Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Archive: July 2016

The Science of Stink

Posted in Horticulture on July 29 2016, by Stevenson Swanson

Stevenson Swanson is the Science Media Manager at The New York Botanical Garden.

Corpse FlowerAh, New York in the summer. So many fetid fragrances fill the air. The garbage on the sidewalk, the hot blast of exhaust from a passing bus, the dank odor of the subway—these and even less savory sources best left to the imagination all add their odors to the city’s atmosphere on a hot, humid day.

That makes it all the more remarkable that thousands of New Yorkers have flocked to The New York Botanical Garden to see the corpse flower that is now blooming in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Apart from its size and striking appearance, the plant is notable for its stench, often compared to the smell of rotting flesh, which is the clever ploy it has evolved to attract pollinators.

Perhaps the fact that the plant blooms so infrequently and unpredictably draws most people, but many seem fascinated by the phenomenon that something in nature would smell this bad on purpose.

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The Corpse Flower: A Decade in the Making

Posted in Horticulture on July 29 2016, by Marc Hachadourian

Marc Hachadourian is the Director of The New York Botanical Garden’s Nolen Greenhouses for Living Collections.

Corpse FlowerAs a kid growing up in Northern New Jersey I was fascinated with biology and the diversity of nature. The idea of plants that catch and devour insects, trees thousands of years old reaching up like sky scrapers, and plants developing an army of vicious spines as defense was irresistible. I read as much as I could find about strange and unusual plants. I distinctly remember seeing an illustration and a description about a plant with a flower as large as a human, one that took ages to reach blooming size, smelled like rotting flesh, and looked like it came from outer space—it all seemed too wild to be true.

The blooming of Amorphophallus titanum has been one of the “holy grails” of botanical garden horticulture since the first plants were coaxed into bloom by gardeners nearly a century ago. First recorded by science in 1878, I can only imagine what botanists thought upon seeing the inflorescence for the first time. Anyone who has seen reports or images of the plant in flower would agree these plants look more like photographic trickery than reality. Often described as a “once in a lifetime event,” it is no wonder that when a plant of the Corpse Flower blooms it creates a sensation, with people flocking to see it with their own eyes.

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Perfect Weather Makes for a Perfect Hortie Hoopla!

Posted in Adult Education on July 28 2016, by Education at NYBG

Interns and green professionals join Michael Hagen in the Native Plant Garden.
Interns and green professionals join Michael Hagen in the Native Plant Garden.

This year’s 4th Annual Tri-State Green Industry Intern Field Day, held on July 20, 2016, attracted over 135 people, of which 110 of them were interns.  Many arrived early to explore and visit the Impressionism exhibition in both the Haupt Conservatory and Library Gallery, and were fortunate to see the corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum) bud which had just been put on display in the Palm Dome’s pool.

The program began in the Ross Lecture Hall with Todd Forrest, the Arthur Ross VP for Horticulture & Living Collections, welcoming the guests and introducing Charles Yurgalevitch, Ph.D., Director of the School of Professional Horticulture, who opened the program and explained the afternoon’s events. He then introduced the four speakers in the program. The first to speak was Ken Druse, author and photographer. He called on a few interns to ask them what they were doing and what they hoped to do as they launch their horticulture careers, leading an interactive discussion with the room.

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Art in the Garden: NYBG’s First Plein-Air Invitational

Posted in Programs and Events on July 26 2016, by Miriam Flores

James Gurney, "Garden Walk"
James Gurney, Garden Walk

On June 19, we welcomed Artist in Residence James Gurney and 24 of the region’s top plein-air painters for NYBG’s first ever Plein-Air Invitational.

Organizing a Plein-Air festival was a new experience for all of us. We worked with different internal teams as well as James Gurney, who provided valuable suggestions. With his help, we selected the best locations for paintings and included models dressed in Victorian period attire. We also took pictures of the different gardens for the artists to visualize our surroundings before they arrived. We sent these images along with the event guidelines and each of the artists responded with their three ideal locations. We collected all their responses and finalized all of the logistics.

On Sunday morning, our staff was ready to welcome these expert artists. We brought lunch, welcome kits, nametags, and all of our energy to greet them. For many of the artists it was their first time visiting our grounds, and everyone was excited to share their talent and see the Garden as their muse.

