As part of #plantlove at NYBG, we’re talking with people from all over the Garden about what inspires their passion for plants. Today, meet Leslie Coleman, Plant Information Specialist.
I planted my first garden while living in Central London, and gardens changed for me—from places of flowers and sunshine to spaces of expression and restoration. I went on to get my certificate in horticulture on the grounds of the extraordinary Chelsea Physic Garden. What a world opened before me as the deeper beauty of plants came into focus.
I am particularly attracted to the science of plants. The ability to understand, explain, and predict is always exciting. But I also love the mixture of order, mystery, hope, and artistry in horticulture, and I think that plants often bring out the best in people. As a Plant Information Specialist at NYBG, it is gratifying to support so many different journeys in the engrossing world of plants.
As part of #plantlove at NYBG, we’re talking with people from all over the Garden about what inspires their passion for plants. Today, meet Anais Garcia, a Summer Youth Employment Program Intern with Bronx Green-Up and the NYC Compost Project at The New York Botanical Garden.
At a young age, I was exposed to plants while living with my grandmother. I may not have quite the green thumb she does, but I sure do like to have plants in my household—it just brings a calm aura to everything I do at home.
I’m glad I chose this internship because it opened my eyes to plants I wouldn’t normally see in my neighborhood. I have experienced the beauty of various community gardens and how they thrive, and not only did I get hands-on experience in these gardens, but I also obtained new job skills throughout my time in the program. Some of these skills included managing inventory, using various software in support of our initiatives, tabling at events, and much more.
One of many experiences I really enjoyed was building a garden bed at Morris Campus Educational Farm. It was fun working alongside the students as a team to build the bed from scratch. By the end of the program, I felt proud that I had taken part in this activity because it’s something most people my age haven’t experienced.
From meeting new plants to meeting new people, working with these two amazing teams—Bronx Green-Up and NYC Compost Project—has left me in awe of everything they do in the City. When I first met everyone, I realized that they are not only a team, but a family, always ready to make a big impact on this world.
Coming this fall, #plantlove takes to the trees in “Chorus of the Forest,” an original composition by NYBG Composer-in-Residence Angélica Negrón that combines choral accompaniments in the Thain Forest with her unique digital plant interface to turn the anatomy of the plants themselves into music. Get a peek into her process here.
As part of #plantlove at NYBG, we’re talking with people from all over the Garden about what inspires their passion for plants. Today, meet Joel Ramirez, Web Developer for Biodiversity Information Management in the Steere Herbarium.
My interest in plants started back in high school when I joined the Environmental Club. They offered a program with Wave Hill to learn the invaluable skills for pruning, growing, and composting plants. These types of school-garden partnerships in the Bronx with institutions such as these, including NYBG, help foster a connection between young adults and nature—educating students about the environment. Watching our school garden grow and become a safe haven was uncommon growing up in the Bronx. A “diamond in the dirt,” bringing peace into my heart. Nine years later, I’ve been able to fuse my passion for technology with plant science here at the Garden. Though they cannot speak, plants still communicate with us in their own way, and we must come together to ensure their well-being. Plants are the reason we’re able to live.
As part of #plantlove at NYBG, we’re talking with people from all over the Garden about what inspires their passion for plants. Today, meet Livia Martinez, Undergraduate Science Intern in the NYBG Plant Research Laboratory.
Where did you grow up, and did that have an impact on your decision to devote your life to plants?
I grew up in South Florida, which I would say had a pretty big impact on my interest in plants. The flora of Florida and the Caribbean are truly unparalleled, and growing up around mangrove forests and cycads and palm trees created a subconscious love for plants that I did not grow to appreciate until I got to high school.
As part of #plantlove at NYBG, we’re talking with people from all over the Garden about what inspires their passion for plants. Today, meet Jillian Elbaum, Manager of Adult Education.
I spent a summer working in the Jerusalem forest on an organic farm. More than just a CSA, and the source of bountiful produce to the local community, this farm also provided employment for young adults who had been kicked out of school or previously incarcerated. Working side by side with the other farmers as we tended to the endless rows of tomatoes, they told me about how coming to work each day gave them a sense of peace. They felt valued. I didn’t know there was a phrase for this until I came to NYBG. “Horticultural therapy.” I feel so lucky for the opportunity to foster the power of plants each day in the NYBG Adult Education program, where Horticultural Therapy is just one of the many life-changing programs offered.
