Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Esther Jackson

Sustainable Landscapes from East to West

Posted in From the Library on April 24 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.


Northwest Garden ManifestoI have a soft spot for gardening books from the Northwest, and so although I live on the East Coast, The Northwest Garden Manifesto: Create, Restore, and Maintain a Sustainable Yard by John J. Albers, Ph.D. (photography by David E. Perry), for Mountaineers Books/Skipstone, is right up my alley. In Northwest, Albers has provided a book that is part instructional and part manifesto. The basics of garden (or “yard”) design are addressed, but the focus is on ecology and sustainable land management. While not explicitly a permaculture guide, Northwest includes useful information about topics such as composting, solar energy, and wildlife habitats. Although the plant recommendations are most appropriate for the Northwest, gardeners throughout the United States will find Albers’s book useful and informative. It is an especially appropriate book for someone who is considering becoming more hands-on with garden or yard care, and wants to understand how a person or community can affect positive ecological change.

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Timber Press Gets a Bird’s-Eye View

Posted in From the Library on April 18 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.


Aerial GeologyAerial Geology: A High-Altitude Tour of North America’s Spectacular Volcanoes, Canyons, Glaciers, Lakes, Craters, and Peaks is a beautiful book by Mary Caperton Morton for Timber Press. Continuing with the publisher’s trend to offer more books on ecological and non-botanical scientific topics, Aerial Geology focuses, as the title states, on geology, the science of the earth’s physical structure and substance.

After a brief introduction to the discipline of geology, Caperton Morton showcases 100 “geological wonders” in North America arranged by geographic region, shot from above. Sometimes the prospect of domestic tourism seems daunting, but Caperton Morton is here to remind readers about the incredible North American landscape as a way of encouragement. Aerial Geology includes geological history and information about each feature, offering readers a richer understanding of the landscape than a coffee table book would provide. However, it must be said that the most eye-catching aspect of the book is its glorious photographs.

Although written for adults, Aerial Geology is the kind of book that science-minded young readers of a more advanced level would also enjoy. For all readers, Aerial Geology offers an introduction to geology and a reminder that these spectacular landscapes are, if not just around the corner, relatively close to home.

Eat Neat & Budget Better

Posted in From the Library on April 10 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.


Budget WiseThe Budget-Wise Gardener: With Hundreds of Money-Saving Buying & Design Tips for Planting the Best for Less is a new book by Kerry Ann Mendez with St. Lynn’s Press. Mendez holds class in the “Academy of Shrewd Plant Hunters” teaching readers how to purchase great plants for less, delving into topics including how to find good plant sources, design ideas with low-cost, high-performance plants, and container gardening on a budget. The information in Budget-Wise is presented in a conversational way, and the book is especially useful for those who are looking for advice about questions to ask and what to look for when purchasing plants from a store or online. Mendez’s advice about plant selection is useful for those who are on a budget and for those who are simply interested in learning more about buying plants. A great deal of the information is common sense for those who already regularly purchase plants, but the book is a good resource filled with information and tips, and even experienced gardeners may take away a new idea or two.

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“Worms Eat My Garbage” Turns 35

Posted in From the Library on February 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.


Worms Eat My GarbageWorms Eat My Garbage: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System is a classic book about home composting written more than 35 years ago and now in its third edition. For this new edition, author Joanne Olszewski remains true to the style of the original author Mary Appelhof, but adds new scientific data and contemporary research about vermicomposting—or composting with worms.

Worms Eat My Garbage is an informative book that includes the most practical, accessible information about how to set up and care for a home worm bin. At just under 200 pages and written in the first person, it’s a friendly yet powerful reference resource for those who are thinking about starting a worm bin, trying to figure out how best to care for an existing bin, or just want to learn more about the practice of vermicomposting. Because the book is written in simple language and contains many helpful diagrams it is accessible to children and adults, and would also be very valuable for teachers.

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The Less is More Garden

Posted in From the Library on January 18 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 Less is More GardenThe Less is More Garden: Big Ideas for Designing Your Small Yard by Susan Morrison for Timber Press delivers what it promises—big ideas!

Very few of us have the perfect backyard or garden. In fact, most people who have outdoor spaces to garden are probably “tormented” to various extents by peculiarities of their yards. If part of the problem is related to space—too little of it, say, or an oddly-shaped plot—Morrison’s designs might be just what you need to find a solution.

Morrison’s designs are, as Steve Aitken notes in his foreword, enviable. They are tasteful, practical, and beautiful. How does she accomplish these spaces? Although site analysis is a crucial part of garden design, Morrison starts with three simple questions. What will you be doing in the garden? When will you be outside? Who will be with you? With user experience in mind, Morrison crafts spaces readers can easily imagine themselves entering.

For readers new to garden design, Morrison mostly offers inspiration. More experienced designers will be able to learn from Morrison’s designs and gain practical ideas about how to use space—not just small or oddly-shaped areas but all shapes and sizes—to best effect in a garden.

In design, constraints such as limited space often inspire creative solutions and great ideas. Morrison’s work is evidence of this premise, although I suspect she would shine in any setting.

My City Highrise Garden

Posted in From the Library on January 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.


My City Highrise GardenMy City Highrise Garden by Susan Brownmiller is a slim, attractive volume—a gardening book that is part memoir and part advice, very firmly set in New York City. Her highrise garden is located on the top floor of a Greenwich Village apartment building, and, chapter by chapter, readers learn about the history of the garden space and Brownmiller’s experiences as a gardener.

