Plant Talk

Inside The New York Botanical Garden

What’s Beautiful Now: Small Wonders

Posted in What's Beautiful Now on February 15 2019, by Matt Newman

We may not see the budding leaves of spring just yet when wandering the Forest at NYBG, but a careful eye will make out many signs of life nonetheless. Look closely at the trunks of trees, both standing and fallen, and you may catch sight of shelf fungi, lichen, mosses, and any number of unique lifeforms weathering winter with aplomb. It’s a joy for those who like to hunt for treasure.

Thain Forest

Thain Forest
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Two Decades of the Landscape Design Portfolios Lecture Series

Posted in Garden News on February 7 2019, by Plant Talk

Lisa Whitmer is the Director of Adult Education at The New York Botanical Garden.


Photo of landscape architecture
Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, OLIN

Since the earliest urban public parks and gardens were built, visitors have enjoyed these green spaces, and paused—to appreciate a bit of shade, admire a view, or watch an endless parade of fellow city-dwellers. But it is probable that very few have paused to consider how such places were created, and how all the design decisions made by landscape architects—about the shape of spaces, the slope of the land, the use of light, shade and water, the choice of plants and paving materials, and even the placement of benches—foster our sense of comfort and pleasure in these places.

The goal of the Garden’s annual Landscape Design Portfolios Series is to share this knowledge of the design process through presentations of current work by outstanding landscape architects practicing around the world today. Each fall for the past 20 years, The New York Botanical Garden has provided a public forum for landscape architects and designers to discuss the projects that continue to enhance our lives.

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#plantlove: Kristine Paulus, Plant Records Manager

Posted in People on February 5 2019, by Matt Newman

Photo of Kristine Paulus

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 Kristine Paulus, Plant Records Manager.

“As a kid, my love of plants started with wanting to grow food for my pet rabbit, Ginger. Growing up in an apartment that opened onto an old Pennsylvanian Christmas tree farm, few things seemed more magical than watching cut carrot tops sprout into new plants near the woods, or seeing seeds collected from tomatoes germinate. As I got older, I was distracted away from plants, and by the time I moved to NYC I thought I’d never grow anything again, at least until I stumbled upon a Bronx Green-Up community garden. I soon applied for my own plot, rediscovered my obsession, and completed a Horticulture Certificate here at NYBG. And now I’m the Plant Records Manager. Funny how that worked out.”

What’s Beautiful Now: Watch Out for Witch-Hazel

Posted in What's Beautiful Now on January 25 2019, by Matt Newman

While we’re still waiting for the snowdrops to nod up out of the frosty winter grounds, another signal of the impending spring is already here: witch-hazels! Keep your eyes open as you make your way around NYBG, and you might catch the streamer-like red, orange, and yellow flowers of Hamamelis opening here and there. They’re certainly hard to miss.

Hamamelis mollis

<em>Hamamelis mollis</em>
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NYBG Receives New York’s First All-Electric Truck

Posted in Garden News on January 24 2019, by Plant Talk

Photo of NYBG's electric truck

In September 2017, the New York State Attorney General announced that four non-profit organizations had been selected to demonstrate the benefits of battery-powered electric delivery trucks. Named E-Cubed, the innovative project highlights the economic, efficiency, and environmental advantages that all-electric delivery trucks have for New Yorkers. Along with the Wildlife Conservation Society, Habitat for Humanity NYC, and the Big Reuse, The New York Botanical Garden was chosen through a competitive application process to participate in this new program.

Photo of an Electric charging stationOn August 29, 2018, the Garden received the first delivery of the new all-electric truck. The charging station, provided by ChargePoint Inc., has been located near the Pfizer Plant Research Laboratory loading dock because of its proximity to available electrical power, ease of installation, and available parking. NYBG will be receiving an additional all-electric rack body truck with a lift gate. Produced by Mitsubishi Fuso Truck, a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks, both of these zero-emission vehicles will be used to support core operations and services. With a 75-mile range per overnight charge, they will help to reduce traffic-related soot pollution, create economic and environmental efficiencies, and provide a cost-effective alternative to combustion engines to create a greener New York. The initial lease will be funded for a two-year period and all costs associated with the lease and charging station have been paid for by the Attorney General’s office.

