Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Plant Talk

From the Casa Azul to the GreenSchool, Frida Inspires Students and Educators Alike

Posted in Children's Education on February 10 2016, by Plant Talk

Patricia Caracappa is a Spanish Teacher at Howitt Middle School in Farmingdale.

CaracappaI am a teacher certified in both Art and Spanish who visited the FRIDA KAHLO: Art, Garden, Life exhibition on three separate occasions. As I experienced the show in three different ways during a five month period, both with my students and on my own, each visit left me speechless. Here I hope to give voice to my special experiences at the Garden.

My students at Howitt Middle School first experienced the rich offerings of Children’s Education programs related to the exhibition when FRIDA KAHLO opened in May. During the Poetry for Every Season: Mexican Poetry Walk offered by the GreenSchool, my 7th grade Spanish students were challenged to find the connections between the lives of two significant contemporary Mexican artists: the painter Frida Kahlo and the poet Octavio Paz. Examining the thematic images in Kahlo’s artwork and comparing them to the written themes they identified in Paz’ poetry—in Spanish, too!—my students discovered for themselves the significance of the specific choices artists make to communicate ideas they care deeply about both visually and linguistically. This facilitated program revealed seamlessly the artists’ close observation and symbolic uses of plants, their Mexican nationalism, and their deep appreciation for the natural world.

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Concrete Jungle Flourishes through Green-Up

Posted in Learning Experiences, People on August 28 2015, by Plant Talk

Ken Iwuoha worked with Bronx Green-Up this summer, and will be attending York College this fall. Bronx Green-Up, the community garden program of The New York Botanical Garden, provides horticultural assistance, community organizing and training to Bronx gardens and urban farms. For more information, click here.

Ken readies a harvest of serrano peppers harvested from Bronx community gardens. The peppers will be made into Bronx hot sauce (, a product available at the Shop at NYBG and local Greenmarkets.
Ken readies a harvest of serrano peppers harvested from Bronx community gardens. The peppers will be made into Bronx hot sauce, a product available at the Shop at NYBG and local Greenmarkets.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Ken Iwuoha. I am a SYEP (Summer Youth Employment Program) worker for the summer of 2015. I have worked for The New York Botanical Garden for over six weeks, with the Bronx Green-Up Program.

As an individual born and raised in the Bronx, I have adapted to buildings, construction, and pollution—the “City Life.” I used to think that planting a tree in front of your house was the best way of being green. After working for Bronx Green-Up, however, my point of view has changed completely. Donating plants and providing services to local community gardens and schools has opened my eyes to the beauty of the Bronx.

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Floral Designers Fast Track Their Dreams With the Summer Intensive Program

Posted in Adult Education on June 26 2015, by Plant Talk

Floral Design GraduationFor nearly 40 years, NYBG has offered its prestigious and world-respected Certificate in Floral Design.

And this year, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Floral Design Summer Intensive Program, in which designers looking to jump start their careers can complete all Certificate-required classroom hours in just five weeks!

This past month, in a beautiful Garden ceremony, 32 new graduates received their Floral Design Certificates. Many are already working in the industry, and for many, the journey to their dream began on the Summer Intensive track.

These graduates now belong to a large and influential network of alumni across the Metropolitan area and beyond, joining such well-known designers as “NYC’s Rose Queen” Alix Astir (2010 Graduate), who runs a successful floral and botanical beauty business; BRRCH Studio’s Brittany Asch (2013 Summer Intensive), whose work has been featured in Vogue, Martha Stewart Weddings, Elle Décor, and more; and Marcela Bonancio (2012 Summer Intensive), who serves a host of corporate clients from her NY-based Lotus Blossom Atelier.

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Kids Dig Gardening at NYBG

Posted in Children's Education on June 15 2015, by Plant Talk

Planting in the Family Garden
Gardeners use screens to measure distance between seeds they’re sowing in their garden plots.

On a recent misty Saturday morning, I found myself boarding a Garden tram bound for the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden along with 96 children enrolled in the Edible Academy’s Children’s Gardening Program for Crafters, an opportunity for kids ages six to 12 to experience gardening first-hand and to learn about the science behind plants and food.

Parents waved as their kids claimed their seats on the tram, one girl quickly asking whether her mom had packed her a change of clothes for later. She had, and told her daughter, “Have fun. Get dirty!”

The tram pulls away and steers us through low hills and around age-old trees until we arrive at the Family Garden. Eager children disembark and head toward the main garden gates, beyond which they gather with their small groups, divided by age.

It is in these small groups that they do special activities—learning about Gregor Mendel and plant genetics; writing in field notebooks they bound earlier in the program; and making crafts.

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Jenny Holzer Projections for FRIDA KAHLO: Art, Garden, Life

Posted in Programs and Events on June 10 2015, by Plant Talk

Jenny HolzerPremiering tonight, Wednesday, June 10, an incredible live presentation by internationally renowned artist Jenny Holzer will take place at the Garden—and we hope you’ll join us for the opportunity to experience it! For four consecutive nights during our Frida al Fresco evenings, Jenny Holzer in conjunction with The Poetry Society of America and The New York Botanical Garden will present a program of scrolling light projections on the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

For more than 30 years Jenny Holzer has presented her astringent ideas, arguments, and sorrows in public places and international exhibitions. Her medium is always writing, and the public dimension is integral to the delivery of the work. Reflecting Kahlo’s intense relationship with her culture and the natural world, Holzer’s hour-long presentation will include poems by Mexico’s Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz, verses from contemporary Mexican female poets, and even a selection of powerful passages from Frida Kahlo’s own diary.

