Inside The New York Botanical Garden

From the Library

Japan Study Day at NYBG

Posted in Humanities Institute on August 16 2018, by Mertz Library

Cherry trees
Cherry trees in full bloom on Cherry Hill at the New York Botanical Garden

On April 27, 2018 the Humanities Institute hosted Japan Study Day, a day of celebrating Japanese arts and sciences it the field of natural history and garden design. Visitors were welcomed with a soft misty rain, here and there mixed with a few pink petals, as they entered the Garden that morning. Due to the unusually cold spring, the Cherry Trees happened to be at their peak bloom. It was a perfect day for the traditional celebration of ‘Sakura,’ the flowering of the Cherry Trees.  Japan Study Day participants were invited to join a conversation led by a brilliant panel of speakers from around the globe. Leading the conversation was Prof. Federico Marcon, Department of East Asian Studies, Princeton University; Prof. Harmen Beukers from the Scaliger Institute, Leiden, the Netherlands and the University of Nagasaki; and Ryosuke Kondo, Ph.D. candidate from the Department of Landscape Architecture, Tokyo University.

Those present for the day’s festivities were students, researchers, historians, landscape design professionals, museums curators and scholars of Asian art and culture. Also present, were several officials of the Japan Society of New York, and diplomatic representatives from the Consulate General of Japan and The Netherlands. All gathered in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library for a warm welcome from the Humanities Institute’s Coordinator, Vanessa Bezemer Sellers. The Deputy Consul General of the Japan Information Center, Consulate General of Japan, Mr. Sato officially opened Japan Study Day with a special dedication to his colleague, Joost Taverne, Cultural Attaché, Head of Press and Cultural Affairs, Consulate General of The Netherlands. The dedication was made in acknowledgement of the two countries shared history and cultural-scientific exchange via Deshima, the Dutch trading post off the coast of Nagasaki, during the long period of Japan’s isolation (1641-1859).   

Speakers
Host Vanessa Sellers introduces Mr. Sato, Deputy Consul General, Consulate General of Japan, and the three speakers, Federico Marcon, Harmen Beukers and Ryosuke Kondo

The first speaker, Prof. Federico Marcon, recounted the surprising popular appeal of plants and animals in early modern Japan illustrated by prints of public and private collections throughout the archipelago, from teahouses filled with curiosa to societies and clubs where one specialized in the study of nature (honz?gaku).  “However, until the mid-19th century, only a spare few botanical scholars were permitted access to Japan to study its plant life or animals,” added Dr. Harm Beukers, the second speaker. “One of those lucky ones, was Philipp Franz von Siebold, who cultivated his own botanical garden, arranged an entire reference library of Japanese books, and after publishing a new Flora Japonica, established the Netherlands Society for Horticulture in 1842, an institute that would set the stage for Holland as premier horticultural center.” The last presentation entitled Sakura to Akebono-sugi: Trees in Japanese Urban Landscape Design, incorporated several remarkable historical movie clips to underscore the last speaker, Ryosuke Kondo’s well-chosen arguments. “Sakura, or cherry blossom tree, has played a vital role in Japanese culture since the 8th-century,” he said, “with its blossoms symbolizing everything from private love to imperial might.”  “It is important, however, to stress the importance of another, under-recognized strain of Japanese tree – the Akebono-sugi, or dawn redwood,” Kondo urged. Assumed extinct, but discovered alive and well in China in the 1940’s and further identified by Japanese botanist Shigeru Miki, this tree now shapes the urban landscapes and gardens across Japan A sapling was presented to the Emperor Sh?wa by American paleontologist Ralph W. Chaney in 1949, and seeds from the tree subsequently sent to the New York Botanical Garden, where they now thrive in the Benenson Ornamental Conifer collection, near the Nolen Greenhouse.

Speakers
Speakers and participants enjoy a walk through the Garden admiring cherry blossom trees and daffodils

After enjoying a display of rare Japanese print works furthering the science and art of Japan’s natural history and gardening, the audience left with much to think about. Each speaker in their own unique way, had opened a window into the history of Japan’s relationship with its natural environment; its botanical-medical expertise, and Japan’s legendary traditional affection for trees and gardens A letter sent by one of the participants, a teacher at the World View High School, expressed how much she and her students had enjoyed the special Japan Day:  

“It was an honor to be in the same room with many Japanese history and botany enthusiasts and scholars. We loved the lectures … My students left with a greater appreciation and interest in Japanese history and culture … It was also very exciting to see the Akebono Sugi (Dawn Redwood) at the NYBG along with the beautiful cherry blossom trees. My students and I forgot that we were still in the Bronx, just a train stop away from our school.”

