Plant Talk

Inside The New York Botanical Garden

What’s Beautiful Now: Roses & Peonies Steal the Show

Posted in What's Beautiful Now on May 31 2019, by Matt Newman

Rose alert! These late spring beauties are the absolute stars of the show as we head into Rose Garden Weekend at NYBG. Join us as we jump into two days of floral beauty, live music, poetry, and more in the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden. And while you’re here, don’t miss the herbaceous peonies, now at peak color and flaunting their colorful flowers. This is what’s beautiful now.

Rosa ‘Harison’s Yellow'

<em>Rosa</em> ‘Harison’s Yellow'
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LuEsther T. Mertz Library Collection: Bassett Maguire Archive

Posted in Garden News on May 28 2019, by Stephen Sinon

By Susan Fraser, Thomas J. Hubbard Vice President and Director, and Stephen Sinon, William B. O’Connor Curator of Special Collections, Research and Archives, LuEsther T. Mertz Library


Neblina expedition, 1953–54.
Photo: Kathleen D. Phelps

The Institutional Archives of The New York Botanical Garden preserves and documents the activities of the Garden as an important international cultural and research organization dedicated to the research, education and display of plants. From its inception in 1891 to the present day, the records of the organization have been gathered and organized and are often consulted for historical and scholarly research. These records are related to the general administration and activity of the Garden, its Directors and Presidents, Board of Trustees, Collections, Buildings, and Gardens. These materials document not only the scientific legacies of the Garden and its staff, but also the social interactions and professional achievements of NYBG researchers. The records of Bassett Maguire (1904–91) is one such collection of note.

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Memorial Day Weekend at NYBG

Posted in Around the Garden on May 24 2019, by Matt Newman

Photo of blooming alliums
Ornamental onions (alliums) blooming along Daylily Walk

From the bobbing purple globes of the blooming ornamental onions along Daylily Walk and the showy herbaceous peonies, to the lush green collections of the Native Plant Garden and the greening trails of the Forest, this Memorial Day Weekend is a picture-perfect time to visit the Garden and spend some time among the late spring beauty. We’ll even be open this coming Monday, May 27, for the holiday!

The Edible Academy is once again a thriving spot to visit with your kids as we get into spring gardening and cooking demonstrations among the vegetable beds. It’s a welcome chance to get their hands dirty and celebrate nature’s bounty as warmth returns to the city. You’ll also find new discoveries in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, where all-day nature exploration teaches them about the plants and animals they share their world with.

For those looking for a beautiful stroll, jump in on our Saturday Bird Walk to look for spring’s scarlet tanagers and rose-breasted grosbeaks, or join one of our many experts for tours on the history of NYBG, and our Native Plant Garden’s unique plants.

Don’t forget that we participate in Blue Star Museums between Armed Forces Day and Labor Day! If you’re active duty military, we currently offer free All-Garden Pass admission to you and up to five family members with your military ID.

There’s so much to see in this season of beauty. Hopefully we’ll see you in the Garden, too!

Oliver Sacks: First Love of Gardens

Posted in People on May 23 2019, by Joyce Newman

Joyce H. Newman is an environmental journalist and teacher. She holds a Certificate in Horticulture from The New York Botanical Garden.

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.”

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What’s Beautiful Now: Alliums & Peonies Galore

Posted in What's Beautiful Now on May 21 2019, by Matt Newman

Late spring brings a richness to the Garden grounds in anticipation of the arrival of summer, with a cascade of flowers among the herbaceous peonies opposite the Conservatory, and the marching blooms of the ornamental onions popping up all along the Daylily Walk. The Native Plant Garden, too, is a spectacle you shouldn’t miss—reds, yellows, and greens fill this verdant landscape and create a utopia for local wildlife.

Native Plant Garden

Native Plant Garden
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Hardy Fern Collection

Posted in Garden News on May 20 2019, by Claire Lyman

Claire Lyman is the Assistant Curator of Outdoor Gardens at The New York Botanical Garden.


