Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Archive: November 2008

Thank You, Volunteers!

Posted in People on November 25 2008, by Plant Talk

Jackie Martinez is Director of Volunteer Services.

When thoughts are on the Thanksgiving and holiday seasons, we often reflect on those who have made an impact on us through their charitable and selfless actions. For me, this is most evident through my position here at the Garden. Every day I encounter a multitude of people from a wide range of cultures, religions, and ages who are here for one reason—because they love The New York Botanical Garden.

Perhaps on a lively Friday morning Marilyn gave you directions to the Garden Cafe for a cup of coffee. You may have seen Madeline, Peter, or Pat helping to beautify the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden; Frank tending to the Korean Garden in the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden; or Keefah and Rebecca assisting children with a variety of activities in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden.

Maybe you have enjoyed an informative docent tour by Melisande in the Edith A. Haupt Conservatory or Bob in the Rock Garden or Sister Marjorie in the Forest or another docent on one of the stunning exhibitions the Garden offers.

These people are all volunteers at the Botanical Garden. They are among the more than 1,000 in the Volunteer Program who help to enhance the visitor experience, maintain the Garden’s 250 acres, teach plant science to visiting school groups and families, assist with clerical work, and collect data for climate change, among many other duties. Last year they clocked more than 80,000 hours of service. There is not one exhibition, program, or event that could be as successful without the dedication of the volunteers who respond to our numerous calls for help with a sense of responsibility to the Garden and with abundant fervor.

The entire staff at the Botanical Garden joins me in thanking each and every volunteer, not just during this very giving season, but every day. Your support is priceless and we are all extremely grateful.

To learn more about the volunteer program, click here.

Tip of the Week — 11/24/08

Posted in Gardening Tips on November 24 2008, by Sonia Uyterhoeven

Decorating the Home

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

HollyAround the holidays the home feels festive. Creating a holiday centerpiece is a fun way of adding some green into the scene and adorning your home. To start, place a saturated piece of florist foam in a bowl and begin to build your masterpiece.

Suitable materials that you will find at this time of year are: colored dogwood stems, luxuriously shiny magnolia foliage, eucalyptus, holly covered with bright berries, berried juniper, incense cedar, Frazier fir, and white pine. Brighten them up by including roses, chrysanthemum, or South African proteas, and add a finishing touch with bows, pine cones, fruit, cinnamon sticks, or large nuts.

When making centerpieces with pine, remove the sticky sap from your hands and clothing with an oil-based lotion (for your hands) and either rubbing alcohol or witch-hazel for your hands or clothing. The easiest way to clean your tools is to spray them with WD-40.

If you prefer flowers in a vase, all of the materials above will work beautifully. If you are designing an arrangement in a large vase and are worried that the weight will shift to the sides rather than remain evenly spaced, reach in the drawer and pull out your cellophane tape. Create sections or divisions by stretching the tape over the mouth of the vase. This can be done from two sides to create a crisscross pattern.

Instead of filling the bottom of a clear vase with pebbles or marbles, try adding cranberries; the cranberries will last up to a week in water and will add a festive feel to the arrangement.

For another way to decorate your home with botanicals, see our blog post and instructional video with Madeline Yanni, Making a Botanical Wreath for Your Holiday Table.

Plan Your Weekend: Holiday Train Show Opens!

Posted in Exhibitions, Holiday Train Show on November 21 2008, by Plant Talk

Magical Display Always Delights

Carol Capobianco is Editorial Content Manager at The New York Botanical Garden.
Holiday Steam Engine
As a kid growing up, just a few blocks from here, the only time I got to see model trains in action was occasionally during the holidays when the boy in the apartment across the hall would invite my three sisters and me to see—briefly and no touching allowed—his miniature landscape all set up with little people and trees and trains that could be glimpsed as they made their way around make-believe villages. I was younger and shorter and had to stand on tiptoe to try to get the full effect of this tabletop other world. Regardless, I always got a sense of something fun and magical happening.

