A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Plant of the Week: Adonis amurensis (Adonis/Pheasant’s-eye)

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

One of the very first perennials to bloom at the start of the growing season is the cheerful, yellow-flowered Adonis amurensis. It usually flowers right after the winter snows have gone—in fact, it will even pop up through a late-February snow—and always brings a smile to the face of anyone who sees it.

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Commonly known as pheasant’s-eye or adonis, it is a member of the anemone family (Ranunculaceae) which, according to Greek mythology, was created by Aphrodite when she sprinkled nectar on some blood of the recently-gored Adonis.

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There are several species of adonis and this one is native to Far East Asia. The specific epithet amurensis commemorates the Amur, a major river in that region. Here at Wave Hill, look for it along the Shade Border, where these bright little beauties were found, and in the Wild Garden.

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Plant of the Week: Hamamelis ×intermedia ‘Orange Beauty’ (Witch Hazel cultivar)

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

Winter-blooming witch hazels are one of the joys of a visit to the garden in February.

the-plantThey are in flower throughout the month whenever the weather is not completely frigid—even when it is snowing.

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This witch hazel, Hamamelis ×intermedia ‘Orange Beauty,’ is situated near the Perkins Visitor Center and is looking at its best right now. It is covered in coppery-orange flowers which seem to glow when they are illuminated by the afternoon sun.

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the-setting-2The thread-like petals, four to each bloom, curl up during a cold spell but they roll open again as soon as it passes.

close-upThe flowers give off a sweet scent on milder days and this can be enjoyed as you stand close by to admire the majestic views of the Palisades and the rest of the winter landscape.

Plant of the Week: Jasminum nudiflorum (Winter Jasmine)

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

“What is that yellow flower?” is a frequent question from our winter visitors. As the common name suggests, winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) does indeed flower this time of year, but will do so more readily during mild spells.

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Native to northern China, it is hardy to our area and, with its vigorous and sprawling habit, it makes a great cover for a wall or a steep bank.

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We have it in two locations, one is at the north end of our parking lot, where it covers the retaining wall.

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The other is tucked into a corner between the Flower Garden and the east end of the Cactus and Succulent House, the right-hand wing of the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory.

 

The delicate foliage emerges in spring, after flowering has finished, and remains a healthy green for the entire growing season.

Plant of the Week: Lachenalia aloides var. aurea (Cape Cowslip/Opal Flower)

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

Lachenalia aloides var. aurea is one of the many winter-flowering South African bulbs that can be seen at Wave Hill this time of year.

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The Lachenalias are commonly referred to as Cape cowslips or opal flowers and are very showy when in bloom.

There are more than a hundred species of Lachenalia, some of which, like L. aloides, demonstrate natural variations, which is indicated by the contraction “var.” in the botanical name.

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These are most usually variations in flower color and, as the last part of its name (aurea) suggests, this one is golden-yellow. Clustered in several pots, it creates a wonderful splash of sunshine on the floor of the Palm House, in the center space of the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory.

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All the Lachenalias hail from southern Africa and this particular example is native to the Western Cape.

Plant of the Week: Ludisia discolor (Jewel Orchid)

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

Small and highly decorative, the jewel orchid is aptly named. It has attractive, dark-greenish-red leaves, marked with contrasting, pale veins. Spikes of small, pure-white and lightly fragrant flowers appear for a few weeks each winter.

close-upKnown as a terrestrial orchid, it grows naturally in the soil of the rainforest floor—unlike the majority of tropical orchids, which grow in nooks and crannies on trees—and, because of this, it prefers shady locations. (Very little sunlight reaches to the ground in the forest.) Too much sunlight will cause the foliage to turn pale and can even cause it to burn.

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The genus Ludisia contains only this one species, Ludisia discolor, and is native to the jungles of Southeast Asia. See it blooming in our Tropical House, the left wing of the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory, just to the left of the steps as you enter the Tropical House.

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Plant of the Week: Canarina canariensis (Canary Island Bellflower)

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

Native to pockets of cloud forest in the mountains of the Canary Islands, this climbing vine, shown here in the foreground of this first shot, is programmed to do all of its growing and blooming in the cool, moist, winter months.the-plant

The annual growth dies back in spring to a tuberous root system and the plant remains completely dormant through the hot and desert-like Canary Island summers.

Gardeners have to be aware of this growth cycle. Watering the plant during the summer months must be avoided, because any wetness can cause the roots to rot, but once growth starts again in late autumn, water is essential.

The yellowy-orange flowers appear in mid to late winter and have the familiar, bell-like shape of most of the members of the bellflower family (Campanulaceae). The petals are translucent and delicately traced with darker-orange veins.close-up

Our specimen is on display in the Palm House, where it holds its own against the equally orange, and spectacular, flame vine (Pyrostegia venusta), covering the wall above and to the right in this last shot.the-setting

Plant of the Week: Tetradenia riparia (Iboza)

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

A pleasant, spicy scent hangs in the air of the Palm House this time of year and its origin is not immediately obvious.the-setting

Only when accidentally brushed does the culprit reveal itself.the-plant

It is iboza (Tetradenia riparia), a shrub native to much of eastern Africa, from KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa to Ethiopia.

In winter, it is covered in spikes of tiny white flowers and, when a mass of them are spotted from a distance, they can look like a fine mist—in fact, one of its common names is misty plume-bush.close-up

Iboza is the Zulu name for this plant and, apparently, it refers to its aromatic properties.

Plant of the Week: Haworthia pygmaea

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

The Cactus and Succulent House is especially appealing in winter, not just because it is a warm refuge but because the clear winter sunlight accentuates the various, sometimes bizarre, forms of the plants inside.

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Haworthia pygmaea is a good example. It stands barely half an inch above soil level and its thick, fleshy leaves present very little of their surface to the sun. You will see it in the right foreground of the next shot.

in-situ-2However, what little is presented is covered by an opaque “window”— an extraordinary adaptation that is shared by some other succulent plants, including a few in the same genus.

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These windows allow light to penetrate below the leaf surface and for photosynthesis to take place inside, at—or even below—soil level.

Native to South Africa, the Haworthia genus was named in honor of Adrian Hardy Haworth (1767-1833) an English botanist. Find it on your immediate right as you enter the Cactus and Succulent House.

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Plant of the Week: Lapageria rosea (Chilean Bellflower)

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

The Chilean bellflower is a climbing vine with lustrous, green leaves and waxy, glowing-pink flowers. Wave Hill’s lovely young specimen is blooming in the Palm House this month.

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It is native to the temperate rain forests of southern Chile, where it is called copihue, and is recognized as the country’s national flower.

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Lapageria rosea is the only species in its genus, and the botanical family (Philesiaceae) contains only two genera, the other being Philesia. That, too, has only one species—P. magellanica, another plant from the temperate Andean forests.

Plant of the Week: Dombeya burgessiae ‘Seminole’

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

Although a member of the mallow family (Malvaceae), this decorative flowering shrub has been called the “tropical rose hydrangea” and it’s not hard to see why: it does look very much like a pink-flowered hydrangea, at least when viewed from a distance.

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Dombeya burgessiae is native to South Africa, where it has several common names, including “pink wild pear” and is, apparently, a favorite food source of the black rhino.

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‘Seminole’ is a popular hybrid selection of Dombeya and can be seen in gardens in the warmer parts of the country, such as Florida and southern California.

The genus is named in honor of Joseph Dombey, a noted French botanist of the eighteenth century.

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Look for our lovely specimen in the Palm House, the central greenhouse of the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory.