Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Archive: June 2011

An Early-Summer Stroll Down Daylily Walk

Posted in What's Beautiful Now on June 30 2011, by Ann Rafalko

Today I sauntered down Daylily Walk at lunchtime. Daylily Walk runs from Perennial Way (the road that goes in front of the Conservatory), past the Garden Cafe, down a little hill, and then takes a jag to the left running parallel to Garden Way (the road in front of the Library Building where the Greenmarket is held) (map). Daylily Walk is currently a riot of color and a study in fabulous plant names. Come check out the amazing diversity of daylilies!

See more amazing dayliles after the jump.

A Rainy Day Walk Around Kew

Posted in Photography on June 30 2011, by Ann Rafalko

Ann Rafalko is Director of Online Content.

Hello everybody, Ann here. I’m back from my summer vacation, jet-lagged but so happy to be home for this beautiful New York City weather! My intention of blogging from the road was pure, but I was thwarted by technology. Who would have ever expected it would be so hard to find reliable wifi (or “weefee” as they say in France) in London and Paris? Regardless, I had a great, garden-inspired trip. Here are some pictures I snapped on a rainy day visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

IGPOTY Exhibition at Kew
IGPOTY Exhibition at Kew

If you win one of the categories or special commendations in the IGPOTY contest, your photos will be on display at this beautiful outdoor exhibition at Kew Gardens. The photos are printed onto a special kind of vinyl and hang outside year-round. The exhibition is right near the main gate, and is therefore one of the first stops for Kew’s many visitors. The quality of the winning IGPOTY photographs is extraordinary, so hone your chops by joining in on one of our monthly photo contests. I can’t wait to see at least one photo from NYBG hanging here next year!

The Temperate House at Kew Gardens
The Temperate House at Kew Gardens

There are three main glasshouses at Kew, and many smaller, secondary houses as well. They are very old and very lovely.

Staircase to the Temperate House Walkway
Staircase to the Temperate House Walkway

Both the Temperate House and the Palm House have catwalks around the upper levels that you access by climbing these mysterious-looking, vine-laden staircases.

The View from the Temperate House Catwalk
The View from the Temperate House Catwalk

These catwalks give you an unusual perspective on trees that is nearly impossible to gain in nature.

Don't Forget to Bring a Brolly
Don't Forget to Bring a Brolly

As might be expected, rain is a common occurrence, so don’t forget to bring an umbrella. Of course, if you forget yours, though (like I did), the shop sells very nice ones.

Sheltering from the Rain
Sheltering from the Rain

Should you choose not to use an umbrella, however, there are plenty of trees to shelter under while waiting for the showers to pass. This one is near the Sackler Crossing, a really cool walkway/bridge over Kew’s big lake.

King Willam's Temple
King Willam

One of my favorite things at Kew was this garden known at King William’s Temple. It is planted with flowers, trees, shrubs, and herbs from the Mediterranean, and smells divine, especially in the rain. It is full of lavendar, rosemary, olive trees, cypresses, and so many other plants. It reminded me quite a lot of our current exhibition, Spanish Paradise: Gardens of the Alhambra.

A Typical English Garden
A Typical English Garden

Just before I met up with two of my colleagues at Kew, I dashed through the Plant Families Beds and the Student Vegetable Plots just as the sun peeked out. This garden at the entrance to this area, at least to my mind, exemplifies everything that is beautiful about the English garden. It is a profusion of colors, heights, and textures, and is a joy to behold.


We’ve got beavers, Kew’s got badgers! I think I know which one I would prefer to run into on a dusky forest trail ….

The Palm House
The Palm House

And finally, I couldn’t possibly leave you without a shot of the structure that probably helped inspire the Garden’s founder, Nathaniel Lord Britton, to push the great men of New York City to found The New York Botanical Garden. The Palm House is an absolutely breathtaking work of engineering, and a great thing of beauty.