My husband confirmed this. One of three boys and with a slew of neighborhood buddies, he talks of spending hours during the holidays watching and playing with model trains, moving around at will the tiny figures and buildings and ice rinks and track segments within the diminutive fake-snow-covered scenery.

Not until I was an adult did I have the chance to be immersed in the enchanting atmosphere that is so reminiscent of this childhood memory, thanks to the Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show. I’ve come back to see the show several times over the years and with family members both young and old.

There is something indescribable, something that makes your heart jump a beat, when you enter the Holiday Train Show and are immediately surrounded by twinkling lights, soft whistles, and tracks that wind around waterfalls and across overhead bridges and past magnificent replicas of New York landmarks. On closer inspection, you see that each of these 140 or so buildings is made from parts of plants! And as you bend down to investigate further, all of a sudden you glimpse a train approaching and stand back to watch the scene in awe. You look around and are beckoned by other vignettes; it keeps going. You are transported.

The Holiday Train Show has gained wild popularity in its 17 years. Now that I work at the Garden, I have the benefit of seeing the show even during lunch breaks. My favorite time of day, though, is at dusk, when the show is especially charming and festive. This year the Garden will be open an extra hour on select days so you can enjoy the show well into the evening.

There is plenty to do, too, if you’d like to spend an entire day at the Garden: Gingerbread Adventures in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden; The Little Engine That Could™ puppet theater performance and a visit by Thomas the Tank Engine™ both later in the run; lunch and snacks at our two cafes, and holiday gift-getting at Shop in the Garden.

Preparation for a Year of Beauty

Posted in Gardens and Collections, People on November 20 2008, by Plant Talk

Next year marks the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s arrival in New York. The New York Botanical Garden will be part of the statewide celebration, bringing a touch of Holland to the Bronx with a Dutch bulb flower show in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory in the spring and a four-season display, including bulbs, along Seasonal Walk. Here we take a look at the planning for Seasonal Walk, which today is celebrated with a ceremonial planting with the designers and HRH Princess Margriet of the Netherlands, among others.

Karen Daubmann is Director of Exhibitions and Seasonal Displays.

Perennials Awaiting Planting

Our mission was clear but nevertheless daunting: Design a garden that will look luscious from April to November 2009 and one that has Dutch overtones to fit with the Henry Hudson quadricentennial festivities.

The planning team mulled these thoughts and came up with an ideal solution. And so, with support from the International Flower Bulb Center, the Botanical Garden commissioned world-renowned garden designer Piet Oudolf, a Netherlands native known for his “new wave planting” style, who has paired up with Jacqueline van der Kloet, also from the Netherlands, who is known for her finesse with flower bulb design.

The location for the planting is along Seasonal Walk, two garden beds—one measuring 184 feet by 10 feet and the other 86 feet by 6 feet—nestled between the Conservatory Lawn and the Home Gardening Center. Garden installation began earlier this month and has continued through today’s ceremonial planting.

new york botanic revisionSince receiving the designs in July our horticultural staff has been busily growing and ordering the mixture of plants for this border. A complex spreadsheet controlled the frenzied process and kept track of sources, sizes, quantities, and inventoried amounts. The planting is an intense mix of favorites and new cultivars, including grasses, perennials and bulbs. In fact, several of the plants are Piet’s own introductions such as Echinacea ‘Fatal Attraction’, Geum ‘Flames of Passion’, and Salvia ‘Evaline’. We have planted 3,389 perennials and 12,100 spring-flowering bulbs. Next spring, we will plant and force 14,500 summer-flowering bulbs, which will add color to the border through the heat of summer.

The project has been exciting to work on. Each plant has been carefully researched and sourced. We tried our hardest to refrain from using substitutes, but in some cases Piet had selected cultivars not yet readily available in the United States.

Be inspired by our design team by reading about them in The New York Times and Chicago Tribune and by coming to see Seasonal Walk.

Finding Your Calling in Horticulture

Posted in Learning Experiences on November 18 2008, by Plant Talk

Dachell McSween is Publicity Coordinator at The New York Botanical Garden.

