A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

In the Garden Now: Winter-Blooming Trees and Shrubs

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

Late February might still be winter but it is when some of our trees and shrubs burst into flower. Many of them originated in parts of East Asia where winters might be cool but are often interspersed by warm periods—times when a range of pollinating insects of those regions emerge and get busy. With few other plants competing for the attention of these pollinators, those that are in bloom are more likely to be visited.winter-bloomers-pic-1

Shown above: Witch hazel Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Orange Beauty’, blooming across from the Perkins VIsitor Center, sparkles after a fresh fall of rain.

Generally, our winters in the Northeast US are more consistently cold but here, too, we often experience mild spells. When they occur, plants introduced from elsewhere behave exactly as they would at their original home. We may not have the same pollinators, but this doesn’t prevent flowering. Successful pollination results in viable seed for another generation, but plants will still bloom even if not pollinated.

On the left, Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Gingerbread’; on the right, Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Primavera’

On the left, Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Gingerbread’; on the right, Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Primavera’

Some of the showiest of the winter-blooming shrubs are the witch hazels (Hamamelis). Most of those that flower in February are cultivars of Hamamelis × intermedia, a hybrid cross between two Asiatic species: H. japonica and H. mollis. Among the ones we have at Wave Hill are two lovely orange-flowered cultivars: ‘Orange Beauty’, which has been in bloom for a few weeks, and ‘Gingerbread’, just opening now. Yellow-flowered ‘Primavera’ is showing off its cheery flowers right next to the front door of Wave Hill House.

Sweet Box (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis)

Sweet Box (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis)

In complete contrast to the large and showy witch hazels is the low-growing and demure Himalayan sweet box (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis). Evergreen and with a dense growth habit, it produces small, greenish-white flowers, held closely among the foliage. Although easily overlooked, on a mild day it makes its presence known by filling the air with a sweet, slightly spicy aroma. It can be found in several spots—at the southwest corner of the Wild Garden, in front of Wave Hill House and opposite the front of Glyndor Gallery, just across from the entrance to the picnic area.

Mahonia japonica

Mahonia japonica

Evergreen mahonias (Mahonia spp. & cvs.) show off spikes of scented, yellow flowers, held above glossy, holly-like leaves. Japanese mahonia (Mahonia japonica) graces an otherwise rather prosaic space near Wave Hill’s delivery gate. Other mahonias dot the landscape, tucked into protected corners where they are not exposed to too much winter sun. Evergreens, especially broadleaved species, are prone to drought in winter because they cannot switch off photosynthesis—whenever the sun shines, carbohydrates are being manufactured. This is a process that requires a lot of moisture and, when everything is frozen, lost water cannot be replaced and the foliage will desiccate.

Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox)

Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox)

Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) is a large, deciduous shrub native to China. It is not especially notable for most of the year but a few warm days in winter will stir its plump buds to pop open and reveal the most wonderfully scented flowers. The petals are a creamy, almost transparent white and the center of each flower is tinted a pinkish-red. A serious freeze might cause these to shrivel, but unopened buds usually survive and are capable of producing a fresh crop of flowers the next time more favorable conditions come along. Our plant sits beside the front entrance to Glyndor Gallery.

Higan Cherry cv. (Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’)

Higan Cherry cv. (Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’)

A few, pale-pink flowers of the Higan cherry (Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’) are open right now but they are very susceptible to rapid temperature fluctuations: even a mild freeze can kill them and a severe frost can injure the remaining buds. Despite these potential setbacks, another show of blossom might still occur in spring. The common name of Higan cherry derives from the Japanese Buddhist holiday of Higan, which is celebrated during the spring and autumnal equinoxes. Presumably, it is a reference to the tree’s back-up bloom-time in early spring.A pair of winter jasmine: on the left, Jasminum nudiflorum; on the right,  Jasminum nudiflorum

Not exactly subtle, the bright-yellow flowers of winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) are hard to overlook. It is a deciduous, trailing vine native to northern China and grows into a thick, shrubby groundcover. Situated along the top of a retaining wall, its arching stems will hang over the wall’s face, creating a delightfully informal effect. Although devoid of foliage, these stems are loaded with buds and they start to open as soon as temperatures lift in late winter. As with the wintersweet, a hard freeze might kill some of the open flowers, but many buds will escape damage and bloom later in the winter. Look for it in the northeast corner of the Flower Garden.

