Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Archive: March 2010

Two Orchid Books for Your Library

Posted in Shop/Book Reviews on March 31 2010, by Plant Talk

John Suskewich is Book Manager for Shop in the Garden.

At Shop in the Garden we celebrate the 2010 edition of The Orchid Show with two
marvelous books that show the fascination these charismatic plants have had on artists, horticulturists, and botanists over the years.

Surely one of the most useful orchid books to come down the pike in a long while is Bloom-Again Orchids by judywhite (sic. for that is indeed the way to spell her name, all lowercase, like a specific epithet).

Here is a book designed to correct an all-too-common condition: orchids that sit on windowsills and sulk without either growing or dying. By emphasizing plants that normal human beings can cajole into bloom and are likely to encounter in the marketplace, i.e., big-box stores, supermarket shelves, mall kiosks, florist windows, and of course, botanical garden gift shops, Bloom-Again Orchids is accessible and unique. It demystifies home orchid-growing in a very concise way, with an A-to-Z of 50 beautiful varieties, each one annotated with an easy-to-understand, 12-point checklist.

The second book is one that is good to have available again: Volume 17 of The Works of Charles Darwin: The Various Contrivances by Which Orchids are Fertilized by Insects. In this work the controversial naturalist continues his investigation of adaptations in the natural world. His astonishing powers of detailed observation combined with his sense of something larger at work are conveyed with an ease and naturalness that is pure poetry.

Both books, of course, are available at Shop in the Garden.


Tip of the Week: Fragrant Orchids

Posted in Gardening Tips on March 29 2010, by Sonia Uyterhoeven

Sonia Uyterhoeven is Gardener for Public Education. For hands-on demonstrations and orchid tips, join her in the Conservatory’s GreenSchool every Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. throughout The Orchid Show.

Sharry Baby OrchidWhile we revel in the wonderful fragrance of many orchids, it is important to remember that fragrance plays an essential role in their survival strategy. Just as we may wear perfume to seduce a mate, orchids spice up their lives to attract pollinators—bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, hummingbirds, moths, gnats, and beetles.

Flowers that are pollinated by insects are often brightly colored and fragrant. They are advertising the fact that they offer nectar or other substances for different creatures to feed on. Pollinators pick up the sticky pollen as they feed and transfer it to other flowers.

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Plan Your Weekend: Children Can Tickle Their Taste Buds

Posted in Exhibitions, Programs and Events, The Orchid Show on March 26 2010, by Plant Talk

Delight Your Senses with Chocolate & Vanilla

Noelle V. Dor is Museum Education Intern in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden.

As the days grow longer and the first signs of spring emerge throughout the landscape, the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden is heating up with Chocolate and Vanilla Adventures. While this flavorful exploration focuses on the botanical origins of these two popular food ingredients, it also offers a taste of cultural history.

From ice cream and milkshakes to candy and cakes, we learn early on to identify chocolate and vanilla as standards of deliciousness. But there’s much more beneath that sweet surface. Before the rise of dark chocolate as a healthier alternative to common milk chocolate, few people knew that pure cacao (chocolate) is actually bitter. As well, the taste of real vanilla is just as obscure, due to its high cost and limited usage in mainstream food products.

Considering how chocolate and vanilla have been modified, added to, and substituted, it’s no wonder many of us have no clue about their plant origins! As both an educator and a learner at the Children’s Adventure Garden, I’m thrilled this program can bring everyone back to the “root” of the matter, so to speak.

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Garden Loses 50 Trees in Storm; Cleanup Continues

Posted in Gardens and Collections on March 24 2010, by Plant Talk

Some 100-Year-Old Specimens Destroyed; 150 Others Damaged

Todd Forrest is Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections.

While gardeners are accustomed to coping with the slings and arrows of outrageous weather, this winter has tested the patience of even the most experienced horticulturists among the Garden’s staff. Two wet, heavy snowstorms in February caused significant damage to the Garden’s historic trees, but nothing prepared us for the damage of the nor’easter that hit New York the weekend of March 13 and 14.

The deep snow that fell only two weeks before had not even completely melted when the torrential rains started late in the week of March 8. The combination of snowmelt and rain completely saturated the ground, creating the perfect conditions for what foresters call “wind throw”—trees, roots and all, torn out of the ground by fierce winds. With winds holding steady at between 30 and 40 mph and gusting to over 70 mph, many of the Garden’s historic trees had no chance.