If you love The New York Botanical Garden, and you find yourself with a few days in London, you should absolutely go visit Kew Gardens. There are, inevitably, a lot of similarities between Kew and NYBG, but England’s climate, and Kew’s history, make the 30 minute trip out to Kew entirely worthwhile. I hope you have enjoyed my very brief tour of Kew, and that you’ll stay tuned next week for my adventures at Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny.

Special thanks to Mary from IGPOTY for showing me around Kew, and to Claire and Nicola at Kew for the cup of tea.

Rose Garden Pinhole Triptych

Posted in Around the Garden, Members, Photography on June 29 2011, by Ann Rafalko

Another beautiful pinhole photograph of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden from NYBG Member and horticulturist Joel Kroin.

NYBG rose overlook tryptic pinhole camera 6-07-2011Click to enlarge image (Photos by Joel Kroin)

We’re so lucky to have such creative and enthusiastic visitors! Do you create art at the Garden? We would love to see it! If you would like your Garden-themed art featured on Plant Talk, email an example of your work and a little bit about yourself to

NYBG for the Wildlife Photographer: Part Three

Posted in Around the Garden on June 27 2011, by Patricia Gonzalez

Patricia Gonzalez is an NYBG Member and avid amateur wildlife photographer. She is especially fond of taking photographs at the Garden.

In previous posts, I encouraged my fellow wildlife photographers to visit The New York Botanical Garden, shared one of my red-tailed hawk encounters, and gave tips on how to make the most out of your visit.

Today’s topic is the one thing that I think every New York City wildlife photographer should consider investing in. With this, not only will you have access to the grounds and great attractions the Garden offers year round, but you’ll also be able to enter the Garden before the public does. What is it? It’s an Annual Supporting Membership.

Red-Tailed Hawk

As a Supporting Member, not only will you get a neat membership card for yourself and one other person (which in turn, gets you into the Conservatory, Rock Garden, Everett Children‘s Adventure Garden, and more) both of you will get what I like to call “the golden ticket:” An early-morning grounds pass which grants you access to the Garden’s stunningly beautiful 250-acres before they open to the public at 10:00 a.m. With this pass, you can arrive as early as 6:00 a.m. and shoot till your heart’s content.

Birdwatchers will tell you that some of the best activity takes place in the morning. Think about it … With this one pass you gain the opportunity to shoot red-tailed hawks, owls, muskrats, rabbits, turtles, frogs, and way too many other species of birds to list, 52-weeks a year.

Spice Bush Trail

An annual supporting membership is $250. Yes, that might seem a bit steep, especially in today’s economy, but you can cut the cost in half if you join with another person. I convinced my best friend who is also an amateur photographer to join with me, which brings the cost down to $125 each. Although the membership is in my name, we both got individual membership cards and early morning grounds passes.

I look at it this way; the money is going to keep a place that I love operating. Just the opportunity to photograph hawks, owls, and other wildlife with only a few folks around 52-weeks a year is enough to get me to re-up every year. My last four close-up encounters happened before 7:30 a.m.!

You just show your pass to the security guard at either entrance and you’re in. During one of my more recent adventures, I came across two young great-horned owls and one of their parents in the native forest around 6:45 a.m. I was able to get some great shots and video.

Immature Great-Horned Owl

If you just want to go solo and don’t care about the pass, then join as an individual at $75. You can check out all the different levels of membership here.

If you still need convincing, then go to my photo site and see for yourself. Look into the eyes of the owls, hawks and other wildlife and imagine yourself in the Native Forest, camera in hand, the smell of damp earth in the air and the sounds of the natural world around you. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Morning Eye Candy: Misty Morning.

Posted in Photography on June 26 2011, by Plant Talk

Many early birds are waking up to find this lovely curtain of mist cause by the rain this week. The mist forms at night, when the air is cold, before evaporating with the morning sun.

Almost gives us a reason to wake up early on a Sunday morning… Almost.

(photo by Ivo M. Vermeulen)

Empowering Girls Through Flowers

Posted in Science on June 23 2011, by Elizabeth McCarthy

Elizabeth McCarthy is a post-doctoral researcher in the Genomics Program at NYBG.