Finding Your Calling in HorticultureDuring this time of rising unemployment rates and slow economic growth, thoughts turn to job security and the possibility of having to find a new career.

Tonight and tomorrow evening, The New York Botanical Garden is offering free Career Information Sessions to help people discover “green” job opportunities in landscape design, horticulture, floral design, and horticultural therapy.

The Garden’s Continuing Education instructors, who are experienced professionals, will talk about each of these disciplines, and former students will discuss what it is like to be employed in these fields and how NYBG gave them the skills and knowledge needed to be successful.

For more than 80 years, the Garden has been helping people achieve their horticultural education goals. Many students who attend are career changers from a variety of occupations, including marketing, information technology, law, and medicine. They come to the Garden to follow their passions and explore new job opportunities. “Not only is it something they can be passionate about, but it is an area where there are opportunities,” Jeff Downing, Vice President for Education, told the Daily News.

Read about some of NYBG’s successful “graduates”: Margaret Ryan, who went from corporate speechwriter to floral designer; Curtis Eaves, who shifted from textile design to landscape design; and Bonnie Johnson, who worked as a package designer for two decades and in just two years found success as a floral designer.

If your dream job is to get out of the office and become closer to nature, the Career Information Sessions will get you started on the path to a new career.

Tip of the Week — 11/17/08

Posted in Gardening Tips on November 17 2008, by Sonia Uyterhoeven

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

mophead hydrangeaIt is time to think about protecting your plants for the cold winter months. With roses, here we simply “hill them up” with 6-8 inches of mulch. After the temperature drops and the roses go dormant, usually in late November to early December, we pile a small mound of mulch around the base of the plant. This acts as a winter parka, protecting the base of the rose from freezing temperatures. Once the weather warms in March, we pull away the mulch and start preparing for spring.

Some of your shrubs, such as the bigleaf hydrangeas  (Hydrangea macrophylla)—mophead and lacecap types—flower on old wood. This means that the plant develops its flower buds on the previous year’s growth. Sometimes cold or variable winter weather (changing from warm to cold) can disrupt the flowering, killing off potential buds for the following season. One way to protect your hydrangeas that are situated in an exposed area and at the mercy of the elements is to provide a wind break. Place 5 or 6 stakes around the plant and wrap with burlap. The top can be kept open so that snow (nature’s greatest natural insulator) can fall in.

If it is containers that you are concerned about, the simplest answer is Bubble Wrap. Garden centers sometimes sell a horticultural version that has a silver foil lining with Bubble Wrap inside. Insulate hardy containers once they freeze; with half-hardy containers, insulate before they freeze. Wrap the container with Bubble Wrap and secure with garden twine. If possible, tie the Bubble Wrap over the top of the container, pulling it up around the base of the plants so that the soil in the container is covered. This will help protect it from the freezing and thawing cycle that usually happens in February. If your container is not hardy, place it in an unheated garage so that it can go dormant for the winter.

Plan Your Weekend: Last Chance to See Kiku

Posted in Exhibitions, Exhibitions, Kiku, Video on November 14 2008, by Plant Talk

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

Ogiku Swap from The New York Botanical Garden on Vimeo.
Carol Capobianco is Editorial Content Manager at The New York Botanical Garden.
“There are mums and then there are mums,” wrote Adrian Higgins of the Washington Post in describing the stars of the Garden’s exhibition Kiku: The Art of the Japanese Chrysanthum.

Tens of thousands of visitors have discovered the same, awed by the exquisite beauty of these meticulously cultivated chrysanthemums in a traditional Japanese art form never seen before on this scale outside Japan. “If the stock market has you blue, go to the exhibition and drink in the uplifting display,” wrote Bill Cunningham in The New York Times.

But hurry. The spectacular flower show and cultural exhibition comes to a close Sunday. For an extra special experience, you may want to come this evening from 6–8 p.m. for Kiku and Cocktails, when you can view the exhibition under lights and with the authentic ambiance of live Japanese musical performances.

And while Kiku for Kids also ends this weekend, you may still see The Chrysanthemum in Japanese Art through January 11.

