History

Getting Close to Nature at Greenwood Gardens

Posted in History, Shop/Book Reviews on December 15th, 2016 by Joyce Newman – Be the first to comment

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


WoodmanBronzeBenchcreditGreenwoodWebsiteGreenwood Gardens in Short Hills, New Jersey, offers a refreshing escape from city life to a wonderful country estate. Located less than an hour from New York City, the gardens sit on 28 acres and have been open to the public only in the last four years. They continue to be restored and developed by a small but dedicated staff and many volunteers, all led by generations of the Blanchard family who purchased the property as their country home in 1949.

Upon arrival, a striking allée of tall Norway spruce and London plane trees flank either side of the entrance road up the hill to the main house and gardens. These artistically planted trees were selected by Peter P. Blanchard Jr. and his wife Adelaide Frick Blanchard in the early 1950s, and they were very carefully nurtured by their young son Peter P. Blanchard III.

WE.WERE.Island-Book-CoverToday he is the founder of Greenwood as a public garden, and serves as the President of the Board of Trustees. Blanchard is an ardent naturalist and author of  We Were an Island: The Maine Life of Art and Nan Kellam (UPNE, $29.95), available in the NYBG Shop. He recently wrote a book that offers his personal insights from growing up at Greenwood, called Greenwood: A Garden Path to Nature and the Past ($20, available online). On an early November visit to the garden, I was lucky to meet him and to get a guided tour.

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At Stillman’s Wethersfield Garden, the Legacy of an NYBG Trustee

Posted in History on October 21st, 2016 by Joyce Newman – 1 Comment

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


Cupid FountainConsidered one of the best examples of a classic Italian Renaissance garden in America, Wethersfield Garden was originally just 1,200 acres of sloping hills, woods, and pastureland in Amenia, New York. The late Chauncey Devereux Stillman (1907–1989), a long-time supporter of NYBG, visited the area on a fox hunt in 1937 and promptly purchased the land.

Educated at Harvard (Class of 1929), Stillman was heir to a family fortune in banking. He became an accomplished equestrian and garden enthusiast, eventually joining the NYBG Board of Trustees in 1946 after a stint in the Navy during World War II as an air combat intelligence officer. According to NYBG Research Librarian Samantha D’Acunto, records show that he served on the board in various roles for more than two decades, until June 1967.

Although he had an advanced architecture degree from Columbia, Stillman wasn’t a practicing architect. One year after he joined the NYBG board, he went to work as a civilian for the federal government’s newly created Defense Department under Secretary James Forrestal and soon was moved to work at the Central Intelligence Agency, where he stayed until 1951—doing exactly what, we don’t know.
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Seedless Grapes, With Roots at NYBG

Posted in From the Library, History, NYBG in the News on September 2nd, 2016 by Lansing Moore – 1 Comment
Dr. Arlow B. Stout

Dr. Arlow B. Stout

Recently, The Wall Street Journal examined an obscure and surprising piece of New York’s botanical history that began right here at NYBG nearly 80 years ago—the Bronx Seedless table grape, a species of the common fruit hybridized in the 1930s by one of NYBG’s most prolific scientists, Dr. Arlow B. Stout. Sophia Hollander interviewed Stephen Sinon, the LuEsther T. Mertz Library’s Head of Special Collections, Research, and Archives, to learn more about this obscure grape species and the enormous impact it had before fading into obscurity—and near extinction.

In addition to his groundbreaking research into avocado plants and hybridizing many new daylily species that continue to delight visitors to the Garden each summer, Dr. Stout partnered with Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station to make a better grape. Seedless, tasty, and hardy, the end result of “more than 20 years tinkering with grape genetics” was the Bronx grape, named for its home borough. Cultivation of this species faded over time. While not successful as a commercial crop, all seedless grapes that we enjoy today are descended from this Bronx native, the result of NYBG’s commitment to plant science and conservation that continues to be one of our core values.

Now, from the brink of disappearing altogether, this species is being rediscovered as a source of local pride and historic interest. Click here to read the Wall Street Journal article (subscription required) and learn about Dr. Stout’s remarkable life. NYBG has always endeavored to teach people about where their food comes from—sometimes the answer is closer than you think!

Review: Marta McDowell’s Latest Book, All the Presidents’ Gardens

Posted in History, Shop/Book Reviews on May 26th, 2016 by Jenifer Willis – Be the first to comment

All the Presidents' GardensIf Marta McDowell’s last book, Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life, was a stroll down the memory lane of childhood whimsy, her latest book, All the Presidents’ Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy’s Roses—How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America, feels like a journey into the secret, lesser-known world of political plantscapes that shaped foreign policy and inspired American lifestyles.

