as salvias and nepetas open up to the warm weather, and more is on deck as we near the summer season. In the Native Plant Garden, keep an eye out for Sarracenia species, their flute-like pitchers turned up to the sky all around the water feature. Native rhododendrons and azaleas in this garden are also making themselves known, as are perennials like Zizia aurea. Late spring is a beautiful time to explore NYBG!
Perennial of the Week: Catmint (Nepeta)
These showy and aromatic plants steal the spotlight this week! You can find various species and cultivars throughout the Garden, but you won’t want to miss them in action on the Seasonal Walk. In addition to being easy-to-grow and versatile plants, Nepeta blooms heavily and attracts many bees and butterflies.
The LuEsther T. Mertz Library is happy to introduce new nonfiction titles from Firefly Books that have been added to our children’s circulating collection. Firefly Books has been an expert in nonfiction books for adults and children since 1977. The titles below are fun, colorful, and engaging reads for all reading levels. New readers will feel comfortable easing into these nonfiction narratives and confident readers will enjoy learning about insects, birds, and jungles!
In A Wasp Builds a Nest by Kate Scarborough & Martin Camm, readers are invited to experience the construction of a wasp’s nest. Each shingled page reveals an inside look at the step-by-step progress of building the nest from start to finish—both the nest and the pages grow together. Readers will learn about wasp anatomy, reproduction, life cycle, and nest structure. From early spring to late summer, wasps keep busy building and foraging for food until it’s time to find a winter home; then the cycle repeats. This book is a great option for readers who are comfortable learning new vocabulary, as it provides so much information about wasps and their behavior.
Great Egret (Ardea alba) at Twin Lakes – Photo by Patricia Gonzalez
The Matelich Peonies are the collection to spot this week, with dozens of pink, red, purple, and white flowers unfurling their large petals just outside the front doors of the Conservatory. Before it becomes the Rose Garden’s time to shine, these are some of the most colorful blooms you’ll see at the Garden! Elsewhere, the Lilac Collection is still showing color and fragrance, while the Garden’s abundant greenery fills out in preparation for summer.
Glorious showy blooms are held above rich green foliage on these peonies. Amidst the Matelich Anniversary Peony Collection, you will find a wide range in form from single to fully double, with satiny petals in white, pink, coral, and red. They offer up scents of rose, lemon, honey, or musk that sing of Spring and even warmer days to come! You will find this collection along Perennial Garden Way, with more than 150 herbaceous peonies reaching their peak in mid-May.