Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Archive: August 2008

Weekend Programming: Great Days for the Irish

Posted in Programs and Events on August 29 2008, by Plant Talk

Written by Kate Murphy, a junior at Fordham University, with additional reporting by Genna Federico, a senior at St. John’s University. Both interned in the Communications Department this summer.

Irish GardenTaking a walk through the Global Gardens is like taking an international journey—minus the need for a passport and visit to Customs). NYBG visitors can drift from China to the Caribbean to Italy—in garden form, that is. And as summer (sadly) comes to a close so, too, does the celebration of the Global Gardens that has been going on all this month at the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden. This, the final weekend of the celebration, will be dedicated to the Irish Garden, planted and maintained by Ann Creaney.

Ann became familiar with Irish gardening from first-hand experience, and her story is an interesting one, to say the least. In the early 1940s young Ann and her family visited her grandmother in Ireland. But when they were to return to America, the waters they would have to traverse by boat had been set with mines because of the war. As a result, Ann ended up living the next seven years in Ireland, time spent with no electricity and no running water but lots of gardening experience.

Read more about Ann’s journey and check out the Shepherd’s Pie recipe after the jump.

Check out Saturday’s Programming.
Check out Sunday’s Programming.

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At the Movies, Starring NYBG

Posted in NYBG in the News on August 28 2008, by Plant Talk

Kate Murphy, a junior at Fordham University, interned in the Communications Department this summer.

film-shootThe summer blockbuster has become as much a staple to the season as sunshine and warm weather. And this summer is no different, bringing a continuous buzz of “must-see” movies. If you can’t decide whether you’d like to spend an afternoon at the Garden or at the movie theater, why not combine the two?

The 250-acre enclave in the Bronx has played host to many film shoots due to its convenient location, its beautiful grounds, and the lush interior of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Following is a list of movies featuring scenes at the Garden. Rent a few of them and see if you can spot NYBG!

The Manchurian Candidate (the 2004 version) includes scenes shot in the Haupt Conservatory, the nation’s largest Victorian-era glasshouse. The all-star cast, featuring Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber, Meryl Streep, and Vera Farmiga, attend a gala in the Conservatory in this political thriller.

Autumn in New York (2000), a sad, romantic film starring Winona Ryder and Richard Gere, utilized the Botanical Garden’s colorful autumnal grounds.

Age of Innocence (1993), a period piece chronicling the love triangle of three 19th-century New York aristocrats, also has scenes that featue the iconic Haupt Conservatory. The movie stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Winona Ryder, and Daniel Day-Lewis.

Other films shot at the Garden include Awakenings (1990), starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams, and The Seven-Ups (1973), starring Roy Scheider.

Garden-Inspired Items Getting Attention Near and Far

Posted in NYBG in the News, Shop/Book Reviews on August 26 2008, by Plant Talk

Ellen Bruzelius is Director of Special Projects, Garden Retail and Business Development.

Shop in the Garden has been garnering attention lately in the blogosphere with a variety of garden-inspired goods that have struck the fancy of bloggers around the world. From a Chicago-based shopping blog that featured our green bicycle basket (also mentioned on all the way across the pond to Berlin where a New England-born journalist noted our Summer Pleasures melamine plates on her blog,, has been piquing interest near and far.

Back on our own shores, in New York the Today show and Cookie magazine picked up on new NYBG products developed with licensing partner Lunt Silversmiths. Using glorious images from works in the Rare Book Collections of our LuEsther T. Mertz Library, Lunt has developed a tabletop collection that ranges from elegant silver tea sets inspired by 18th-century designs for Chinoiserie garden follies to garden plant trays and marvelous Mark Catesby-inspired glasses and barware and more.

The Peak of Chic (check out the July 15 and August 6 posts) loved the Lunt Silversmiths products as well as NYBG fine art prints sold through These archival quality reproduction prints also stem from historic botanical illustration in the Mertz Library collections. Some are presented in their original form, while others are given a modern sensibility with color and creative cropping.

This Old House featured one of our stainless steel birdfeeders, and loved our array of colorful imported flower pots.

