Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Garden News

The Archival Process

Posted in Garden News on June 13 2019, by Plant Talk

Jane Dorfman is a former Mertz Library Reference Librarian & Exhibitions Coordinator and current NYBG Volunteer.


Photo of Maguire
(l-r) Bassett Maguire, Celia Maguire, and NYBG curator John J. Wurdack in preparation for Neblina II expedition, 1957

After Bassett Maguire’s death, Celia Maguire worked tirelessly to ensure her husband’s scientific legacy. She did so by organizing the vast amount of his personal and professional papers and material and, with the assistance and support of the Mertz Library, made the Bassett Maguire Archive a reality.

When Stephen Sinon, William B. O’Connor Curator of Special Collections, Research and Archives, invited me to work on the Bassett Maguire Archive project, it never occurred to me that I would spend nearly 1,000 hours over four years sifting through more than 100 boxes and several carts filled with personal and professional papers, artifacts, slides, photographs, maps, and masks, plus worldwide correspondence from prominent scientists, as well as from his two wives and mother. At times it was a bit overwhelming and I often felt, with this mountain of boxes in front of me, that Dr. Maguire’s “Lost World” of Cerro de la Neblina, was my lost world too.

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LuEsther T. Mertz Library Collection: Bassett Maguire Archive

Posted in Garden News on May 28 2019, by Stephen Sinon

By Susan Fraser, Thomas J. Hubbard Vice President and Director, and Stephen Sinon, William B. O’Connor Curator of Special Collections, Research and Archives, LuEsther T. Mertz Library


Neblina expedition, 1953–54.
Photo: Kathleen D. Phelps

The Institutional Archives of The New York Botanical Garden preserves and documents the activities of the Garden as an important international cultural and research organization dedicated to the research, education and display of plants. From its inception in 1891 to the present day, the records of the organization have been gathered and organized and are often consulted for historical and scholarly research. These records are related to the general administration and activity of the Garden, its Directors and Presidents, Board of Trustees, Collections, Buildings, and Gardens. These materials document not only the scientific legacies of the Garden and its staff, but also the social interactions and professional achievements of NYBG researchers. The records of Bassett Maguire (1904–91) is one such collection of note.

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Hardy Fern Collection

Posted in Garden News on May 20 2019, by Claire Lyman

Claire Lyman is the Assistant Curator of Outdoor Gardens at The New York Botanical Garden.


Photo of the hardy fern collectionThe F. Gordon Foster Hardy Fern Collection was established in 1985 with the generous donation of Mr. Foster, fern hobbyist, lecturer author, and honorary fern horticulturist at NYBG. This core of donated plants was supplemented by hardy ferns already at NYBG and its Mary Flagler Cary Arboretum in Millbrook, N.Y. This sparked a massive wave of effort from a team of NYBG horticulturists and botanists to further develop, interpret, and create a long-term plan for the now sizable hardy fern collection. In 1987 John T. Mickel, Senior Curator of Ferns, and Joseph M. Beitel, Horticultural Taxonomist and Curator of Plant Records, wrote A Guide to The F. Gordon Foster Hardy Fern Collection at The New York Botanical Garden, which has remained an important resource on hardy ferns for the past 32 years.

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Conservation Collection in the Native Plant Garden

Posted in Garden News on May 14 2019, by Michael Hagen

Michael Hagen is Curator of the Native Plant Garden and the Rock Garden at The New York Botanical Garden.


Photo of the Native Plant GardenNYBG is a founding member of the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), a network of now more than 50 leading botanic institutions and conservation partners. Working collaboratively since its founding in 1984, the network’s aim is to prevent the extinction of the imperiled native plants of the United States and Canada, with the only coordinated national program of off-site (ex situ) conservation of rare plant material, the National Collection of Endangered Plants. Believed to be the largest living collection of rare plants in the world, the collection contains over 1,400, almost one third, of America’s most imperiled native plants.

As an important conservation resource, the Collection is a backup in case a species becomes extinct or no longer reproduces in the wild, with live plant material collected from nature under controlled conditions and then carefully maintained as seed, rooted cuttings or mature plants. It is also a valuable resource for the scientific study of these rare plants, their life cycles and seed germination requirements.

