A school garden in summer can face some dire conditions, with students and staff fleeing the campuses of our local learning institutions at the hottest, driest time of year. As Bronx youth splash around the hydrants on their blocks, the peppers and cabbage they planted in spring try to withstand drought compete with the mugwort and crabgrass. Well, the JFK High School Environmental Club has just done something about that.
Last week I began a discussion of some of the drivers and dynamics behind gardening trends, and I continue here with some of the trends that David Culp, author and Vice President of Sales at Sunny Border Nursery in Kensington, Connecticut, covered in a lecture during Plant-O-Rama. We have been following many of these trends for the past several years, and will continue to do so for some time.
While the enthusiasm for vegetable gardening waned slightly in the past year, it has grown in such magnitude over the past few years, and with such glamor and entrepreneurial attitude, that we can hardly call it a slip. Vegetables have always captured the hearts of homeowners due to their overall ease and impressive, family-pleasing results. The boom has been propelled even further by growing awareness and a trend towards fitness, general health, and a cooking fad that’s been boosted by the support of major television networks.
Along the same lines of thought is the “organic revolution.” Wait… haven’t we seen that one before, like in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s…? Let’s face it: we seem to be stuck in a perpetual industrial, chemical, and technological cycle where we proceed to destroy the environment and then recoil, implementing new, safer measures (which are often just old measures rehashed for the modern day). Organics is not only trendy these days, but an important part of branding, a potent money-maker, and hopefully an area where people “put their money where their mouth is.” Credibility over commercialism in this arena is always preferred.
Winter is a wonderful time not only to peruse catalogs and feast our eyes on new introductions, but to spend the quieter moments searching out our favorite venues for congregating with like-minded people.
I have several conference and lecture series that I attend to liven up my mind and shake off the winter cold. Of them, one local favorite is the Metro Hort Group’sPlant-O-Rama, which takes place every year on the last Tuesday in January. Metro Hort is an association of horticultural professionals in the New York City tri-state area, and this annual conference is hosted every year in Brooklyn and made available to everyone at an affordable price.
This year the main speaker was David Culp, author and Vice President of Sales at the well-known Sunny Border Nursery in Kensington, Connecticut. Culp spoke on new directions being taken in horticulture, looking both backwards and forwards along the timeline of plantsmanship with an eye toward gardening trends. I came away with some new insights intro drivers and dynamics behind those trends. What struck me most is that there’s a two-way process between the consumer and the supplier; consumers are critical in driving demands and creating trends, but the industry—the producers—often has the upper hand, and uses it to effect its own ends.
Jennifer Caplan is an intern for the NYBG Greenmarket this summer season. She is an environmental studies and international affairs double major at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. She is interested in gardening and cooking the fruits and vegetables purchased at the NYBG Greenmarket and her local market.
Although the food at the market is always fun to taste and look at, the people and the events are probably the best part of all. The New York Botanical GardenGreenmarket is fortunate to have not only a wide selection of seasonal vegetables, fruits, and baked goods, but we also have weekly guests that come to promote healthy living for those in the community, like the Albert Einstein College of Medicine sharing a study on Hispanic community health, or helping locals lead a more sustainable lifestyle with Bronx Green-Up’s Compost Q&As.
GrowNYC is also on location at the market to provide cooking demonstrations and recipes, and to assist customers using debit or credit cards, WIC and FMNP coupons, and EBT payments. The GrowNYC tent is also where you can learn about farmer’s markets in other parts of New York City, each one being unique in its own way.
If you have any questions on any of the goods being sold at the market, make sure you talk to the vendors and farmers who are present—they sure do love to talk! Last week I had a chance to talk to one of the farmers from Gajeski Produce. We discussed what it was like to have a farm on Long Island and how it was affected by extreme weather like Hurricane Sandy last fall and the recent heat wave. He said that when Long Island flooded during Sandy, many of his leafy herbs died from salt damage, hurting the farm’s production. Now, the recent heat has caused them to water more frequently, and their crop yield has been successful.
Charles M. Yurgalevitch, Ph.D., is the Director of the School of Professional Horticulture.
On Wednesday, July 24, 2013, the School of Professional Horticulture at the NYBG hosted the first-ever Green Industry Intern Field Day in the metro NYC area! Over 80 people attended, with every borough represented at this event, in addition to Long Island, upstate New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. An undergrad student even traveled from North Carolina State University to attend. This Field Day was created for interns interested in a career in horticulture, ecology, landscape design, or ecological restoration—for anyone who loves working with plants and wants to improve our environment and the world by doing so.
We opened with a brief assessment of the state of horticulture in 2013—namely, the shortage of trained and skilled plants people. Despite high-paying opportunities, there is a notable lack of people going into the nursery and landscape management business. In the UK, 72% of horticulture firms cannot find skilled workers, and a report from the Royal Horticultural Society found that young people in Britain don’t view gardening or working with plants as a skilled career. The importance of plants in our lives and on our planet cannot be overstated, making the need to encourage education in horticulture and the science behind growing plants all the more significant.