So, with all this blooming going on, and there being little chance of pollination, one might ask how these plants are reproduced. The answer is that most of them are propagated from cuttings or by grafting—common techniques used in the production of many woody plants in gardens and nurseries.

In the Garden Now: South African Bulbs

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

sa-bulbs-first-imageThe Wave Hill Palm House in February is filled with the colors, scents and fresh foliage of winter-blooming plants. Even the air feels soft and inviting, and stepping in from outside is almost certain to result in a gentle sigh.sa-bulbs-second-image

Located in the central section of the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory, the Palm House is home to plants from the milder regions of the world, including many from the Southern Hemisphere. Nestled among the larger plants is an ever-changing display of flowering South African bulbs, many of them perched on the window sills, or on a small table, so that they are not lost under the adjacent foliage.

Most of them come from the Western Cape of South Africa where summers are so hot and dry that plant life takes a rest. The winter months bring rain and cooler—but not freezing—temperatures and are much more conducive to plant growth.

Freesia ‘Single Bicolor’

Freesia ‘Single Bicolor’

Our collection of South African bulbs spends the summer behind the scenes in our propagation greenhouse, often tucked under the benches where they rest, in their pots, completely dry and dormant until fall.

As the days get shorter and the nights turn cooler, new green foliage emerges, prompting our gardeners to place the pots out on the greenhouse benches and to begin watering them. Flower stalks appear over the following weeks and blooming occurs at various times throughout the winter, depending on the species.

Wurmbea stricta

Wurmbea stricta

As each bulb is about to bloom, it is put on display in the Palm House. Plants such as Wurmbea stricta demonstrate how attractive they can be. It has narrow, needle-like leaves and spikes of tiny, white flowers with pink centers. It is a member of the colchicum family (Colchicaceae) and related to the more familiar autumn crocus (Colchicum speciosum), seen out in the garden in early fall.

Lachenalia aloides var. quadricolor

Lachenalia aloides var. quadricolor


Other delights include the so-called Cape cowslips (Lachenalia spp.). They are more akin to their cousins the hyacinths (Hyacinthus spp.) than the true cowslip, a type of primrose (Primula veris), but some species do indeed have primrose-yellow blooms. Lachenalia aloides var. quadricolor (above right) has glowing multicolor flowers and those of Lachenalia pustulata are in shades of lilac.

Lachenalia pustulata

Lachenalia pustulata


Freesias, well known for their scent and their use in florists’ arrangements, are originally native to South Africa. Many have been bred for specific characteristics, such as Freesia ‘Single Bicolor’, which has lovely yellow and dark-red flowers, but some, like the charming Freesia leichtlinii subsp. alba, are exactly as encountered in the wild. It has pure-white blooms, with pale-yellow centers.

Freesia ‘Single Bicolor’ on the left; Freesia leichtlinii subsp. alba

Freesia ‘Single Bicolor’ on the left; Freesia leichtlinii subsp. alba

Once they have finished blooming, plants are returned to the propagation house, where they complete their annual cycle. The foliage starts to turn yellow and the bulbs turn dormant again before the onset of summer.

At this point in the winter, though, many more plants are awaiting their time to go out on display, such as this group of Veltheimia bracteata (forest lily)—leafy plants with spikes of pink flower clusters in late winter.

A group of Veltheimia bracteata (forest lily) awaiting their moment in the Palm House

A group of Veltheimia bracteata (forest lily) awaiting their moment in the Palm House

There is good reason to be a little confused about winter-blooming plants from the Southern Hemisphere. It could be thought that they bloom in winter here because the seasons are opposite, but plants do not work by calendar date. They operate on environmental cues, such as temperature and hours of sunlight—plants are amazingly adept at measuring day-length. They know it is winter and that it is their time to grow and flower. What they don’t know is how lucky they are to be in the greenhouse and not exposed to the frigid weather outside.

In the Garden Now: The Conifer Slope in Winter

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.


Conifers have a quiet dignity about them, as suggested in the first photo, taken by Ngoc Minh Ngo for the recent Timber Press publication Nature into Art: The Gardens of Wave Hill. They appear to be less busy than many broad-leaved trees. Perhaps their soft-looking foliage has a similarity to the fur of a much loved childhood toy—or maybe it’s just that their leaves don’t flutter so much in the wind? For whatever reason, a walk among conifers has a calming effect and a winter stroll around our Conifer Slope is a restful experience.

