Plant Talk | Science Talk

The Pepper Queen of Bronx Green-Up

Posted in Learning Experiences on August 24th, 2016 by Zakiya Tyehimba – Be the first to comment

Zakiya Tyehimba was an intern with Bronx Green-Up, the community gardening outreach program of The New York Botanical Garden.


ZakiyaThis summer I worked as a SYEP (Summer Youth Employment Program) intern for Bronx Green-Up. I’ve been working closely with both Bronx Green-Up and NYC Compost Project hosted by The New York Botanical Garden for the last six weeks. I’m sad to know my time with them is over.

I have had so many exciting, eye-opening experiences while working with Bronx Green-Up. One of my most memorable experiences is taking part in the Pepper Project. Bronx Green-Up collaborates with Small Axe Peppers and community gardens throughout the Bronx to create Bronx Hot Sauce, and I was put in charge of keeping track of how many pounds of peppers we received. Because of this task, I was crowned the “Pepper Queen.” On my last day, I was even awarded a pepper crown!
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The Plant Lover’s Guides

Posted in From the Library on August 23rd, 2016 by Esther Jackson – Be the first to comment

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.


Plant Lover's GuideWhen I first heard that Timber Press was publishing a series called The Plant Lover’s Guides, I was excited. I was working as an intern in the library at Longwood Gardens and in the process of falling in love with plants. My roommate at the time was obsessed with sedums and other succulents. “You know,” I mentioned to him casually, “there is a new book that is all about sedums that we are getting for the library.” His eyes lit up at the news, and lit up once again when I put the new book into his hands some months later. It was a perfect match. 2014 saw the release of guides to Sedums, Snowdrops, Dahlias, and Salvias.  In 2015, guides to Epimediums, Tulips, Asters, and Ferns arrived. Now, in 2016, we have four new guides—Clematis, Magnolias, Hardy Geraniums, and Primulas.
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A Weed by Any Other Name

Posted in Horticulture on August 16th, 2016 by Kristine Paulus – 2 Comments

Kristine Paulus is NYBG’s Plant Records Manager. She is responsible for the curation of The Lionel Goldfrank III Computerized Catalog of the Living Collections. She manages nomenclature standards and the plant labels for all exhibitions, gardens, and collections, while coordinating with staff, scientists, students, and the public on all garden-related plant information.


Pontederia cordataThere are some words that gardeners would rather eradicate from their lexicon. “Weed” is one of them, whether a noun or a verb. Although the definition of weed is subject to debate (some define it as any plant growing where it’s not wanted, therefore a rose growing in a cabbage patch might be considered a weed), and can have multiple meanings (such as a widow’s mourning garments, but that’s a discussion for another time), most people think of a weed as a plant with little value.

So when is a weed not a weed? Many common names for plants include the word “weed” and are often associated with plants that we consider nuisances like bindweed or knotweed. However, quite a few likeable plants, such as native plants and those that are beneficial to pollinators, also contain the word “weed” in their name. Botanists and horticulturists tend to avoid the use of common names because they cause confusion. These vernacular terms vary by region and culture but also the same word can be used for multiple species. Since plants have only one botanical name accepted around the world, it’s a much more accurate term.

So which “weeds” are keepers?
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The Art of Gardening

Posted in From the Library on August 15th, 2016 by Esther Jackson – Be the first to comment

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 Art of GardeningThe Art of Gardening takes its reader on an immersive journey through one of the world’s great pleasure gardens—Chanticleer.  Like a visit to the garden itself, The Art of Gardening titillates the reader, drawing them in with its gorgeous photography and well-crafted garden essays.

I struggled a bit with this review, perhaps in the same way that I struggle to describe Chanticleer to those who haven’t visited.  “A gardener’s garden” is the line most frequently used to encompass the mission and scope of the grounds. Fittingly, the book’s introduction includes a section titled “What is Chanticleer?” The section quotes an interview, which I in turn quote below.

So, what is this place? Why do you exist?

We are a garden; a place of beauty, pleasure, escape.

But, I mean, what do you do? Why would anyone come?

Indeed.