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Gardening on a Shoestring: 100 Fun Upcycled Garden Projects

Posted in From the Library on July 25 2016, by Esther Jackson

Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office. She spends much of her time assisting researchers, providing instruction related to library resources, and collaborating with NYBG staff on various projects related to Garden initiatives and events.

shoestringGardening on a Shoestring: 100 Fun Upcycled Garden Projects speaks to the home crafter in us all. The newest book from Alex Mitchell (author of several titles including The Edible Balcony: Growing Fresh Produce in Small Spaces), Shoestring offers simple gardening tips, plant recommendations, and money-saving shortcuts to achieve popular garden plantings.

My initial expectation was for Shoestring to be laid out somewhat like Pinterest, but in book form. I expected each project to be numbered, and each task to be a simple, one-off guide for a particular gardening craft. Actually, Shoestring is laid out more like a conventional gardening book, with sections dedicated to topics such as initial garden set-up, container gardening, food gardening, and pest control. Although this wasn’t what I was expecting, the format works incredibly well. Not only does Mitchell offer garden projects within a variety of topics, the layout of the book acts as a clear narrative for the beginner gardener. A section of Shoestring even addresses how to achieve particular garden designs—such as a prairie garden or a topiary “garden”—on a budget.

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Creating Handcrafted Planters: An Interview with Elizabeth Benotti

Posted in Shop/Book Reviews on July 19 2016, by Susie Eldred

Elizabeth Benotti cermic planters

Elizabeth Benotti creates wonderful ceramic goods at her studio in Concord, NH. Her unique planters are some of our favorite products. Carefully crafted from porcelain and then hand painted and glazed, her work is stunning and unique. Hoping to bring back an appreciation for handmade goods and emphasize the importance of creating a strong feeling of home is what motivates Elizabeth. We had the pleasure of speaking with her and finding out more about her creative process and how she got started.

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A Botanist’s Vocabulary

Posted in From the Library on July 18 2016, by Esther Jackson

Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office. She spends much of her time assisting researchers, providing instruction related to library resources, and collaborating with NYBG staff on various projects related to Garden initiatives and events.

A Botanist's VocabularyThe library staff at The New York Botanical Garden has been eagerly awaiting A Botanist’s Vocabulary arrival on the market and in our collection. Finally, this beautiful new book from Susan K. Pell and Bobbi Angell has arrived!

The first, visceral impressions were positive. The size and heft of the book is pleasant, and not overwhelming. Those who have studied botany, or interacted much with botanists, will know that talking about plants in technical terms can sometimes feel like speaking another language altogether. How can one begin to pack all of that vocabulary into a single book, or even, really, a single brain? A Botanist’s Vocabulary is a beautiful and balanced start.

The red cover catches the reader’s eye right away, especially considering how frequently books about plants are accented in green. A quick leaf through the pages immediately draws the reader in—Angell’s illustrations are lovely in their botanical detail, and also in their simplicity. Angell, writing about this project in the June 2016 issue of The Botanical Artist, says of the book, “My focus was to make clear, crisp drawings for easy understanding by gardeners and botanical artists,” a focus that carries through beautifully in the work.

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Helen Dillon’s Dublin Garden

Posted in People, Shop/Book Reviews on July 14 2016, by Joyce Newman

Joyce H. Newman is an environmental journalist and teacher. She holds a Certificate in Horticulture from The New York Botanical Garden.

Dillon GardenHelen Dillon, Distinguished Counselor to the NYBG Board of Trustees, has created an exquisite garden in the suburbs of Dublin, and she is considered one of Ireland’s greatest gardeners, as well as a world-famous teacher and garden writer.

In her book, Down to Earth with Helen Dillon (Timber Press, $29.95), available at NYBG Shop, Dillon describes the evolution of her garden, first started in 1972 with her husband Val. Surrounded by stone walls on less than an acre, the property, including a house built in the 1830s, already had roses, apple trees, a wobbly greenhouse, hen houses, a large bed of bearded iris, a vegetable patch, and a rockery pile of stones in the middle of the lawn. But all of this was to change.

The main garden is at the back of the house facing south where Dillon has organized plants by their preferred habitat. The biggest change was replacing the lawn in the main garden with a lovely canal set in Irish limestone. Several small gardens are tucked behind the main garden with gravel pathways and a charming sitting area that features lovely bird cages. There’s also a Victorian style greenhouse built in 1976.

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