Specimen conifers, backed by a row of mature Norway spruces (Picea abies)

Specimen conifers, backed by a row of mature Norway spruces (Picea abies)

In the 1930s, when Wave Hill was still a private estate, a row of Norway spruces (Picea abies) was planted to mark the northern property line. They still stand today, and provide some protection from the cold winter winds that stream down the river from the north.

In more recent decades, other specimen trees have been planted in this sheltered area and we now have a diverse collection. Indeed, conifers come in many shapes and sizes and with much variation in their foliage.

On the right, pine (Pinus); and the left, spruce (Picea)

On the right, pine (Pinus); and the left, spruce (Picea)

Needle-like leaves are typical of many conifers, including pines (Pinus), spruces (Picea) and firs (Abies). Those of the pines are clustered in bundles of two, three or five—as is our example above—while the spruces and firs have needles that are held individually.

Other conifers have more scale-like foliage. Cypresses (Cupressus), false cypresses (Chamaecyparis), arborvitae (Thuja) and the false arborvitae (Thujopsis dolobrata) all come in this category.

False arborvitae (Thujopsis dolobrata)

False arborvitae (Thujopsis dolobrata)

There are contrasts in foliage color, too. Dark, glossy greens predominate but there are many variations. For example, the false arborvitae has bronzy-tipped leaves—and, more surprisingly, silvery undersides. Several trees have glaucous (blue-gray) foliage, including a Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris ‘Mount Vernon Blue’), two of our China firs (Cunninghamia lanceolata ‘Glauca’) and even the giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum ‘Hazel Smith’).

Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris 'Mount Vernon Blue')

Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris ‘Mount Vernon Blue’)

Gold tints predominate in a group of smaller trees near the upper end of the slope. A fine, creamy-yellow-tipped cultivar of the oriental spruce (Picea orientalis ‘Skylands’) is neighbors with a couple of yellow-splashed hinoki false cypresses (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Crippsii’).

Oriental spruce (Picea orientalis 'Skylands') and hinoki false cypresses (Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Crippsii'

Oriental spruce (Picea orientalis ‘Skylands’) and hinoki false cypresses (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Crippsii’

Bark is another feature that varies according to species. That of the umbrella form of the Japanese red pine (Pinus densiflora ‘Umbraculifera’) is a handsome orangey-red while the aptly-named alligator juniper (Juniperus deppeana ‘McFetters’) does have a decidedly reptilian quality about it.

On the right, Japanese red pine (Pinus densiflora ‘Umbraculifera’); on the left, Alligator juniper (Juniperus deppeana 'McFetters')

On the right, Japanese red pine (Pinus densiflora ‘Umbraculifera’); on the left, Alligator juniper (Juniperus deppeana ‘McFetters’)

Although there are many types of conifer, what unites them is that they all bear cones. Female cones are woody structures that contain seeds when they are fully mature. Less noticeable are the much smaller male cones. These develop in spring or early summer and release clouds of windborne pollen.

In the Garden Now: Early to Bed, Early to Rise

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Horticultural Interpreter.

Paisley Bed

Glorious displays of colorful tulips don’t happen at short notice. Planning begins in late summer and, although the Paisley Bed might seem bare right now, it is fully planted and ready for next spring—as the sign below indicates.image-2

The bulbs have to be ordered early enough so that they are delivered well before the onset of winter. Once they have arrived, and the plants from the summer display have been cleared from the bed—the annual plants taken to the compost heap and the tender perennials returned to the greenhouses—the soil is dug over and the bulbs are laid out, following a plan.image-3

The regular pattern creates an impressive effect, but a daunting prospect for the gardeners because the next stage is planting. A total of 850 were planted by our John Nally Interns this year.image-4

Tulip varieties—or more correctly, cultivars (cultivated varieties)—are classified into groups. Factors that define these groups include bloom time, stem height, flower shape (cupped or flared open), pointed or rounded petals and whether the flowers are single or double. This helps when planning and ordering for complex plantings. Coloration depends upon the exact cultivar and there are several hundred available in the trade.

