Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Jenifer Willis

Review: Marta McDowell’s Latest Book, All the Presidents’ Gardens

Posted in History, Shop/Book Reviews on May 26 2016, by Jenifer Willis

All the Presidents' GardensIf Marta McDowell’s last book, Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life, was a stroll down the memory lane of childhood whimsy, her latest book, All the Presidents’ Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy’s Roses—How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America, feels like a journey into the secret, lesser-known world of political plantscapes that shaped foreign policy and inspired American lifestyles.

Although one might think Presidential garden history would be a bit dry, I can assure you it is not—in fact, I read the entire book in one evening. It is Marta’s “voice” that creates a sense of fascination within the reader. Her wit and insight shines through as she describes the White House Gardens, sometimes utilitarian and spare, and other times lush and extravagant. (In fact, Marta, could you go back in time and rewrite all my high-school and college history books?)

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Three Questions with Three Summer Intensives Students

Posted in Adult Education on May 26 2016, by Jenifer Willis

Wendy Ford in the Landscape Design Summer Intensive in 2015

The New York Botanical Garden puts the “intense” in “Intensive” this summer with accelerated educational programs that get students on their way to achieving career goals, learning new skills, and earning prestigious Certificates in Landscape Design, Floral Design, or Gardening. Three students who completed last year’s programs and are set to graduate this month sat down to talk to us about their experiences and how the Intensives made an impact on their lives.

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Cary Fowler Protects Biodiversity in “Seeds of Time” Documentary

Posted in Around the Garden on April 1 2016, by Jenifer Willis

Seeds of Time

Nestled in the Norwegian Arctic, secure in an underground vault, rests one resource mankind cannot live without: seeds. The vault is a piece of a larger project of agricultural pioneer Cary Fowler in a passionate race against time to protect the future of our food supply, as captured in a documentary film Seeds of Time.

We sat down with Fowler in advance of our Earth Day screening of Seeds of Time to learn more about preserving biodiversity in agricultural crops and what filmgoers can do to help.

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Seeing Nature

Posted in Adult Education on March 29 2016, by Jenifer Willis

Robert Llewellyn
Robert Llewellyn

Robert Llewellyn’s photography is high-tech, but nature-focused. He shows us what we can’t see with the naked eye, but is all around us.

Normally, when a photographer takes a photo with a macro lens, only a small portion of the image is in focus.

Llewellyn’s process solves that problem using a motorized, computer-controlled camera to change focus points and reveal every part of the plant he’s photographing, down to tiny hairs, bits of pollen, and the texture of fine, opaque petals.

Fifty exposures later, the images are stitched together in computer software.

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Flowers in the Gallery: A Melding of Art, Botany, and Politics

Posted in Adult Education on February 25 2016, by Jenifer Willis

Bird’s-eye view, Memorandum of Understanding between the Royal Government of Cambodia and the Government of Australia Relating to the Settlement of Refugees in Cambodia. Ministry of Interior, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, September 26, 2014, Paperwork and the Will of Capital, 2015 © Taryn Simon. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Stuart Burford Photography
Agreement Establishing the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation. Al-Bayan Palace, Kuwait City, Kuwait, May 30, 2006, Press III, Paperwork and the Will of Capital, 2015. Pigmented concrete press, dried plant specimens, archival inkjet prints, text on herbarium paper, and steel brace, 114.1 x 55.9 x 76.2 cm © Taryn Simon. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Stuart Burford Photography

Chelsea’s powerhouse Gagosian Gallery is not the most likely place you’d find pressed herbarium specimens.

But that’s exactly what you’ll see there as part of the gallery’s current show by multidisciplinary artist Taryn Simon.

In “Paperwork and the Will of Capital,” Simon recreates and photographs the elaborate centerpieces that sat between powerful men as they signed agreements designed to change the world. Preparing the exhibition, Simon worked with Daniel Atha, NYBG botanist and Conservation Program Manager, and Sheranza Alli, NYBG Senior Museum Preparator and Herbarium Aid, who teach a Plant Collection and Preservation Workshop at the Garden. 

