Plant Talk

Inside The New York Botanical Garden

The Loss of the Venerable Himalayan Pine

Posted in Horticulture on August 18 2018, by Garrett Barziloski

A message from Carrie Rebora Barratt, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer and William C. Steere Sr. President and Todd Forrest, Arthur Ross Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections

We are very sad to report that one of NYBG’s most glorious and venerable trees was struck by lightning in last night’s storm.

During the storm, lightning severely damaged the majestic Himalayan pine (Pinus wallichiana) in the Arthur and Janet Ross Conifer Arboretum adjacent to the Leon Levy Visitor Center and Pine Tree Cafe. Todd Forrest, Arthur Ross VP for Horticulture and Living Collections, and his team of arborists arrived on the scene immediately and determined that the tree is beyond saving and will have to be removed.

Among the tens of thousands of trees that grace the Garden’s historic landscape, it was one of our most beloved. Planted in 1903, it had grown to be nearly 80 feet tall, with a trunk diameter of nearly three feet. It was a living tribute to NYBG’s long and distinguished history of bringing plants from around the world to the Bronx to delight Garden visitors and serve our conservation and education programs.

Himalayan pine is native to the snowy foothills of the Himalayas. It is celebrated for its graceful, pendulous branches and long, silvery-green needles. The Garden’s tree had particularly long needles and cones, a fact not lost on long-serving NYBG Trustees Arthur and Janet Ross, who visited this tree regularly and loved it so much that they decided to support the ongoing restoration of the Conifer Arboretum that now bears their names. This tree was so important to the Garden that the Visitor Center was designed around it.

While the tree will have to be removed, its legacy will live on. As part of our collections’ management and conservation process, nearly 20 years ago we took some scions (a type of cutting) from high in its canopy and had them grafted onto eastern white pine seedlings. One of these scions was planted on a hillside just behind the parent tree, where it grows today. One day, it may match the grace and beauty of the original specimen.

It will serve as a living reminder of the Garden’s commitment to conservation. Garden scientists are preparing herbarium specimens and preserved tissue samples of the Himalayan pine, so its evolutionary history and relationships can be better understood.

The entire NYBG community mourns the loss of this great and mighty tree, whose stately presence has welcomed millions of visitors to our urban oasis throughout its life.

Japan Study Day at NYBG

Posted in Humanities Institute on August 16 2018, by Mertz Library

Cherry trees
Cherry trees in full bloom on Cherry Hill at the New York Botanical Garden

On April 27, 2018 the Humanities Institute hosted Japan Study Day, a day of celebrating Japanese arts and sciences in the field of natural history and garden design. Visitors were welcomed with a soft misty rain, here and there mixed with a few pink petals, as they entered the Garden that morning. Due to the unusually cold spring, the Cherry Trees happened to be at their peak bloom. It was a perfect day for the traditional celebration of ‘Sakura,’ the flowering of the Cherry Trees. Japan Study Day participants were invited to join a conversation led by a brilliant panel of speakers from around the globe. Leading the conversation was Prof. Federico Marcon, Department of East Asian Studies, Princeton University; Prof. Harmen Beukers from the Scaliger Institute, Leiden, the Netherlands and the University of Nagasaki; and Ryosuke Kondo, Ph.D. candidate from the Department of Landscape Architecture, Tokyo University.

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What’s Beautiful Now: Roses Are Back

Posted in What's Beautiful Now on August 15 2018, by Matt Newman

It might not be your first thought at the height of summer, but the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden is once more looking almost springlike in its abundant color! Come out this week to wander among the many varieties, and wear your most floral patterns. If the shade is more your speed, the Native Plant Garden is your spot, where the woodland meets the water feature with a beautiful vista of summer’s greenery.

Rose Garden

Rose Garden
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The Biography of a Gardener

Posted in From the Library on August 14 2018, by Esther Jackson

Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office. She spends much of her time assisting researchers, providing instruction related to library resources, and collaborating with NYBG staff on various projects related to Garden initiatives and events.

Plant MessiahWithin horticulture and botany, the genre of biography (including autobiography) is a popular one. Three new biographical titles are available for check-out in the NYBG Mertz Library and merit consideration.

The Plant Messiah: Adventures in Search of the World’s Rarest Species is a memoir by Carlos Magdalena. Currently the Tropical Senior Botanical Horticulturist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, he was recently profiled in an excellent piece by People of London about his work with plant propagation and conservation. The Plant Messiah chronicles Magdalena’s trials and successes with propagating rare and endangered plants. His passion is sure to resonate with those who love plants and value biodiversity. A graduate of the Kew Diploma in Horticulture program, Magdalena’s experiences with “rescuing” species from the brink of extinction are fascinating and, at times, emotional. The text has a few minor errors (for example, type specimen receives a simplistic and technically incorrect definition), but they do not detract from the overall narrative. Readers will hold their breaths as attempts to propagate specific plants fail at first, but ultimately succeed. This memoir is best enjoyed by those who have some knowledge of plants (and can take some errors in stride), but even the general public will enjoy the adventure.

