Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Gardens and Collections


Posted in Gardens and Collections, Monet's Garden on June 7 2012, by Matt Newman

The fleur-de-lis may predate the French monarchy, but it’s forever the nation of the Seine that we associate it with, and in turn the iris that inspired the symbol. It’s timely, then, that the irises are blooming now for Monet’s Garden, just as they are across the Atlantic in the artist’s garden at Giverny, settled in the north of France. Walking through our own display in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, you’ll come upon several breeds of royal purple flower poking proudly from between the delphiniums, poppies, and furry mullein stalks. But outside, the iris is a constant spring resident!

In ancient Greece, Iris was considered the goddess of the rainbow, a messenger between divinity and humanity who carried the word of the pantheon to Earth. Her flowers do their best to make their namesake proud in at least that first regard, sprouting up along borders and plots throughout the Garden in every shade of purple, blue, pink, and often white or yellow. (True red remains the sought after grail of the iris connoisseur, a color that no amount of hybridizing has been able to produce reliably.) Not the full range of the rainbow, but pretty close, to be sure.

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Great Rosarians of the World 2012

Posted in Adult Education, Around the Garden, Gardens and Collections on June 5 2012, by Sonia Uyterhoeven

Sonia Uyterhoeven is the NYBG’s Gardener for Public Education.

Our discussions of vegetable gardens are going to be temporarily cut short due to the glorious activity in the world of roses. For the past week, the NYBG‘s Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden has been in peak bloom, exuding a luxurious perfume that can be experienced from a distance.

This past Saturday, The New York Botanical Garden joined the Manhattan Rose Society in hosting the 12th annual Great Rosarians of the World symposium. They may sound like an imposing, exclusive collective, yet they are a jovial group that welcomes even the most casual rose grower. The symposium is open to the public and offered as a course in our Continuing Education catalog.

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The Rose Garden: Spring Classic

Posted in Around the Garden, Gardens and Collections on May 23 2012, by Matt Newman

After last week’s press preview of Monet’s Garden, staff photographer Ivo and I took a short hike to see what we could of the rosarians’ handiwork. The mercury was climbing in lieu of an evaporating early morning chill. The tree shade, in turn, had the afternoon wavering in range of a decent spring temperature. We reached the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden a few minutes later.

Spring’s early arrival (in the middle of winter, no less) made an impression on the NYBG‘s roses, pushing them to bloom ahead of schedule and lining up their peak of color alongside the early days of the Monet exhibition. In fact, we’re hovering at around 90% bloom right now, making the Rose Garden a must-see stop over the coming weeks.

The fine geometry of the garden seems arbitrary at first, but you soon realize how carefully everything has been placed–just as the great landscape architect Beatrix Farrand intended. Airy perimeters of climbing roses encompass dense beds of Grandiflora, Hybrid Tea, Floribunda, and other sustainable cultivars. Bobbing in and about the blossoms are bumble bees, more accurate and methodical than their name suggests. The space is landmarked with concentric circle stonework at the corners and entrance, curving stairways, and a trellised gazebo at the center. Altogether a striking place to walk and reflect.

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A Crabby Disposition

Posted in Around the Garden, Gardens and Collections on April 13 2012, by Matt Newman

I remember my dad telling me, rather gleefully, of fall afternoons spent pelting his friends with rock-hard crabapples flung from his homemade slingshot. It’s a Dennis the Menace trope in its purest form. But it also seems a fitting use for a fruit some say is named for its disagreeable nature. And if you were to take the dive and snack on a crabapple off the branch, with few exceptions you would probably find yourself cringing as if you’d just sampled a wedge of unripe lemon.

With the cherry trees doffing their hats until next year’s flower effusion, the questionably edible crabapples are only too willing to steal away the spotlight with looks (and being in the rose family, the crabapples have them in spades). The crabby name belies the abundance of blossoms which spot the grounds with cloudy displays of ivory, fuchsia, and burgundy. And the history of crabapples at The New York Botanical Garden is equally as rich, beginning early in the Garden’s life with a planting of trees near Twin Lakes. Later, in 1930, the collection moved to its current home in the southwest section of the grounds. Placed in neat rows along Daffodil Hill, the many cultivars–rare and common alike–burst into effervescent color just after the daffodils have faded. This year’s bizarrely early spring has, of course, given us the benefit of both beauties sashaying through flirty florescence in tandem.

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Globetrotting with Coconuts

Posted in Around the Garden, Gardens and Collections, Learning Experiences on April 8 2012, by Matt Newman

Under the glass of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory‘s Palm House grows an iconic tree, commonplace to most tourists of the tropics. In the wild, the fruit dangles in lumpy clusters from a familiar silhouette, bending like an elbow toward the sea, a thin pole with a spray of long green leaves at the peak. Visit any beachside farmer’s market in the islands of the Caribbean and you may see the ubiquitous coconut held out in the hands of stall hawkers, a straw stuck through a bored-out husk for passersby to taste.