As Community Horticulturist for Bronx Green-Up, the community garden outreach program of The New York Botanical Garden, Sara Katz works alongside resident stewards of the borough’s community and school gardens and urban farms. She is also a hobbyist beekeeper at Taqwa Community Farm.
A message one frigid morning in early spring, left in a fine British accent: “Hello, this is Jane Selberg from PS 105. I’m calling because our school received a grant to build a garden. We would really appreciate any advice or resources you might be willing to contribute. We’d like to use the garden to teach the children about pollinators and wildlife, and plant native plants to attract butterflies and things.”
I smiled when I heard that one on the Bronx Green-Up line. Days before, we were offered 2,000 native plants for an upcoming public workshop we do annually with Butterfly Project NYC. The plants themselves were particularly noteworthy: castaways from construction of the new Native Plant Garden, which opened on May 4th at NYBG.
In a bright schoolyard near Pelham Parkway, in the Northern Bronx, the concrete has a colorful maze painted on it, a mural on the ground. This is where I came to meet Jane Selberg and, well, most of her immediate family: two blond daughters and their husbands, all yanking out weeds in a long brown stretch of garden-to-be, about a hundred feet long and four feet wide.
Notice an arborist with a little extra spring in her step? It’s not surprising. Against all odds, the Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) was finally ousted from Manhattan and Staten Island after a near 20-year reign; even New Jersey is claiming victory, putting us on the road to ALB eradication. But even if this loathsome pest is on the outs in the northeast, we’re not out of the woods—figuratively or literally—with the nagging issue of its accomplice, the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). These invasive bugs don’t mop up their own infestations, much as we’d love it if they did—it takes awareness and action on everyone’s part to save our trees. And I’m talking about millions of trees in the end game.
Since it was first discovered in New York in 2009, the invasive Emerald Ash Borer has killed tens of millions of ash trees, and its appetite is indiscriminate when it comes to variety. That leaves every last one of New York’s hundreds of millions of ash trees at risk—trees that not only define our landscape, but support American industry. And though good fences do make for good neighbors, these six-legged invaders aren’t partial to friendly truisms; it’s up to everyone to cooperate in looking out for New York’s flora at large.
I don’t know if you have ever encountered a nettle while out on a walk, but I certainly have, and there is one experience in particular that leaps to mind. While out with friends on a botanizing excursion, I managed to stick my hand straight into a huge patch of nettles (Urtica dioica). A big mistake, as you can probably guess.
We spent the rest of the walk searching fruitlessly for broad-leaved dock (Rumex obtusifolius) to relieve the itching, swelling, and burning caused by the nettle’s stinging hairs. This situation was perfect to put the best survival watch I got as a gift many years ago, I noted the time I got stung and kept a journal with time signatures on my watch as my skin progressed. My arm was on fire. But the glassy hairs themselves were not the driving force behind this irritation, nasty as they are. That blame lies squarely with the formic acid and histamine released as the spiny hair pierces the skin.
Luckily, there are several wild cures to the nettle’s sting that the natural world offers. Weeds can be useful, even though gardeners view them (often rightly so) as a nuisance. Broad-leaved dock is just one example. To counter the effects of nettles, the dock’s leaves can be collected, torn into pieces, and pulverized until they produce a green sap. This juice will offer near-instant relief from the nettle’s sting.
Scott A. Mori, Ph.D., Nathaniel Lord Britton Curator of Botany has been studying New World rain forests for The New York Botanical Garden for nearly 35 years. He has witnessed an unrelenting reduction in the extent of the forests he studies and, as a result, is dedicated to preserving the diversity of plants and animals found there.
At the time of this writing, I am in São Paulo Brazil to attend a multinational meeting of scientists, each participating in a study of the plants and animals of the Amazon Basin. I arrived the day before the meeting, and had time to walk through the area around the hotel, exploring for weeds and cultivated plants. No matter where I travel, even in the largest cities, there are plants to enjoy. When I spot one I know, it is like running into an old friend and trying to remember his or her name.
First, I try to identify the family the plant belongs to, followed by the genus, and finally the species. After recalling its name, I study the plant to find out if there is something about it I have not seen before. The secret to discovering new information about a plant is to study it carefully through a hand lens–I prefer one that magnifies the flower, fruit, and seed parts by up to ten times their normal size. Finding a plant that I do not know provides an even more exciting encounter, but that will be left for another post.
Garden designers are about vision. They transform worn out frameworks of existing gardens, empty spaces, and natural areas into poetic visions. Where most of us will muster up all of our creative juices only to create something that still looks like we threw a bunch of plants into the ground, the seasoned designer makes the garden seem simultaneously magical and effortless, as if their creation was always meant to occupy the space. On January 31, the well-known British garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith kicked off the 13th Annual Winter Lecture Series at the NYBG, beginning with a lecture on “The Modern Garden: Finding a Language.”
In an eclectic discussion that covered sources of inspiration ranging from cellular biology and psychology to Schumann and Wagner, Stuart-Smith invited us into the inner workings of his mind, giving us a very personal account of the impetus for his designs.