The cultivars chosen this year, in approximate order of bloom time, are ‘Christmas Dream’ (single early group), ‘Barcelona’ (Triumph group), ‘Princess Irene’ (Triumph group), ‘Tom Pouce’ (Triumph group), ‘Design Impression’ (Darwin hybrid group), ‘Menton’ (single late group) and ‘Roi du Midi’ (single late group). The colors range from soft pinks, through fuchsia and carmine to bright yellows, and the result will be a slow-motion firework display of subtle, and deliberately not-so-subtle, color combinations as they unfold and mutate through the month of May.Paisley Bed

Pine branches are placed over the soil surface for the winter. Although they act as insulation, they are not for warmth—bulbs don’t generate their own heat—but they do help to slow down rapid freezes and any quick thaws that might occur during the winter months. Bulbs do best if the soil remains evenly cool.image-6

Tiny, blue-flowered violets (Viola) are also planned for spring. Trays of Viola Sorbet® True Blue are sheltering in the cold frames until the first thaw in March (or sooner, if the winter is kind), when they will be planted in the same bed. They will provide some much needed color early in the season before the tulips take over.

The Paisley Bed gets its name from the shape of its outline, which is very similar to the motif seen in the Paisley pattern. It is an example of a seasonal bedding scheme, meaning that the display changes from season to season. The spring display is followed by a warm-season planting, often featuring colorful tropical plants and flowering annuals, planted to a design based on a whimsical theme.

In the Gardens Now: Colorful Willow and Dogwood Stems

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Horticultural Interpreter.

top-picMulti-stemmed willows and dogwoods are a colorful feature of the winter landscape at Wave Hill. They are especially striking when arranged in contrasting groups—as this planting bed in the image above demonstrates.

This treatment for garden purposes most likely arose from the European tradition of producing willow “withies”—long, pliable sticks, which grow in response to being cut back to a stump. Also called osiers, these shoots are harvested every year and used in basketry and for binding other materials, such as thatching of roofs. Withy beds, with their masses of upswept shoots, create an interesting effect, one that is easily recreated in a garden.number-two-image

Ornamental selections of the most colorful willows have been made by gardeners and nurseries over many years. One of the finest is the coral bark willow (Salix alba ‘Chermesina’—also known as ‘Britzensis’—shown above). With masses of tall, reddish-orange shoots, it emanates a warming glow. The cool, lavender-gray stems of the sandbar willow (Salix irrorata—below) stand out in complete contrast, while the dry winter foliage of the nearby oriental spicebush (Lindera angustifolia) provides a lovely, pinkish-tan background.third-image

Two other willows, Salix sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ and Salix sanguinea ‘Winter Flame’, brighten up spots elsewhere in the garden with their jaunty, orange-pink stems. ‘Midwinter Fire’, shown below on the left, has a spreading, suckering habit, providing an even row of stems that extends for several yards along one side of Wave Hill’s Lower Lawn. ‘Winter Flame’, shown below on the right, grows in tighter clumps and can be seen on the terraced beds of the Kerlin Overlook.two-salix

Certain dogwoods can be used in a similar way to the willows but they are a little less vigorous and are not pruned as severely. Older stems are cut out to promote new shoots but much of the younger growth is retained.Grounds

Cornus sericea ‘Silver and Gold’ (yellowtwig dogwood—shown above) is a variegated cultivar of redosier dogwood, a shrub native to eastern North America. It has creamy-edged leaves and clusters of white flowers in spring. Once the foliage falls away in fall, the stems show up an almost luminous greenish-yellow.

The Siberian dogwood has red stems and those of the cultivar Cornus alba ‘Westonbirt’ (below) are an intense carmine. They look spectacular here when set against a blanket of snow. This selection was made at Westonbirt, the UK’s National Arboretum in Gloucestershire.sixth-image

Just before they are cut back in spring, the willows will reveal one more treat for us. The silky puffs of the male catkins—pussy willows—will open in March. Until then, we’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the varied hues of the winter display.

In the Garden Now: Evergreens in the Wild Garden

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Horticultural Interpreter.

first-imageEvergreens can easily be overlooked in summer but now, with deciduous trees bare and the rest of the plant life going dormant, they become the mainstay of the winter landscape at Wave Hill, particularly in the Wild Garden.Grounds

This view of the hillside above the Perkins Visitor Center reveals a cozy landscape, filled with a great variety of evergreens. In the foreground, compact mounds of different varieties of boxwood anchor the entrance to the Herb Garden, while the Wild Garden beyond abounds with conifers and broad-leaved evergreens, both large and small.third-image

Tall conifers, such as selections of hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa cvs.) and of native red cedar (Juniperus virginiana cvs.) offer structure and protection to what otherwise would be a very exposed slope. Low-spreading junipers, boxwoods and dwarf forms of spruce, pine and yew do exactly the same, but on a smaller scale.Wild Garden

Even the rustic gazebo is nestled among evergreens. It is flanked by Japanese yews (Taxus cuspidata), clipped into whimsical cloud shapes, and a Japanese white pine (Pinus parviflora) stands sentinel by the entrance, its branches extending above the roof.Wild Garden

Nearby is a Highclere holly (Ilex ×altaclerensis) with wide, shiny leaves that contrast with the narrower foliage of the conifers.

