Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Todd Forrest

Living Collections

Posted in Garden News on May 8 2019, by Plant Talk

By Kristine Paulus, Plant Records Manager; Deanna F. Curtis, Senior Curator of Woody Plants and Landscape Project Manager; and Todd Forrest, Arthur Ross Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections.


Photo of Daylily/Daffodil Walk
Daylily/Daffodil Walk

NYBG’s 250-acre National Historic Landmark landscape and two glasshouses feature 50 gardens and collections that comprise more than one million plants. Well-maintained and displayed collections show the diversity of the plant kingdom and enrich the experience of all who see them. Beautiful displays make visitors stop and examine plants more closely and learn more from their experience, thus fulfilling NYBG’s mission. More than 90% of the plant collections are accessible to visitors every day the Garden is open. All of the plants in the collections are available for research purposes as needed by members of NYBG’s Science Division staff.

Collections are displayed in many ways. They may be incorporated into the landscape, as are the conifers in the Benenson Ornamental Conifers, featured within dedicated gardens, such as the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, presented in organized beds, such as Daylily/Daffodil Walk, or combined in educationally themed and interpreted displays, as in the Upland Tropical Rain Forest Gallery of the Haupt Conservatory. Additionally, collections are displayed in themed exhibitions, such as the annual Orchid Show.

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Beginning the Haupt Conservatory’s Palm Dome Restoration

Posted in Garden News on April 25 2019, by Plant Talk

Starting April 29, the iconic dome of the 117-year-old, glass-and-steel Enid A. Haupt Conservatory will undergo restoration in accordance with routine maintenance and operations of the Garden’s facilities. The great Conservatory, the centerpiece and symbol of NYBG, is the preeminent existing American example of the crystal palace glass-and-steel school of design developed in England and Ireland in the mid-19th century. It is the most important glasshouse in the country and one of the most beautiful in the world. Shortly after the Garden’s founding by eminent botanist Nathaniel Lord Britton and his wife, bryologist Elizabeth Knight Britton, the Board of Trustees authorized the building of the Conservatory, which has required constant maintenance and repair due to the tenuous balance of glass, wood, and metals subject to the heat and moisture required by indoor plants and the constantly changing external weather conditions of New York.

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Spring Mania

Posted in What's Beautiful Now on April 9 2019, by Todd Forrest

Todd Forrest is the Arthur Ross Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections at The New York Botanical Garden.


Photo of a magnoliaSeasoned tree lovers often experience a bit of anxiety during unseasonably warm winter weather. Extended thaws in January and February can cause the fuzzy gray buds of the magnolias to swell in anticipation of the bloom, elevating the risk of frost damage should cold spells show up later on. Nothing is so disheartening as magnolia flowers turned to ugly brown mush by a surprise spring freeze.

Sometimes things do work out, however. There were brief warm spells this winter, but there were also long periods of deep cold and the magnolia buds didn’t really get moving until March. The weather warmed gradually from March into April, and we are now entering the beginning of one of the most dazzling horticultural spectacles of the year.

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Princeton-Mellon Exchange Program

Posted in From the Library, Humanities Institute on March 17 2017, by Vanessa Sellers

Students on the Princeton-Mellon Trip
Mellon Coordinators Aaron Shkuda (Princeton) and Vanessa Sellers, with the NYBG Mellon Fellows on Princeton’s Campus

On October 19, 2016, the Humanities Institute’s Andrew W. Mellon Fellows traveled to Princeton University to visit their colleagues at the Princeton School of Architecture Mellon Initiative and participate in an Urban Forum surrounding the topic of “Nature in the City”. During this visit, several of the NYBG Mellon Fellows presented their current research. Robert Corban, a doctoral student in the History Department of Columbia University and an intern at NYBG, gave a presentation about Benito Mussolini’s “Battle for Grain” and the impact on agriculture and industrialization.