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Living Collections

Posted in Garden News on May 8 2019, by Plant Talk

By Kristine Paulus, Plant Records Manager; Deanna F. Curtis, Senior Curator of Woody Plants and Landscape Project Manager; and Todd Forrest, Arthur Ross Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections.


Photo of Daylily/Daffodil Walk
Daylily/Daffodil Walk

NYBG’s 250-acre National Historic Landmark landscape and two glasshouses feature 50 gardens and collections that comprise more than one million plants. Well-maintained and displayed collections show the diversity of the plant kingdom and enrich the experience of all who see them. Beautiful displays make visitors stop and examine plants more closely and learn more from their experience, thus fulfilling NYBG’s mission. More than 90% of the plant collections are accessible to visitors every day the Garden is open. All of the plants in the collections are available for research purposes as needed by members of NYBG’s Science Division staff.

Collections are displayed in many ways. They may be incorporated into the landscape, as are the conifers in the Benenson Ornamental Conifers, featured within dedicated gardens, such as the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, presented in organized beds, such as Daylily/Daffodil Walk, or combined in educationally themed and interpreted displays, as in the Upland Tropical Rain Forest Gallery of the Haupt Conservatory. Additionally, collections are displayed in themed exhibitions, such as the annual Orchid Show.

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The Palm Collection

Posted in Garden News on May 3 2019, by Plant Talk

Photo of an herbarium specimen
Palms growing in the Americas have been a subject of NYBG study for many generations. Collected by Curator of Palms Andrew J. Henderson, Ph.D., et al. in 1991 in Brazil, this specimen of a palm frond was pressed for filing in the William and Lynda Steere Herbarium.

The Palms of the World Gallery is one of the Conservatory’s 11 interconnected galleries, each featuring a different botanical habitat and specimens from around the globe. The Gallery displays New World and Old World palms, cycads, ferns, warmclimate monocots, and a variety of ground covers. Several specimens were cultivated from seed collected by NYBG horticulturists and scientists in the field.

As with all its permanent collections, the Garden is committed to the rigorous stewardship of the living plant collections in the Conservatory, entitled A World of Plants. Collections in glasshouses present a unique set of horticultural opportunities and challenges. The Conservatory provides protection from the elements, warm temperatures, and high humidity, so plants may be cultivated that would not survive outdoors in New York City. Adjustments are made throughout the year, including shading in summer to prevent temperatures inside the Conservatory from becoming too warm for visitors and unbearable for plants.

Because its habitats are designed specifically for palms and other warm-climate plants, the Conservatory requires its horticulturists to monitor plant vigor and ensure healthy soils through periodic rejuvenation and replenishment. Palms present a particular set of challenges when cultivated indoors because most varieties have primary growing points on top of their stems. Some inevitably grow too tall for the enclosure, requiring their removal and replacement with younger specimens.

The palm dome restoration provides NYBG curators the opportunity to perform essential horticultural work on the collection housed in the Palms of the World Gallery. Marc Hachadourian, NYBG’s Director of Glasshouse Horticulture and Senior Curator of Orchids, and Tropical Plant Curator Emerita Francisca Coelho developed a plan that preserves and protects important specimens while introducing new plants. Nearly 180 plants in the Gallery will be preserved in place or transplanted during the restoration process.

This article originally appeared as part of the Spring-Summer 2019 issue of Garden News, NYBG’s seasonal newsletter. For further reading, view the issue online and discover a sampling of stories about current programs and undertaking at the Garden.

Adult Education Profile and Lecture: William Bryant Logan

Posted in Garden News on April 30 2019, by Lisa Whitmer

Lisa Whitmer is the Director of Adult Education at The New York Botanical Garden.


Photo from Sprout Lands“We already know how to live sustainably with woodlands. That’s what we did for almost 10 millennia! We need to re-create a relationship with trees that is based on grateful exchange rather than exploitation.” Arborist and NYBG instructor William Bryant Logan’s hope for the future is palpable and underpins his newly published book, Sprout Lands: Tending the Endless Gift of Trees. Beautifully written and grounded in science and culture, Sprout Lands explores what we can learn from the ways in which people around the world traditionally cared for trees, accepting what they offered—wood for charcoal, animal feed, building materials—while ensuring they sprouted again.

