Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Archive: September 2008

A Rose by Any Other Name…

Posted in Gardens and Collections, NYBG in the News, Video on September 30 2008, by Plant Talk

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

Imagine my surprise this summer when I received a handwritten postcard from Academy Award-winning actress Joan Fontaine.

The story began in June when I received a phone call from a visitor to The New York Botanical Garden who was delighted to discover in the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden a white modern rose named after a friend. That friend happened to be Joan Fontaine, best known for her roles in the Alfred Hitchcock thrillers Rebecca (1940) and Suspicion (1941), for which she won an Oscar. Ms. Fontaine also appeared in many other film classics from Hollywood’s golden age, including Gunga Din (1939), The Women (1939), Jane Eyre (1944), and Ivanhoe (1952).

I sent an image of the Joan Fontaine rose to the caller and was delighted to learn that she forwarded the photo to the legendary actress. Needless to say, Ms. Fontaine’s resulting note of appreciation made my day.

The episode inspired me to think of other roses named after celebrities. To paraphrase Peter Kukielski, Curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, walking through the Beatrix Farrand-designed beds is like stumbling upon a tea party of the famous. The soft apricot flowers of the ‘Marilyn Monroe‘ rose are near the deep pink blooms of another hybrid tea named after Elizabeth Taylor. Also nearby is the ‘Julia Child’ floribunda, the 2006 All-America Rose Selections winner, with its buttergold petals and licorice candy fragrance. Watching over them all with its double pink flowers is the hardy grandiflora ‘Queen Elizabeth.’

Other roses are named after artists such as ‘Rembrandt‘ Portland or the floribunda ‘Henri Matisse‘ or the standard rose ‘Auguste Renoir‘ or the ‘Audubon‘ shrub. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has at least two roses with his moniker, the Hybrid Musk ‘Mozart‘ and the climber ‘Amadeus.’ Famed scientists also have their rose doppelgangers, including Charles Darwin and Madame Marie Curie. And still other roses honor Amelia Earhart, George Burns, and Johann Strauss. Famous names pop out from the world of fiction as well, such as ‘Othello,’ ‘Falstaff,’ and ‘Betty Boop.’

The Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden is a delightful destination full of surprises, with wonderful color and fragrance right up until the first frost of the season.

Autumn in the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden from The New York Botanical Garden on Vimeo.

Tip of the Week — 9/29/08

Posted in Gardening Tips, Learning Experiences on September 29 2008, by Sonia Uyterhoeven

Divide and Conquer
Sonia Uyterhoeven is Gardener for Public Education at The New York Botanical Garden.
New England AsterFrom time to time, some of your perennials will start to languish. It’s not the heat or a lack of moisture that is the cause. Sometimes they just outgrow their space, start to sprawl all over the place, and slowly die out in the middle. When this happens, it is time to divide your perennials.

The general rule of thumb is to divide spring flowering perennials either immediately after flowering or in the fall, and to divide fall flowering perennials in the spring.

When you dig up the perennial be generous with the size of the root ball so that you get a good amount of roots. Garden forks often work better than spades since they do not slice through the roots.

If you are dividing in the fall, cut back the foliage to six inches—this will make it easier to see what you are doing and will help redirect the energy of the plant back into root growth. Water the perennial a day or two before you divide it to make digging easier and to make sure the plant won’t be stressed. Make your divisions large enough: A minimum of a quart-size pot is a good standard size.

Divide clumping plants such as astilbe (Astilbe), hosta (Hosta), ornamental grasses, or daylilies (Hemerocallis), with the double fork method or by slicing through them with a spade. For spreading plants such as lamb’s ears (Stachys), asters (Aster), and bee balm (Monarda), pull them apart by hand or sever with a knife or spade.

Plan Your Weekend: Lenape Life

Posted in Learning Experiences, Programs and Events on September 26 2008, by Plant Talk

Indian Summer at the Howell Family Garden
Annie Novak is coordinator of the Children’s Gardening Program.
WigwamTwo years ago, two men named Eric built a second home. It wasn’t a vacation spot nor was it particularly accommodating for men of their height. At first, the only inhabitants were chipmunks, squirrels, and the occasional investigatory rabbit.

Soon, however, the house was full of noise. Children busily explored the low dome of the interior and peered out the window into the neighboring garden. So it was that in 2006, the wigwam that Eric Wright and Eric Sanderson built became the latest structural addition to the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden.

