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      Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

      Showing posts with label NYBG. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label NYBG. Show all posts

      Wednesday, June 20, 2012

      NYBG Gardening Summer Intensive

      I've taught at the NYBG for more than 10 years, but this summer we're offering something new: the very first Gardening Summer Intensive, a chance to earn a good chunk of your Gardening Certificate in a mere two weeks' time! Yours truly will be teaching the Container Gardening component: eight hours packed full of essential information for designing, planting, and growing container gardens.

      Spread out over two weeks (7/16 - 7/27), students will be immersed in classes on soil science, gardening fundamentals, integrated pest management, botany, soil science, and of course, container gardening. My teaching colleagues are some of the Garden's best instructors, and I'm proud to be among them. Click here for the schedule of classes or to register on line.

      The program runs from 9 - 5 weekdays, and includes several morning (i.e. when it's cool and pleasant!) garden tours with NYBG staff. At the end of two weeks, you'll be well on your way to earning a GAR certificate, which is the whole point, after all. It's a great opportunity to learn in a focused burst of education. That's why they call it an intensive.

      It's not too late to enroll, although the program is filling up fast. Call 800.322.6924 (or register on line) by July 2 to reserve your space. You'll work hard, but it'll be worth it.

      Tuesday, May 8, 2012

      terrific tree pits!

      Tree pits are the quintessential NYC garden. Small, public, subject to regular abuse, and possessing the potential to delight or disgust. (We are, after all, a city of extremes.)

      Next Tuesday (from 10 am - 1 pm) I'll be teaching a class called Terrific Tree Pits at the Manhattan campus of the NYBG at 20 W 44th Street. If you're interested in learning the do-s

      (Ellen Spector Platt, both gardener & photographer)

      and don't-s

      of how to plant a tree pit, why don't you join me?

      Sunday, April 8, 2012

      up up and away

      The theme of this year's Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden is vertical gardens. Vertical gardens are all the rage these days (in case you didn't know) and Patrick Blanc, designer of the show's vertical gardens, is the green-haired enfant terrible of the vertical garden movement.

      I think vertical gardens are cool, although they're often poorly maintained and can look pretty bad pretty quickly. (I'd still like to try one of my very own.) They don't have to worry about that at the orchid show, since plants are rotated in and out of the displays the moment they are no longer perfect.

      I was at the garden today to lecture on Enticing Epiphytes. Epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants) are my favorite orchids, and seeing them displayed in vertical gardens was terrific. They were paired with other epiphytes (staghorn ferns, rhipsalis, hoyas), creating great swaths of color and texture. Vertically displayed epiphytes are glorious, growing upright, just as they would in nature but with more consistent grooming.

      For those of you who haven't been to the NYBG Orchid Show, it's not too late! The show runs through 4/22.

      Tuesday, May 31, 2011


      The New York Botanical Garden is participating as the exclusive United States partner in the International Garden Photographer of the Year (IGPOTY) contest, which is run in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom. (DOUBLE CLICK ON ANY IMAGE TO ENLARGE)Open to everyone anywhere in the world, the contest is the premier competition and exhibition specializing in garden, plant, flower, and botanical photography. Winning photographs in multiple categories will receive a monetary prize, are published in an annual book, and are displayed in a public exhibition.
      This year, IGPOTY will be offering a special commendation for pictures photographed at The New York Botanical Garden in honor of its 120th anniversary. The winner of that category will also receive a free one-year Membership to the Garden. To learn more and enter...There are many categories, various fees and rolling entries throughout the garden year. To submit a portfolio of 6 images, the fee is about $40 and because I'm so cheap, I'm showing some of mine here.By all means enter the contest but If you email me your fav image taken at the NYBG, I'll post it here: esp@ellenspectorplatt.com.No more than 1 from each person please.