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Larry Lederman’s Lens: Verdant Retreats

Posted in Photography on August 15th, 2016 by Todd Forrest – 2 Comments

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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What’s Beautiful Now: Thriving Greens

Posted in What's Beautiful Now on August 5th, 2016 by Lansing Moore – Be the first to comment
Perennial Garden

Perennial Garden

The first week of August brings summer at NYBG to new heights of lush greens and eye-popping flowers. Blooms stretch forth across the Perennial Garden and Seasonal Walk. Water lilies and lotuses bring bursts of color to the Conservatory Pools, while the Native Plant Garden is abuzz with pollinators enjoying the perennials in the meadow and the wetland.

Indoors or out, the Garden is full of life, from the classic plantings of Impressionism: American Gardens on Canvas in the Haupt Conservatory, to the thriving vegetable beds in the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden—the heart of the future Edible Academy that you can help launch through our first-ever Kickstarter campaign.

Getting outside in summer is a must, and it just so happens we’ve got 250 acres to explore.

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Shakespeare’s Gardens

Posted in From the Library on August 4th, 2016 by Esther Jackson – Be the first to comment

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.


Shakespeare's GardenThis year marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare in 1616. Throughout the world, scholars and institutions have been celebrating the bard’s life and work—including the World Shakespeare Congress held in Stratford-Upon-Avon and London last week and this week. On an appropriately literary note, one of the books about Shakespeare that has been published in 2016 comes from Jackie Bennett and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. That book is Shakespeare’s Gardens.

Shakespeare and his usage of plants in his works is a popular topic in botanical and garden history. In fact, the NYBG Mertz Library has over thirty books related to the playwright. The earliest, The plant-lore & garden-craft of Shakespeare by Henry N. Ellacombe, was published in 1884. With such a rich legacy of books on this topic, the question becomes what another publication could add to the corpus.
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Turf Care Tips from the Experts

Posted in Horticulture on August 1st, 2016 by Matthew Cook – 1 Comment

Matthew Cook is the Manager for Arboretum & Grounds at The New York Botanical Garden.


Tulip Tree Allée

Maintaining a healthy lawn through the unrelenting heat of summer isn’t easy. As with any other plant or plant community, stress increases susceptibility to diseases and reduces the ability to recover from injury. High daytime heat, as well as warm overnight temperatures provide more than enough additional stress to negatively impact your turf. Below are just a few steps that can help your lawn get through the summer.
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The Science of Stink

Posted in Horticulture on July 29th, 2016 by Stevenson Swanson – 1 Comment

Stevenson Swanson is the Science Media Manager at The New York Botanical Garden.


Corpse FlowerAh, New York in the summer. So many fetid fragrances fill the air. The garbage on the sidewalk, the hot blast of exhaust from a passing bus, the dank odor of the subway—these and even less savory sources best left to the imagination all add their odors to the city’s atmosphere on a hot, humid day.

That makes it all the more remarkable that thousands of New Yorkers have flocked to The New York Botanical Garden to see the corpse flower that is now blooming in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Apart from its size and striking appearance, the plant is notable for its stench, often compared to the smell of rotting flesh, which is the clever ploy it has evolved to attract pollinators.

Perhaps the fact that the plant blooms so infrequently and unpredictably draws most people, but many seem fascinated by the phenomenon that something in nature would smell this bad on purpose.
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The Corpse Flower: A Decade in the Making

Posted in Horticulture on July 29th, 2016 by Marc Hachadourian – 3 Comments

Marc Hachadourian is the Director of The New York Botanical Garden’s Nolen Greenhouses for Living Collections.


Corpse FlowerAs a kid growing up in Northern New Jersey I was fascinated with biology and the diversity of nature. The idea of plants that catch and devour insects, trees thousands of years old reaching up like sky scrapers, and plants developing an army of vicious spines as defense was irresistible. I read as much as I could find about strange and unusual plants. I distinctly remember seeing an illustration and a description about a plant with a flower as large as a human, one that took ages to reach blooming size, smelled like rotting flesh, and looked like it came from outer space—it all seemed too wild to be true.

The blooming of Amorphophallus titanum has been one of the “holy grails” of botanical garden horticulture since the first plants were coaxed into bloom by gardeners nearly a century ago. First recorded by science in 1878, I can only imagine what botanists thought upon seeing the inflorescence for the first time. Anyone who has seen reports or images of the plant in flower would agree these plants look more like photographic trickery than reality. Often described as a “once in a lifetime event,” it is no wonder that when a plant of the Corpse Flower blooms it creates a sensation, with people flocking to see it with their own eyes.
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