Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Esther Jackson

New Library Visitors Explore the Special Collections

Posted in Garden News on November 13 2018, by Plant Talk

Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian and Samantha D’Acunto is the Reference Librarian for The New York Botanical Garden.


Photo of Library book platesThis past spring, LuEsther T. Mertz Library staff invited several NYBG Adult Education classes to view treasures from our special collections. The classes were given tours of the Library and the Rare Book Room where they viewed special collection titles related to their class subjects.

The students from the class Orchid Next Door with Dr. Matthew Pace joined Library staff for a viewing of the First Annual Catalogue of North American herbaceous plants, orchids… (1882) by James Galen, The orchid hunters: a jungle adventure (ca. 1939) by Norman MacDonald, and many other exciting titles. The Hidden World of Lichens class with Dr. James Lendemer joined the Library staff in two sessions to view materials related to the chronological history of lichenology through various materials in the Library’s collection. Other sessions included a viewing of 17th- century bulb literature for students of Landscape Plants: Bulbs! with instructors Michael Hagen and  Marta McDowell; a review of 19th-century, hand-colored floral illustrations for the students of Designing with Tropical Flowers with Bridget Vizoso; and a peek at the Library’s mounted-insect collection for the students of Entomology with Tam Nguyen.

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Handmade Houseplants

Posted in From the Library on November 8 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.


Cover of Handmade HouseplantsHandmade Houseplants: Remarkably Realistic Plants You Can Make With Paper is a fun how-to book by Corrie Beth Hogg with photographs by Christine Han. Hogg, an artist, designer, crafter, and stylist, has created a handy resource for people who would like to make paper plants for their homes or special events. The book details tools and materials, skills and techniques, and includes templates as well as step-by-step instructions for how to make over 30 paper plant projects of varying difficulty. The majority of the projects focus on foliage, as making paper flowers brings another level in complexity and is not as beginner-friendly.

For the most part, the book is well-organized and clearly laid out, although botanical names are used inconsistently, or not at all. Readers who are interested in sourcing art supplies mentioned in Handmade Houseplants can visit the book’s website for additional content and recommended vendors.

Speaking of paper plants, Plant Talk readers who enjoyed the paper flowers during the Garden’s recent Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawai‘i exhibition can appreciate the skill and talent needed to create truly beautiful and detailed paper plants; the paper flowers featured in that show were created by the Garden’s own Charles Zimmerman, whose artwork can be viewed here. Although Handmade Houseplants won’t teach readers how to make specimen-quality paper plants, it offers a first step into the world of plant paper-crafts and design.

Look Around You

Posted in From the Library on November 1 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.


Cover of Discoveries in the GardenThese three books from the Mertz Library help readers discover new details about the world around them. From gaining a new perspective on a garden plant to delving into the world of microorganisms, two authors help readers to experience the natural world in new and interesting ways.

Discoveries in the Garden (2018) by James Nardi is a simple and accessible introduction to botany using a garden as the catalyst for topics related to plant structure and physiology. Nardi, a skilled natural illustrator, Research Scientist in the Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and author of the acclaimed Life in the Soil: A Guide for Naturalists and Gardeners (2007), writes in a clear manner that is appropriate for readers new to the topic of botany. Discoveries in the Garden is at times reminiscent of Brian Capon’s Botany for Gardeners, although it contains more figures and is a bit more simplified in sections. It offers a great compliment to Botany for Gardeners by way of its figures, making it appropriate for students as well as teachers who are doing lesson-planning related to introductory botany. In general, Discoveries in the Garden is a nice addition to the literature of books that are beginner-friendly and well-designed. It is appropriate for adult learners and well as more advanced young readers.

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The Songs of Trees

Posted in From the Library on October 18 2018, by Esther Jackson

The Songs of TreesThe Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors is the second book from David George Haskell, also the author of The Forest Unseen. In The Songs of Trees, Haskell explores the worlds of different trees in different corners of the world, ruminating on their existences and relationships to the organisms and environments around them.

Although The Songs of Trees is in the genre of popular nature writing, it is challenging to find a description that is fitting for the whole book. The most appropriate summation I arrived at is that it would be a wonderful book to read out loud, or to hear someone read. Haskell loves words and literary devices as well as music, and his prose has been crafted for lyricism. The Songs of Trees is Aldo Leopold meets Henry David Thoreau with bigger words and more people in the nature scenes. In its best moments, it is reminiscent of John McGahern.

In The Songs of Trees, Haskell visits 12 trees around the world: ceibo, balsam fir, sabal palm, green ash, hazel, redwood, ponderosa pine, cottonwood, callery pear, olive, and Japanese white pine. For me, perhaps ironically, the most compelling passages were about animals, including an aside about rattlesnakes in Tennessee. However, different readers will connect with different chapters. As with certain other books of essays, The Songs of Trees is eclectic, and therefore difficult to read in a single sitting. Excerpted chapters are appropriate for book clubs, creative writing classes, or citizen scientists and naturalists. 

Read The Songs of Trees for a book that plays with the English language, using trees and nature as its device.

Embracing the Desert

Posted in From the Library on October 11 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.


Desert Gardens of Steve MartinoThree new books in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library will inspire readers to embrace desert landscapes and plants.

