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.
Few have had such immeasurable impact on the lives of the people of the Bronx like local resident Karen Washington. As an NYBG Board Member and an urban farmer, she’s transformed this borough’s landscape for so many local residents, taking neglected city lots and using them as the foundation for verdant and prolific community gardens. Each new greenspace she champions is a testament not only to the work she’s put in over the last 30 years, but the care and effort of the many people she’s inspired to help create these sources of food, happiness, and livelihood.
For everything Karen’s done, it only makes sense for us to give back, and help her out in 2015 as she competes for the NationSwell AllStar Award—a $10,000 honor that will benefit her ongoing work to beautify the lives and locales of this incredible borough.
NationSwell’s competition puts Karen up against the country’s greatest innovators and builders in their respective communities, and all it takes is a vote each day (it resets every 24 hours, so try to vote around the same time from day to day!) to keep her in the running for this important recognition. Better yet, it’s easy to participate—just head over to the NationSwell site; have a look at the video about Karen, her background, and her work; and cast your vote at the bottom of the page. You can check in once each day to revote, which will add up to quite a swell of support if we all chip in!
It was a glitzy evening of dinner, dancing, and fall-blooming color that brought a crowd of well-dressed attendees to the Garden on Thursday, October 8, each person there to toast our guests of honor: the unmatched actress and rosarian, Julie Andrews, and NYBG‘s own Curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, Stephen Scanniello.
The 25th anniversary of the Rose Garden Dinner saw guests enjoying cocktails and exclusive tours among the autumn blooms of the Rose Garden, followed by an elegant dinner served in the Garden Terrace Room. A special presentation by Scanniello on the sustainable gardening practices that support NYBG’s rose collection was matched with the unveiling of a new display of Andrews’ favorite rose cultivar, ‘Sally Holmes’.
Guests closed out the night with mingling, drinks, and dancing, while the proceeds from the dinner went toward supporting the Fund for Horticulture and the continued preservation and development of the historic Rockefeller Rose Garden. Thanks goes out to everyone who joined us!
Debbie Becker has been The New York Botanical Garden’s resident bird expert for over 25 years, and continues to lead her popular Bird Walks on Saturday mornings throughout much of the year. She maintains Birding Around NYC, where readers can find photo galleries of recent NYBG bird walks and up-to-date lists of species seen during each outing.
Dr. Oliver Sacks loved The New York Botanical Garden. I know this because I walked the Garden’s paths with him.
In the early to mid 1980s, Dr. Sacks would enter the garden early in the morning, before the public would arrive, to take in the sights. I would also arrive at NYBG early—to bird watch before my first class at Fordham University—and we would be the only two people walking about.
It was inevitable that one day we would bump into each other. I had no idea who he was, at first, but he was very gracious when he asked me what I was doing, peering up into the trees with my binoculars. His curiosity piqued when I explained that I was bird watching and the Garden was a perfect oasis for finding birds. He launched into a speech on the behavior of birds and their pollination habits along with the symbiotic relationship they shared with specific trees and shrubs. I was an environmental science major and was truly fascinated with all the knowledge he had to share.
Ken Iwuoha worked with Bronx Green-Up this summer, and will be attending York College this fall. Bronx Green-Up, the community garden program of The New York Botanical Garden, provides horticultural assistance, community organizing and training to Bronx gardens and urban farms. For more information, click here.
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Ken Iwuoha. I am a SYEP (Summer Youth Employment Program) worker for the summer of 2015. I have worked for The New York Botanical Garden for over six weeks, with the Bronx Green-Up Program.
As an individual born and raised in the Bronx, I have adapted to buildings, construction, and pollution—the “City Life.” I used to think that planting a tree in front of your house was the best way of being green. After working for Bronx Green-Up, however, my point of view has changed completely. Donating plants and providing services to local community gardens and schools has opened my eyes to the beauty of the Bronx.
Lucrecia Novoa is a Chilean-born artist and cultural educator who is physically as well as spiritually involved with her mask and puppet creations. With years of experience, Lucrecia dedicates herself to researching the historic inspirations for each puppet she creates in her Riverdale studio.