      Wednesday, May 18, 2011

      New and Nifty @ The New York Botanical Garden

      (above, Rhododendron luteum, and Phlox stolonifera 'Blue Ridge')
      My new favorite garden, here or anywhere, is the Azalea garden at the NYBG. Show up early, hear birds calling deep in the forest of nearly 300 sweetgums, tulip trees, elms, oaks, dogwoods and other native trees, on 11 acres of woodland. Many of these are centuries old. Paths, benches and above all, readable labels, interpretive signs, and self guided cell phone tours help me understand this immensely varied collection of 3,000 azaleas and rhododendrons. I had never seen a spider azalea before, but the sign told me it's the rare species Rhododedron 'Koromo-shikibu' of unknown origin. Likes acidic soil in full or part shade; the leaves will turn red/orange in fall. (Double click this or any image to enlarge)I visited on May 11, just after this garden's huge Mother's Day opening celebration with free music and food. But I prefer it this way; quiet, no one around but me and 2 other photographers searching for the perfect image.The garden designers have included species that will begin to flower the first warm days in spring, peak in late April and early May, continue with those that will burst into bloom through July, and reblooming cultivars like Encore in the fall. I plan to make this garden a first stop every time I'm at the NYBG, even before checking out the herb garden and perennials. WOW what a thought!Above, Rhododendron luteum 'Bee Dazzler'
      Wisely, they've decided to include woodland bulbs and perennials in huge meadows and swaths so even when the azalea riot is over, the garden will be highly enjoyable. Ferns, hellebores, epimidium, allium, lowbush blueberry, amsonia, stoksia, aster, gentians, iris, hostas, and bleeding hearts, spring bulbs are but a few of the over 70,000 planted.above, Golden Hakone Grass (Hakonechloa 'All Gold')
      I was never a huge azalea fan; in Philadelphia where I grew up, every row house seemed to have a few planted by the path to the front door or just below the porch. All the same size and color, violent fuschia, though some pruned into a ball shape; no fragrance, and no variety.
      This garden is precisely the opposite, immense variety, showing and telling the viewer what the world-wide range of plants can be, some for low swampy areas, some for the higher rocks, full shade, more sun. But of course this site at NYBG has some slight advantage over a row house in Philly, not only the forest but the huge outcroppings of granite deposited during the last ice age.
      If you're tired of the color riot, look down and discover the Shiokianum Jack-in-the-pulpit hiding among the Japanese painted fern.The highest praise I can give a garden like this is to say that although it was just redesigned and replanted from an old azalea garden started on this site in the 1930's and 1940's, the new garden looks like it has grown here naturally. Congratulations to Todd Forrest V.P. for Horticulture and Living Collections, Jessica Arcate Schuler & Kristen M Schleiter of NYBG, Laurie Olin Partnership, Landscape architect Shavaun Towers, Sheila Brady of Oehme, Van Sweden, and a special appreciation to Maureen & Richard Chilton who gave the gift to make this possible for all of us. Go!!!

      Tuesday, October 12, 2010

      Grow, Cook, Eat

      If there's one thing I like more than gardening, it's eating. And if you can eat what you grow, well, that's extra special double plus good. That's why the Edible Garden extravaganza at the NYBG floats my boat.

      All summer long, celebrity chefs have been serving up fresh recipes, focused on home grown produce. This Sunday at 1pm, chef Todd English makes a special appearance; he'll give a demonstration and share suggestions for cooking with local, seasonal produce. Admission is $20 for Adults, $18 for 
Students/Seniors, and $8 for Children 2–12. NYBG members and 
Children under 2 can attend for free. For more details, click here.

      And while we're on the subject of edible gardening...let's think outside the cold frame. Most people consider their kitchen gardens and their ornamental gardens to be two different things, but it ain't necessarily so. As someone who often has to make magic (both edible and ornamental) in small spaces, I aim for a Blended Garden.