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Summer Intensives Start Next Month: 2 Students Share Their Experience

Posted in Adult Education on June 1 2015, by Plant Talk

Danielle Faustini
Danielle Faustini

NYBG Landscape Design student Danielle Faustini is on a crazy mission.

Last week, she started working at a Manhattan landscape design firm, while completing freelance projects and wrapping up her education in The New York Botanical Garden’s Certificate Program in anticipation of graduation on June 7.

Faustini’s education started in last summer’s Landscape Design Summer Intensive, an expedited five-week program that covers half of all required classroom hours toward a prestigious NYBG Certificate. In one year, she finished the required 350 hours, while working full-time as a server in a restaurant and doing freelance design work on the side—hence the crazy.

“Life is short, you know?” Faustini said. “I told myself I would complete the Certificate Program within a year. It definitely wasn’t easy, but you set your mind to something, and you do it.”

George and Danielle
Landscape Design students, Danielle Faustini and George Siriotis

Faustini and her Summer Intensive classmate George Siriotis, who also completed the Certificate Program in a year, saw the Intensive as an opportunity to jump into a new career with the support of like-minded, ambitious peers and industry-professional instructors.

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Algae: Under the Microscope and In Your Food

Posted in Adult Education on May 28 2015, by Plant Talk

Robin Sleith uses a compound microscope to look for algae in Naked “Green Machine” juice.
Robin Sleith uses a compound microscope to look for algae in Naked “Green Machine” juice.

Although we sometimes can’t see, smell, or taste them, many foods we eat and products we use contain algae, a group of oxygenic photosynthesizers—plants that make oxygen and perform photosynthesis, but are not part of the most familiar subkingdom of green plants.

I wanted to take a look at the itty bitty algae in a popular beverage, Naked “Green Machine” juice, which lists algae as ingredients, so I paid a visit to Robin Sleith, a research graduate student working on his Ph.D. in plant science in the Pfizer Laboratory. His research focuses on algae species, their lineage, and their relationships to land plants.

Intrigued by the prospect, Robin led me to the mycology lab, where they conduct experiments on algae and fungi. As he opened the bottle of juice, he let me know that it’s now considered science, not food, so there was no chance of me consuming it later.

He added a droplet of Green Machine to a slide, and slid it onto the compound microscope. At first, he was skeptical that we would see much at all, because Naked juice lists only 1,335 mg of Spirulina, a type of blue-green algae; 400 mg of Chlorella, another blue-green algae; and another 50 mg of generically described blue-green algae in its ingredients. In a 15.2 fluid-ounce bottle of juice, those amounts are nearly negligible. Robin wasn’t sure the juice would appear as anything more than a great, green glob under the microscope.

To our excitement, we saw algae—lots of it—at just 10-20x power.

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Greening the City, One Project At a Time

Posted in Adult Education on May 1 2015, by Plant Talk

Foras Studio Paige Keck Susan Welti
Susan Welti, left, and design partner Paige Keck, formed Foras Studio in 2009.

The April issue of Elle Décor magazine features the work of Susan Welti (’96), who runs her Brooklyn-based Foras Studio with NYBG School of Professional Horticulture alum, Paige Keck. A former dancer, Welti now finds a different sort of choreography in gardens and landscapes. We caught up with her to talk about design, careers, and the personal satisfaction that comes from actually changing clients’ lives.

‘For me, Landscape Design is the perfect segue from choreography,” Susan said. “It has space, time, and movement.”

Her Landscape Design classes at the Garden—which she said were “beyond fun”—were humbling and prepared her for an internship with Lynden B. Miller after she completed her Certificate in 1996. She opened her own company, Susan Welti Landscape Design, and started small, but grew rapidly as news of her talent spread.

“I think it’s an amazing field to be in because people here are just desperate to have green, some little bit of nature,” she said. “It sounds counter-intuitive that you could have a really booming landscape design business in the middle of New York City, but it’s true.”

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Nurturing the Next Generation of Young Gardeners

Posted in Children's Education, Learning Experiences on April 29 2015, by Plant Talk

Children's Gardening Program NYBG
Adena uses a watering can to water flowers in the Garden.

A flock of migrating birds fly from one end of the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden to the other, flapping their wings and erupting with birdcalls as they go. They’re migrating from New York to Mexico and back again.

There’s one in pink shorts, and another in a NYBG t-shirt. One in a sunhat swoops past a bed of lettuce. These “birds” are actually children participating in a nature activity in the Children’s Gardening Program.

One of them, young gardener Adena Zitrin, and her mother, Debra Asher-Zitrin, have participated in the Sprouts program, for kids ages 3 to 5, for the past two years.

“It’s unlike any class we’ve ever taken—and we’ve taken music, art, and gym classes,” Debra said. “There’s something very bonding that goes on between the parent and the child in CGP. It’s very sweet, the working together that goes on.”

Debra’s two older children also participated in Sprouts and are now Crafters, the program for kids ages 6 to 12.

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Joe McNally’s Life in the Field

Posted in Adult Education, Photography, Programs and Events on April 28 2015, by Plant Talk

Joe McNally Anne CahillHis career spans more than 30 years, and his portfolio includes photographs published in some of the world’s largest publications. He shot the first all-digital cover story for National Geographic, “The Future of Flying,” commemorating the centennial of the Wright Brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk. As the dust was settling after 9/11, he used what was the world’s only life-sized instant Polaroid camera to create a project called Faces of Ground Zero, which became a book and generated approximately $2 million for the relief effort.

And now, he’s coming to the Garden to deliver a special lecture, “The Nature of Photography: Life in the Field,” on Wednesday, April 29.

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