As a child, Logan fell in love with trees by climbing the majestic old specimens surrounding his home in suburban Northern California. “I’ve always loved trees, but I hated gardening. I trimmed hedges furiously because I was trying to kill the plants.” Logan chuckled with mock indignation as he remembered his boyhood chores. Hard to believe, given that he now heads Urban Arborists, his thriving company that cares for trees on rooftops, in private yards, and surrounding beloved New York institutions such as Madison Square Park, Battery Park, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Beginning the Haupt Conservatory’s Palm Dome Restoration

Posted in Garden News on April 25 2019, by Plant Talk

Starting April 29, the iconic dome of the 117-year-old, glass-and-steel Enid A. Haupt Conservatory will undergo restoration in accordance with routine maintenance and operations of the Garden’s facilities. The great Conservatory, the centerpiece and symbol of NYBG, is the preeminent existing American example of the crystal palace glass-and-steel school of design developed in England and Ireland in the mid-19th century. It is the most important glasshouse in the country and one of the most beautiful in the world. Shortly after the Garden’s founding by eminent botanist Nathaniel Lord Britton and his wife, bryologist Elizabeth Knight Britton, the Board of Trustees authorized the building of the Conservatory, which has required constant maintenance and repair due to the tenuous balance of glass, wood, and metals subject to the heat and moisture required by indoor plants and the constantly changing external weather conditions of New York.

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Two Decades of the Landscape Design Portfolios Lecture Series

Posted in Garden News on February 7 2019, by Plant Talk

Lisa Whitmer is the Director of Adult Education at The New York Botanical Garden.


Photo of landscape architecture
Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, OLIN

Since the earliest urban public parks and gardens were built, visitors have enjoyed these green spaces, and paused—to appreciate a bit of shade, admire a view, or watch an endless parade of fellow city-dwellers. But it is probable that very few have paused to consider how such places were created, and how all the design decisions made by landscape architects—about the shape of spaces, the slope of the land, the use of light, shade and water, the choice of plants and paving materials, and even the placement of benches—foster our sense of comfort and pleasure in these places.

The goal of the Garden’s annual Landscape Design Portfolios Series is to share this knowledge of the design process through presentations of current work by outstanding landscape architects practicing around the world today. Each fall for the past 20 years, The New York Botanical Garden has provided a public forum for landscape architects and designers to discuss the projects that continue to enhance our lives.

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NYBG Receives New York’s First All-Electric Truck

Posted in Garden News on January 24 2019, by Plant Talk

Photo of NYBG's electric truck

In September 2017, the New York State Attorney General announced that four non-profit organizations had been selected to demonstrate the benefits of battery-powered electric delivery trucks. Named E-Cubed, the innovative project highlights the economic, efficiency, and environmental advantages that all-electric delivery trucks have for New Yorkers. Along with the Wildlife Conservation Society, Habitat for Humanity NYC, and the Big Reuse, The New York Botanical Garden was chosen through a competitive application process to participate in this new program.

Photo of an Electric charging stationOn August 29, 2018, the Garden received the first delivery of the new all-electric truck. The charging station, provided by ChargePoint Inc., has been located near the Pfizer Plant Research Laboratory loading dock because of its proximity to available electrical power, ease of installation, and available parking. NYBG will be receiving an additional all-electric rack body truck with a lift gate. Produced by Mitsubishi Fuso Truck, a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks, both of these zero-emission vehicles will be used to support core operations and services. With a 75-mile range per overnight charge, they will help to reduce traffic-related soot pollution, create economic and environmental efficiencies, and provide a cost-effective alternative to combustion engines to create a greener New York. The initial lease will be funded for a two-year period and all costs associated with the lease and charging station have been paid for by the Attorney General’s office.

This article originally appeared as part of a series on responsible citizenry in the 2018–2019 issue of Garden News, NYBG’s seasonal newsletter. For further reading, view the issue online and discover a sampling of stories about our current efforts and activities that promote, engage, and support active and responsible citizenry on local, regional, and global levels.