      What is a Blended Garden, you ask? It's a garden where plants do double duty: everything must be both beautiful AND delicious. Yes, it's a lot to ask, but I have no patience for slackers. Maybe you've grown wild ginger for its beautiful leaves or Juneberry for its early spring flowers and didn't realize these plants could feed your body as well as the gardener's soul. They can, and they do.

      Interested? A new book by Nan Chase shows you how to get started. And just your luck, Nan will be doing a reading and signing at the NYBG this Saturday from 3-4 pm.

      In Eat Your Yard! Nan suggests plants and herbs to beautify and satisfy; she also provides recipes to help you make the most of her recommendations. Blueberries, prickly pear, quince, citrus, and chestnuts are just a few of the edible plants pretty enough for anyone's garden.

      If all this makes you hungry, head to the NYBG this weekend. You can visit with Nan or get recipe tips from Todd English. Either way, you're in for a tasty treat.

      Friday, March 5, 2010


      photo courtesy New York Botanical Garden, John Peden photographer
      The only orchid show in the five boroughs is wowing visitors in the landmarked Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at the New York Botanical Garden, but only until April 11. The theme of this year's show is "Cuba in Flower" designed by Cuban reared landscape architect Jorge Sanchez.
      photo courtesy NY Botanical Garden, Ivo M Vermeulen photographer.
      The show designer has planned the tour so you start with a tantalizing water view of the Castillo de la Fuerza, the oldest stone fortress in the Americas. Orchids cascade from the walls, drip into the pool, and are reflected in the water. From there you're on a path that takes you through the entire conservatory, where orchids are strategically placed among the permanent collection of tropical trees and vines. You'll can find the vanilla orchid, a native of Mexico, which is pollinated by a bee that lives only there. Vanilla orchids grown in Madagascar and elsewhere must be pollinated by hand, because the bee hasn't traveled.
      Hunt for my favorite plant in the show, Darwin's star orchid ( Angraecum sesquipedale) with its eleven inch long nectar tube. Marc Hachadourian, Curator of the show and of the NYBG orchid collection, provided this fascinating story: because the flower opened only at night, Darwin's theory of evolution was able to predict the existence of a moth pollinator whose long tongue would be able to reach inside the nectar tube to pollinate the plant. Actual photos of of this event are now available to all on Youtube.

      Stroll by more plants of
      botanical interest until
      you emerge into the
      main theater of the
      show. With Cuban royal
      palms soaring, brilliant
      flowers at every level,
      and water reflections,
      your eye flits from
      image to image.

      With about 7000 orchid
      plants on display,
      flowers are groomed
      daily. Whole plants are
      replaced as needed by
      understudies waiting
      in the wings so the show
      will always look
      Photo to the right courtesy NY Botanical Garden, Robert Benson photographer

      Remember to take your cell phone so you can dial in to the narrative, greatly enhancing your experience, or plan on attending one of the guided tours, lectures or demos scheduled.
      Every visitor has a camera or at least a cell phone and is vying for the best angle to capture the color and the drama. Hey, you just walked in front of my best shot. Well, it would have been my best shot if I had remembered to charge my back-up battery. But since I failed, NYBG came to my rescue with these memorable scenes of the show.
      As you leave walk under the palm allee draped with orchids, and breath the air mixed with sweet and spicy scents of over thousands of orchid plants.photo courtesy of New York Botanical Garden, Ivo M. Vermeulen photographer

      Tuesday, March 10, 2009

      NYBG Orchid Show

      I'm the Ellen with the orchid jones. Orchids excite and delight me and I never miss a chance to revel in their exotic beauté. If I could roll around on the floor in their soft, fragrant petals, I would. I'm pretty sure they'd frown on that at the New York Botanical Garden, where this year's Orchid Show has a new, Brazilian twist.

      The show is always an extravaganza: thousands of plants with tens of thousands of flowers displayed throughout the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, special children's activities, narrated tours of the show, classes on home orchid growing, and special lectures from international orchid experts. But this year they've upped the ante with a display designed by Raymond Jungles, in the style of his mentor, Roberto Burle Marx. The show is more modern, with bigger swaths of single colors making dramatic statements.

