Plant Talk

Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Storm Clean-Up 101: Salt-Tolerant Plants

Posted in Gardening Tips on March 18 2013, by Jody Payne

Hibiscus syriacus 'Aphrodite'On the heels of Sonia Uyterhoeven’s informative series on post-hurricane garden recovery, Jody Payne, the Director of both our Rock Garden and the soon-to-reopen Native Plant Garden, offers a listing of hardy and salt-tolerant plants worth including in your garden or landscape. With proper planning and a solid understanding of the conditions facing these new inclusions, this supplement should put you on the path to a sturdier coastal planting–not to mention less storm season stress.

“Salt tolerance is a relative term,” Payne adds. “Some of the recommended species here would be better sited away from prevailing winds, perhaps sheltered by a building or hill. This list is meant to open ideas for which plants are salt tolerant, but choices should be further researched based on the actual conditions of your site.”

This is quite a long list, but it’s intended to show you just how wide-open your options are when it comes to planting a coastal or near-sea plot. Head below for the many tree, shrub, annual, and perennial species available, and stay tuned in the coming weeks for a follow-up from Travis Beck, the NYBG’s Landscape and Garden Projects Manager.

Have questions we haven’t answered yet? Leave them in the comments! With access to some of the finest horticultural minds in the country, if not the world, we’re more than happy to help you with your post-Sandy gardening conundrums.

Read More

Storm Clean-Up 101: Task Lists for Homeowners Continued

Posted in Gardening Tips on March 5 2013, by Sonia Uyterhoeven

Sonia Uyterhoeven is the NYBG‘s Gardener for Public Education.

Over the past few weeks, we have discussed how to manage storm clean-up after large coastal storms such as Hurricane Sandy, tackling soil testing and how to approach clean-up in creative ways. This week, I’m giving you a practical to-do list to help you get started at home, whether you’re preparing for the next big storm or recovering from the last.

The Home Gardening Center

What are some of the things that you can do to get your garden back on track?

Compare skips, hire one and clean up obvious debris for them skip hire to haul away for you.

— Watch water levels as they drain to understand the topography of your garden.

— If your property is flooded with salt water, the easiest way to get rid of excess salt is to leach it away–soak your yard with 2-4 inches of water.

— Salt does less damage when the soil is already damp, so remember to water your garden when coastal storms are predicted (unless that has been recent rainfall). One inch is sufficient.

Read More

Storm Clean-Up 101: Task Lists for Homeowners

Posted in Gardening Tips on February 26 2013, by Sonia Uyterhoeven

Sonia Uyterhoeven is the NYBG’s Gardener for Public Education.

Swiss chard, a relatively salt-tolerant vegetable
Swiss chard, a relatively salt-tolerant vegetable

In January of last year, I wrote a series of blog entries on “Snow-tober: No Tree Left Behind,” followed by a blog series on “Winter Injury.” These blogs chronicled the devastating October snow storm and the erratic weather that we experienced during the later months of 2011. My discussion at the time focused on the extensive damage that The New York Botanical Garden endured, giving homeowners tips on how to assess structural damage on trees and combat winter burn on evergreens.

Since then, Super Storm Sandy has drawn our attention away from the Garden and focused it on coastal areas. Over the past few weeks I have been talking to a number of professionals working in the tri-state area, detailing their personal experiences with the mega storm. This has included experts on soils and trees, garden writers, nurserymen that sell halophytic plants (salt-tolerant plants), and restoration landscape designers.

The energy from this group–individuals who were out on the front line of restoration and remediation–and the enormity of the damage from this storm are mind-boggling. My hope is that these painful lessons will help teach us how to work with and respect nature–particularly when it comes to safeguarding our coastline.

Read More

Storm Clean-Up 101: Coastal Flooding and Soil

Posted in Around the Garden, Gardening Tips on February 19 2013, by Sonia Uyterhoeven

Sonia Uyterhoeven is the NYBG‘s Gardener for Public Education.

GardeningSalt damage after coastal storms is not uncommon. Coastal gardeners will notice an appreciable amount of burn on their lawns and their ornamental beds after a storm, damage which will generally be more prominent on the windward side of the garden. Foliage will look desiccated and brown and you will discover that leaf buds have either been killed or are slow to leaf out in the spring.

If salt damage has affected large areas of your garden and plants are wilting, growth is stunted, or buds are slow to break in the spring, then it is worth getting a salinity test for your soil. It is possible that the roots were damaged from increased levels of salt water, or the soil has excess adsorbed sodium which is preventing the plant from taking up nutrients and water.

Last week we discussed how to take a soil sample in your garden, while this week we will focus on gardeners who were affected by Super Storm Sandy. For coastal gardeners who experienced flooding, requesting an extra test for soil salinity measurements will be important–it measures the amount of soluble salts in the soil. There will most likely be an additional charge for this test, but it is usually fairly reasonable, with most laboratories generally performing an Electrical Conductivity (EC) test to determine the amount of soluble salts.

Read More

Storm Clean-Up 101: Soil Samples

Posted in Gardening Tips on February 12 2013, by Sonia Uyterhoeven

Sonia Uyterhoeven is the NYBG‘s Gardener for Public Education.

Garden soilIn the coming weeks, we will be discussing what to do with your garden in the aftermath of hurricanes and significant storms such as Super Storm Sandy. One task that every gardener should consider after an event that involves flooding is to get the soil tested. For coastal gardeners, the influx of salt water can potentially saturate the garden with harmful salt. Because the salinity of the soil may have changed significantly, it is worth knowing what you are working with. Further, it is important to start your gardening season with healthy soil, both for your sake and that of your plants. This week, we will look at how to take a soil sample in your garden, moving on to the problem of salt injury (saline soils) during next week’s post.

Before you take your soil sample, determine the areas that you would like tested, and remember that you will not be taking just one sample of your garden’s soil unless you are testing a uniform space. The soil in your garden will most likely differ based on location and use. For example, the area near the foundation of your home will be different from the untouched areas near the edge of your property, while the soil from your lawn will differ from the soil in one of your ornamental beds.

Read More

Gardening by the Sea: Perennials

Posted in Gardening Tips on November 5 2013, by Sonia Uyterhoeven

“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by …
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied; …”

clematisWhile John Masefield’s lyrical poem conjures the image of being at one with the open sea, one year after Hurricane Sandy many seaside inhabitants have developed a very different relationship with their neighbor.

Last year we looked at salt water remediation in the Storm Clean-Up 101 series, which included everything from tips on soil testing, to a comprehensive clean-up task list for gardeners. With a year behind us and the gardening season gone, coastal inhabitants may now have time to assess their gardens and evaluate their garden’s needs for restoration and remediation in the spring.

While aesthetics and maintenance are standard considerations in garden design, coastal gardens are also tasked with erosion control. Seascapes are continuously battered by winds and waves. Shifting sand on beaches and primary dunes are part of a natural process, but that doesn’t mean humans shouldn’t intervene in helping to stabilize these natural formations.

Read More

Morning Eye Candy: A Rose of Contradictions

Posted in Around the Garden on May 21 2013, by Ann Rafalko

Rosa rugosa is one of the first roses to bloom in the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden. The species name comes from the Latin for “rough” in reference to the plant’s nearly-pleated leaves. It is also a tough plant, willing to grow in some pretty harsh habitats to the point of becoming a weed in places. And yet it is delicate and beautiful and smells amazing, like the finest of perfumes.


Photo by Ivo M. Vermeulen