Japanese Autumn Adventures Offers “Passport” of Fun
Noelle V. Dor is Museum Education Intern in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden.
As the Northern Hemisphere inches away from the sun and life turns inward, The New York Botanical Garden is under way with Kiku in the Japanese Autumn Garden, a celebration of autumn and Japanese culture. While Kiku pays homage to Japan’s annual Festival of Happiness, which honors the fall bloom and seemingly perfect beauty of the chrysanthemum flower, the Everett Children Adventure Garden’s Japanese Autumn Adventures highlights an equally important plant in East Asian cultures: Camellia sinensis, commonly known as tea.
Of course, tea is immensely popular in the United States, too. Many people, however, know very little about tea such as the fact that “herbal teas” are not truly tea at all, or that white, green, black, and oolong teas are all derived from a single plant species.
Delving into the world of tea during my research and preparation for this program has deepened my fascination for the myriad ways in which plants and society intertwine over time. My interest in traditional Japanese culture—inspired and nurtured by various school projects and courses—made me even more excited to have this amazing opportunity to help others explore and enjoy a unique mixture of nature, art, and social customs.
During Japanese Autumn Adventures, in addition to learning all about tea and participating in a simulated tea ceremony, young visitors and their families get to do classic Japanese crafts such as fish printing (gyotaku) and paper-folding (origami) to create maple samaras that really spin!
At the beginning of their adventure, children will make their own field notebook, or “passport,” granting them access to different “cities” (activity stations) and allowing them to keep a record of their experiences as they “travel” through Japan. Before departing, everyone should stop by the wishing shrine and leave an ema (Japanese for “wish”).
My wish is for all hearts to be filled with love and joy. What’s yours?
Jessica Blohm is Interpretive Specialist for Public Education.
A chrysanthemum blossom, which appears to be a single flower, is actually made up of hundreds of tiny flowers.
Chrysanthemums are members of the Asteraceae (aster or daisy) family. All plants in the aster family are composites. They have flower heads made up of many tiny individual flowers. Other composites include asters, sunflowers, black-eyed Susans, dandelions, marigolds, and zinnias.
There are two types of composite flowers, ray and disc. Some composites have both ray and disc flowers; others have only ray or disc flowers.
The National Chrysanthemum Society defines 13 different classes of chrysanthemums with varying flower forms: irregular incurve, reflex, regular incurve, decorative, intermediate incurve, pompon, single and semi-doubles, anemone, spoon, quill, spider, brush and thistle, and unusual. Many of these 13 classes are on display at Kiku in the Japanese Autumn Garden. To see examples of each, click here.
Follow this Step-by-Step Guide by NYBG Adult Education Instructor
John Capobianco, an instructor in the Adult Education Program of The New York Botanical Garden, is a four-time national gold medal winner for chrysanthemum bonsai display. He is president of the Long Island Chrysanthemum Society, a past president of the Bonsai Society of Greater New York, and a board member of the National Chrysanthemum Society.
As Kiku in the Japanese Autumn Garden makes apparent, chrysanthemums are among the most versatile woody perennials around. They lend themselves to being trained into many different forms.
You can try your hand at chrysanthemum bonsai by creating a slab planting—an arrangement done on a relatively flat stone to depict a lone tree on a cliff or a forest on an island or whatever you may imagine.
Unlike other forms of bonsai, slab plantings start with the container, in this case a flat rock or ceramic piece. It should be oblong; one with steps, crags, or an irregular outline makes it more interesting. Stones have movement and a flow to them. Examine the stone and choose the position you wish to highlight and harmonize with the planting.
Decide on the cultivar you want to grow, and get to work making cuttings or placing an order. Plan on growing more than you will need as some will get damaged and be unusable when it comes time to assemble the planting. Expect to reject about 50 percent of what you grow. You’ll want to use an odd number for the planting group, which makes for a more stimulating design.
To grow your chrysanthemum “trees,” put plants in a few different-size containers—2½ , 3, 4, and 6 inches. Much like the myth about goldfish, the mums will only grow to the size of their environment. Those in the small containers will have less water and nutrients and so won’t grow as thick or as tall. This will ensure that your trees will be of different heights and thicknesses in the group planting.
Pinch the plants to encourage branching into a tree form. If the line of a trunk needs to be altered, you may need to wire the plant to the desired form. This takes skill. Be careful not to break branches, and don’t trap leaves under the wire. Practice on your rejects.
The Latin word for “cultivate,” colere, means both “to till” and “to cherish.” This dual meaning is particularly apt when talking about The New York Botanical Garden and its magnificent and varied gardens and plant collections. The care and devotion expended to these areas by staff and volunteers illustrate “cultivation” in all its layers of meaning.