      Some of the details literally made me stop and smile with delight at their innovative-ness. For example, while I wasn't wild about the wall of white Phalaenopsis (yes, I know, it's the sheer NUMBER that's supposed to impress) I was delighted by the black granite bench with the built in planter filled with Epidendrum. Loved it! And I wasn't alone. People were waiting in line to have their picture taken next to the flowers (or maybe in front of the wall of white Phals, but I choose to give them more credit than that).

      I also applaud the black scaffolding clothed in epiphytic orchids. Most of the orchids we grow indoors are epiphytes, plants that grow on other plants in nature. They grow best when their roots are exposed to the air, rather than in pots. Traditionally they're shown tied onto trees or slabs of bark. There's plenty of that conventional display here, but there are also several bamboo structures (painted glossy black) with epiphytes attached to vertical, horizontal, and diagonal bars. It's a convergence of color at various angles; hard, shiny black surfaces peeking out from under alluring foliage and flowers. It's unexpected and it works.

      I wish there were more of the unusual stuff. I realize I've been to more flower shows than your average Joan, so perhaps I'm just jaded. Even when something doesn't quite hit the mark, like these tiered display boxes, I appreciate that I'm seeing something new. Why wasn't I wild about the tiered boxes? The largest box was too high for me to see well (not being 8 feet tall). It overshadowed the smaller box at eye level, leaving those plants in the dark.

      There's also some non-living art thrown in, the most impressive being an original Burle Marx mosaic in the middle of the reflecting pool, surrounded by orchids and bromeliads in complementary colors. Like most visitors to the show, however, I'm drawn to the living art.

      My favorite? THE CHANDELIER! (opening photo) It's an overhead circular display of gigantic hanging baskets packed with pendant pendents of Phalaenopsis and Dendrobium orchids. Me likee.

      Now through April 12, 2009.

      Saturday, January 10, 2009


      Living wall, green wall, vertical garden, Le Mur Vegetal: they’re all names for a new type of garden design rapidly gaining respect. Pioneered by Patrick Blanc in Paris in 1994 vertical gardens are popping up on fa?ades when there's no other room to plant. Green walls are akin to greenroofs, but run vertically, often in a place where passers by can admire them, sometimes on an interior wall.

      The structure requires plastic sheeting, a metal frame, and fibrous materials
      to hold the roots in place. There is no soil. Plants are watered from the top
      with a carefully metered solution of water and nutrients. This mix trickles
      down; excess is captured in a trough at the bottom, then returned to the top
      to reuse. Interior green walls need special lighting as well.

      Eager to see an example and
      not ready to spring for a trip
      to Paris where I could see at
      least six gardens designed by
      Blanc, I hoofed it to E. 86th St.,
      between 3rd and 2nd Ave. in
      Manhattan. My eye was
      temporarily distracted by a
      fruit stand at curbside. I walk-
      ed right by the garden, which
      reaches from the second to
      third floors above the Pure
      Yoga Studio. If you look only
      in the storefronts, or at the
      strawberries on the cart,
      you’ll miss it.

      On this heavily commercial block, the garden makes an aesthetic statement, and a small contribution to reducing air pollution spewed out by trucks and the crosstown bus. I took some pictures but decided to wait until spring to write about it, tracking the stability of the garden through two more seasons.

      Alas, on my visit last week
      'scaffolding scourge' had over-
      taken the garden. By law,
      facades of New York City build-
      ings over six stories must be inspected “periodically”. Once a company comes to inspect and make repairs, the scaffolding remains FOREVER. The plants were totally shielded from sunlight except for a small band above the construction. They looked ratty,if not dead.