But beyond the frosty lip of a piña colada glass, the coconut earns a mixed reputation in the culinary circuit. It clutters cake frosting, makes an appearance in the occasional creme pie, lurks in the most innocuous-looking candy bars–yet how many people do you know who go gaga for the pulpy flesh of this tropical mainstay? I defer to a readily available explanation for the widespread dislike: “It’s not the taste, it’s the consistency.” And with that, I will never again have an opportunity to quote Zombieland, much less Woody Harrelson.

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Darwin’s Star Orchid

Posted in Around the Garden, Darwin's Garden, Gardens and Collections, The Orchid Show on March 29 2012, by Joyce Newman

Joyce H. Newman is a Garden Tour Guide with The New York Botanical Garden.

Of the many thousands of orchids on display during the Orchid Show, the two most requested flowers are the vanilla orchid and what is known as Darwin’s orchid.

The exquisite ivory, star-shaped blossoms of Darwin’s star orchid (Angraecum sesquipedale) are famous for their association with Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution.

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What’s Beautiful Now: Spring

Posted in Around the Garden, Gardens and Collections on March 13 2012, by Ann Rafalko

It seemed too good to be true. All winter, I kept holding my breath; I kept thinking in the back of my mind that winter had to arrive eventually; that all these nascent flowers and blooms and buds would be pummeled, at last, by a snowstorm as equally freakish as the October 29 blizzard that blew in like some harbinger of an Arctic winter. But, it never came. It never happened. And now, in mid-March it is glorious. On several occasions it has been warmer in the Bronx than in Los Angeles. The birds are singing, the breeze is blowing, sweaters have been (mostly) relegated to the bottom drawer, and flowers are popping up all over the Garden.

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A Christmas Conifer: Norway Spruce

Posted in Around the Garden, Gardens and Collections, What's Beautiful Now on December 21 2011, by Joyce Newman

Joyce H. Newman is the editor of Consumer Reports’, and has been a Garden Tour Guide with The New York Botanical Garden for the past six years.

Norway spruceIn front of our Visitor Center Café is an amazing specimen of Norway spruce (Picea abies), a species often known for its annual appearance as the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

Our Norway spruce is part of the Arthur and Janet Ross Conifer Arboretum at the NYBG and was planted around 1940. Its medium to dark green needles are four-sided, resting on branches that gracefully droop down, designed to be flexible in a heavy snowfall.

Norway spruces can grow to as high as 90 or 100 feet, with a lifespan similar to that of a human being. They are native to the mountains and foothills of Northern Europe rather than the U.S., although they have become popular screening plants here. They grow just about one foot each year, which is considered fairly quick.

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A Bristlecone Pine Named ‘Methuselah’

Posted in Around the Garden, Gardens and Collections on December 19 2011, by Joyce Newman

Bristlecone Pine
It is easy to see where the bristlecone gets its name.

The oldest living tree currently known on the planet–a Bristlecone Pine named “Methuselah”–is located high in the White Mountains of eastern California. It is estimated to be about 4,700 years old, as old as the great pyramids in Egypt and older than Hammurabi, the Babylonian king. To protect the tree, its exact location has been kept a secret.

Scientists say that other, even older bristlecones (Pinus longaeva) exist, but simply haven’t been dated yet. As you have probably guessed, the species gets its common name from its scaled cones, which have spiny, claw-like bristles sticking out from each scale.

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Nikko Firs: Bringing Mt. Fuji to the Bronx

Posted in Gardens and Collections on December 2 2011, by Joyce Newman

Joyce H. Newman is the editor of Consumer Reports’, and has been a Garden Tour Guide with The New York Botanical Garden for the past six years.

Nikko FirsAcross from the Garden’s main Café is a grove of Nikko firs (Abies homolepsis) that was planted in 1928, and has since become part of the Arthur and Janet Ross Conifer Arboretum at the NYBG. Much like a few of the unique conifers we have previously discussed, these trees are native to Japan, and commonly grow in mountainous areas where they need cool, moist, and often snowy environments to thrive. But despite the tree’s native habitat, the word nikko in Japanese actually means “sunlight” or “sunshine.”

You could travel to Mt. Fuji in Japan to see these fir trees growing in abundance. However, the grove right here in the Bronx is an amazing example in itself, due to the fact that firs are difficult to grow in urban environments. In fact, it would be even harder to establish a healthy grove of these trees today given ongoing climate change.

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