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Digging Deep into Permaculture

Posted in From the Library on August 9 2018, by Esther Jackson

Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office. She spends much of her time assisting researchers, providing instruction related to library resources, and collaborating with NYBG staff on various projects related to Garden initiatives and events.

Gaias Garden Second EditionPermaculture is a fascinating topic, but it can be difficult to know where to start looking for information when you are new to the concept and want to learn more. Defined on Wikipedia as “a system of agricultural and social design principles centered around simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems,” permaculture has applications in landscape and ecological design, ecological engineering, environmental design, construction, and site maintenance. Two books new to the NYBG Mertz Library, Gaia’s Garden (2009) and The Rodale Book of Composting (2018), offer practical advice for home gardeners who would like to include more sustainable features in their landscapes.

Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture (second edition, 2009) is a comprehensive introduction to permaculture principles and projects for the home gardener. Authored by Toby Hemenway, the work is centered on gardening practices in the Pacific Northwest but filled with concepts and projects that are appropriate for gardeners in any region. The ethos in Gaia’s Garden has carried through to many more contemporary gardening books, and this Nautilus Book Awards winner is still a relevant resource for those who are curious to learn more deeply about permaculture principles. One caveat related to the book’s age is that the plant lists should be examined critically before application—several of the recommended non-native species have been found to be problematic since the time of the book’s publication.

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What’s Beautiful Now: After the Rain

Posted in What's Beautiful Now on August 8 2018, by Matt Newman

The rains have left the Garden green and vibrant this week, and summer’s favorites continue to show off in the outdoor collections. You can still catch some of the daylilies at peak bloom along Daylily Walk, and a handful of picture-perfect lotus flowers are holding court in the Conservatory Courtyards. Don’t miss the shady forested paths of the Native Plant Garden, either, where nodding ferns might convince you you’re anywhere but New York City.

Perennial Garden

Perennial Garden
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This garden is full of color and texture as the perennials fully stretch out for the season. An assortment of lilies, bright fuschia Hibiscus, and floriferous hydrangeas bring the Perennial Garden to life this week!


What’s Beautiful Now: Color Pop

Posted in What's Beautiful Now on August 1 2018, by Matt Newman

The occasional rain shower doesn’t hinder the beauty of the Garden—in summer, it actually makes the colors pop even more. Deep, enveloping greens contrast with daylilies, lotus blossoms, and bright hibiscus as you wander the many outdoor collections that thrive in the warmth of the season.

Native Plant Garden

Native Plant Garden
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This is the time to see meadow perennials like Euphorbia corollata, Solidago juncea, and Rudbeckia hirta in bloom, as well as a variety of lovely ferns through the woodland.

The 6th Annual NYC-Area Green Industry Intern Field Day

Posted in Adult Education on August 1 2018, by Charles Yurgalevitch

Intern field day

Just a half-day before this year’s Hortie Hoopla, the weather was oppressively hot and humid with afternoon thunderstorms and heavy rain showers dumping over an inch of rain on the Garden grounds. By morning, the sun was clear in the sky, the humidity reduced by almost half. The new day brought a new start for this year’s Hortie Hoopla, now in its sixth year.

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Bathing in the Forest

Posted in From the Library on July 26 2018, by Esther Jackson

Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office. She spends much of her time assisting researchers, providing instruction related to library resources, and collaborating with NYBG staff on various projects related to Garden initiatives and events.

Forest BathingForest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, by Dr. Qing Li, is an aesthetically pleasing book about “the Japanese art and science of shinrin-yoku.” Shinrin means “forest” in Japanese, and yoku means “bath.” Shinrin-yoku, then, is the action of “bathing” in the forest atmosphere—of “taking the forest in through our senses.”

Li, the Chairman of the Japanese Society for Forest Medicine, writes in a meditative, thoughtful manner, and offers simple advice for those who would like to experience the benefits of forest bathing, either through a more extreme lifestyle change or by incorporating more nature experiences into their everyday lives. With 100 color photographs and large fonts, the book itself is a calming meditation on forest spaces, and a pleasant respite from a day in the office.

The book is beautiful and well-designed, and readers can jump into the text at any point, or read it as a narrative work. Acolytes of forest bathing will want to depart for the woods immediately after reading, but even those without easy access to more natural spaces may be inspired to include more natural outings and experiences as parts of their routines. At NYBG, the Thain Family Forest is calling…

What’s Beautiful Now: Explore Outdoors

Posted in What's Beautiful Now on July 25 2018, by Matt Newman

The waterlilies and lotuses are flaunting everything they’ve got at the moment, making the Conservatory Courtyard Pools the place to be after you explore the tropical collections of Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawai‘i. Afterward, head out into the Perennial Garden for a picturesque stroll among the different “rooms,” each a painterly demonstration of summer color. Hop over to the vibrant plantings of the Seasonal Walk before you make your way to the Native Plant Garden for a shady rest alongside the water feature.

Conservatory Courtyard Pools

Conservatory Courtyard Pools
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The waterlilies and lotuses are flowering in brilliant yellow, purple, pink, and even blue. Don’t miss these serene and magical aquatic plants!