Although one might think Presidential garden history would be a bit dry, I can assure you it is not—in fact, I read the entire book in one evening. It is Marta’s “voice” that creates a sense of fascination within the reader. Her wit and insight shines through as she describes the White House Gardens, sometimes utilitarian and spare, and other times lush and extravagant. (In fact, Marta, could you go back in time and rewrite all my high-school and college history books?)
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NYBG at 125: New Chapters, New Memories

Posted in History on April 29th, 2016 by Lansing Moore – Be the first to comment

Library BuildingEach day this week we’re celebrating the past 125 years of The New York Botanical Garden with a different story from one of our many visitors, young and old—whether it’s an unforgettable day recently spent exploring our 250 acres or a treasured family memory that makes the Garden special. In honor of Arbor Day, today’s featured memory comes from a longtime member—and Adult Education student—who made a fond and lasting memory beneath one of our own trees.

Follow along as we share just a few of these many stories, then take a moment to head over to NYBG/125 and share your own memory for a chance to win an NYBG Lifetime Membership!
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NYBG at 125: After All the Years

Posted in History on April 28th, 2016 by Matt Newman – Be the first to comment

Library BuildingEach day this week we’re celebrating the past 125 years of The New York Botanical Garden with a different story from one of our many visitors, young and old—whether it’s an unforgettable day recently spent exploring our 250 acres or a treasured family memory that makes the Garden special. And today’s story happens to fall on our actual anniversary—April 28! On this day in 1891, 125 years ago, the Garden was officially created by New York.

Follow along as we share just a few of these many stories, then take a moment to head over to NYBG/125 and share your own memory for a chance to win an NYBG Lifetime Membership!
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NYBG at 125: Moments Shared

Posted in History on April 27th, 2016 by Matt Newman – 1 Comment

Narcissus 'Tahiti'Each day this week we’ll be celebrating the past 125 years of The New York Botanical Garden with a different story from one of our many visitors, young and old—whether it’s an unforgettable day recently spent exploring our 250 acres or a treasured family memory that makes the Garden special. It all leads up to the Garden’s official anniversary this Thursday, April 28!

Follow along as we share just a few of these many stories, then take a moment to head over to NYBG/125 and share your own memory for a chance to win an NYBG Lifetime Membership!
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NYBG at 125: Leaving Practice, Discovering a New Garden

Posted in History on April 26th, 2016 by Lansing Moore – Be the first to comment

Each day this week we’ll be celebrating the past 125 years of The New York Botanical Garden with a different story from one of our visitors—whether it’s a perfect day recently spent exploring our 250 acres or a treasured family memory that makes the Garden special. It all leads up to our official anniversary on Thursday, April 28!

Follow along as we share just a few of these many stories, then take a moment to head over to NYBG/125 and share your own memory for a chance to win an NYBG Lifetime Membership!
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NYBG at 125: A Memorable Engagement

Posted in History on April 25th, 2016 by Matt Newman – 1 Comment

nybg125-forestEach day this week we’ll be celebrating the past 125 years of The New York Botanical Garden with a different story from one of our visitors—whether it’s a perfect day recently spent exploring our 250 acres or a treasured family memory that makes the Garden special. It all leads up to our official anniversary on Thursday, April 28!

Follow along as we share just a few of these many stories, then take a moment to head over to NYBG/125 and share your own memory for a chance to win an NYBG Lifetime Membership!
read more »

La Catrina: Grande Dame of Día de los Muertos

Posted in History on October 21st, 2015 by Sarah Henkind – Be the first to comment

In celebration of Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, on the weekends of October 24 & 25 and October 31 & November 1, Bronx-based artist Lucrecia Novoa and the Mascaraviva puppeteers parade her giant skeleton and La Catrina puppets throughout the Garden. Inspired by both the traditional and modern representations of the skeletal character, Lucrecia’s puppets—made especially for this occasion—provide the perfect photo opportunity and interactive experience. Catch them wandering throughout the Garden from 12 to 4 p.m.!

But who is La Catrina? The referential image of death in Mexico, it is common to see La Catrina featured in Día de los Muertos celebrations, where death is treated with familiarity and hospitality instead of dread.

La Catrina was originally drawn as a satirical cartoon (1910–1913) by famous Mexican printmaker and illustrator Jose Guadalupe Posada. The etching was intended to make fun of Mexican elite who were adopting European fashion and attitudes. Named “La Calavera Garbancera,” the image was meant to represent the large gap between social classes, and was inspired by Mictecacihuatl, the Aztec goddess of death and Lady of Mictlan, the underworld.

Here is an image of Posado’s La Calavera Oaxaqueña, which is similar in style to the Catrina:

La Calavera Oaxaqueña Jose Guadalupe Posada

Here is a sneak peak at Lucrecia’s interpretation of Catrina:

Lucrecia Novoa Dia de los Muertos la Catrina

Posada’s creation might have given La Catrina her form, but it was Diego Rivera, muralist, and husband of Frida Kahlo, who named her. Diego’s mural, “Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Centra (Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central)” (1946–1948), features an image of Catrina right in the middle of the artwork, next to Frida. Because of Diego’s popularity, La Catrina rose to fame, and is a now iconic representation of the Mexican willingness to embrace death- and to even laugh at it. After all, there is something a bit humorous, if also a tad creepy, about a skeleton dressed in opulent fashion. Images and more information on the mural can be found here.

We do hope you will come out to celebrate the lives of loved deceased ones, especially Frida Kahlo, as we prepare to say goodbye to the exhibition on November 1!