The Biography of a Gardener

Posted in From the Library on August 14 2018, 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.


Plant MessiahWithin horticulture and botany, the genre of biography (including autobiography) is a popular one. Three new biographical titles are available for check-out in the NYBG Mertz Library and merit consideration.

The Plant Messiah: Adventures in Search of the World’s Rarest Species is a memoir by Carlos Magdalena. Currently the Tropical Senior Botanical Horticulturist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, he was recently profiled in an excellent piece by People of London about his work with plant propagation and conservation. The Plant Messiah chronicles Magdalena’s trials and successes with propagating rare and endangered plants. His passion is sure to resonate with those who love plants and value biodiversity. A graduate of the Kew Diploma in Horticulture program, Magdalena’s experiences with “rescuing” species from the brink of extinction are fascinating and, at times, emotional. The text has a few minor errors (for example, type specimen receives a simplistic and technically incorrect definition), but they do not detract from the overall narrative. Readers will hold their breaths as attempts to propagate specific plants fail at first, but ultimately succeed. This memoir is best enjoyed by those who have some knowledge of plants (and can take some errors in stride), but even the general public will enjoy the adventure.

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Digging Deep into Permaculture

Posted in From the Library on August 9 2018, 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.


Gaias Garden Second EditionPermaculture is a fascinating topic, but it can be difficult to know where to start looking for information when you are new to the concept and want to learn more. Defined on Wikipedia as “a system of agricultural and social design principles centered around simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems,” permaculture has applications in landscape and ecological design, ecological engineering, environmental design, construction, and site maintenance. Two books new to the NYBG Mertz Library, Gaia’s Garden (2009) and The Rodale Book of Composting (2018), offer practical advice for home gardeners who would like to include more sustainable features in their landscapes.

Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture (second edition, 2009) is a comprehensive introduction to permaculture principles and projects for the home gardener. Authored by Toby Hemenway, the work is centered on gardening practices in the Pacific Northwest but filled with concepts and projects that are appropriate for gardeners in any region. The ethos in Gaia’s Garden has carried through to many more contemporary gardening books, and this Nautilus Book Awards winner is still a relevant resource for those who are curious to learn more deeply about permaculture principles. One caveat related to the book’s age is that the plant lists should be examined critically before application—several of the recommended non-native species have been found to be problematic since the time of the book’s publication.

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Bathing in the Forest

Posted in From the Library on July 26 2018, 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.


Forest BathingForest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, by Dr. Qing Li, is an aesthetically pleasing book about “the Japanese art and science of shinrin-yoku.” Shinrin means “forest” in Japanese, and yoku means “bath.” Shinrin-yoku, then, is the action of “bathing” in the forest atmosphere—of “taking the forest in through our senses.”

Li, the Chairman of the Japanese Society for Forest Medicine, writes in a meditative, thoughtful manner, and offers simple advice for those who would like to experience the benefits of forest bathing, either through a more extreme lifestyle change or by incorporating more nature experiences into their everyday lives. With 100 color photographs and large fonts, the book itself is a calming meditation on forest spaces, and a pleasant respite from a day in the office.

The book is beautiful and well-designed, and readers can jump into the text at any point, or read it as a narrative work. Acolytes of forest bathing will want to depart for the woods immediately after reading, but even those without easy access to more natural spaces may be inspired to include more natural outings and experiences as parts of their routines. At NYBG, the Thain Family Forest is calling…

The Secret Life of Flies

Posted in From the Library on July 5 2018, 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.


The Secret Life of FliesThe Secret Life of Flies by Dr. Erica McAlister for Firefly books is fun. It’s a little gross, very entertaining, and all about that insect that so many of us love to hate—the fly! McAlister, a Senior Curator at the Natural History Museum in the United Kingdom, uses her book’s 248 pages to champion these “amazing, exotic and important” creatures. It’s no small feat for an experienced researcher to write in a way that is accessible to a non-scientific audience, and McAlister accomplishes this. When reading her words, one almost feels as if she’s engaging the reader in a conversation, beckoning them closer to look at a maggot that showed up in a most unusual place or at a parasitic fly that prefers the company of frogs.

The Secret Life of Flies is appropriate for anyone who wants to learn a bit more about these creatures, including younger and older readers who enjoy the sometimes gross and amusing ins and outs of biological study. It’s easy to picture a biology student, an outdoorsy ten-year-old, and an enthusiastic field biologist exclaiming with glee when finding out exactly where that mystery maggot came from. The Secret Life of Flies offers a wonderful window into a world that many of us take for granted and educates readers about an important group of creatures in our natural world.