This article originally appeared as part of a series on responsible citizenry in the 2018–2019 issue of Garden News, NYBG’s seasonal newsletter. For further reading, view the issue online and discover a sampling of stories about our current efforts and activities that promote, engage, and support active and responsible citizenry on local, regional, and global levels.

Getting Started with Trees & Gardens

Posted in From the Library on January 24 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 the cover of Ground RulesGround Rules: 100 Easy Lessons for Growing a More Glorious Garden is a new title from Kate Frey for Timber Press. Frey, who is a consultant, educator, designer, and freelance writer specializing in sustainable gardens and small farms that encourage biodiversity, has distilled her years of gardening experience into 100 short and sweet points aspiring gardeners. I was a big fan of Frey’s 2016 The Bee-Friendly Garden, but Ground Rules, although a pretty book, lacks real substance. Although the 100 lessons are divided into sections, there is no table of contents, making readers wonder at the attempt at structure. On a positive note, I did enjoy the lessons about soil—perhaps this topic might be a future one for Frey to explore in more detail. All in all, a charming coffee table book, and a font of useful tips, perhaps just what a novice gardener is looking for in order to take the plunge and start a garden.

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What’s Beautiful Now: Journey to the Desert

Posted in What's Beautiful Now on January 11 2019, by Matt Newman

While the genius of Applied Imagination is on display in the Holiday Train Show, there is an equally captivating exhibition of plant architecture just steps away in the Deserts of the Americas Gallery in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. This is just a sampling of the hundreds of cacti and other arid-land plants on display. Don’t touch!

Deserts of the Americas Gallery

Deserts of the Americas Gallery
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What’s Beautiful Now: Golden in the Grass

Posted in What's Beautiful Now on January 4 2019, by Matt Newman

Swaying grasses, seed heads, and the persistent husks of past flowers lend a sunset golden light to certain outdoor collections at the Garden this time of year. The slightest breeze sets them to wavering like a botanical sea, and at the right time of day, the scene is the definition of peace.

Japanese silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis var. condensatus)

Japanese silver grass (<em>Miscanthus sinensis</em> var. <em>condensatus</em>)
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On Becoming a NYBG Urban Naturalist

Posted in Garden News on January 3 2019, by Plant Talk

Lisa Synoradzki is Senior Development Officer at The New York Botanical Garden.


A photo of urban naturalistsIn Oaxaca Journal, renowned neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks, M.D., remarks on the contributions that amateurs provide to field science: “A special power of observing and remembering particulars, a special memory for places…a lyrical feeling for nature.” Such is a naturalist I learned in NYBG’s Urban Naturalist Certificate Program. Courses provided a solid grounding on New York City’s plants, birds, and insects; their interactions; how they relate on the Tree of Life; and the ecology of their habitats.

Field trips on Garden grounds and to Pelham Bay and Van Cortlandt Parks were chances for our class to practice identification skills and record nature. We learned to identify a sign of forest succession in a meadow—a small grove of sapling sassafras trees, notice the pollination strategies of ephemeral spring beauty flowers—pink lines on white petals that point to nectar, and reflect on the success of American woodcocks in persisting in disturbed areas as we saw them ascend for sky dances at dusk.

As part of the Program, we were asked to create an ecological portrait of a patch in nature. I chose Welwyn Preserve in Glen Cove, Long Island, known for its magnificent, mature forest of tulip trees that are being threatened by storm damage, neglect, and an onslaught of invasive species. I documented Welwyn’s flora and fauna, its natural history and condition today, and the potential for restoration. My project led to an invitation from the Long Island Botanical Society (LIBS) to write an article for its newsletter, a presentation for LIBS members, and a nomination to the board of the Torrey Botanical Society. NYBG’s Urban Naturalist Program gave me the training and confidence to communicate about and advocate for the nature I love.

This article originally appeared as part of a series on responsible citizenry in the 2018–2019 issue of Garden News, NYBG’s seasonal newsletter. For further reading, view the issue online and discover a sampling of stories about our current efforts and activities that promote, engage, and support active and responsible citizenry on local, regional, and global levels.