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At Amy Goldman’s Farm, a Plethora of Pepos

Posted in Learning Experiences on October 31 2016, by Todd Forrest

Todd Forrest is NYBG’s Arthur Ross Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections. He leads all horticulture programs and activities across the Garden’s 250-acre National Historic Landmark landscape, including 50 gardens and plant collections outside and under glass, the old-growth Thain Family Forest, and living exhibitions in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.


Amy Goldman's FarmFor 47 years, 4 months, and 20 days, I just didn’t know enough about pepos. “What’s a pepo?” you might ask. Pepo is the botanical term for the fruit of plants in the Cucurbitaceae (gourd family). Sure, I knew a little about pumpkins, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. I had eaten Hubbard, acorn, and delicata squash grown, harvested, roasted, and slathered in butter by my brother-in-law, a gourmand who farms in coastal Maine. I even knew that the luffa defoliators my fresh-faced friends swear by are made from the dried fibrous flesh of a gourd relative native to Africa.

The little I thought I knew about pepos could never have prepared me for the bounty of beauty I encountered when I made the journey, with a group of NYBG trustees and staff members, to NYBG Board Member Amy Goldman Fowler’s farm in the Hudson Valley one glorious October day. Amy has raised the art and science of growing vegetables to a level unimaginable to those of us who tinker in backyard plots. With the discipline of a research scientist and the passion of an artist, Amy grows a bewildering selection of melons, squash, pumpkins, and gourds (not to mention tomatoes and peppers and who knows what else) on her farm each year.

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Larry Lederman’s Lens: Verdant Retreats

Posted in Photography on August 15 2016, by Todd Forrest

Larry Lederman‘s lens takes you to the Garden when you can’t be there and previews what to see when you can. Todd Forrest, Arthur Ross Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections, provides a prologue to this new collaborative blog series with NYBG’s Horticulturists.


Larry Lederman's LensIf you are fortunate enough to visit NYBG on a weekday morning after the sun has risen but before the shadows have lengthened, you may bump into Larry Lederman standing with his camera and tripod in some far corner of the landscape. For more than 15 years, Larry, a retired attorney and member of the Garden’s Board of Advisors, has traveled from his home in Westchester County to photograph the Garden in all seasons. Over that time, he has amassed a catalog of images that reveal the beauty and complexity of our plants, gardens, and exhibitions in a way that only someone both intimately familiar with the Garden and uniquely talented could.

Larry’s photographs brought the pages of two recent books about NYBG to life. He spent countless hours walking through the Garden’s 250 acres to produce hundreds of photographs for The New York Botanical Garden (Abrams, 2016) and Magnificent Trees of The New York Botanical Garden (Monacelli, 2012). Larry has also exhibited his photographs of the Garden in the Arthur and Janet Ross Gallery and generously provided images for many other publications and projects.

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For Tree Lovers: Iconic Trees of New York City

Posted in Shop/Book Reviews on December 16 2015, by Joyce Newman

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


New York City of TreesFor Benjamin Swett, photographer and author of New York City of Trees, every tree has a story, and their stories connect us to the past as well as foreshadow the future. His award-winning book, available at NYBG Shop (Quantuck Lane Press, $29.95), features NYBG‘s “good-looking” European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’), the unusual snake branch spruce (Picea abies ‘Virgata’) and magnificent dawn redwoods (Metasequoia glyptostoboides) located in the Benenson Ornamental Conifers collection, and the stunning grove of four Tanyosho pines (Pinus densiflora ‘Umbraculiferas’) near the reflecting pool beyond the Conservatory Gate at NYBG.

Swett credits NYBG’s Todd Forrest and Deanna Curtis, both experts in woody plants, for being “enormously helpful to me, not only in my research into the many trees included from the NYBG, but also on general questions of forestry and the history of the different species.”

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Fashionably Late: Spring Flowers and Foliage are on the Way!

Posted in Around the Garden on April 8 2015, by Todd Forrest

Todd Forrest is the NYBG’s Arthur Ross Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections. He leads all horticulture programs and activities across the Garden’s 250-acre National Historic Landmark landscape, including 50 gardens and plant collections outside and under glass, the old-growth Thain Family Forest, and living exhibitions in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.


