Inside The New York Botanical Garden


A Bronx Red-Tail: Part 2

Posted in Members, Wildlife on November 9 2011, by Patricia Gonzalez

Patricia Gonzalez is an NYBG member and avid amateur wildlife photographer. She can often be found taking photographs around the Garden.

Back in February of this year, I related my tale of Rose, the red-tailed hawk who shares a nest on the nearby Fordham University campus with Vince, her mate. Since then, the hawks have extended their family. In May, four chicks (a record for this pair and likely any other Bronx hawks) came out to the world. I knew that it was only a matter of time before these youngsters would pay The New York Botanical Garden a visit. I hoped to be lucky enough to see these raptors close up, and I recently got my wish.

Bronx Red-Tail HawkIt was 9:40 a.m. on a chilly October morning and I had just passed the Garden’s reflecting pool. I wanted to do some shooting of the Conservatory grounds. That’s when I noticed a hawk darting overhead, landing on the lawn by the first tram stop on Garden Way.

The tram crew hadn’t noticed it at first. The hawk was looking down at something. After watching Jr. (one of this hawk’s siblings from 2010’s brood) for so many months this past winter, I already knew what was going to happen next, so I tip-toed ahead, ducking behind one of the two nearby trees and readying my camera. I set it to shoot eight images in one burst and began firing away. It was windy and the ray of sunlight shining through the trees directly onto my new friend kept changing, making getting clear shots interesting to say the least. But I got photos of the newest member of Rose’s dynasty regardless.

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Rose Garden Pinhole Triptych

Posted in Around the Garden, Members, Photography on June 29 2011, by Ann Rafalko

Another beautiful pinhole photograph of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden from NYBG Member and horticulturist Joel Kroin.

NYBG rose overlook tryptic pinhole camera 6-07-2011Click to enlarge image (Photos by Joel Kroin)

We’re so lucky to have such creative and enthusiastic visitors! Do you create art at the Garden? We would love to see it! If you would like your Garden-themed art featured on Plant Talk, email an example of your work and a little bit about yourself to

The Rose Garden Through the Pinhole

Posted in Around the Garden, Members, Photography on May 31 2011, by Ann Rafalko

I met Joel Kroin while out on a walk last week. He was kneeling in the entrance to the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden with an old camp coffeepot. I hesitated for a moment, and almost walked past him, but my curiosity got the better of me. “Is that a pinhole camera?” I asked. Indeed it was. It turns out that Joel is not just a horticulturist and NYBG Member, he’s also an artist who has been making beautiful engravings at the Garden for years. Recently has begun experimenting with pinhole cameras. I ran into Joel again today, down by the waterfall on the Bronx River, and he promised me that he would have more beautiful shots to share soon. In the meantime, here is the pinhole photograph Joel was making when I met him, and an engraving of the same waterfall he was photographing today.


Entrance to the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden - Pinhole photography by Joel Kroin
Entrance to the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden - Pinhole photography by Joel Kroin
Bronx River Waterfall - Engraving by Joel Kroin
Bronx River Waterfall - Engraving by Joel Kroin


NYBG for the Wildlife Photographer: Part Two

Posted in Members, Photography, Wildlife on April 22 2011, by Patricia Gonzalez

Patricia Gonzalez is an NYBG Member and avid amateur wildlife photographer. She is especially fond of taking photographs at the Garden.

In part one, I encouraged shutterbugs who love shooting wildlife to visit The New York Botanical Garden and shared one of my encounters there. Today, I’ll give you some tips on how to make the most out of your visit.

Dress comfortably and efficiently

A typical outing at the Garden can last me anywhere from three to six hours, so it’s important to dress comfortably. During my adventures, I always wear cargo pants (BDUs) and boots. Cargo pants because they are loose-fitting and have lots of pockets for your gear and boots for the terrain. If you really want to better your chances of encountering wildlife, then no visit to the Garden would be complete without exploring all the Native Forest trails as well as the path that runs along the Bronx River. These paths can get pretty muddy, especially at the entrance to the individual trails, so hiking boots are strongly recommended. In winters like this past one that brought mega-blizzard after mega-blizzard, you’ll need snow boots.

