Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Esther Jackson

Discovering the Perfect Plant for Your Garden

Posted in From the Library on May 16 2019, 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.


Photo of the cover of Proven WinnersThe Proven Winners Garden Book: Simple Plans, Picture-Perfect Plants, and Expert Advice for Creating a Gorgeous Garden (2019) is a new resource from Ruth Rogers Clausen and Thomas Christopher meant to encourage new gardeners with basic information about landscape and container gardening. Both Clausen and Christopher are experienced garden writers, and the resulting text is simple and clear. Proven Winners plants are recommended for a variety of settings and designs. At 192 pages with 309 color photographs and 50 drawings, it is very beginner-friendly.

Shrubs: Discover the Perfect Plant for Every Place in Your Garden (2018) by Andy McIndoe teaches readers about shrubs in the garden, and makes recommendations for appropriate plants in different growing conditions. McIndoe is managing director of Hillier Nurseries and Garden Centres in Hampshire, England, although Shrubs is written for North American audiences. The book includes information about choosing the right shrub, planting, and care, shrubs for challenging growing conditions, shrubs for restricted planting spaces, and shrubs with desirable characteristics. The format is useful. The plant recommendations can be suspect. For example, McIndoe recommends no fewer than five varieties of non-native Berberis. In four out of five instances, he notes that the genus is invasive in parts of North America. The plant profiles themselves lack what are arguably essential details. Full size and zones are noted, but not nativity, which makes the book far less useful for readers who are hoping to work with native plants. All in all, Shrubs covers a lot of ground. However, it is not useful as a single resource for those interested in the topic, especially for those who wish to garden with native plants.

Decorating with Plants

Posted in From the Library on May 9 2019, 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.


Photo of the cover of Decorating with PlantsDecorating with Plants: What to Choose, Ways to Style, and How to Make Them Thrive (2019) is a book very much in keeping with the NYBG #plantlove theme of 2019. Author Baylor Chapman is the founder of Lila B., a plant and flower design business, and has previously written the popular The Plant Recipe Book: 100 Living Arrangements for Any Home in Any Season. Decorating with Plants provides readers with both a go-to plant list and a room-by-room guide to incorporating plants into the home.

From a horticultural perspective, there isn’t much new information for readers, and some of the plant care details are highly simplified, which may not provide enough nuanced information for houseplant owners who use Decorating with Plants as their only resource. That said, the houseplants featured are in keeping with current houseplant trends, making this book a nice resource for those looking to update or expand their houseplant palette. The design elements and recommendations are especially interesting and inspiring, and would help any reader visualize the perfect spot for a plant or two.

Ultimately, Decorating with Plants is a nice new edition to the genre of houseplant books, and will inspire readers to try different plants in new places around the home.

Nature Play at Home

Posted in From the Library on May 2 2019, 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.


Cover of Nature Play at HomeNature Play at Home: Creating Outdoor Spaces that Connect Children with the Natural World (2019) by Nancy Striniste centers on the development of nature-friendly spaces for children to explore and learn about the outdoors. Striniste has a background as a landscape designer and an early childhood educator, and is the founder and principle designer at EarlySpace. In Nature Play, she synthesizes for readers her over 30 years of experience in creating spaces for children.

Nature Play is a delight from the first page. Striniste is an excellent writer who uses clear prose and a strong structure to guide readers in both the creation of nature-friendly spaces for children and in understanding the “why” behind certain features. Enclosures and shelter offer a feeling of safety; pathways can set a pace for how a garden should be experienced, or facilitate navigation of different spaces. The book includes instructions for 12 step-by-step nature play projects, complete with illustrations. It also provides a helpful synthesis of the current state of nature play theory. A detailed and thorough bibliography elevates the work to be a helpful reference resource for teachers and garden educators alike. As a bonus, most of the plants featured are native to North America, with non-native species indicated clearly.

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The World Atlas of Coffee

Posted in From the Library on April 18 2019, 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.


Photo of the World Atlas of CoffeeThe World Atlas of Coffee: From Beans to Brewing—Coffees Explored, Explained and Enjoyed (2018) is a coffee table book that details the history of coffee, how coffee is prepared, and regions of the world in which coffee is grown. The author, James Hoffmann, is the 2007 World Barista Champion and runs a coffee shop in the UK. The 2018 publication is a second edition with updated statistics and data, with several new countries added to the text, including DRC, Uganda, Thailand, Philippines, China, and Haiti. Although this work presents as a reference book, there are no references cited. Historical images are not included in the photo acknowledgements. While the content is very interesting, without a clear indication as to where the information is coming from, the work is beautiful, but not scientifically valuable. However, in terms of providing entertaining facts and compelling images, this work is quite successful, and may appeal to a culinary historian or amateur chef.

Success with Succulents

Posted in From the Library on April 11 2019, 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.


Image of the cover of Success with SucculentsSuccess with Succulents: Choosing, Growing, and Caring for Cactuses and Other Succulents is a 2017 book from John Bagnasco and Bob Reidmuller. Bagnasco has worked in the gardening industry for more than 45 years, first in nurseries and garden centers, and later as a senior magazine editor and radio personality for Garden Compass. Reidmuller has worked for Altman Plants (Vista, CA), the nation’s largest propagator of cacti and succulents, for over 25 years.

Success with Succulents is organized into four sections: What are Cactuses? What are Succulents?, Cactuses and Succulents Outdoors, Cactuses and Succulents Indoors, and Featured Plants. The outdoor gardening guidelines are not region-specific, although most of the species recommended would not be cold hardy in our climate. There are a few outliers—of the plants featured, it is mostly select sedums that are cold tolerant. Arguably the most useful content for our region is in the section pertaining to indoor plants, and the authors cover topics including soil, moisture, pests, and propagation, to name a few. The featured plants section is also very useful, including information about plant family, origin, culture, cold hardiness (by degree in Fahrenheit), propagation method, bloom time, and a blurb about the plant’s appearance and behavior in different landscapes.