Tranquility by Design in the Rock Garden

Posted in Gardens and Collections on November 13 2008, by Plant Talk

Jan Johnsen is an instructor of landscape design in the Garden’s Continuing Education program and a past recipient of the Instructor of the Year award. She is a principal of the firm Johnsen Landscapes & Pools.

Fall Rock GardenAutumn is my favorite time of year. The nip in the air fosters a more solitary turn of mind, and I look forward to my fall stroll in The New York Botanical Garden. It is here, among the varied collections and gardens, that I breathe in the sweet woodsy scent of autumn and attune myself to the season’s slower pace of life.

This year I was going to the Garden with a specific goal in mind—I wanted to find a special place where I felt a truly enhanced sense of well being. You could say I was on a mission of discovery to find what encouraged feelings of contentment and serenity in a garden setting. This was a tall order considering that the Botanical Garden is chock-full of wonderful and calming places in which to relax.
I found the place I was looking for in the Rock Garden. As I walked past the flower-rimmed natural pond, I spied a dark green bench with large round armrests set in front of a large andromeda. It seemed to call out to me. As I sat down, I could feel the stress of the week evaporating.

The garden bench’s protective perch offered what I call “The Lure of the Sheltered Corner.” With the andromeda behind me and a truly magnificent rock garden to admire, I was as serene as can be. The most alluring spot of all was the waterfall. The sun shone brightly on the splashing water as it tripped down the rocks. Low-growing evergreens and graceful ferns edged the cascade. Here, I felt an exquisite sense of “stop time” that the quiet world of earth, rocks, trees, and plants offers. This sublime feeling of connection is why I treasure The New York Botanical Garden.

The Blogosphere Is Buzzing about the Garden

Posted in Exhibitions, Kiku, Moore in America, NYBG in the News on November 12 2008, by Plant Talk

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

According to Technorati, the leading blog search engine, millions of entries are posted every day in the interconnected, online world of Web logs known as the blogosphere. As the world of journalism continues to evolve from the dominance of traditional print and broadcast media to the growing user-generated content of the Internet, The New York Botanical Garden has earned the attention of the growing new medium.

Many of the writers have been longtime friends of the Garden. Judy Glattstein writes for the Bellewood Gardens Gatehouse and recently shared news with her readers about Moore in America and Kiku: The Art of the Japanese Chrysanthemum. Garden writers Ellen Spector Platt and Ellen Zachos recently debuted a new blog called Garden Bytes from the Big Apple and featured the Botanical Garden.

Many mainstream print publications are making the leap into the new digital frontier. One of the more popular blogs is City Room at The New York Times Web site, where Tina Kelley wrote about Kiku in a blog entry called “Shaping the Chrysanthemums, a Rare Art,” sparking some fun comments from the public. National Geographic’s News Watch blog posted a review by David Braun of Liverworts of New England: A Guide for the Amateur Naturalist, published by The New York Botanical Garden Press. (Order at 718.817.8721 or online.)

Journalists such as Bill Cary of The Journal News, garden writer Irene Virag, and many others have their own blogs. Even some of the Garden’s own staff have ventured into the blogosphere. Check out the personal journal of Chuck Peters, one of our top scientists, for some thought-provoking ruminations. Bookmark them all!

Looking for more? Check out, which describes itself as “a travel guide for native New Yorkers and tourists alike, in an effort to promote a ‘greener’ lifestyle,” or the popular BoogieDowner, a great portal for all wonderful things the Bronx has to offer.

There are blogs about art, like Studio-Online, which wrote about Kiku and Moore in America on October 27, and blogs about crafts, like Quaint Handmade, which also spotlighted the Garden in a glowing review about Kiku. Pick a topic and there’s bound to be someone out there blogging about it.

If you have a favorite blog or if you come across one that mentions The New York Botanical Garden, let us know about it. You can e-mail me or just post a comment below. The key to the explosive growth of the blogosphere, I believe, is the line of communication between fellow bloggers and the people reading them. So let us know what you think.