Pat's Boots

Bring an extra battery

This might seem like a silly suggestion, but I’m always hearing this “I would have taken more shots, but my battery ran out, so I went home.” You’d be surprised how quickly a day can fly by. Always bring an extra camera battery and keep it someplace where you can reach for it quickly when your on-screen indicator starts flashing. I keep a fully-charged spare in the outside pocket of my camera bag.

Native Forest - Sweetgum Trail

Where to find the hawks

Everybody with a camera wants to get a shot of one of the beautiful red-tailed hawks and other raptors that hunt at the NYBG. Although Rose and Vince have their nest on the nearby Fordham University Campus, the Bronx Zoo and the Botanical Garden are all part of their hunting grounds. Younger red-tails believed to be Rose’s offspring hunt regularly at the Garden along with cooper’s hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, and the two resident great-horned owls. So, where in the Garden can these winged hunters be found? The answer is: Everywhere. Hawks pretty much go where they want and there is no specific all-year-round spot. However, I’ve had some very good luck lately in the Native Forest on the trails that border the Azalea Garden, and near the Library Building.

Last Minute Hawk

Have patience

Let’s say you’ve been walking around for several hours and you’re beginning to feel like you haven’t seen anything. Instead of leaving, take a break. Why not head on over to the Visitor’s Center Café? I survived my freezing winter treks on their most excellent hot chocolate. Enjoy your drink of choice while enjoying the nice view. After about a half hour there, I’m refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to continue on. Once you head out, re-trace some of the ground you covered earlier. One time, I had walked around non-stop for nearly five hours, hoping to shoot one of the red-tails there. I got nothing, but came back a half hour later and took the photo you see above. It was definitely worth heading out for a second look.

Want to photograph wildlife all year? Then join the Garden. A Garden Membership will get you and your camera unlimited entry to the grounds, the Conservatory, the exhibits in the Library Building, and to all the wonderful events that take place throughout the year.

The Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden: An Appreciation

Posted in Members on April 11 2011, by Sabrina Lee

Sabrina Lee is an artist, community gardener, blogger, and NYBG Member.

As a California native who was raised in the agricultural belt of that state, I never thought about food in terms of being local, seasonal, or sustainable. Local, in-season fruits and vegetables were always within reach; at roadside farm stands, and in my own backyard. Sustainable was another issue. My father cared for ten plus fruit trees in a backyard the size of ten parking spaces. Throughout my childhood, I plucked softball-sized oranges from our tree; I could not eat them faster than they fell. I later learned this was not a common childhood experience for most; I had no idea.


Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden
Photo by Ivo M. Vermeulen

During my teaching days at a charter school here in New York City, I remember asking a student of mine casually, “What did you eat for breakfast?” She replied, “Chips and a soda.” She was in the seventh grade. This was not an uncommon answer among my students and that disturbed me. I do not believe it was a choice on their part to eat this way, but rather a matter of access. The school did not have any patches of green space (prior to leaving California, I had never heard the term, “green space”) designated for the students, and school lunches consisted mainly of processed foods. The closest businesses to the school were fast food establishments and a convenience store that sold products in the same category as my student’s breakfast. Like millions of other New Yorkers, my students did not have private or shared backyards, balconies, or terraces in their homes. Growing up in a city, this poses a very serious question for children, where will they learn about food?

Newton Bunny in the Family Garden
Photo by Sabrina Lee

The New York Botanical Garden is an oasis within the concrete neighborhood where it resides. The Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden is an oasis within that oasis. When I first entered the Family Garden, I instantly felt the participatory nature of the space and the imprint of the individuals who have gardened there: in the composting bins, the hanging dried gourds, and the hand painted signs with the names of the vegetables and the names of the young gardeners. This adds to the communal feeling. Food education is paramount to one’s well-being and sets the stage for one’s relationship to food for a lifetime. City children need the opportunity to nurture and grow their own food, and they need to be aware of how their food is grown for them. When you cultivate and care for a garden, your appreciation for food is heightened. The physical labor becomes knowledge in your body. The Family Garden provides city children an opportunity to participate in the full cycle of growing food: sowing seeds, transplanting seedlings, maintaining a garden, harvesting the bounty, collecting seeds, and composting. Children not only gain knowledge and empowerment, but they also gain the sensory experience of working with their hands. It is a wonderful place to visit; I wish I were one of the two rabbits, Darwin and Newton that live there, preferably Newton, his hutch has a succulent rooftop.