Although it’s the first wigwam in The New York Botanical Garden, it is by no means the first to grace the cliffs along the Bronx River’s shore. As Sanderson is quick to explain, for the 5,000 years before New York City’s skyline dominated the Hudson, Native Americans lived along the river system. Known as the Lenape, they inhabited the large area they called Leanapehoking all throughout New York and New Jersey, as far as the Delaware Water Gap.

Learn more about the wigwam in the Family Garden after the jump.

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Book Review: How to Make Tomato Season Last

Posted in Shop/Book Reviews on September 24 2008, by Plant Talk

John Suskewich is Book Manager for Shop in the Garden.
The Heirloom TomatoNYBG’s Farmers Market, which rolls in here every Wednesday through summer and fall, is a feast and a fanfare of fresh fruits and veggies. As beautiful as jewelry but full of thiamin and riboflavin, the produce glistens when the tents are first unfurled, and this year the tomatoes—Black Cherry, Sungold, Brandywine, Bicolor—seemed to glimmer like a Tiffany’s window of semiprecious stones.

Ah the tomato! This, the cynosure of the Solanaceae, is sweetly celebrated in an excellent new publication, The Heirloom Tomato, by our board member and chair of Seed Savers Exchange, Amy Goldman. The book is all about selecting, growing, and eating tomatoes, but the heart of the volume is a 150-page gallery of the fruit, a museum of Lycopersicon, with photographs by Victor Schrager, who turns even homely “Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter” into a Vermeer. The descriptions by Dr. Goldman include specs for each variety on size, weight, shape, color, and texture, and her interpretative material includes archival research and nuggets of oral history that illuminate our lost rural history as evocatively as a tintype.

The Heirloom Tomato is a book for anyone who loves gardening, plants, food, tomatoes, art and/or language. It is the third volume in the Goldman/Schrager collaboration. They created a template with two works on cucurbits: Melons for the Passionate Grower and The Compleat Squash, and they have now brought it to such a state of perfection I wouldn’t be surprised if they next turned their attention to okra, or maybe kohlrabi.

A selection of images from the book is on display in the Botanical Garden’s Arthur and Janet Ross Gallery in The Heirloom Tomato: An Exhibition of Photographs by Victor Schrager—Portraits of Historic Tomato Varieties from the Gardens of Amy Goldman.

Staff Member Helps Katrina Victims Rebuild

Posted in People on September 23 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 Dept. this summer.

Mark and Jac in New OrleansThe recent devastation caused by hurricanes Gustav and Ike brought back memories of the catastrophe wrought by Katrina. But that hurricane, which hit Louisiana in 2005, was already on the mind of Mark Cupkovic, Associate VP for Operations at NYBG, who spent his summer vacation working with Habitat for Humanity helping to rebuild homes in New Orleans.

Mark learned about the opportunity through an international humanitarian organization, International Orthodox Christian Charities, which has been working with Habitat for Humanity on a 23-week program in New Orleans. Mark, trained as a carpenter, jumped at the chance to participate in this effort along with his son, Jac.

Mark and Jac met the rest of their team and team leader at the airport. After a good night’s rest, they spent their first full day of the trip getting acquainted with New Orleans and seeing where the city stands today, three years after the disaster.

The team first visited the areas that were hardest hit, such as the northeast section of the city and the lower ninth ward. They also viewed the levees, most of which broke during the hurricane, causing the flooding. Musicians’ Village, an area reconstructed by Habitat for Humanity in hopes of bringing musicians back to the area, served as a positive example of reconstruction and rebuilding.

Mark and Jac spent the next five days working in an area with six houses under construction, all in different stages of completion. They also encountered temperatures in the 90s every day, with about 97 percent humidity on top of that! Everyone received a tool belt and went to work. Mark, with 25 years of experience, took a leadership role, looking at the house plans and organizing work flow. People of all different experience levels volunteered, each finding a way to contribute. They even were fortunate to work alongside the family that will be living in one of the houses. Mark said the family was extremely thankful for all of the volunteers’ help.

Mark stressed that the sum total of the group is much greater than anything someone could do alone. Slowly but surely, the group saw their progress grow before their eyes—the house was being built. And while Mark says the experience left an impact on him, he says the change in Jac is incredible. They both hope to return to New Orleans someday.

