Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Giant Pumpkins

Zombies Set Sights on the Garden

Posted in Around the Garden on October 18 2011, by Ann Rafalko

They’re spooky and they’re ubiquitous, and they’re heading straight for the Bronx! That’s right, beginning this weekend, zombies will be invading the Haunted Pumpkin Garden, courtesy of pumpkin-carving provocateur Ray Villafane. Currently appearing on the Food Network’s “Halloween Wars,” Villafane will be calling the Garden home this weekend, where he’ll be carving two of the world’s biggest pumpkins into one unforgettable pumpkin sculpture.

Want to see what Ray has got planned? Head below the jump to check it. But be warned, it’s the stuff of pumpkin nightmares!

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This Just In: New World’s Heaviest Pumpkin Coming to the Garden!

Posted in Around the Garden on October 17 2011, by Ann Rafalko

World's Heaviest PumpkinHold the presses! You know how we told you that beginning October 21, the Garden would be home to the three biggest pumpkins in the U.S.? Well, we lied. Beginning October 21, the Garden will now be home to the four biggest pumpkins in the world! That’s right, we said world.

Just this weekend a new world’s biggest pumpkin was crowned in Canada. Weighing in at 1818.5 pounds and grown by Jim and Kelsey Bryson of Ormstown, Quebec, the new heaviest pumpkin in the world out-weighs last year’s world-record holder (which also called the Garden home for a time) by 8 pounds! Congratulations Jim and Kelsey! We can’t wait to meet you and your great pumpkin.

Head below to see pictures of the Bryson's giant pumpkin.

The Really Big Three: The Giant Pumpkin Showcase of Champions

Posted in Around the Garden on October 14 2011, by Karen Daubmann

The New York Botanical Garden is proud to announce the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth’s Showcase of Champion’s winners for 2011!

Beginning Friday, October 21 the three largest pumpkins in the United States will be on display in the Garden’s Visitor Center. Come take a look at Dave and Carol Stelts’ 1,807.5 lb pumpkin grown in Edinburgh, PA. Also, be on the lookout for a plane from California bearing a 1,704 lb pumpkin grown by Leonardo Urena as well as the 1,693 lb pumpkin grown by Brant and Eleanor Bordsen.

Here is a look at the standings for all 1,471 entries at the 54 GPC weigh-off locations nationwide.

Come out and take a look at these giant pumpkins beginning Friday, October 21. Mingle with the giant pumpkin growers, tweet us a picture of yourself with the pumpkins, and don’t miss our first carving weekend featuring Ray Villafane on October 22 and 23.

Check out some of these giant gourds as they make their way to the Garden!

Weighing the Giant Pumpkins

Posted in Around the Garden on October 13 2011, by Karen Daubmann

Giant Pumpkins in Rhode IslandIt’s that time of year again, when pumpkins are harvested and brought to county fairs and farm stands to be weighed at one of the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth‘s regional weigh offs.

The Commonwealth’s five U.S. regions host a total of 54 weigh–offs. Anticipation of these weigh-offs has been building at The New York Botanical Garden as we will host the GPC’s Showcase of Champions beginning October 21. The Showcase of Champions,  as part of the Haunted Pumpkin Garden, will feature the three largest pumpkins from the regional weigh-offs. The pumpkins will be on display October 21 – October 30 and will be carved October 22-23 by pumpkin-carving provocateur Ray Villafane, and October 29-30 by creator of the gourd-geous installations in the Haunted Pumpkin Garden, Michael Natiello.

Check out a slideshow of my visit to one of the New England regional pumpkin weigh-offs below!

Extreme Gardening: The Giant Pumpkin

Posted in Around the Garden, Science on May 4 2011, by Thomas Andres

Thomas C. Andres is an Honorary Research Associate at the Garden.

President “Bobby”: Mr. Gardner, do you agree with Ben, or do you think that we can stimulate growth through temporary incentives?
[Long pause]
Chance the Gardener: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.
President “Bobby”: In the garden.
Chance the Gardener: Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.
President “Bobby”: Spring and summer.
Chance the Gardener: Yes.
President “Bobby”: Then fall and winter.
Chance the Gardener: Yes.
Benjamin Rand: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we’re upset by the seasons of our economy.
Chance the Gardener: Yes! There will be growth in the spring!
Benjamin Rand: Hmm!
Chance the Gardener: Hmm!
President “Bobby”: Hm. Well, Mr. Gardner, I must admit that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I’ve heard in a very, very long time.
[Benjamin Rand applauds]
President “Bobby”: I admire your good, solid sense. That’s precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill.