Are you a NYBG Member or visitor who would like to share your experiences at the Garden like Sabrina? Consider writing a blog post for Plant Talk! Learn more.

NYBG for the Wildlife Photographer: Part One

Posted in Members, Photography, Wildlife on April 5 2011, by Patricia Gonzalez

Patricia Gonzalez is an NYBG Member and avid amateur wildlife photographer. She is especially fond of taking photographs at the Garden.

You do not have to leave the five boroughs of New York to see wildlife. In fact, you’re only a train, subway, or bus ride away!

For the last three years that I have been a Member, I have had the pleasure of photographing different members of the animal kingdom at The New York Botanical Garden. The garden is a wildlife photographer’s dream. Within the Garden’s 250-acres you will find a forest, wetlands, streams, and two lakes–each one home to all manner of creatures–from cardinals to wild turkeys, from rabbits to red-tailed hawks, from mallards to muskrats. One can easily go through an entire camera battery (or two) trying to shoot them all (with your camera, of course).

Hooded Merganser

Here is an example of one of my recent mornings taking photos at the Garden:

Several weeks ago, I was walking down Azalea Way which is one of the garden’s main roads with camera in hand. To my left was the edge of the Native Forest and to my right the Azalea Garden. I was talking on my cellphone when I noticed the distinctive silhouette of a red-tail hawk on a tree to my right, just before Azalea Way meets with the Stone Mill Road.

I told the person on the other end that I’d have to call them back and switched my phone to vibrate so that if it rang, the sound wouldn’t scare the hawk away. I tip-toed ahead to a point where the sun was to my back and began shooting. The hawk stayed there for a bit and pretty soon I was right below him. I kept on shooting. After about five minutes, he crouched down and I knew he was going to take off. He then leaped right over me. For the second that it took him to do that he was only about four feet above my head. He glided on to the other side of the road, over the wooden fence with his talons extended, and landed on the forest floor with a light thud. I assumed that he had caught something, so I waited for the meal to begin. When a red tail captures prey, they will typically begin looking around, darting their head left and right. As the hawk was doing this with has his back to me, I slowly moved in closer all the while shooting between the fence posts.

Sometimes a young hawk will mistake an inanimate object for prey, which is what I think happened here. Eventually realizing that there was nothing there, he took a few steps and scrunched down as if to fly off again. Instead, he hopped on to the fence. I eased closer until I was about 15 feet away. That’s when I shot this. Ladies and gentlemen, look into the eyes of the natural world. He was even nice enough to let me shoot some video. As you can see, vehicles and distant sirens don’t seem to phase him either.

Red-Tail Hawk

I shot about 50 photos while he was on that wooden fence. I’d never been this physically close to a red-tail before. I could see the color of his eyes, the detail in his feathers, his talons. I was truly in awe of this winged hunter. Further up Azalea Way I could see a group of four talking loudly. The hawk turned his head to look at them and I knew he was about to leave, so I just kept shooting. Seconds later he took off. I then ran home to look at the photos on my computer. It was there that I noticed the blood on his beak, most likely from a previous meal.


This was just one of the many events of nature that I’ve been blessed to witness during my photographic adventures at the Garden. Looking into the eyes of that magnificent raptor is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I encourage all photographers–amateur or pro, wildlife or scenic–not just to visit the Garden, but to become a Member. For the cost of an annual membership, you get unlimited entry to the grounds, the Conservatory, the exhibits in the Library Building, and all the other wonderful events that take place there throughout the year. Just don’t forget to bring your camera!

Next up: Pat gives us some practical tips for getting the most out of your photographic safari at the Garden. Stay tuned!