As part of #plantlove at NYBG, we’re talking with people from all over the Garden about what inspires their passion for plants. Today, meet Liz Pulver, an #nybgadulted Landscape Design instructor at The New York Botanical Garden.
I got into the field of landscape architecture because I love plants and design, but I often spend long hours working in the office. Paired with the demands of city life, it can take a lot out of me, so visiting NYBG is like a tonic for my city soul.
As soon as I step off the train and walk into the Garden, I feel calmer. There are soft, wide open spaces all around, lush green lawns, and the most majestic trees. Whatever happened at work or during the day seems to wash away, and I feel like I can breathe again. It reminds me: this is why I do what I do.
Oliver Sacks’ newly released collection of essays, Everything in Its Place: First Loves and Last Tales (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2019), contains a wonderful chapter on ferns, one of Sacks’ early and enduring loves. Called “Botanists on Park,” the essay describes how he joins a troupe of fern hunters—he was a member of the American Fern Society—searching for rare specimens in the dry grit of old railroad beds along Park Avenue in New York City. They would be amazed to discover new varieties. As an amateur fern expert, Sacks had written a fascinating book about ferns, Oaxaca Journal, published in 2002, when he was already considered “the poet laureate of medicine,” a world-famous neurologist, and beloved professor.
In this new, posthumously produced book, Sacks writes about being a young boy living in London, and his many, cherished visits to Kew Gardens and the South Kensington museums—especially the garden outside the Natural History Museum. There he was fascinated by long-extinct fossil trees, like Sigillaria, and other “Jurassic” plants. In his essay “Remembering South Kensington,” he writes:
“I wanted the green monochrome, the fern and cycad forests of the Jurassic. I even dreamed at night, as an adolescent, of giant woody club mosses and tree horsetails, primeval, giant gymnosperm forests enveloping the globe—and would wake furious to think that they had long since disappeared, the world taken over by brightly colored, up-to-date, modern flowering plants.”
As part of #plantlove at NYBG, we’re talking with people from all over the Garden about what inspires their passion for plants. Today, meet Kadeesha Williams, Community Horticulturist and Urban Agriculturist with Bronx Green-Up at NYBG.
I’m lucky to have grown up surrounded by plants. My parents come from farming backgrounds in South Carolina, so it was natural to raise their own food when they moved to NYC. I often think of my family’s community garden, Taqwa Community Farm here in the Bronx, as the place where I first had my experiences with plants. It isn’t, though.
When I was three or four, my father and grandfather kept a garden in our backyard, and I remember how lush it always was. There was a rose of Sharon bush that grew to the size of a small tree, two Persian silk trees, and forsythia along the fence. In the middle they grew tomatoes, cucumbers, collard greens, and cabbage. I felt tiny walking through that garden, like a fairy princess in a magical forest. I dream about that place often, even as an adult, because of how it shaped the world I desire. I don’t think I’ve ever shaken that dream, and I want to share the experience with everyone.
Being in a garden should remind us of how small we are, and that is a beautiful thing.
As part of #plantlove at NYBG, we’re talking with people from all over the Garden about what inspires their passion for plants. Today, meet Daryl Beyers, Adult Education Gardening Program Coordinator and instructor at The New York Botanical Garden.
I grew up with a love-hate relationship with plants. I loved all the trees and flowers surrounding my childhood home but hated the three acres of lawn my father made me mow on the weekends. This consideration of plants as either inspiration or chore formed the horticultural ethic of my university studies in landscape design and my early professional practice in gardens. Then, while teaching my first gardening course at NYBG nearly a decade ago, I unearthed another plant-people relationship: “To grow a plant is to know a plant.”
The fierce curiosity of my students to learn and understand the how and why of gardening showed me how and why we all connect with plants. Our #plantlove manifests in many ways, such as through the care and attention given to a houseplant, the calming influence of a groves of trees, or the exuberance of walking through wildflowers. Every plant has its charm, but as they charm us we charm them too, into forms and functions that shape where and how we live. That’s what gardening is.