Plant Talk

Inside The New York Botanical Garden

What’s Beautiful Now: Into Autumn

Posted in What's Beautiful Now on September 20 2018, by Matt Newman

We’re into the final few days of summer, and already we can feel fall in the air. Not long now till cardigans and colorful leaves become the norm! But until then, let’s send off the warmest, most verdant season with a few more looks into the collections that are shining brightest right now.

Ross Conifer Arboretum

Ross Conifer Arboretum
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Conifers are beautiful in any season, but lined with the swaying fronds of ferns and other summer favorites, now is a great time to explore them.

DIY Beyond the Garden

Posted in From the Library on September 20 2018, 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.


Keeping Honey BeesStorey’s Guide to Keeping Honey Bees: Honey Production, Pollination, Health (second edition, 2018) contains everything a beginner beekeeper needs to know to get started. At 200 pages, it is chock-full of very useful and fascinating information. The authors of the work are Dr. Malcolm T. Sanford, retired extension entomologist and professor emeritus, Department of Entomology & Nematology, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, and veteran beekeeper Richard E. Bonney. Together, they cover a remarkable amount of information about honey bees, from the practical aspects of how to start beekeeping, to more advanced colony management practices.

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The Junior Mellon Fellow Research Presentations—Summer 2018

Posted in Humanities Institute on September 14 2018, by Vanessa Sellers

Samantha D’Acunto and Vanessa Sellers, Humanities Institute, Mertz Library


Dr. Ina Vandebroek and Keren Alfred at the Junior Mellon Fellows Presentation
Dr. Ina Vandebroek and Keren Alfred at the Junior Mellon Fellows Presentation

Each summer the Humanities Institute, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, welcomes Junior Mellon Fellows to conduct their own research at the New York Botanical Garden. They are invited to discover the resources held at the LuEsther T. Mertz Library, its Archives, the William and Lynda Steere Herbarium and the Garden’s Living Collections. As they prepare to leave after their summer of research, they are asked to present their findings to colleagues, NYBG staff, their institutional advisors and professors from surrounding universities, as well as an interested public audience.

On Friday, August 17th Keren Alfred, a recent graduate from Brown University, and Vanessa Sun, a current student at the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College prepared to share their findings. As an introduction to her presentation The Development of Jamaican Root Tonics, Keren Alfred offered a taste of various Jamaican tonics at the reception’s refreshment table, which was enjoyed by all. These tasty fermented beverages are used widely throughout Jamaica and Jamaican communities as health aids of various kinds, she explained. Working together with Dr. Ina Vandebroek, Matthew Calbraith Perry Associate Curator of Economic Botany and Caribbean Program Director, Keren spent the summer looking at the development of root tonics from an ethnobotanical, community-health, and cultural-historical point of view Using historical literature on Jamaican plants from the Mertz Library, Alfred set out to discover when tonics were first developed or introduced in Jamaica. She found the earliest reference to tonics to be dating back only to 1927, more recently than expected, while it was not until 1953 that the word “tonic” itself was actually used to describe the plant-based beverages Sarsaparilla smilex and Smilex aspera were among the plants singled out by Alfred’s research as key ingredients to root tonic.

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The Evolution of Beauty

Posted in From the Library on September 13 2018, 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.


The Evolution of BeautyIn The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World—and Us, Richard O. Prum brings readers on a journey to understand the diversity of beauty in nature, and the evolutionary reasons for its existence. An ornithologist, Prum first focuses on avian ornamentation and attraction—a field with which he is intimately familiar; second on humans and our closer relatives—arguably a more theoretical undertaking. Prum follows Darwin’s theory of sexual selection which posits that “mate preferences can evolve for arbitrarily attractive traits that do not provide additional benefits to mate choice,” essentially (and very simplistically), a theory of beauty for the sake of beauty. While not necessarily at odds with Darwin’s theory of evolution, Victorian audiences rejected this theory based primarily on the disbelief that animals could discern beauty, and therefore disbelief that female individuals could use the metric of beauty to be agents of their species’ evolutionary progression.

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What’s Beautiful Now: A Change in the Air

Posted in What's Beautiful Now on September 12 2018, by Matt Newman

Rain and the occasional morning misting have left the Garden a rich landscape of vivid greens, from the mossy Forest surrounding the Native Plant Garden to the waving fronds of the Home Gardening Center. Take a stroll through our pre-fall paradise and soak up the shift in temperatures as we near the official start of the season!