Not surprisingly, this interest in Shop in the Garden goods reflects the enormous effort put in by Shop staff to develop and find items that are design-driven and not ubiquitous. We’re adding new things all the time, so be sure to visit often.

Tip of the Week — 8/23/08

Posted in Gardening Tips on August 25 2008, by Sonia Uyterhoeven

Cunning Caryopteris

Sonia Uyterhoeven is Gardener for Public Education at The New York Botanical Garden.

Blue mist shrubHigh on my agenda these days is using plants that benefit the environment while also doing the work I need a good plant to do, which is to create a beautiful garden. Caryopteris or blue beard fits this criterion.

It is not a particularly needy plant; it doesn’t require copious amounts of fertilizer or water—in fact it likes good drainage and moderate to lean soil.

Caryopteris is a magnet for wildlife: Bees and butterflies cover the flowers while deer show no interest and leave it intact.

Finally, a bonus for the shrub world—it flowers in August, long after most woody plants have finished flowering for the season.

It has a nice open structure that makes it an adaptable companion in any mixed border. In one location we have it snuggling up to a Daphne ‘Carol Mackie’. The graceful blue beard’s loose branches would also spill nicely into any small- to medium-size ornamental grass, making the two a lovely late-season pair.

I cut this shrub back to a one- to two-foot framework in mid-April to keep it flowering freely and to maintain a compact three-to-four-foot fountain of pale-blue to deep-purple flowers for a late season display.

Weekend Programming: Homage to Heirloom Tomatoes

Posted in Programs and Events on August 22 2008, by Plant Talk

Jessica Blohm is Interpretive Specialist for Public Education.

tomatoesJennifer Josef, Director of Public Education at the Garden, can’t wait for Wednesdays to roll around so that she can buy farm-fresh produce at the Garden’s Farmers Market.

This week she bought several varieties of heirloom tomatoes and a big bunch of basil. The heirlooms seen at the market are similar to those depicted in Victor Schrager’s photographs in The Heirloom Tomato, the new exhibit in the Arthur and Janet Ross Gallery, which was also featured in the August 2008 issue of Martha Stewart Living.

The images highlight heirloom tomato varieties grown by Amy Goldman, a self-described “vegetable rights activist” who works to preserve the agricultural heritage and genetic diversity of the world’s vegetables. Jenn visited the gallery to view Victor Schrager’s divine photographs after buying her own fresh produce.

Jenn’s family, originally from Agrigento, Sicily, in Italy, loves to make traditional Italian delights with heirloom tomatoes. After the jump are three tomato recipes that Jenn makes with her mother. Check out these classic Mama Josef summertime treats yourself and let us know how you like them!

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What’s in Color at the Garden

Posted in Color Report, Video on August 21 2008, by Plant Talk

Rustin Dwyer is Visual Media Production Specialist at The New York Botanical Garden.

NYBG Color Report — August 2008 from The New York Botanical Garden on Vimeo.

In honor of the Olympic Games, Jon Peter, Plant Records Manager, takes a look at some of the plants around the Garden that are native to China.

For a monthly schedule of what’s in color at NYBG, visit

For weekly updates of what’s in bloom, call 718.362.9561 and enter 403#.

The Breakdown on Compost

Posted in Programs and Events on August 20 2008, by Plant Talk

Kate Murphy, a junior at Fordham University, and Genna Federico, a senior at St. John’s University, interned in the Communications Department this summer.

CompostingThe weekly Farmers Market not only features vendors with regionally grown produce and home-baked treats but also offers demonstrations on the first and last Wednesday of every month. We decided it would be fun to check out the demonstration on composting led by staff from our Bronx Green-Up program.

The New York City Composting Guide The NYC Composting Guide describes composting as “the process of creating the ideal conditions for the rapid decomposition of organic materials.” In other words, it’s what happens in your pile of vegetable and fruit peels, garden waste, and raked leaves after tending it in a particular way for a while.

Our first stop was the composting table at the Farmers Market, where we found lots of free information and learned that there was hands-on experience to be had if we visited the Home Gardening Center’s composting station, a short walk away. There we met a group of students from Adlai E Stevenson High School in the Bronx who are part of New York City’s GreenThumb-certified summer program.