Between the Wild Garden and the Aquatic Garden is a weeping Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’). It is trained along a section of the pergola and its cascading branches hang in a silver-green curtain, discreetly separating the two areas.sisth-image

With their huge diversity of size and habit and their variety of color, from dark olive through blue-green to almost white, evergreens provide interest for our visitors—and shelter for our birdlife—through the entire winter.

In the Garden Now: Fruits and Berries

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

As the autumn leaves tire and drop from the scene, our attention turns to the colorful fruits and berries found on many of the trees and shrubs at Wave Hill. They are equally as attractive as the flowers of summer and they extend the season of interest for many weeks into winter.

Close to the Perkins Visitor Center, bright-red viburnum berries, such as those of the linden viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum) and the tea viburnum (V. setigerum), shown the first shot here, stand out against the yellowing foliage, and they can remain for long after the branches have become bare.better-viburnum

Across the roadway from the viburnum, the purple fruit of the aptly-named beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’), shown in the next shot,  elicits much interest and is deservedly the subject of many photo opportunities.better-beautyberry

Elsewhere, cotoneasters, such as Cotoneaster franchetii, display bright-orange berries for month.better-cotoneaster

All this colorful attention-seeking is really just advertising. Berries are saying to the wildlife “come and eat me.” Plants have evolved many ways to disperse their seeds. Some have adaptations which allow them to drift on air or water or, perhaps, catch a ride by hooking themselves onto an animal’s fur, but a common strategy is to surround the seed with an enticing edible package—a fruit or berry. This juicy flesh is digested but the seed will survive and likely find itself deposited some distance from its parent plant. A win for the plant and a satisfactory meal for the creature lucky enough to eat it.Snow Covered Grounds

Indeed, one of our crabapple trees, Malus toringoides, the last shot here, had been displaying a fine crop of tiny, orange-red apples until very recently, but a flock of cedar waxwings swept through and gorged themselves on the decorative fruits. Any they dropped were soon collected by attentive American robins, patrolling the ground below.better-malus

Cedar waxwings also love the berries of the red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), which, although called berries, are actually small, fused cones. While we are splitting hairs, note that the red cedar is not a true cedar (Cedrus spp.) but, as its botanical name suggests, a species of juniper. All that aside, the waxwings invariably return here one day during the winter to feast on the berries of the many junipers in our Wild Garden.

No one begrudges the birds their berries. Gardeners and visitors alike love to see them. And after all, what are these fruits for if not to be eaten by our avian friends as winter descends?

In the Garden Now: Plant Migrations

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

PergolaMany fine container-grown plants are placed around the grounds at Wave Hill in summer. As well as adding structure and interest, they benefit from being outside in the fresh air, but they are all “frost-tender” plants and cannot remain outside for the winter. Thus, large or small, every one must now be returned to their indoor quarters.


plant-pair-1Some “old friends”—plants you may have seen on visits during the warmer months—will turn up in the public display sections of the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory. The large succulents find themselves back in the Cactus and Succulent House and, unsurprisingly, the tropicals end up in the Tropical House. Others, such as evergreen shrubs and palms from Mediterranean climes, might have a starring role in the Palm House, the central section of the conservatory, where an ever-changing display of tender plants is on show from November to April.