Home Gardening Center

Home Gardening Center
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Airy Pennisetum and a wide diversity of dahlias take the stage just before fall.

Edible Plants: From Field to Garden

Posted in From the Library on September 6 2018, 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.


Veggie Garden RemixThese three new books in the Mertz Library focus on growing, foraging, and cooking edible plants. Each offers a different perspective on human and plant interactions, and will inspire readers to think about new recipes and garden ideas.

Niki Jabbour’s Veggie Garden Remix: 224 New Plants to Shake Up Your Garden and Add Variety, Flavor, and Fun (2018) by gardener, author, and The Weekend Gardener radio show host (and creator) Niki Jabbour offers vegetable gardeners some new ideas to try alongside tried and true North American garden favorites. A laundry list of interesting varieties and cultivars, Veggie Garden Remix is a simple book, yet will be fun for those who like to try something a little different in their gardens. The book doesn’t include information about where to source particular varieties or cultivars from; readers may wish to investigate Seed Savers Exchange for hard-to-find recommendations.

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What’s Beautiful Now: Nearing the Equinox

Posted in What's Beautiful Now on September 5 2018, by Matt Newman

The long summer sun won’t last much longer in our area. With only a few official weeks left of summer before the autumn equinox on September 22, we’re getting in as much time in the sunshine as possible, as are our collections. This week is likely your last opportunity to catch our late water lilies blooming in the Conservatory Pools, just as the dahlias in the Home Gardening Center become some of the highlights of September. The hibiscus and hydrangeas in the Perennial Garden are another bright spot amid the greenery.

Seasonal Walk

Seasonal Walk
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This dynamic garden is a spectacular show of color and texture in the summer heat. Look for artful combinations of sunshine yellow Patrinia scabiosifolia and mulberry-red Sanguisorba ‘Cangshan Cranberry’.

Gardening for the Senses

Posted in From the Library on August 30 2018, 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.


Tovah MartinThe garden as a place of meditation and connection to the natural world is a popular theme in garden literature. These three books emphasize the ways in which the garden can be a place of health—both for people and for other organisms.

Anything written by Tovah Martin is a treat, and The Garden in Every Sense and Season (2018) is no exception. A chronicle of her garden throughout the year, it is a sensory journal—an experiential narrative that is evocative of gardens known, remembered, and imagined. This is not a step-by-step how-to book, but rather a window into Martin’s year in the garden. Readers will feel like they are following along as she completes her seasonal tasks, listening to thoughtful and confident advice about garden chores. While not every seasonal task is mentioned, Martin’s experience and advice offer insight into how she gardens and food for thought for others who are fortunate enough to do so as well. More text-heavy than most contemporary gardening books, it is in some ways a collection of sensory essays—the challenges and successes of a gardener’s year.

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What’s Beautiful Now: Rounding Out the Season

Posted in What's Beautiful Now on August 29 2018, by Matt Newman

The Conservatory Courtyards continue to show off with water lilies and container plantings in bloom, so don’t miss them! You’ll also find the neighborly Seasonal Walk and Perennial Garden just outside the Conservatory looking lovely as we head toward the final weeks of summer in the city. And if you have the opportunity, stop by the Edible Academy to catch our vegetables ripening—it’s sure to be a healthy harvest!

Native Plant Garden

Native Plant Garden
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Sarracenia species, and Rhexia virginica are in full bloom in the wetland! See meadow perennials like Euphorbia corollata, ‘Jazzberry Jam’, Solidago juncea, and Rudbeckia hirta in bloom, as well as a variety of lovely ferns through the woodland.

What’s Beautiful Now: Late Summer Blooms

Posted in Around the Garden, What's Beautiful Now on August 22 2018, by Garrett Barziloski

With the heat finally breaking to make way for milder days, we’re soaking up the last days of summer with some fresh blooms this week. The Home Gardening Center has sprung to life with a variety of bursting, vibrant dahlia cultivars. Stroll through the Native Plant Garden to see cheery meadow-beauties in the wetland, an array of colorful perennials in the meadow, and verdant ferns in the woodland. As always, the Perennial Garden is full of color, with phlox, hibiscus, and hydrangeas in bloom.

Native Plant Garden

Native Plant Garden
Picture 1 of 5

Sarracenia species, and Rhexia virginica are in full bloom in the wetland! See meadow perennials like Euphorbia corollata, ‘Jazzberry Jam’, Solidago juncea, and Rudbeckia hirta in bloom, as well as a variety of lovely ferns through the woodland.