Tip of the Week — 9/22/08

Posted in Gardening Tips on September 22 2008, by Sonia Uyterhoeven

Just Ask About Asters
Sonia Uyterhoeven is Gardener for Public Education at The New York Botanical Garden.
New York asterAutumn is incomplete without asters. Ornamental grasses look bare if they are not adorned by these starry creatures. Chrysanthemums and goldenrod (Solidago) look friendless without asters by their side.

There are plenty of good asters on the market. One of the best for this area is Aster ‘Little Carlow’. This aster is a hybrid between Aster cordifolius and Aster novi-belgii. It has a stunning blue ray flower with yellow disks and maintains a nice compact form.

Two other good blues are Aster oblongifolius ‘October Skies’ or Aster oblongifolius ‘Raydon’s Favorite’. ‘October Skies’ is the shorter, bushier, and bluer of the two; either is worth a try in the garden.

Asters make excellent cut flowers and are attractive to butterflies. Grow them in full sun in average to dry soil.

Plan Your Weekend: Continuing Ed Open House

Posted in Learning Experiences, People, Programs and Events on September 19 2008, by Plant Talk

Career Change: A Recent NYBG Graduate’s Perspective

Curtis Eaves received a Landscape Design Certificate from NYBG’s Continuing Education program and is the founder of iGreen, an environmental landscape design firm located in the Hamptons.

graphics3_curtis_eaves_colorA little over two years ago I decided to change careers. I wanted to work in a field I had a real passion for. My background was design—textiles, clothing, interiors—but I was looking for something that would take me outdoors and connect me with nature.

After researching different institutions that offered programs in Horticulture and Landscape Design, I decided that The New York Botanical Garden offered the very best program, and therefore I enrolled to pursue a Certificate in Landscape Design.

Several years ago when I taught design courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology, I realized that curriculum is enhanced when presented by experienced professionals. This approach to teaching is just one of the many great things about courses taught at the Botanical Garden. As practicing industry leaders, the Garden staff and faculty have the unique ability to share their “real world” experiences and insights with the students.

My time enrolled in the Landscape Design Certificate Program became such an enlightening experience, filled with the new creative challenges I was seeking. Not only did I gain a solid foundation, but the comprehensive class material provided by the knowledgeable faculty made the Garden an exciting and fascinating atmosphere in which to learn. I feel certain that I have been provided with the necessary tools, knowledge, and confidence to succeed in the landscape industry while pursuing my dreams and goals.

Just after graduation this past June I launched iGreen, a landscape design business that is based on the east end of Long Island. I am amazed at the level of respect and trust I receive from new clients when they become aware that I received my certification from The New York Botanical Garden. NYBG has inspired me with passion to create and build sustainable “green” designs that are both aesthetically pleasing and environmentally sensitive.

This eco-friendly philosophy is the driving force behind iGreen, so to stay current and informed on how to implement these ecological techniques, I plan to attend the new Environmental Gardening courses now being offered at the Botanical Garden.

To learn about NYBG’s Continuing Education program and what it can offer you, come to the free Open House on Saturday, September 20, 10:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m.

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Greening Up the Bronx

Posted in Programs and Events on September 18 2008, by Plant Talk

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

Imagine a small sanctuary filled with green grass, bold flowers, and bountiful fruits. Now imagine that you are in the middle of the Bronx—and no, you are not at the NYBG. You are in one of the more than 100 community gardens throughout the area that Bronx Green- Up has helped make over and maintain.

Bronx Green- Up, celebrating 20 years as a program of the Botanical Garden, transforms vacant lots into vibrant green spaces, involving the community and people of all ages and cultures. Besides renovating the space, Bronx Green-Up (BGU) staff continue supporting the site through periodic visits to give ideas, supply materials, and catch up with friends. This Saturday BGU celebrates with community gardeners throughout the Bronx at its annual Harvest Festival, from 1 to 5 p.m. at Padre Plaza Community Garden.

During our field trip as volunteers for a day, we got a chance to see four of these urban oases and to witness Bronx Green-Up at work. Follow us on our field trip visits after the jump.

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What’s in Color at the Garden

Posted in Color Report, Video on September 17 2008, by Plant Talk

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

Color Report with Jon Peter from The New York Botanical Garden on Vimeo.

Jon Peter, Plant Records Manager, takes a look at some of the plants around the Garden that are currently in color.

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#.