Small Treasures in the Mertz Library: Signature of the Revolution

Posted in From the Library on July 3 2018, by Jane Lloyd

Jane Lloyd is a volunteer in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library of The New York Botanical Garden.


Craik
Dr. James Craik (1730–1814)

William Craik (1703–1798), a former owner of a book in the Rare Book Room of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library, was not a famous person, but he had an important influence on the founding of the United States. Craik signed his name and the year “1764” on the fly leaf of Statical Essays; Containing Vegetable Staticks; or an Account of some Statical Experiments on the Sap in Vegetables…, the third edition of which was published in 1738 by Stephen Hales (1677–1761).

Craik was the eldest son of a landowner in Arbigland, Scotland. When he inherited his father’s run-down estate in 1736, he set out to improve it by using new agricultural techniques and machinery, and Hales’s book would have been essential reading for him.

Craik had at least one illegitimate child—a son—before he married. That boy, James Craik (1730–1814), studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, then joined the British Army and served in the West Indies. In 1754 he joined the Virginia Provincial Regiment as a surgeon and saw action in the French and Indian War, serving with and becoming a close friend of George Washington, who eventually commanded the regiment.

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Fifth Annual Humanities Institute Symposium: Plant Intelligence

Posted in Humanities Institute on June 13 2018, by Vanessa Sellers

Humanities
Janet Brown and Peter Wohlleben standing in the snow at the Tulip Tree Allée.

This year’s Humanities Institute Symposium again brought together a large body of students, scholars, horticulturists, foresters, environmental specialists, tree-lovers, and other researchers and professionals to explore a topic vital to this day and age. While last year’s symposium looked at the challenge of climate change, this year’s symposium, Plant Intelligence, was focused on an equally challenging question: Do plants have intelligence? Using the latest biological evidence, several renowned scientists explored this key question by sharing new discoveries in forest and lab, offering new insights into the inner life of plants. Their findings—including astonishing examples of plant signaling and information processing—challenged the audience’s common perception of plants and presented new paradigms for the understanding of nature.

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Nonfiction Titles for Children from Firefly Books

Posted in From the Library on May 30 2018, by Samantha D’Acunto

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


A Wasp Builds A NestThe LuEsther T. Mertz Library is happy to introduce new nonfiction titles from Firefly Books that have been added to our children’s circulating collection. Firefly Books has been an expert in nonfiction books for adults and children since 1977. The titles below are fun, colorful, and engaging reads for all reading levels. New readers will feel comfortable easing into these nonfiction narratives and confident readers will enjoy learning about insects, birds, and jungles!

In A Wasp Builds a Nest by Kate Scarborough & Martin Camm, readers are invited to experience the construction of a wasp’s nest. Each shingled page reveals an inside look at the step-by-step progress of building the nest from start to finish—both the nest and the pages grow together. Readers will learn about wasp anatomy, reproduction, life cycle, and nest structure. From early spring to late summer, wasps keep busy building and foraging for food until it’s time to find a winter home; then the cycle repeats. This book is a great option for readers who are comfortable learning new vocabulary, as it provides so much information about wasps and their behavior.

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The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden

Posted in From the Library on May 17 2018, 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.


The Know Maintenance Perennial GardenThis week’s book review is a #ThrowBackThursday to the popular classic The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden. Written in 2014 by Roy Diblik for Timber Press, the text is a favorite of gardeners who love perennials. Diblik, who worked closely with designer Piet Oudolf on the Lurie Garden in Chicago, has brought his wisdom and knowledge to the public with Know Maintenance. Each of the 62 plans in this work are based on a 10’x14′ grid that is modular in design, offering home gardeners many combinations and plants to suit their landscape and needs, regardless of whether their space is larger or smaller than the example grid. The plans are inspired by works of art as well as existing gardens (for example, Monet, Great Dixter, and Swarthmore College), and are divided into two sections for areas with sun and shade. In addition, plant profiles for 74 plants offer readers suggestions for different plants to use in existing gardens or as a part of new plantings.

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Art and Gardens in Children’s Books

Posted in From the Library on May 15 2018, by Samantha D’Acunto

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


Meet GeorgiaWith the new Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawai‘i exhibition opening May 19, the LuEsther T. Mertz Library thought it would be fun to break out some of our existing titles and introduce some new titles that explore art, artists, and plants.

New to our collection is Meet Georgia. Author Marina Muun explores the life and works of American artist Georgia O’Keeffe in an activity book. The book invites readers to travel from New York to New Mexico with Georgia, all the while learning about the art that was inspired by the landscapes she visited. Readers are prompted to get creative with various activities. Fill out skyscrapers in the New York City skyline, illustrate the sound of music, and paint the colors of a New Mexico sunset.

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