Daumier, The King of Pumpkins Receiving the Homage of His Subjects
Drawing by Honoré Daumier, 1865

This is an exact quotation from the 1979 movie Being There and in a sad way, it is remarkably relevant today. Actually, we should be so lucky as to have politicians listen to a gardener, even one as simple-minded as the protagonist in this movie. I can only think of a few examples in recent times of national politicians who were gardeners. President Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer, and Michelle Obama has become an avid kitchen gardener at the White House. Less known, at least in the United States, is that Ariel Sharon, whose father was an agronomist, was a commercial pumpkin grower in Israel. Thomas Jefferson was probably our most famous politician who was also a gardener. Jefferson introduced to the United States a number of new crops, including Brussels sprouts, eggplant, cauliflower, and broccoli, that he acquired overseas while the envoy to France. He was also innovative in cultivation practices and in promoting proper stewardship of the land.

If you have been focused on local, state, and national budget crises, and the wars abroad (including the elimination of terrorists), you may not have noticed that it is finally spring. And with that, it is time for us to turn our thoughts to planting the garden because, no matter what the pundits say, summer and fall will follow.

That said, there is gardening, and then there is the sport of extreme gardening.

If you don’t know what extreme gardening is, then you must have missed the three giant world record-holding pumpkins that graced (maybe this isn’t the right word for it) The New York Botanical Garden last October. I blogged about these giants, as did many others in the cucurbit community. Their residency at the Garden was also widely reported in the press. That’s the kind of news I like to read!

Growers of the giant pumpkin, i.e., the species Cucurbita maxima, are in a class of their own. This is not gardening for the faint-hearted. Ever since the last behemoth pumpkin was weighed in 2010, there has been a clock counting down the seconds until the next weigh-off this fall. Even throughout the bleakest part of winter, these growers have been thinking about how to break the record and perhaps even the one-ton barrier. Last year a new record was set of 1,810 1/2 pounds (821.23 kg). This is less than 190 pounds off the one-ton mark; just a little over a 10% weight gain is needed. Or think metric–reaching 900 kg is even closer. There may be as many theories on how to reach this milestone in plant husbandry as there are dedicated extreme growers.

Representatives from SNEGPG (Southern New England Giant Pumkin Growers association) pose with grower Steve Connolly and pumpkin Carver Scott Cullyl.
Representatives from SNEGPG (Southern New England Giant Pumkin Growers association) pose with grower Steve Connolly and pumpkin Carver Scott Cully.

For the rest of us, we can take our minds off such weighty matters and plant zucchini. They taste much better, that is if you don’t let them get too big! I know this culinary tidbit about giant pumpkins all too painfully. Every year someone asks, “How many pumpkin pies could that giant pumpkin make?” While Scott Cully was carving Chris Steven’s 1,810 1/2 pound pumpkin, pieces were flying off, each containing enough flesh to feed an entire household. This seemed like a terrible waste, so I asked if I could have one of the pieces. I knew that these cucurbits were considered low quality for human consumption, but I had to test this for myself. First I used a hand held refractometer to get an indication of the sugar content. I got a reading of 5°Bx, which is considered poor (15°Bx and above is considered excellent). That didn’t deter me though, nor did the fact that it had pale-colored flesh, indicating a low Beta-Carotene content.

I have found that adding pumpkin or winter squash to store bought macaroni and cheese always improves the flavor of this ultimate comfort food. First, I roasted cubed pieces of the giant pumpkin to help concentrate the flavor and then added it to the mac ‘n cheese mix. The result: only fit for livestock feed! There were horrible stringy fibers, not the tender fibers found in spaghetti squash. And it had that distasteful off pumpkin flavor described by Amy Goldman in her glorious book, The Compleat Squash: A Passionate Grower’s Guide to Pumpkins, Squashes, and Gourds. Therefore, the answer to the question, “How many pumpkin pies does a giant pumpkin make?” is simple. Zero!

It’s Still a Great Pumpkin in Our Book

Posted in Programs and Events on November 1 2010, by Plant Talk

Ann Rafalko is Director of Online Content.
Scott Cully, Sara Mussen & Michael Anthony Natiello contemplate pumpkins and Newton
Scott Cully, Sara Mussen & Michael Anthony Natiello contemplate pumpkins and Newton

Gravity, it seems, will always win. Whether it’s in the war against wrinkles, when you drop your buttered toast, or when you’re carving the world’s heaviest pumpkin. Here on earth, we’re all a slave to it.

And while Chris Stevens’ 1,810.5 pound world record-holder did succumb to Newton’s most famous force, the other two fabulous pumpkins are still on view here at The New York Botanical Garden, and should be around through Friday.

Carver Scott Cully

Micheal Natiello

Carver Sara Mussen

And here’s hoping Scott Cully‘s heroic effort will be considered great by another book: The Guinness Book.

Inside the Giant Pumpkin

Posted in Programs and Events on October 29 2010, by Plant Talk

Ann Rafalko is Director of Online Content.

Yep, that’s right ladies and gents. The giant pumpkins are so big, a man can fit inside. Matthew DeBacco from climbed inside Steve Connolly’s 1,674.5 pounder this morning to harvest some seeds. He reported that it was nice and warm, and that if it were on the Lower East Side it would rent for about $1,500 a month!.

Check it out!