Tropical Storm Irene and her friend Lee certainly left their mark across the northeast. They left a trail of downed trees, broken limbs, and leaves pretty much everywhere. Not only did it give the arborists and horticulturalists here at NYBG plenty of work, but it also provided a unique situation for a commissioned sculpture in the Palm Dome of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Internationally renowned installation artist Tetsunori Kawana–no stranger to working with natural materials–got the chance to try something new, recycling what would ultimately end up as compost or mulch into a sculpture, a “rebirth.”
Japanese Autumn Adventures Offers “Passport” of Fun
|Noelle V. Dor is Museum Education Intern in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden.|
As the Northern Hemisphere inches away from the sun and life turns inward, The New York Botanical Garden is under way with Kiku in the Japanese Autumn Garden, a celebration of autumn and Japanese culture. While Kiku pays homage to Japan’s annual Festival of Happiness, which honors the fall bloom and seemingly perfect beauty of the chrysanthemum flower, the Everett Children Adventure Garden’s Japanese Autumn Adventures highlights an equally important plant in East Asian cultures: Camellia sinensis, commonly known as tea.
Of course, tea is immensely popular in the United States, too. Many people, however, know very little about tea such as the fact that “herbal teas” are not truly tea at all, or that white, green, black, and oolong teas are all derived from a single plant species.
Delving into the world of tea during my research and preparation for this program has deepened my fascination for the myriad ways in which plants and society intertwine over time. My interest in traditional Japanese culture—inspired and nurtured by various school projects and courses—made me even more excited to have this amazing opportunity to help others explore and enjoy a unique mixture of nature, art, and social customs.
During Japanese Autumn Adventures, in addition to learning all about tea and participating in a simulated tea ceremony, young visitors and their families get to do classic Japanese crafts such as fish printing (gyotaku) and paper-folding (origami) to create maple samaras that really spin!
At the beginning of their adventure, children will make their own field notebook, or “passport,” granting them access to different “cities” (activity stations) and allowing them to keep a record of their experiences as they “travel” through Japan. Before departing, everyone should stop by the wishing shrine and leave an ema (Japanese for “wish”).
My wish is for all hearts to be filled with love and joy. What’s yours?
|Jessica Blohm is Interpretive Specialist for Public Education.|
Chrysanthemums are members of the Asteraceae (aster or daisy) family. All plants in the aster family are composites. They have flower heads made up of many tiny individual flowers. Other composites include asters, sunflowers, black-eyed Susans, dandelions, marigolds, and zinnias.
There are two types of composite flowers, ray and disc. Some composites have both ray and disc flowers; others have only ray or disc flowers.
The National Chrysanthemum Society defines 13 different classes of chrysanthemums with varying flower forms: irregular incurve, reflex, regular incurve, decorative, intermediate incurve, pompon, single and semi-doubles, anemone, spoon, quill, spider, brush and thistle, and unusual. Many of these 13 classes are on display at Kiku in the Japanese Autumn Garden. To see examples of each, click here.
Follow this Step-by-Step Guide by NYBG Adult Education Instructor
|John Capobianco, an instructor in the Adult Education Program of The New York Botanical Garden, is a four-time national gold medal winner for chrysanthemum bonsai display. He is president of the Long Island Chrysanthemum Society, a past president of the Bonsai Society of Greater New York, and a board member of the National Chrysanthemum Society.
As Kiku in the Japanese Autumn Garden makes apparent, chrysanthemums are among the most versatile woody perennials around. They lend themselves to being trained into many different forms.
You can try your hand at chrysanthemum bonsai by creating a slab planting—an arrangement done on a relatively flat stone to depict a lone tree on a cliff or a forest on an island or whatever you may imagine.
Unlike other forms of bonsai, slab plantings start with the container, in this case a flat rock or ceramic piece. It should be oblong; one with steps, crags, or an irregular outline makes it more interesting. Stones have movement and a flow to them. Examine the stone and choose the position you wish to highlight and harmonize with the planting.
Decide on the cultivar you want to grow, and get to work making cuttings or placing an order. Plan on growing more than you will need as some will get damaged and be unusable when it comes time to assemble the planting. Expect to reject about 50 percent of what you grow. You’ll want to use an odd number for the planting group, which makes for a more stimulating design.
To grow your chrysanthemum “trees,” put plants in a few different-size containers—2½ , 3, 4, and 6 inches. Much like the myth about goldfish, the mums will only grow to the size of their environment. Those in the small containers will have less water and nutrients and so won’t grow as thick or as tall. This will ensure that your trees will be of different heights and thicknesses in the group planting.
Pinch the plants to encourage branching into a tree form. If the line of a trunk needs to be altered, you may need to wire the plant to the desired form. This takes skill. Be careful not to break branches, and don’t trap leaves under the wire. Practice on your rejects.
Both Battle Cold, Damp Weather in New York to Perform at Peak
Across the Bronx at The New York Botanical Garden, the horticulture team is also doing some fancy footwork due to the weather—manipulating the Japanese-style chrysanthemum “sculptures” in the spectacular exhibition Kiku in the Japanese Autumn Garden.
For this year’s eagerly awaited flower show, cold temperatures and overcast skies have NYBG staff gardeners giving the mums needed extra light and warmth by bringing them back into the greenhouse.