More prosaic accommodation is found behind the scenes. A purpose-built overwintering room, in the gardeners’ work area, has north-facing skylights and insulated walls and is kept at a cool 45˚F, which is perfect for those plants that would experience chilly, but not freezing, winters in their home regions. They sit quietly, packed together in the gloom, for months; perhaps dreaming of their summer vacations.storage-entrance

Yet more protected space is provided by a hoop house—a simple structure of curved metal supports, covered with a double layer of clear plastic sheeting. It has minimal heating, just enough to keep the inside temperature above freezing. Many of these plants have a winter blooming habit and, as their buds begin to open, they will be moved into the Palm House to add their scent and color to the floral display.heavyplastic

Non-winter-hardy plants from the Aquatic Garden find lodgings in the Sun Porch of Glyndor Gallery. Papyrus, sacred lotus and other warm-climate aquatics sit out the winter in their own personal ponds until spring comes and the ice has melted outside.Sun_Porch

Once all these containers are safely tucked away, all will look cozy and neat, but do spare a thought for our gardeners at this time of year. Every plant in every pot, hanging basket, and even the bay tree in the large Versailles planter (pictured below) made its way from the Herb Garden into the overwintering room. There will be some very grateful plants, and some sore backs—including, I imagine, Nally intern Victoria Kam, shown in this last photo, hard at work in the Picnic Area in mid-October. Plant-pair-2

In the Garden Now –Kate French Terrace Plantings

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

Summer’s Last Blast
The summer pleasures of outdoor dining can often extend into early fall and the Kate French Terrace at Wave Hill House, an extension of The Café, is a great spot to enjoy lunch or cup of coffee al fresco, while admiring the surrounding planting beds, filled as they are with exotic botanical life.central-portion

After the early bulbs finished their blaze of glory in spring, Wave Hill Gardener Shane Pritchett installed a warm-season display of tropical plants in June. With a full summer’s growth, they now provide a dramatic backdrop and appreciate these last few weeks of mild weather just as much as do the patrons of The Café.1-central-right

Groups of tall annual plants, such as giant lambsquarters (Chenopodium giganteum) and magenta-plumed wheat celosia (Celosia argentea ‘Cramer’s Amazon’), are interspersed with colorful foliage plants. Dusky, pinkish-red Mexican shrubby spurge (Euphorbia cotinifolia) and dark, glossy-red Pseuderanthemum carruthersii var. atropurpureum contrast beautifully with the chartreuse of an ornamental sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas Sweet Caroline Bewitched GREEN WITH ENVY™).

Sometimes, contrast and drama can be seen in a single plant. The foliage of an ornamental cotton (Gossypium herbaceum ‘Albe Red Variegated’), olive-green with splashes of pink, cream and dark red, looks as though it might have been a bystander during an explosion at a paint factory. Remarkably unstained are its pure white cotton balls, just beginning to open.2_pics_of_cotton

Potted succulents, arranged in groups, add structure and interest. Long leaf sotol (Dasylirion longissimum) has slender, slightly curving leaves, arranged in the shape of a perfect starburst. Dyckia ‘Burgundy Ice’, a small bromeliad, has tight rosettes of narrow, reddish-brown foliage, edged with white spines. Cactus-like spurges (Euphorbia avasmontana and E. horrida) evoke the deserts of southern Africa.sotol_and_dyckia

3-spurgeAt the northern end of the terrace, a lofty canna (Canna × ehemanii) dangles rose-pink flowers from the tips of its arching stems. Nearby is the intriguing Mussaenda frondos, a large, white bract hanging under each cluster of its small, bright-orange blooms. Appropriately, given the proximity of The Café, it is a member of the same botanical family as coffee (Rubiaceae).

Shane is keeping an eye on nighttime temperatures. Once they start to dip much below 50˚F, he will start to move the more tender plants indoors. Some will remain for as long as there is no frost but all will be cleared by the end of fall, when bulbs will be planted in the empty beds, and thoughts will turn to next spring.

In the Garden Now: Aquatic and Monocot Gardens in August

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

Neatly clipped hedges and century-old stone pergolas frame set the background for the Monocot and Aquatic gardens. This formal arrangement creates a pleasing rectangular symmetry, softened by the abundant foliage of the plantings. 8fe6f056-0dfc-4cea-ab66-e66f112df730

The pond at the center features towering cattails and papyrus plants, along with blooming water lilies, sacred lotuses and cannas. Schools of goldfish patrol the water while squadrons of damselflies flit around in the air above.


The Monocot Garden—an array of plants that share certain characteristics, such as strap-like leaves and a single seed-leaf at germination—is filled with luxuriant tropical plants, such as elephant ears, bananas and palms. Hardy perennials, including lilies, variegated giant reed and tall, feathery grasses complete the scene.b684a0dd-33b8-45d3-b2b8-de7bcb861288

Late summer is when all this reaches its peak and close inspection is recommended, however, on a hot afternoon it is perhaps best viewed while comfortably seated in one of the benches in the shade of the vine-clad pergola.