Proud Papa: Owl Chicks in the Forest!

Posted in Members, Photography, Wildlife on March 21 2011, by Plant Talk

Remember this guy standing guard over his nest? Well, it turns out, he’s a father now! For the first time since 2009, The New York Botanical Garden‘s Native Forest is home to at least two baby Great-Horned Owl chicks! First word on the nest came to us from NYBG member, Plant Talk contributor, and amateur wildlife photographer Pat Gonzalez, who says she has confirmed the existence of the chicks with New York City bird expert Dr. Robert “Birding Bob” Candido.

Mama and her baby owl. We have circled the chick in red. (photo by Pat Gonzalez)
Mama and her baby owl. We have circled the chick in red. (photo by Pat Gonzalez)


As Pat puts it, “Little white faces peeking out through the hole in that tree is a good thing” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!


Owl Chick (photo by Pat Gonzales)
Owl Chick (photo by Pat Gonzales)


Tweet Tweet: The Orchid Show As Seen by You

Posted in Members, Photography, The Orchid Show on March 17 2011, by Plant Talk

Almost better than seeing a packed house full of smiling faces at The Orchid Show: On Broadway is seeing The Orchid Show through your–the visitors’–eyes. That’s one of the amazing things about Twitter, you can instantly show us what you love about The Orchid Show!

So we thought we would show-off some of the beautiful photos that you have been taking inside the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Want to be sure we see your shots in the future? It’s simple: Just tag your photo with our Twitter username @nybg. If we get enough shots, we’ll do another twitpic roundup in a week or two.

The Orchid Show by Twitter user MGH500

Photo by MGH500

The Orchid Show shot by the uber-fabulous Jim Shi

Photo by Jim Shi

The Orchid Show as seen by Twitter user Irene Majuk

Photo by Irene Majuk

The Orchid Show by Twitter user Renee DeLano

Photo by Renee DeLano

Orchids on Film

Posted in Members, Photography, The Orchid Show on March 16 2011, by Plant Talk

Lots of people bring their cameras to The Orchid Show: On Broadway, but very few bring an instant film camera.

The Orchid Show (photo by Cindy Quaint)
Photo by Cindy Quaint

But that’s just what longtime Garden member, blogger, and photographer Cindy Quaint did this past weekend. We loved her photos so much that we asked her if we could share them with you, and Cindy kindly obliged.

The Orchid Show (photo by Cindy Quaint)
Photo by Cindy Quaint

The dreamy, fuzzy quality in these photos make The Orchid Show seem even more romantic than it already is.

The Orchid Show (photo by Cindy Quaint)
Photo by Cindy Quaint

Thanks for agreeing to share your lovely snaps with us Cindy!

A Bronx Red-Tail

Posted in Members, Wildlife on February 15 2011, by Patricia Gonzalez

Patricia Gonzalez is an NYBG Member and avid amateur wildlife photographer. She is especially fond of taking photographs at the Garden.

Nestled in a corner of the North Bronx is an oasis of trees, plants, and flowers. For many in the borough, The New York Botanical Garden is an escape from the daily grind of living in New York City. Although it is known primarily as a museum of plants, the garden is also teaming with wildlife: Squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, muskrats, and other creatures make their home there, and so do many species of birds. Two of those birds, Rose and Vince, have become celebrities amongst the wildlife photographers and bird-watchers that regularly frequent the Garden’s 250 acres.


Rose and Vince are red-tailed hawks. Rose was a celebrity long before she built a nest at the Botanical Garden in 2009. She and Hawkeye, her first mate, had made their home on the Fordham University campus back in 2005 where they built a nest in an old oak tree and had two chicks. In 2006 they moved on to a ledge of one of the campus buildings (Collins Hall) where they had three more offspring. Success followed in 2007 and 2008 where they would have three chicks each year.

Rose was named after the Rose Hill Campus of Fordham. Hawkeye was named after Hawkeye Pierce, the character played by Fordham alum Alan Alda on the M.A.S.H. television series. Both hawks were named by James McCabe, Director of the Fordham Library.

Rose and Vince head for the Garden! But for how long will they stay?