Recently, I had the opportunity to help introduce a group of bright junior high school girls to the science behind the beauty of flowers.

Back in March, I volunteered at the Explore Your Opportunities–The Sky’s the Limit! conference put on by the New York City, Westchester, and Manhattan branches of the American Association of University Women. This conference is open to 7th grade girls from New York City and Westchester schools and is designed to encourage girls to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers through fun, hands-on activities and by providing them with women role models from these fields. This conference has been run annually in the New York City area since 2004, first at Barnard College and now at the College of Mount St. Vincent, and is based on the Expanding Your Horizons in Science and Mathematics™ (EYH™) conferences, which first started in 1976 and now take place worldwide. During the conference, the girls hear a keynote address and then break up into smaller groups to do two hands-on workshops.

Elizabeth teaching

I led a workshop called ‘Flower Hour,’ which explored the science of a flower’s shape. I brought in five different types of flowers for the girls to examine. First, I asked the girls to look carefully at a yellow tulip, to describe what they were seeing in as much detail as possible. I gave them five minutes to write their observations down, and then they took turns sharing them with the group. I was impressed with the responses: One girl knew that the plant from which the flower came was an autotroph, an organism which makes its own food from inorganic compounds, and another observed that the flower had the same number of petals as it did stamens. After each girl shared her observations with the group, I drew a flower on the board and taught them the botanical names for floral parts.

In preparation for our next activity, I put five shapes on the board: an oval, a triangle, a star, a circle, and a square.


I asked the girls how they would group these shapes. Everyone agreed that the circle and oval belonged in one group and the triangle, square, and star belonged in another because circles and ovals have rounded edges and triangles, squares, and stars are pointy. Then I asked them, of the triangle, square, and star, which two were more closely related? There were some differing opinions, but they were all backed up by good reasoning. Some girls thought the triangle and square should go together because a square is made up of two triangles, whereas others thought that the triangle and star were more closely related because a star’s points look like triangles. From these series of groupings, we could create a family tree of these shapes, which shows how the shapes are related to each other.

shape tree

Next, I gave each pair of girls five different flowers: a yellow lily, a pink lily, a yellow tulip, a red and yellow tulip, and a yellow freesia. I asked them to observe the similarities and differences among the flowers that would allow them to group them in a way that reflects how the flowers are related to each other, like we did with the shapes. I chose these particular flowers for several reasons. The duplicate lily and tulip flowers differed only in color, so were easily grouped as similar based on form and shape. I chose three different types of yellow flower to illustrate that some characteristics are more useful in determining relationships than others. In this case, three flowers share the same color, but have different shapes; therefore, grouping according to shape instead of color gives a more accurate estimation of the relationships among the flowers.

Girls in Science

The girls noticed that the lilies and tulips all had six colorful tepals, the term given to the showy, petal-like structures of flowers whose sepals and petals look similar. The freesia, on the other hand, had green sepals and six petals, but the petals were fused to form a tube, which distinguished this flower from the others. The girls also observed that the carpels, the female flower parts, of the lilies and tulips looked similar, whereas that of the freesia was much more delicate and had a different shape. In light of these observations, the girls grouped the tulips and lilies together, while the freesia stood alone as distinct from the rest. Through this exercise, the girls not only learned to closely examine flowers and their specific parts, but also about studying evolution and how shared characteristics can be used to determine the relationships between species. The family tree the girls created was correct. Lilies and tulips are both members of the Liliaceae, the lily family, whereas freesias belong to the Iridaceae, the iris family.

Overall, it was an excellent day. I got to interact with very bright, engaged young women who were inquisitive and eager to learn. They will now look at flowers in a new way, appreciating not only their beauty, but also how scientific observation can be used to estimate the evolutionary relationships between species. I hope that my enthusiasm and love of science and plants promoted their interest in the sciences and encouraged them to view a scientific career–maybe even botany!–as a plausible option for their future. I am already looking forward to next year’s conference!