      So beware if you hope to install
      a vertical garden: check out your
      building’s plans before you start,
      or try this small scale version of
      a green wall in any limited space.
      (As seen at the New York Botanic
      Garden Home Gardening section).

      Wednesday, November 19, 2008

      It Takes a Village

      It’s called The Holiday Train Show. It opens on Nov.23 at the New York Botanical Garden and stretches until January 11, 2009 when you might be able to see it with fewer crowds. Some people can’t get enough of the garden-gauge model trains. I’m mesmerized by the replicas of New York landmarks, designed and constructed by a botanical genius, Paul Busse, and his team from Applied Imagination in Alexandria, Kentucky.

      Above, Van Cortlandt Manor, (1784) made of cedar bark, honeysuckle, willow, acorn caps, redbud pods and more. Of course take the kids, but this show fascinates adults as well; the numbers prove it and this is its 17th year.

      The 140 build-
      ings, four new
      this year, are
      made from bits
      and pieces of
      berries & bark,
      twigs & moss,
      pods & cones,
      dried flowers &
      leaves, and
      other scaven-
      ged plant
      materials. Busse said, “When I saw the black locust tree fungus, that’s all I needed to make the spiral of the Guggenheim Museum.”

      Live plant materials are part of the fantasy, adding a riot of color and texture. Where else can you find those Manhattan landmarks, the Flatiron Building, Empire State, Chrysler Building and the NY stock exchange within 4 feet of each other while trains whiz past? Viewers who know the city get a sense of discovery even before they read the explanatory signs. All boroughs are included, see the Guyon-Lake-Tyson House (1740), S.I. (below)

      and Old Stone House (1699) Brooklyn (below) made of cedar bark roof shingles, willow walls, plum bark and wood fungus. Busse also used reeds, twisted sea grass, spruce cone scales, and birch & salt cedar twigs.

      Since the train show is in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory of the New York Botanic Garden, it’s balmy indoors, whatever the chill outside.
      For more details visit www.NYBG.org.

      Your Own Village
      After you’ve been inspired at the show, make your own village at home. Mr. Busse said that he’s done projects with kids using milk cartons as the base for the buildings. Take your kids out for a hunt in your garden, neighborhood and/or nearby park. Gather
      twigs, dried
      grasses and
      leaves, cones,
      pods, acorns
      and other good
      stuff. Here’s
      what I gather-
      ed from my garden and neighborhood, including slices of Osage oranges (see post dated 10/24/08) that I slowly dehydrated on trays in the oven. Color comes from a velvety sumac head that separates into small sections, rose hips and firethorn berries that will dry in place. I also have acorn caps, several kids of conifer pods, lambs’ear, birch bark , and sorghum that re-seeded itself from last year. Double-click on this any any other picture to get a really good view.
      1. Gather pint, quart, or half gallon milk or juice cartons. Rinse well and dry the exterior.
      2. Cut off a section of the bottom to make the size building you want. Here I’ve used one half gallon and one quart to make four buildings. The top halves have peaked ‘roofs’ and I’ve inverted the bottom halves to make flat roofs that can be tiled.
      3. Take outdoors to a protected location, put down old newspaper and spray with flat black paint. This step is important so that if some spaces remain uncovered the brand names and ads on the carton won’t show through.
      4. You can try to make a faithful rendition of your own home or a building near you, but it’s much easier and less frustrating to allow your creativity free reign. Use low temp glue, or a thick white craft glue for kids; or a hot glue gun for adults, who know how not to be burned and are ready to stick fingers too hot fingers in cold water.
      5. Add what you need from the kitchen, like cinnamon sticks, dried lentils and beans. While Busse coats his buildings with urethane (used to protect boats and to give his buildings an antique finish), you’ll probably want to display yours indoors.
      6. But first, take outdoors and spray several coats with a can of shellac for some protection. Place a grouping of buildings on a windowsill, shelf, mantle, or tray in the middle of a dining table, or under a tree. Surround with cut evergreens as you wish.

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