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 Cecilia Zumajo, Ph.D. student at the Garden.
My Name is Cecilia Zumajo, and I am a Ph.D. student here at the Garden. I’m studying plant evolution and development, specifically seed ovules and seed development in gymnosperms. I grew up in Colombia, and growing up in a neo-tropical country exposed me to the enormous diversity of flowers and fruits, in terms of shapes, colors, textures—everything! So I started looking at fruits specifically, and all of the genetics underlying the diversity of fruits.
When I came here, the landscape was so very different. Mostly gymnosperms, such as pine trees, ginkgo, all of those. I started looking at them differently because in Colombia I didn’t like gymnosperms at all. For me, they were an invasive thing—we actually have a lot of zamias and cycads originally from Colombia, which are great, but we also cultivate a lot of pine trees for wood. I only knew the pine forest, which impacted the soil by making it more acidic. After the pines, nothing else would grow in that spot.
Women’s History Month is underway, and here at NYBG we’re celebrating countless contributions to the Garden’s missions in science, art, horticulture, and so much more with several events in March. The Garden’s own co-founder, Elizabeth Knight Britton, was a world-renowned botanist and advocate for the natural world, and so many other venerable women in their fields have contributed to the field of plants through their research, illustrations, landscape design, and activism. This year, we’re highlighting a few who have worked with NYBG, and helping to expound on the work of others who deserve the spotlight.
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 Rocky Douangchanh, Public Education Coordinator.
“My passion for the Garden began in fall of 2005, when I joined as a Volunteer Explainer in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden. I came to understand that learning wasn’t a practice bound to a physical classroom, but one that flourished in many forms. I was grateful for the work that I did educating children and developing plant science-based programming. In the 14 years since, my responsibilities here have grown, and I’ve grown with them, finding a voice, vision, and an understanding of NYBG’s role as a living museum. I’ve also come to feel accountable to the community of educators, volunteers, staff, and visitors who think of this place as a second home.”
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 Kristine Paulus, Plant Records Manager.
“As a kid, my love of plants started with wanting to grow food for my pet rabbit, Ginger. Growing up in an apartment that opened onto an old Pennsylvanian Christmas tree farm, few things seemed more magical than watching cut carrot tops sprout into new plants near the woods, or seeing seeds collected from tomatoes germinate. As I got older, I was distracted away from plants, and by the time I moved to NYC I thought I’d never grow anything again, at least until I stumbled upon a Bronx Green-Up community garden. I soon applied for my own plot, rediscovered my obsession, and completed a Horticulture Certificate here at NYBG. And now I’m the Plant Records Manager. Funny how that worked out.”
Gary Lincoff taught for more than 40 years at NYBG. He passed on March 16 after a stroke at the age of 75. For those of us who took Gary’s classes, he remains so alive in our memories—his stories, the coursework he required, and his motivational advice are still working on our minds.
I first met Gary in the spring of 2011. I’m sure if he were alive that he wouldn’t remember me at all from among the thousands of students he taught. But his course “Introduction to Plant Science” was one of the all-time best classes for me.
In his class, which was required for a Horticulture Certificate, we handled plant specimens that Gary provided from 10 major plant families and closely read chapters of Brian Capon’s book Botany for Gardeners. But the most important course requirement for me was keeping a daily journal of plant “events”—what I saw each day on garden walks and how those things changed over time, using my own drawings and plant pressings. For the first time, I felt like a real scientist observing and discovering plants. Gary’s class truly opened up a new world.
Most of us know Laura Ingalls Wilder as the author of The Little House series. But now a wonderful new book by NYBG instructor and garden historian Marta McDowell reveals little-known facts about Wilder’s other life—as a settler, farmer, and gardener.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of Wilder’s birth. Her life began in 1867 in a Wisconsin log cabin, a frontier baby whose pioneer parents had cleared a forest to make a farm—“the quintessential American beginning,” says McDowell. McDowell traces Wilder’s upbringing and adulthood in the first part of the book—several chapters follow her from Wisconsin, to Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, Missouri, and other places where Wilder’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane (her prairie rose), ultimately lived.
Helen Dillon, Distinguished Counselor to the NYBG Board of Trustees, has created an exquisite garden in the suburbs of Dublin, and she is considered one of Ireland’s greatest gardeners, as well as a world-famous teacher and garden writer.
In her book, Down to Earth with Helen Dillon (Timber Press, $29.95), available at NYBG Shop, Dillon describes the evolution of her garden, first started in 1972 with her husband Val. Surrounded by stone walls on less than an acre, the property, including a house built in the 1830s, already had roses, apple trees, a wobbly greenhouse, hen houses, a large bed of bearded iris, a vegetable patch, and a rockery pile of stones in the middle of the lawn. But all of this was to change.
The main garden is at the back of the house facing south where Dillon has organized plants by their preferred habitat. The biggest change was replacing the lawn in the main garden with a lovely canal set in Irish limestone. Several small gardens are tucked behind the main garden with gravel pathways and a charming sitting area that features lovely bird cages. There’s also a Victorian style greenhouse built in 1976.
In his captivating slideshow for the Annual NYBG Winter Lecture Series, Chelsea Gold, Ulf Nordfjell’s gardens designed for the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show look completely contemporary with impressively modern, clean lines and simple, architectural forms.
Nordfjell, who is a trained botanist, ceramicist, and landscape architect, is known for his use of natural Swedish granite, steel, and timber to build the structures in his gardens. But there’s another key element in his designs: old-fashioned romance.
The son of a forester and a gardening mother, Nordfjell was raised in northern Sweden and is now based in Stockholm. He has a deep commitment to ecology and the environment, often using native Swedish grasses and flowers in his designs. No matter what country he is working in, one of Nordfjell’s guiding ecological principles is “the right plant for the right place.” His trend-setting gardens live up to this rule. But at the same time, he loves to choose plants that are surprisingly romantic.
The New York Botanical Garden‘s Kiku exhibition, our semi-annual display of meticulously trained Japanese chrysanthemums, has earned a devoted following among Garden visitors over the years. And behind the serene beauty of the exhibition and its astonishing display of skill is the legacy of Kodai Nakazawa, a kiku prodigy who for several years oversaw the demanding work that went into each and every bloom in our show. His expertise influenced the exhibition’s entire team, and it shows month after month, year after year, as they continue to work these simple flowers into stunning botanical sculptures.
Today, Nakazawa is back in Japan, raising a family and enjoying success as one of the country’s greatest chrysanthemum masters.
He was recently rewarded for his years of discipline and artistry with the honor of being promoted to kiku chief at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Shinjuku and Shibuya, Tokyo—his alma mater, so to speak. As one of the premier destinations for chrysanthemum-lovers the world over, it’s quite the recognition. We’re all beyond proud of Kodai, and grateful for the years that we spent with him here at NYBG!
Congratulations to Maritza and Angelica on their engagement, which took place during last Friday’s Bar Car Night event at the Holiday Train Show! There were smiles all around when the question was popped, and we couldn’t be happier for them.