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The Sisterhood of the Traveling Sketchbook

Posted in Adult Education on December 2 2015, by Jenifer Willis

Last October, a tempting proposal popped up in the NYBG Botanical Art Program Facebook group.

Trumpet Vine Seed Pod by Monica Ray
Trumpet Vine Seed Pod by Monica Ray

“Would anyone be interested in a ‘Sketchbook Exchange’? And, if so, how would we go about it?,” NYBG Botanical Art and Illustration Certificate alumna Monica Ray wrote.

Almost immediately, responses poured in, like “Sounds like fun! I’m in!” and “I’ll do it, too!”

By the next day, the plan was fully formed. Each of the nine participants would buy her own sketchbook and complete a nature-related drawing or painting in it before mailing it on to the next person in the exchange. Everyone would have one month to complete a new piece before mailing the sketchbooks on to the next artist. When you get your sketchbook back, the exchange is complete.

They called it “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Sketchbook.”

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Karen Washington: A Champion of Urban Agriculture

Posted in Adult Education on October 29 2015, by Jenifer Willis

Bronx community activist Karen Washington remembers when there were so many vacant lots in the Bronx that the borough looked like “a war zone.”

Karen Washington
Karen Washington smiles in The Garden of Happiness in the Bronx.

Over the years, some were turned into community gardens, primarily in an effort to beautify and reclaim neighborhoods devastated by New York’s fiscal crisis of the 1970s. Over time, the dedicated volunteers who created these urban oases realized they could provide so much more than simple beauty. Community gardens became centers for community organization, expressions of cultural identity, and sources of fresh fruit and vegetables for a population in dire need of healthy food.

Washington recently sat down with us to tell us about her experiences working to keep urban gardening alive and well in the Bronx, a mission she’s been on since 1985.

A NYBG Board member and founding member of NYBG’s Bronx Green-Up program, Washington has helped dozens of neighborhoods build their own community gardens. She joins a panel of other urban agriculture experts in our Growing the Urban Farm Symposium on November 18.

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See, Don’t Look: An Interview with Photographer Valérie Jardin

Posted in Adult Education on October 1 2015, by Jenifer Willis

Valérie Jardin
Valérie Jardin

Perhaps best known for her brilliant street photography, photographer Valérie Jardin has a remarkable talent for capturing light and using it to tell a story.

Worldwide, her speaking engagements sell out quickly, but there are still seats available in her October 26 lecture here at the Garden, where we offer a number of photography classes. We sat down with Ms. Jardin to learn more about her techniques, her passions, and her plans for her upcoming presentation.

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What’s The Hoopla About? Horticulture!

Posted in Adult Education on August 12 2015, by Jenifer Willis

Hortie Hoopla Career Info Session 2015
Interns learn about green-industry careers and they also learn about some great engineer careers from

On July 22, more than 165 horticulture enthusiasts from the Tri-State area and beyond descended upon The New York Botanical Garden for the third-annual Hortie Hoopla, a field day for green-industry interns that offers them time to network, learn about career opportunities, explore the Garden grounds including visiting the FRIDA KAHLO: Art, Garden, Life exhibition, and to have fun and meet others like themselves.

Hosted by NYBG’s School of Professional Horticulture, the event is designed to inspire young people who are interested in plants to pursue an education in the continually expanding green industries.

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Popular Black Rock Field Study Returns This Fall

Posted in Adult Education on July 1 2015, by Jenifer Willis

Marc Wolf sketches during the 2014 field study.
Marc Wolf sketches during the 2014 field study.

Back by popular demand, ecological landscape designer Darrel Morrison, FASLA, will lead a five-day workshop in the beauty of New York’s Black Rock Forest Consortium this October, focusing on the botanic composition, aesthetic character, and ecological dynamics of native plant communities in the New York City region.

Aspiring horticulturist Marc Wolf attended the field study in its inaugural year and sat down with us to share his take on this total immersion workshop.

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