As a visitor to NYBG, you can cultivate your powers of observation and by so doing, learn to cherish nature and its processes. I discovered this fact decades ago, as a young landscape architecture student at the University of Hawaii. I was given an unusual assignment that required me to spend 24 hours in an outdoor spot of my choosing. Within that period of time, I had to note all the changes I observed. This included noting the weather, vegetation, rocks, animals, sounds, and anything else that caught my eye or ear. I could not leave the general location for any extended period of time.
This exceptional task strengthened my “observation muscle” immensely. It also expanded my understanding of our interconnectedness with nature, and I learned to cherish it all the more.
The next time you visit The New York Botanical Garden, consider cultivating your awareness by watching the network of life that surrounds you. The birds, trees, flowers, animals, and even lowly earthworms each fill an essential niche within a harmonious whole. By noting the synchronous events that occur within the tapestry of nature, you, too, can develop the singular clarity that Alan Watts, the Buddhist writer, called “vivid awareness.” This lovely approach embraces an appreciation of the natural world’s miraculous unity, and you will never again take Mother Nature’s everyday workings for granted.
Sonia Uyterhoeven is Gardener for Public Education. Join her each weekend for home gardening demonstrations on a variety of topics in the Home Gardening Center.
With all the rain this past summer, some of my herbs thrived while others collapsed from exhaustion in mid- to late-summer. My garlic chives, sometimes named Chinese garlic (Allium tuberosum), were glorious in the Sensory Garden. The white umbel-shaped flowers floated above the cluster of grass-like foliage from mid-August into September. They were one of the showier features in the garden. All the rain served them well.
The leaves of garlic chives are similar to the better-known chives (Allium schoenoprasum, pictured), only flat and slightly wider, and can be used in the same way—cut them into small pieces with your kitchen scissors and add them to any dish for a garlicky kick.
If you are a garlic lover, this attractive herb is a must. I took one of my weekend demonstration groups into the Sensory Garden, where we harvested some of the garlic chives. As I cut the leaves into small pieces, the odor wafted in the air. While I often pass herbs around for visitors to smell, this one could be appreciated by everyone in the group simultaneously.
I experimented with a few herbal vinegars this year. One was a spicy concoction of cider vinegar, hot peppers, spicy oregano and garlic chives. I included a few of the flowers from the garlic chives for flavor and ornamental value; it was an attractive arrangement.
Four weeks later when I opened the bottle, the aroma of the garlic attacked my nostrils. For garlic lovers the vinegar was a success. For my own personal taste, I loved the kick of the hot peppers and oregano, but will tone down the garlic for next year. I think I will simply add the flowers and omit the foliage and try for a milder taste.
Plus Poetry Readings, Bird Walk, Greenmarket, and Kiku
Celebrate the thrills and chills of the season at The New York Botanical Garden’s Halloween Hoorah! on Sunday. Come in your costume or make your own mask here and parade around the grounds. Follow the trail on your Halloween map and participate in hands-on activities along the route. End the day learning about bats during a live animal demonstration.
On Saturday, listen to poets read their favorites as well as their own works inspired by nature, go on a bird walk, and shop at the Greenmarket. And on both days of the weekend, visit Kiku in the Japanese Autumn Garden, see taiko drumming performances, and more.
Get Your Tickets
Both Battle Cold, Damp Weather in New York to Perform at Peak
The grounds crew in Yankee Stadium has not been the only team compensating for Mother Nature’s freakishness this month.
Across the Bronx at The New York Botanical Garden, the horticulture team is also doing some fancy footwork due to the weather—manipulating the Japanese-style chrysanthemum “sculptures” in the spectacular exhibition Kiku in the Japanese Autumn Garden.
For this year’s eagerly awaited flower show, cold temperatures and overcast skies have NYBG staff gardeners giving the mums needed extra light and warmth by bringing them back into the greenhouse.
Specific amounts of light and heat are needed to bring the chrysanthemums into flower. Those needs in this, the final year that the Garden is presenting its most elaborate show, are in direct contrast to what was needed in the first two years of the exhibition. Then, warm, late-summer temperatures persisted through October causing staff gardeners to scramble in order to shade and cool the plants to be presentable for the show.
Always anticipating change and preserving flexibility, the gardeners have grown a backup set of Kiku mums, keeping them outside in the chill all the time. This backup mum set can be moved into the show to replace the first set in case warm weather and bright sun send their flowers past peak before the show ends.
Visitors can appreciate this marvelous manipulation of Mother Nature and see the fruits of the horticulture team’s labor now through November 15. Kiku in the Japanese Autumn Garden showcases the spectacular autumn landscapes of Japanese gardens, with scarlet maples and golden bamboos against the backdrop of emerald conifers and, when the sun cooperates, clear blue skies. More chrysanthemums than ever are on display in traditional and contemporary display styles, with bonsai providing another fabulous element to the exhibition. On weekends, participate in guided tours, autumn gardening demonstrations, and taiko drumming performances.