All in all, Success with Succulents is a helpful and compact resource for readers who want to care for their existing plants or add a few more plant babies to their collection.

Readers who have questions about how to care for their succulents and troubleshoot problems can contact the NYBG Plant Information Office for help. Guides about caring for succulents and cacti indoors have also been provided.

Gardens of the Arts & Crafts Movement

Posted in From the Library on April 4 2019, 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.


Image of the cover of Gardens of the Arts & Crafts MovementGardens of the Arts & Crafts Movement is a beautiful book from acclaimed writer Judith B. Tankard. Tankard, who taught at the Landscape Institute of Harvard University for more than 20 years, is the author or coauthor of 10 books on landscape history (Beatrix Farrand: Private Gardens, Public Landscapes, Gertrude Jekyll at Munstead Wood), and recipient of awards from the Garden Writers Association and the American Horticultural Society. Gardens of the Arts & Crafts Movement is a revised edition of Tankard’s 2004 book titled Gardens of the Arts and Crafts Movement: Reality and Imagination.

Tankard is a careful and thorough researcher, and this book shines as a well-crafted resource for readers who are interested in the Arts and Crafts movement in the United States and Great Britain. Beginning in Britain around the 1880s, before spreading to the United States, the Arts and Crafts movement placed value in traditional craftsmanship as a counter-culture reaction to the trend of industrialization. Simple forms, often from nature, were key design elements, and the movement included social reform interests that were also in keeping with the anti-industrial values of the aesthetic concerns.

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The Life & Works of Margaret Neilson Armstrong

Posted in People on March 29 2019, 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.


Photo of the Pride of California
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Margaret Neilson Armstrong (1867 – 1944) was a book designer, field collector, botanical illustrator, mystery writer, and more. She was born in 1867 in New York City to a wealthy and artistic family and raised along the Hudson River in Danskammer. Her father, Maitland Armstrong (1836 – 1918),[i] was a stained glass artist and diplomat. Her sister, Helen Maitland Armstrong (1869 – 1948),[ii] was a prominent stained glass artist, with whom she collaborated on a number of book design and illustration projects.

Armstrong’s first book cover design was published in 1890 when she was 23 years old. When she began to work in book design, Armstrong didn’t reveal that she was a woman, using only her initials – “M. N. Armstrong.” However, in 1892 she won an award for her book design work at the World’s Colombia Exposition in Chicago. From there she went on to design approximately 314 book covers, and by 1895 she established her stylized signature “M. A.” Prior to that, she had not always signed her designs.

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The Private Gardens of SMI Landscape Architecture

Posted in From the Library on March 29 2019, 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.


Photo of Private GardensThe Private Gardens of SMI Landscape Architecture (2018), edited by Jorge Sánchez, features 15 gardens in Palm Beach, Florida, designed or redesigned by the firm. Sánchez, the author of 2017’s The Making of Three Gardens, is a principle partner of SMI Landscape Architecture, a firm that works mostly in Florida and the Bahamas. The book features lush color photos and general design plans for the gardens’ features. For the most part, the plants featured in the landscapes play backup for the hardscaping. Most useful for those in Florida or the Bahamas looking for a landscape design company, this book is nonetheless beautiful and interesting for readers who are curious about gardens of all kinds, and who are delighted to see 15 new examples. Not quite as charming as The Making of Three Gardens, it still offers new views and new landscapes to entice the reader.

Pruning Simplified

Posted in From the Library on March 21 2019, 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.


Photo of the cover of Pruning SimplifiedPruning Simplified: A Step-by-Step Guide to 50 Popular Trees and Shrubs (2018) is a helpful new book from Steven Bradley for Timber Press. Bradley is a freelance garden writer and broadcaster who has over 20 years of experience teaching horticulture in colleges in England. Pruning Simplified, in addition to including some general introductory information, suggested equipment, and techniques, is primarily organized as a directory of plants. For the most part, the directory is organized by genus, with granularity provided when there are deciduous or evergreens species in the genus, different forms within the genus (climbers versus ramblers, for example), and different flowering times within the genus.

Each plant group includes a general note about why the group might be planted, (for example, “Magnolia flowers are among the most beautiful of all blooms, and a tree laden with the spectacular flowers is an unforgettable sight”), information about why to prune, tips for pruning, when to prune, which species within the genus (or group) are pruned in the recommended manner, and which tools to use. In addition to these pointers, there is greater information about formative pruning, routine pruning, and remedial pruning.

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Creating Sanctuary

Posted in From the Library on March 15 2019, 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.


Photo of the cover of Creating SanctuaryCreating Sanctuary: Sacred Garden Spaces, Plant-Based Medicine, and Daily Practices to Achieve Happiness and Well-Being by Jessi Bloom, with photographs by Shawn Linehan, is a well-designed book meant to teach readers the ways of self-care through the growing and use of plants. Bloom, the owner of N.W. Bloom EcoLogical Services, is based in the Pacific Northwest. She is an author and a landscape designer focusing on permaculture and sustainable landscape and garden design solutions.

First, the good. There is no doubt that this book is beautiful. For readers wondering how to incorporate more plants into their lives, or even readers looking for ideas for Instagrammable tableaus, the book is worth a look. Book sections include Creating Sacred Spaces, Botanical Alchemy, and Nurturing Self: Healthy Body, Mind, and Soul.

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