Specific amounts of light and heat are needed to bring the chrysanthemums into flower. Those needs in this, the final year that the Garden is presenting its most elaborate show, are in direct contrast to what was needed in the first two years of the exhibition. Then, warm, late-summer temperatures persisted through October causing staff gardeners to scramble in order to shade and cool the plants to be presentable for the show.
Always anticipating change and preserving flexibility, the gardeners have grown a backup set of Kiku mums, keeping them outside in the chill all the time. This backup mum set can be moved into the show to replace the first set in case warm weather and bright sun send their flowers past peak before the show ends.
Visitors can appreciate this marvelous manipulation of Mother Nature and see the fruits of the horticulture team’s labor now through November 15. Kiku in the Japanese Autumn Garden showcases the spectacular autumn landscapes of Japanese gardens, with scarlet maples and golden bamboos against the backdrop of emerald conifers and, when the sun cooperates, clear blue skies. More chrysanthemums than ever are on display in traditional and contemporary display styles, with bonsai providing another fabulous element to the exhibition. On weekends, participate in guided tours, autumn gardening demonstrations, and taiko drumming performances.
Special Display by Yama Ki Society on through November 1
|Michael Pollock is Vice-President of Yama Ki Bonsai Society, whose members will display their bonsai in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory during Kiku in the Japanese Autumn Garden.|
Bonsai’s beginning is shrouded in the mists of time. With origins in either China or India, bonsai (or penjing in Chinese) found fertile ground when visiting Buddhist monks brought potted trees to Japan. When Japan opened up to the West, interest in bonsai, which means “tray planting,” reignited throughout Asia and began to spread to other parts of the world. As the art form continues to reach new areas, new plants are used to create local bonsai. Whatever the climate, there are plants that can make beautiful bonsai.
I first studied bonsai in 1982 with Yuji Yoshimura at The New York Botanical Garden. I was immediately captivated by a mixture of feelings these trees elicited from me: tranquility, calmness, excitement. Unfortunately, a busy career prevented me from seriously practicing bonsai then and I gave up. Twelve years ago, I realized that if I could successfully raise children, I could probably grow bonsai, too. It has been a wonderful journey of discovery and creation ever since. Now I grow between 40 and 50 bonsai. In 2004 I won a prestigious “new talent” competition and was awarded a trip to Japan, where I visited many of the most famous bonsai nurseries, growing fields, and public and private collections.
There are many ways to create a bonsai: starting with seeds or cuttings, buying a plant from a nursery (Shanti Bithi Bonsai Nursery in Stamford, Conn, has been an important resource) or collecting a tree from the wild. Of course, for beginners it takes longer to establish an impressive bonsai, but someone with experience can create a “showable” tree within three to five years. Older bonsai plants bring their own stories with them as they are trained, whether it be the twisted and scarred trunks with old, flaky bark or the bonsai practitioners who have cared for the tree over generations, as is witnessed in Japan and China.
Last Year to Experience this Fall Extravaganza
Chrysanthemums trained in a variety of growing styles, maples aglow in autumn colors, and the soft, rustling effects of grasses and bamboos showcase the splendor and diversity of Japanese gardens in Kiku in the Japanese Autumn Garden, from October 17 through November 15 in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory Courtyards.
This is the Botanical Garden’s third and final showing of kiku—chrysanthemums meticulously trained by Garden horticulturists for up to 11 months and resulting in elaborate displays. Cultivated from tiny cuttings, the plants are pinched back, tied to frames, and nurtured to grow into particular shapes. The four traditional styles (single stem, thousand bloom, cascade, and driving rain) presented under special decorative structures known as uwaya are accompanied by large installations of contemporary styles such as cones, columns, and spheres.
Bonsai, a crowd favorite, is shown throughout the exhibition in the Courtyard and a special display of bonsai will be presented in the Conservatory through November 1. Other happenings during Kiku include educational children’s activities in Japanese Autumn Adventures, a Japanese Plant Tour throughout the grounds, weekend performances by taiko drummers, an art exhibition, Ex Libris: Treasures from the LuEsther T. Mertz Library, and a photography show, The Presence of Trees.
Click here to watch video highlights of Kiku.
|Todd Forrest is Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections.
|Jessica Blohm is Interpretive Specialist for Public Education.|
With comparable latitude and climate as eastern North America, Japanese gardens and hillsides in fall become a dappled canvas of scarlet, gold, and orange, just as they do here. Millions of Japanese travel in cars, buses, and trains to reach a favorite viewing spot—often a rugged mountain landscape or a garden belonging to a temple or shrine—to view the changing leaves and flowers.
Maples (kaede) are the main source of stunning autumn colors along with emerald conifers, bamboo, chrysanthemums (kiku), and Japanese perennials, grasses, and ferns. Beginning October 17, the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory Courtyards will again come alive with two gardens that celebrate ancient Japanese horticultural traditions and the brilliant hues of chrysanthemums and Japanese garden plants in Kiku in the Japanese Autumn Garden.
For the past two years, chrysanthemums trained using traditional Japanese methods have been the centerpiece of the Garden’s autumn offerings. This year will be the final showing of this special presentation of kiku, and it will be combined with other elements that make viewing Japanese gardens in autumn memorable.
Garden design has been an important Japanese art for centuries. Many traditional Japanese gardens were closed to the public. Built by the elite for their own use or as temple gardens, they served as places for peaceful worship and quiet contemplation. Gardens in Japan are not simply a collection of plants; they are an interpretation of the natural landscape. Each element has a specific meaning and inspiration.