Susan Fraser is Director of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library.
Paradigm shifts have altered the way knowledge is communicated—from the written word to the printed word and now to the digital word. The proliferation of electronic resources and rapid changes in technology require increased flexibility in how libraries acquire and disseminate knowledge. One remarkable example is the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), a consortium of natural history libraries that are digitizing and making freely available the world’s literature on biodiversity. Collectively, the 12-member consortium holds most of the recorded knowledge of the natural world, over 2 million volumes.
The Botanical Garden is a founding member of the BHL, which began in 2006 and is expanding to include a BHL Europe and partners in China and Australia. It has rapidly become an international sensation.
The project saves immense hours of research time for both information seekers and library staff. The Mertz Library research staff can now refer to the BHL portal to fill interlibrary loan requests or research inquires. Previously, staff would photocopy pages of books or journal articles upon request. Now, if a scientist in South Africa needs to reference The Grasses and Grasslands of South Africa (1918) for instance, she can do so on her own and from her own computer.
By cooperating in this multi-institutional effort, BHL members can perform bulk digitization with limited risk of duplication, lack of standardization, or loss of intellectual integrity while providing a huge amount of biodiversity material online. To date, the Mertz Library has scanned over 6,000 volumes amounting to over 3 million pages. The BHL portal currently contains almost 15,000 titles and 16 million pages, and it continues to grow.
Special Display by Yama Ki Society on through November 1
Michael Pollock is Vice-President of Yama Ki Bonsai Society, whose members will display their bonsai in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory during Kiku in the Japanese Autumn Garden.
Bonsai’s beginning is shrouded in the mists of time. With origins in either China or India, bonsai (or penjing in Chinese) found fertile ground when visiting Buddhist monks brought potted trees to Japan. When Japan opened up to the West, interest in bonsai, which means “tray planting,” reignited throughout Asia and began to spread to other parts of the world. As the art form continues to reach new areas, new plants are used to create local bonsai. Whatever the climate, there are plants that can make beautiful bonsai.
I first studied bonsai in 1982 with Yuji Yoshimura at The New York Botanical Garden. I was immediately captivated by a mixture of feelings these trees elicited from me: tranquility, calmness, excitement. Unfortunately, a busy career prevented me from seriously practicing bonsai then and I gave up. Twelve years ago, I realized that if I could successfully raise children, I could probably grow bonsai, too. It has been a wonderful journey of discovery and creation ever since. Now I grow between 40 and 50 bonsai. In 2004 I won a prestigious “new talent” competition and was awarded a trip to Japan, where I visited many of the most famous bonsai nurseries, growing fields, and public and private collections.
There are many ways to create a bonsai: starting with seeds or cuttings, buying a plant from a nursery (Shanti Bithi Bonsai Nursery in Stamford, Conn, has been an important resource) or collecting a tree from the wild. Of course, for beginners it takes longer to establish an impressive bonsai, but someone with experience can create a “showable” tree within three to five years. Older bonsai plants bring their own stories with them as they are trained, whether it be the twisted and scarred trunks with old, flaky bark or the bonsai practitioners who have cared for the tree over generations, as is witnessed in Japan and China.
Sonia Uyterhoeven is Gardener for Public Education. Join her each weekend for home gardening demonstrations on a variety of topics in the Home Gardening Center.
Over the past year the horticulture department staff has had some wonderful master classes on planting bulbs through the visits of Seasonal Walk co-designer Jacqueline van der Kloet and a slew of other Dutch visitors. They arrived with their heart-shaped trowels (plantschopje) that were indicative not only of their practicality in planting but their love for anything bulbous.
The heart-shaped trowel has a very sharp point that is ideal for stabbing the soil and pulling it back to drop in a bulb. Bulb growers these days have diversified from the traditional trowel taking advantage of an array of shapes and sizes. Some are slim and narrow for those bulbs that need to go deep into the bowels of the earth, while others are wide with sharp tapered points that act like mini-spades. See Brent and Becky’s Bulbs and our Shop in the Garden for some good selections.
Regardless of what is in your hand, it is important to remember when planting a bulb to hold the trowel as you would a dagger, with the front facing your body. Stab the soil, pull the trowel toward you, and simply drop the bulb in. It’s actually not so simple when the bulbs number in the hundreds or thousands. But this method will help you get a good rhythm going to carry you through.
I generally stand when planting, hinge at my hips, slightly bend my knees, and get to work. If you prefer crouching or kneeling, be aware of the ground you are working on. At the Garden, we stand on planting boards while we work so as not to compact the soil; the boards even out the pressure. The ideal, of course, is to keep your feet out of the border by leaning over from the perimeter, but this is not always possible.