The Rock Garden in early spring
The Rock Garden in early spring

Everyone in our area is well aware that climatologists have determined that this winter brought some of the coldest temperatures ever recorded in New York. The professional horticulturists who care for The New York Botanical Garden don’t need official weather data to confirm our suspicions that spring is coming later this year than it has in recent memory. All we need to do is walk through the Botanical Garden to see what our magnolias, daffodils, then flowering cherries and other spring-flowering favorites are doing at the moment. Gardeners’ (and plants’) internal clocks are set according to plant phenology—the timing of natural events such as flowering, fruiting, and leafing out—and all indications are that spring is overdue.

As staff members of one of the world’s great scientific and educational institutions, we have access to a suite of resources we can use to confirm (or deny) our suspicions. Since 2002 Volunteer Citizen Scientists have walked regularly through the Botanical Garden and noted carefully if certain plants are flowering, fruiting, leafing out, or dropping their leaves. The data from these “phenology walks” tell us that on average over the past decade, our native red maple, which is one of the most common street trees in New York and my favorite harbinger of spring, has been in peak flower around the middle of March. As of today, the flowers on the red maples in our Native Plant Garden and Thain Family Forest are just starting to open.

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Autumn’s Arboreal Bounty at The New York Botanical Garden

Posted in Horticulture on November 17 2014, by Todd Forrest

Todd Forrest is the NYBG’s Arthur Ross Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections. He leads all horticulture programs and activities across the Garden’s 250-acre National Historic Landmark landscape, including 50 gardens and plant collections outside and under glass, the old-growth Thain Family Forest, and living exhibitions in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.


Azalea GardenApproximately thirty thousand trees add shade and scale to the Garden, including thousands of mature oaks, maples, sweet-gums, beeches, birches, tulip-trees, black-gums, and other deciduous beauties in the Native Plant Garden, Azalea Garden, and dotted across the hills and dales of our historic landscape. All of these wonderful shade trees make fall at the Garden a heart-breakingly beautiful mosaic of yellow, orange, burgundy, scarlet, and brown, particularly when late October and early November days are bright and nights are crisp but not freezing.

All of these wonderful shade trees also make the annual ritual of fall leaf pick-up a Herculean task for Garden horticulturists, who take up rakes, blowers, mowers, vacuums, and any other tool they can think of and spend the better part of three months each year in an elaborately choreographed leaf gathering and transporting dance across the Garden’s 250 acres. If all goes as planned, leaf pick-up begins in early October and is mostly finished before winter’s first substantial snowfall.

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Beautiful Beard-tongues

Posted in Horticulture on June 20 2014, by Todd Forrest

Todd Forrest is the NYBG’s Arthur Ross Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections. He leads all horticulture programs and activities across the Garden’s 250-acre National Historic Landmark landscape, including 50 gardens and plant collections outside and under glass, the old-growth Thain Family Forest, and living exhibitions in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.


The flowers of Penstemon cobaea var. purpurea are much larger than those of the other beard-tongues in the Native Plant Garden
The flowers of Penstemon cobaea var. purpurea are much larger than those of the other beard-tongues in the Native Plant Garden.

I am batty for beard-tongues. No, I don’t mean the furry-mouthed feeling that people with actual social lives get after long nights of too many cocktails, I mean the more than 250 species of Penstemon, a genus of perennials and biennials native to North America from the Maine woods to the alpine meadows of Idaho and the deserts of California. With tall clusters of flowers as beautiful as their common name is ugly (the moniker beard-tongue refers to tufts of hair that emerge from the sterile fifth stamen of certain species), beard-tongues carry late spring in the Native Plant Garden.

The most common beard-tongue in cultivation is Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’, selected in 1983 by Dr. Dale Lindgren of the University of Nebraska for its maroon leaves, long-lasting inflorescences of white flowers, and extreme hardiness (it thrives in Nebraska!). We planted ‘Husker Red’ in the Native Border, where its flowers bridge the gap between the peaks of mid-spring and mid-summer bloom, and its foliage adds a dash of welcome color throughout the growing season.

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