By Sunday, March 14, 50 of our trees, including many historic conifers planted in the early 1900s and oaks older than the Garden itself, were lying across the ground. More than 150 other trees lost limbs or were otherwise damaged. Nearly every small tree planted in fall 2009 was uprooted. While our arborists will be assessing the full extent of the devastation for weeks to come, we are already mourning the loss of some of our favorite trees, including a Ponderosa pine planted in the Ross Conifer Arboretum in 1904 and a blue Atlas cedar planted in the Benenson Ornamental Conifers in 1966.

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Edible Estates: Full Frontal Gardening

Posted in Learning Experiences on March 23 2010, by Plant Talk

Lecture Series Presents Fritz Haeg on Replacing Suburban Lawns

Replace your front lawn with a diverse edible landscape: Fritz Haeg, author of Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn, will show you how March 25, from 10 a.m. to noon, in the last installment of the Adult Education gardening lecture series From the Ground Up: Gardens Re-Imagined.

Edible Estates is Fritz’s ongoing project that converts lawns into productive landscapes. He will discuss the related social and environmental issues the project addresses, and look at the historical progression of urban land use, gardening as a form of activism and survival, and the growing interest in urban agriculture.

Get new ideas on how to shape your front lawn into a garden of eating.

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Tip of the Week: Repotting Orchids—Transferring to a New Pot

Posted in Exhibitions, Gardening Tips, The Orchid Show on March 22 2010, by Sonia Uyterhoeven

Sonia Uyterhoeven is Gardener for Public Education. For hands-on demonstrations and orchid tips, join her in the Conservatory’s GreenSchool every Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. throughout The Orchid Show.

Part 3 in a 3-part series

Read Part 1 and Part 2

In the past two weeks I’ve blogged about making a potting mix for orchids, removing the orchids from their pots, and cleaning up the roots. Now let’s actually repot some Cattleyas.

You might have thought you were in charge of the process, but in reality, the plant ultimately dictates how it is repotted. For example, as Fintan O’Sullivan and I were tackling our orchids to repot, we saw that the foliage on one of the plants was badly puckered, a sign of either overwatering or underwatering. When we removed it from its pot, we discovered that most of its roots had rotted (overwatering).

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Plan Your Weekend: Welcome Spring!

Posted in The Orchid Show on March 19 2010, by Plant Talk

Let’s See Your Pictures of The Orchid Show and the Outdoors

Saturday marks the first day of spring! Bulbs are popping up all over. Birds are singing their songs in anticipation of mating season. The Orchid Show: Cuba in Flower is in glorious display.

We invite you to visit the Garden with your camera during this marvelous season and during this stunning orchid exhibition. Share your beautiful images on our Flickr site, where dozens of visitors have already done so.

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What Makes an Orchid Different from Other Flowers?

Posted in Exhibitions, The Orchid Show on March 17 2010, by Plant Talk

Jessica Blohm is Interpretive Specialist for Public Education.

Orchids are one of the largest genera of flowering plants, with about 30,000 species worldwide. Orchids vary widely in their appearance. Many have stunningly beautiful flowers with stripes and spots, while others are almost ugly with hairs and even warty bumps. What do all these striking flowers have in common?

In describing a plant genus so vast and so diverse, it is almost safe to say that there are no rules. However, botanists generally agree that one feature above all others defines the orchid and differentiates it from virtually all other flowering plants: the fusion of the male portion of the flower (stamen) and female portion (pistil) into one structure called the column—often visible protruding from the center.

Look for these orchid parts on the more than 7,000 orchids in The Orchid Show: Cuba in Flower. (Click on the image to view it larger.)

Sepal—one of the three outer parts of an orchid flower that protects the petals
Pollinia—a solid mass of pollen found in the anther
Column—the fused sexual organ of an orchid flower
Petal—the three petals on an orchid are the true flower; one is modified into a lip
Lip (or Labellum)—a specialized petal, unique to orchids
Ovary—the part of the flower that develops into the fruit
Ovule—a small protuberance in the ovary, capable of forming a seed when fertilized
Stigma—the sticky area of the pistil that receives the pollen

Get Your Tickets

A Very Special Afternoon with Anna Pavord

Posted in Learning Experiences on March 16 2010, by Plant Talk

Join exceptional English gardener and best-selling author Anna Pavord (The Tulip and The Naming of Names: The Search for Order in the World of Plants) at the Garden on Thursday, March 18, for a delightful presentation of her new book, Bulb. Intended as a reference for gardeners, the book guides readers through nearly 600 bulbs—from Acis to Zigadenus—showcasing each plant through stunning photographs.

Pavord’s presentation, A Luxuriance of Bulbs, will be followed by a reception and booksigning, and then by a viewing of The Orchid Show: Cuba in Flower. This is her only scheduled New York City appearance on her international book tour.

For details and to purchase your tickets, click here.