Photo of the hardy fern collectionThe F. Gordon Foster Hardy Fern Collection was established in 1985 with the generous donation of Mr. Foster, fern hobbyist, lecturer author, and honorary fern horticulturist at NYBG. This core of donated plants was supplemented by hardy ferns already at NYBG and its Mary Flagler Cary Arboretum in Millbrook, N.Y. This sparked a massive wave of effort from a team of NYBG horticulturists and botanists to further develop, interpret, and create a long-term plan for the now sizable hardy fern collection. In 1987 John T. Mickel, Senior Curator of Ferns, and Joseph M. Beitel, Horticultural Taxonomist and Curator of Plant Records, wrote A Guide to The F. Gordon Foster Hardy Fern Collection at The New York Botanical Garden, which has remained an important resource on hardy ferns for the past 32 years.

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The Divine Miss M

Posted in Horticulture on May 17 2019, by Matt Newman

We’re proud to present the newly named ‘The Divine Miss M’ in honor of Bette Midler on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of her 1979 breakout film, The Rose. You can find this “totally decadent” bloom here in our Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden beginning on Rose Garden Weekend, Saturday & Sunday, June 1 & 2. Learn more about this special new rose in this video!

Discovering the Perfect Plant for Your Garden

Posted in From the Library on May 16 2019, 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.


Photo of the cover of Proven WinnersThe Proven Winners Garden Book: Simple Plans, Picture-Perfect Plants, and Expert Advice for Creating a Gorgeous Garden (2019) is a new resource from Ruth Rogers Clausen and Thomas Christopher meant to encourage new gardeners with basic information about landscape and container gardening. Both Clausen and Christopher are experienced garden writers, and the resulting text is simple and clear. Proven Winners plants are recommended for a variety of settings and designs. At 192 pages with 309 color photographs and 50 drawings, it is very beginner-friendly.

Shrubs: Discover the Perfect Plant for Every Place in Your Garden (2018) by Andy McIndoe teaches readers about shrubs in the garden, and makes recommendations for appropriate plants in different growing conditions. McIndoe is managing director of Hillier Nurseries and Garden Centres in Hampshire, England, although Shrubs is written for North American audiences. The book includes information about choosing the right shrub, planting, and care, shrubs for challenging growing conditions, shrubs for restricted planting spaces, and shrubs with desirable characteristics. The format is useful. The plant recommendations can be suspect. For example, McIndoe recommends no fewer than five varieties of non-native Berberis. In four out of five instances, he notes that the genus is invasive in parts of North America. The plant profiles themselves lack what are arguably essential details. Full size and zones are noted, but not nativity, which makes the book far less useful for readers who are hoping to work with native plants. All in all, Shrubs covers a lot of ground. However, it is not useful as a single resource for those interested in the topic, especially for those who wish to garden with native plants.

Conservation Collection in the Native Plant Garden

Posted in Garden News on May 14 2019, by Michael Hagen

Michael Hagen is Curator of the Native Plant Garden and the Rock Garden at The New York Botanical Garden.


Photo of the Native Plant GardenNYBG is a founding member of the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), a network of now more than 50 leading botanic institutions and conservation partners. Working collaboratively since its founding in 1984, the network’s aim is to prevent the extinction of the imperiled native plants of the United States and Canada, with the only coordinated national program of off-site (ex situ) conservation of rare plant material, the National Collection of Endangered Plants. Believed to be the largest living collection of rare plants in the world, the collection contains over 1,400, almost one third, of America’s most imperiled native plants.

As an important conservation resource, the Collection is a backup in case a species becomes extinct or no longer reproduces in the wild, with live plant material collected from nature under controlled conditions and then carefully maintained as seed, rooted cuttings or mature plants. It is also a valuable resource for the scientific study of these rare plants, their life cycles and seed germination requirements.

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#plantlove: Kadeesha Williams, Community Horticulturist & Urban Agriculturist with Bronx Green-Up

Posted in People on May 14 2019, by Matt Newman

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.

Photo of Kadeesha Williams

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.