There is a certain brutality and unpredictability to rooftop or balcony gardening as gardeners work within a very small area and are subject to different hazards, such as high winds and the threat that their plants will drop leaves, fruit, or even full plants to the balconies and street below. Some such challenges are detailed by Brownmiller, such as when she had to remove her 20-year-old birches to renovate the garden space, or when downstairs neighbors complained about peaches falling onto their balconies. In spite of these challenges, or maybe, in part, because of them, Brownmiller’s love for her garden overlooking the Hudson is infectious. 

For those who enjoy garden journals, My City Highrise Garden is an wonderful journey and escape. For those who want to learn more about balcony gardening, check out the new balcony gardening guide from the NYBG Plant Information Office.

The Factory in a Garden

Posted in From the Library on January 5 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 Factory in a Garden: A History of Corporate Landscapes from the Industrial Age to the Digital Age by Helena Chance is a detailed history of gardens and greenspace in corporate culture, from real landscapes to suggested bucolic scenes used to seduce would-be employees and home consumers alike.

Chance’s book treats gardens and landscapes as designed artifacts and explores the ideologies and values that shaped their design. Chance also assesses the depiction and mediation of these spaces in photographs, illustrations, film, and text.

The Factory in a Garden is a theory-heavy book that includes information about labor history, industrialization, and, of course, garden design in Great Britain and the United States. Chapter one addresses the origin of the factory garden movement, from the early Industrial Revolution to the period between WWI and WWII. Chapter two details links between corporate landscapes and social and health reform, including urban planning and public greenspaces during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Becoming an Urban Naturalist

Posted in Adult Education on January 2 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.


Bird-watching in the Thain Family Forest
Bird-watching in the Thain Family Forest

On December 2, a beautiful late fall day, I had the opportunity to join a cohort of students in the NYBG “Urban Naturalist: Foundations” class. I had talked to students in the spring 2017 cohort when they visited the Library to check out books related to their course, but I didn’t know quite what to expect out of my first four-hour class.

The expert naturalist leading my class was Nancy Slowik. For the Foundations course, students learn from a group of expert naturalists who focus on different aspects of the urban natural environment such as plants and animals, birds, and insects. My class’s focus was on plants, though once we got into the field we had the opportunity to observe other organisms, including birds and fungi.

Our day began with Nancy asking the class what we wanted to do with our naturalist knowledge after the course ended. She encouraged students to apply their knowledge and become citizen scientists with NYBG or environmental activist organizations. Instruction about the course’s capstone project—keeping a nature journal for a patch of land, recording observations about weather, organisms, and changes to the landscape over time, and writing a natural history of the patch—quickly became a lively discussion about the ethics of naturalist observations. Nancy cautioned the class that in winter, animals in particular must conserve their energy in order to survive and that observations should be careful and respectful, so as not to negatively impact other organisms.

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The Language of Plants

Posted in From the Library on December 28 2017, 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 Language of PlantsThe Language of Plants: Science, Philosophy, Literature is a collection of essays edited by Monica Gaglioano, John C. Ryan, and Patricia Vieira published by the University of Minnesota Press.

On her website, Gaglioano writes, “This book commences a dialogue between philosophy, science, literature, and cinema dealing with plants. The aim of the edited collection is to develop a better understanding of plant life through critical awareness, conceptual rigor, and interdisciplinary thinking.” Indeed, the essays in The Language of Plants run the gamut between more scientific essays about volatile organic compounds produced by plants as a self-defense mechanism, to more humanities- and theory-based essays on the language of flowers in art and literature. 

As a whole, the collection is eclectic and thoughtful; readers of different backgrounds may be drawn to different essays, and the collection offers room for exploration between disciplines and paradigms both. For those interested in the topic of plant intelligence, The Language of Plants deserves a look.

For those based locally, the NYBG Humanities Institute (part of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library) will be hosting a symposium on Plant Intelligence on March 22, 2018, with speakers Peter Wohleben (author of The Hidden Life of Trees) and Stefano Mancuso (author of Plant Revolution). See the upcoming NYBG Adult Education Spring-Summer course catalog for more information.

Indoor Edible Garden

Posted in From the Library on December 21 2017, 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.


Indoor Edible GardenBooks from the publisher DK are some of my favorite reference resources. Their pictorial components, overall design, and wealth of information are truly a delight. When I learned about a new DK book by Zia Allaway, Indoor Edible Garden: Creative Ways to Grow Herbs, Fruit, and Vegetables in Your Home, I was very excited to check it out.

If you are only going to buy one book about indoor gardening this year, make it Indoor Edible Garden. This resource is packed full of helpful information, detailed diagrams, and creative indoor gardening projects. This book instills confidence and knowledge in beginners and inspires creativity and experimentation in the more experienced.

The book is divided into six sections: planning an indoor edible garden; herbs and edible flowers; sprouts, leaves, and roots; fruiting vegetables; fruit; and experts’ tips. One of my favorite parts of the book comes early on—a series of helpful diagrams indicating “zones” indoors where gardeners can grow vegetables based on light and temperature restrictions and requirements. One of the most challenging aspects of indoor gardening is light, and Indoor Edible Garden is a great resource for information about this crucial component.   

Within each section, projects range from simple to more complex, with the requirements for each project including supplies, time to set up the project, and ongoing maintenance of plantings clearly indicated. One of my favorites is the suggestion to grow microgreens in silicone muffin cups (pp. 84–87). This project, like so many in this book, is creative, relatively simple, and clearly communicates to home gardeners what is needed for indoor garden success.

Whether you are looking for a book for yourself, or a last-minute holiday gift for someone special, Indoor Edible Garden is sure to delight and inspire.