The students were here to learn about composting so that they could use it when planting and maintaining the more than 20 vegetable beds at the Stevenson campus community garden, where the students also learn how to cook with what they grow. These students have also planted gardens at a local elementary school and have worked with a local homeowners’ organization in planting trees in nearby neighborhoods as part of the MillionTreesNYC initiative. (The Garden is involved in this initiative, too.)

Want to know more about composting for your own garden? See the tips after the jump.

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NYBG In the News — Beavers and Lizards and Hawks, Oh My!

Posted in NYBG in the News, Wildlife on August 19 2008, by Plant Talk

Nick Leshi is Associate Director of Public Relations and Electronic Media.

Curious ChipmunkIn the September 2008 issue of Outside, a health, fitness, and travel magazine, Eric Hansen wrote a two-and-a-half page feature chronicling his quest to find the Bronx’s elusive José the Beaver. Named as a tribute to Congressman José Serrano, the beaver has garnered an urban legend mystique with sightings along the Bronx River. The writer visited The New York Botanical Garden while researching his story and dubbed our institution “a biologically diverse oasis.”

Reading this article made me think of all the other amazing wildlife one can see here on a given day. Yes, the Botanical Garden prides itself as a museum of plants with extensive flora in its 50 gardens and plant collections. But visitors might be surprised at the diversity of fauna they could also stumble upon during a visit here. Our neighbor across Fordham Road may have lions and tigers and bears, but a stroll through NYBG reveals an unexpected variety of life from the animal kingdom.

Birds are abundant, from majestic hawks circling overhead to families of ducks ambling along a path. On the Garden’s popular guided Bird Walks, held Saturday mornings September through June, people seek out robins, blue jays, cardinals, sparrows, and even owls. I’ve been amazed to see wild turkeys, blue herons, plump pheasants, and even what looked like an ibis swooping to grab a koi from one of the pools in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory Courtyards.

If you look closely enough, birds aren’t the only wildlife you’ll see. Chipmunks scurry in the Forest. Frogs belch their songs in the ponds of the Rock Garden, while Italian wall lizards dash across nearby stones. From rabbits and turtles to muskrats and squirrels, it’s incredible to realize how many species of life call our 250 acres “home.”

View our Flickr set of some of our animal friends and more!

Tip of the Week — 8/18/08

Posted in Gardening Tips on August 18 2008, by Sonia Uyterhoeven

Pondering Powdery Mildew

Sonia Uyterhoeven is Gardener for Public Education at The New York Botanical Garden.

Gardening is about observation. I have noticed over the past several years that my phlox and peonies that are out in full sun never suffer from powdery mildew while those that are in partial shade suffer miserably. What then are the lessons for the gardener?

Powdery mildew tends to create a problem for gardeners in middle to late summer. Unlike many fungal problems that need good moisture to take hold, powdery mildew thrives with warmth (temperatures around 70s-80s) and high humidity.

What can we do to alleviate the problem? Not surprisingly, good maintenance practices and smart gardening is the key to healthy plants.

  • Do not overcrowd your plants; this will lead to poor air circulation and will create problems with the humidity level around susceptible plants.
  • During the winter the fungus survives on plant debris, so it is important to clean up around infected plants.
  • Using high nitrogen fertilizers (the first number on fertilizers) promotes weak, leafy growth; try a balanced fertilizer with low numbers and apply only once in the spring to give perennials a boost for the season.
  • Choose disease-resistant cultivars whenever possible.
  • Follow the maximum “the right plant for the right place.” A healthy plant is always more resistant to disease problems.

If your favorite perennials do get attacked with powdery mildew, you have several options. When powdery mildew attacks my peonies late in the season, I just cut them back once the leaves get unsightly. If your bee balm has succumbed and is beyond repair, then cut the foliage back; you will get a new flush of foliage but no more flowers for the rest of the season. If it is a late-season bloomer that you’re set on keeping, then remove the worst stems and apply an environmentally friendly product to the rest of the plant as soon as you notice the powdery mildew. Some options include products that contain neem oil, sulfur, or potassium bicarbonate.