Horticulture

Saving Our Swamplands

Posted in Horticulture on February 15th, 2017 by Kristine Paulus – 1 Comment

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.


Frog in Mitsubishi Wetlands

Frog in Mitsubishi Wetlands

Swamps have an undeserved negative reputation, and it’s no help when the word is used as a derogatory metaphor. A swamp is a type of wetland, one of our most important ecosystems. Wetlands control flooding, filter pollutants, slow erosion, improve water quality, store carbon, and provide necessary habitat for a wide range of plants and wildlife.

The Mitsubishi Wild Wetland Trail, a diverse landscape at NYBG, contains three kinds of wetlands: freshwater marsh, pond, and swamp.

Found on all continents except Antarctica, swamps are a type of wetland which is dominated by trees and shrubs. Trees that grow here have adapted to growing in very wet soil. Woody vegetation growing in the swamp area of the Wetland Trail includes willow, maple, buttonbush, dawn-redwood, bald-cypress, alder, oak, dogwood, and more.
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A New Class of Grass

Posted in Horticulture, Kiku on October 21st, 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.


Kiku The Art of the Japanese GardenIf the idea of grass makes you think of dreaded after school yard chores or monotonous sports fields, consider a visit to Kiku: The Art of the Japanese Garden to amend this assessment.  Attempting to steal the spotlight from the chrysanthemums are several decorative members of the Poaceae family, better known to most of us as grasses.

Several plantings of Muhlenbergia capillaris, a highly ornamental native grass commonly called hairawn muhly, create a spectacular floral display for fall throughout the exhibition. Clouds of airy, purple-pink cotton candy-like flowers float above long slender foliage. These hazy panicles glow in the sunlight, converting garden beds into dreamscapes. Hardy and heat- and drought-tolerant, hairawn muhly is as low maintenance as it is attractive.  This colorful plant is also a highlight in the Home Gardening Center’s newly redesigned Grass and Bamboo Garden.

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Visiting a Summer Shakespeare Garden

Posted in Horticulture on August 25th, 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.


LiliesRosemallowcreditLarryBoes-headerDedicated 100 years ago in 1916 (on the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death), the Central Park Shakespeare Garden is one of the best Shakespeare gardens in the world. It was fully restored by the Central Park Conservancy in 1987 and is a great local getaway for plant and poetry lovers.

Landscape designers Bruce Kelly and David Varnell, hired by the Conservancy, expanded the area to four acres—repaving paths, adding lovely bronze plaques with Shakespeare quotations, and installing rustic fences and wooden benches (recently replaced by the Conservancy with newer versions).

The basic footprint of the garden has remained the same since the 1987 restoration, says the Conservancy’s Senior Gardener, Larry Boes. When he became the gardener in 2008, he moved several of the Shakespeare plaques to locations where he could actually grow the plants mentioned.
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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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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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On Peonies & Patience

Posted in Horticulture on June 22nd, 2016 by Brian Sullivan – 1 Comment

Brian Sullivan is the Vice President for Landscape, Gardens and Outdoor Collections. He oversees the care, presentation, and development of the outdoor gardens and landscape management of the Garden’s 250 outdoor acres.


Matelich Anniversary Peony CollectionIf you visit the Garden this summer and walk down Perennial Garden Way to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, you will find a tidy planting bed that runs parallel to the roadway, edged with a short iron wicket fence and filled with robust perennials. If you were lucky enough to find yourself walking here three to four weeks ago, around Memorial Day, you would have been immersed in the flowers of the newly renovated Matelich Anniversary Peony Collection.

Now in its second growing season, this collection of herbaceous peonies, Paeonia lactiflora, showcases the fragrant pink, white, red, and coral blossoms of one of the most popular garden plants and cut flowers.

The tradition of growing herbaceous peonies near the Conservatory dates back to the early 1900s, when peonies were grown in double borders along pathways surrounding the elegant glasshouse.
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Spring Training

Posted in Horticulture on April 19th, 2016 by Kristine Paulus – 3 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.


Pinus rigida, pitch pine

Pinus rigida

I don’t like baseball. I feel about the sport the way the protagonist of a certain Boomtown Rats song feels about Mondays. My dad, on the other hand, is the world’s biggest baseball fanatic (you might say phanatic if you knew which his favorite team is). While I will never share my dad’s passion for this popular bat-and-ball game, I try to be a good daughter and humor him in conversations as I try to find something (anything!) interesting about it. One way to amuse myself during a baseball game is to botanize it. It turns out that there are plants in baseball! That sticky goo that batters use to improve their grip? It’s pine tar from Pinus rigida, or pitch pine, a tough native tree that grows where few other can, in poor conditions, dry windswept slopes and shallow, rocky soil. The pine which gives the Pine Barrens of Long Island, New Jersey, and Cape Cod their name can be seen in the Ross Conifer Arboretum.  Its common name alludes to the high resin content that makes the production of pine tar possible. Its is so important in baseball that historians recall the infamous Pine Tar Game.

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Spring Bulb Basics: NYBG Experts Answer FAQs

Posted in Horticulture on April 4th, 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.


Daffodil HillTwo bulb experts, Michael Hagen, Curator of the Rock Garden and Native Plant Garden, and Marta McDowell, NYBG instructor, author, gardener, and landscape historian, recently commented on some frequently asked questions about the gorgeous spring bulbs now blossoming in the garden . Here’s what they had to say.

Q: What are some of the easiest spring/early summer bulbs to grow?

McDowell: Narcissus seem to be almost indestructible and with so many varieties, you can have them in bloom for almost two months. Other choices: Crocosmia—graceful in leaf and flower and blackberry lily (Iris domestica or Belamcanda chinensis). Great foliage, flowers, and seed pods.

Q: What are some of the most difficult bulbs to grow, aside from climate issues?

Hagen: Climate aside, the hardest to grow are the ones that our native ground squirrels, chipmunks, woodchucks, and gophers enjoy eating. Species tulips have been a particular challenge in the Rock Garden. If it’s a warm fall (and the chipmunks are not hibernating yet) they can be dug up and eaten right after they’ve been planted.
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