Desert Gardens of Steve Martino (2018) is a lavish ode to the landscapes of the landscape designer Steve Martino. Authored by Caren Yglesias, a licensed architect and lecturer in landscape architecture and environmental planning at UC Berkeley, with photographs by Steve Gunther, the book is well-designed and executed. Because of their artistic nature, some of the photo-documentation abstracts the designs of the gardens; it is helpful that each garden includes a site plan that illustrates the layout of the site in more measured detail. Twenty-one of Martino’s gardens in the American southwest are treated. Martino, who focuses on using plants that are native to the Sonoran region, creates gardens that are evocative of the desert from which they spring. East coast gardeners and designers may not look to Martino for practical landscape design inspiration, owing to the differences in climates. However, his use of structure and color can be universally enjoyed by those who create, maintain, and appreciate garden landscapes.

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Gardenlust Takes Readers to the World’s Modern Gardens

Posted in From the Library on October 4 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.


Naples Botanical Garden

Naples Botanical Garden
Picture 1 of 4

Photo © Chris Woods

Gardenlust: A Botanical Tour of the World’s Best New Gardens by Christopher Woods for Timber Press is a seductive new title introducing readers to 50 new and exciting modern gardens throughout the world. Woods, former director and chief designer at Chanticleer, with an impressive horticultural resume, offers readers profiles of 50 gardens that have opened in the last 18 years. Although Woods cautions that his choices are personal, the contemporary gardens and landscapes featured are unequivocally appealing although their designs are quite diverse.

Two of the noteworthy gardens featured are Vallarta Gardens in Mexico and the Naples Botanical Garden in Florida, pictured here. My personal favorite, possibly because it is so striking, is The Orpheus Project at Boughton House. Certainly, different readers will have affinity for different gardens. Regardless of which gardens inspire the most awe in any individual reader, most if not all will feel the tug of wanderlust and the gardenlust to explore many of these new and beautiful landscapes.

Bathing Among the Trees

Posted in From the Library on September 27 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.


Shinrin-yokuShinrin-yoku, “forest bathing” in English, is definitely having a moment. Shinrin-Yoku: The Japanese Art of Forest Bathing is a new book on the discipline written by Yoshifumi Miyazaki for Timber Press. Miyazaki, a university professor, researcher, and the deputy director of Chiba University’s Centre for Environment, Health and Field Sciences, has researched forest bathing since 1990, and has published several books on the effects and benefits of forest therapy.

The term shinrin-yoku was coined in 1982 and refers to the practice of walking through the woods and experiencing nature. Specifically, practitioners enjoy nature at a leisurely pace, “bathing” in the natural environment and benefiting from lowered stress levels and a heightened sense of well-being. Japanese researchers have been measuring the positive effects of shinrin-yoku for decades, attempting to quantify both chemicals and perceptions—a difficult task. (For more information about the research surrounding shinrin-yoku, see Amitah Kalaichandran’s recent article from The New York Times.)

For those who are interested in giving shinrin-yoku a try, Miyazaki’s book is an excellent introduction. Chapter titles include “The Concept of Nature Therapy,” “Japan’s Relationship with Nature,” “The Practice of Shinrin-yoku,” “Bringing the Forest Closer to Home,” “The Science Behind Nature Therapy,” and “The Future of Forest Therapy Research.” NYBG also offers classes for those who would prefer a more hands-on instruction.

See also: NYBG volunteer Jeanne Lapsker’s Plant Talk blog on shinrin-yoku from 2015 and my Forest Bathing book review from earlier this year.

DIY Beyond the Garden

Posted in From the Library on September 20 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.


Keeping Honey BeesStorey’s Guide to Keeping Honey Bees: Honey Production, Pollination, Health (second edition, 2018) contains everything a beginner beekeeper needs to know to get started. At 200 pages, it is chock-full of very useful and fascinating information. The authors of the work are Dr. Malcolm T. Sanford, retired extension entomologist and professor emeritus, Department of Entomology & Nematology, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, and veteran beekeeper Richard E. Bonney. Together, they cover a remarkable amount of information about honey bees, from the practical aspects of how to start beekeeping, to more advanced colony management practices.

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The Evolution of Beauty

Posted in From the Library on September 13 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.


The Evolution of BeautyIn The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World—and Us, Richard O. Prum brings readers on a journey to understand the diversity of beauty in nature, and the evolutionary reasons for its existence. An ornithologist, Prum first focuses on avian ornamentation and attraction—a field with which he is intimately familiar; second on humans and our closer relatives—arguably a more theoretical undertaking. Prum follows Darwin’s theory of sexual selection which posits that “mate preferences can evolve for arbitrarily attractive traits that do not provide additional benefits to mate choice,” essentially (and very simplistically), a theory of beauty for the sake of beauty. While not necessarily at odds with Darwin’s theory of evolution, Victorian audiences rejected this theory based primarily on the disbelief that animals could discern beauty, and therefore disbelief that female individuals could use the metric of beauty to be agents of their species’ evolutionary progression.

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Edible Plants: From Field to Garden

Posted in From the Library on September 6 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.


Veggie Garden RemixThese three new books in the Mertz Library focus on growing, foraging, and cooking edible plants. Each offers a different perspective on human and plant interactions, and will inspire readers to think about new recipes and garden ideas.

Niki Jabbour’s Veggie Garden Remix: 224 New Plants to Shake Up Your Garden and Add Variety, Flavor, and Fun (2018) by gardener, author, and The Weekend Gardener radio show host (and creator) Niki Jabbour offers vegetable gardeners some new ideas to try alongside tried and true North American garden favorites. A laundry list of interesting varieties and cultivars, Veggie Garden Remix is a simple book, yet will be fun for those who like to try something a little different in their gardens. The book doesn’t include information about where to source particular varieties or cultivars from; readers may wish to investigate Seed Savers Exchange for hard-to-find recommendations.

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