Inside The New York Botanical Garden

From the Library

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.

The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt at NYBG

Posted in Humanities Institute on May 6 2019, by Samantha D’Acunto

Samantha D’Acunto is the Reference Librarian at The New York Botanical Garden‘s LuEsther T. Mertz Library.


Photo of the event speakers
Speakers Lillian Melcher and Andrea Wulf with NYBG CEO and President, Carrie Rebora Barratt.

On Friday, April 19, 2019, the Humanities Institute and NYBG’s Adult Education department welcomed a large crowd to the celebration of the 250th Anniversary of Alexander von Humboldt with bestselling author Andrea Wulf. Her last book, The Invention of Nature, won many literary awards and was on The New York Times‘ Top Ten Books list. Her new graphic novel, The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, highlights the five-year expedition Alexander von Humboldt undertook in South America. Wulf collaborated with illustrator Lillian Melcher to capture the words and images of Humboldt’s personal diary and sketches which detailed his experience of the journey.

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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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Citizen Science Symposium: Celebrating the Public Participant in Research

Posted in Humanities Institute on April 29 2019, by Samantha D’Acunto

Samantha D’Acunto is the Reference Librarian at The New York Botanical Garden‘s LuEsther T. Mertz Library.


Photo of symposium speakers
Enjoying the Garden’s magnificent Magnolia stellata are the Symposium’s five speakers (left to right): Sara Tjossem, Carrie Seltzer, Jessica Schuler, Kerissa Battle, and Majora Carter.

On Friday, April 12, 2019, the Humanities Institute, in collaboration with NYBG’s Horticulture and Living Collections and the Center for Conservation Strategy, presented the symposium Nature at Your Doorstep, celebrating the public participant in nature research. The symposium, featuring five energetic experts, officially opened National Citizen Science Day at The New York Botanical Garden, with programs and garden-wide activities extending throughout the weekend. 

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Celebrating National Poetry Month with Erasmus Darwin’s ‘The Botanic Garden’

Posted in From the Library on April 24 2019, by Stephen Sinon

Stephen Sinon is the William B. O’Connor Curator of Special Collections, Research & Archives, of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library at NYBG.


Painting of Erasmus Darwin
Erasmus Darwin as portrayed by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1792

The Botanic Garden, published in 1792, is a set of two poems, “The Economy of Vegetation” and “The Loves of the Plants,” both written by Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802); grandfather of the more famous Charles Darwin (1809–1882). The first celebrates technological innovation, scientific discovery and theory. The second and more popular poem promotes and explains the Linnean system of plant classification.

One of the first popular science books, the intent of The Botanic Garden was to pique popular interest in science. By embracing Linnaeus’s sexualized language, Darwin intended to make botany interesting and relevant to the readers of his time. While many Englishmen of the time were scandalized by the sexual nature of Linneaus’ taxonomic system, Darwin openly embraced it, using suggestive images in his floral descriptions, writing of blushing virgins, handsome swains, and deceitful paramours.

He emphasized the connections between humans and plants, arguing that they are all part of the same natural world and that sexual reproduction is central to evolution. His attempt to convey the wonders of scientific discovery and technology through poetry helped create a tradition of popular science writing which continues today.

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Celebrate the 100th anniversary of Children’s Book Week with the NYBG Library!

Posted in From the Library on April 22 2019, by Samantha D’Acunto

Samantha D’Acunto is the Reference Librarian at The New York Botanical Garden‘s LuEsther T. Mertz Library.


Logo of Children's Book Week

The LuEsther T. Mertz Library is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Children’s Book Council—Children’s Book Week (April 29–May 5) with new titles, book bundles on various subjects, and more!

Children’s Book Week is a national event that first started in 1919 to promote literacy among the nation’s youth. Each year readers are invited to celebrate this week in various ways at a number of participating institutions. This year, you can visit us in the library to celebrate or check your local public library for scheduled events.

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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.

Beatrix Farrand’s American Landscapes—A Documentary World Premiere

Posted in Humanities Institute on April 16 2019, by Vanessa Sellers

Photo of attendees
Gathered in front of the Tulip Tree Allee shortly before the screening, Film Director Stephen Ives (center) is surrounded by (left to right) John Beardsley (Film Interviewee), Lynden Miller (Film Narrator), Film Producer Anne Cleves Symmes and Sir Peter Crane (Moderator).

Friday, March 15, 2019 marked the Sixth Annual Humanities Symposium. To celebrate the occasion, the Humanities Institute, together with NYBG’s Department of Adult Education, invited audiences to the screening of an important new documentary, Beatrix Farrands’s American Landscapes.

Opening the program was Carrie Rebora Barratt, Chief Executive Officer and William C. Steere Sr. President of NYBG, who enthusiastically welcomed the audience stating that the film screening could not have been timelier as March was Women’s History Month. She continued to say that celebrating Beatrix Farrand—the only female charter member of the American Society of Landscape Architects—was to acknowledge the vital role women have played and continue to play in American history and culture today.

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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.