A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

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.

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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.

In the Garden Now: The Flower Garden

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

The design of Wave Hill’s Flower Garden takes its inspiration from the Arts and Crafts gardening style, popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One of the main principles of this style is the considered use of color and, in this garden, each of the eight planting beds has its own color palette: one is full of dark reds, enlivened here and there with spots of yellow or orange, other beds are silver and blue, or plum-hued, apricot, yellow and pink and chartreuse with white. The overall structure is clear form this first shot, taken from above, though an eye-level view is necessary to see the color palate of each bed.

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Planted containers, situated at various points around the garden during the warmer months, continue this concept, and this year the combination of choice is yellow and blue. Positioned right at the garden’s center is a masterful assembly of plants in a fine, Ali Baba-style earthenware container. It has all the elements expected of a combination container planting: a “thriller,” some “fillers” and a “spiller.”

A dramatic giant elephant ear (Alocasia macrorrhiza ‘Solid Gold’ – sometimes listed as ’Lutea’) is obviously the thriller. Its large, upright, glossy leaves are held up by golden yellow petioles (leaf stalks). It will continue to expand through the rest of the summer.76537359-f4d0-4c9d-838e-b25cfbe716ec

Adding interest at the middle of the arrangement are two, blue-themed plants, the “fillers”: a Brazilian dwarf morning glory (Evolvulus glomeratus ‘Blue Daze’)—related to the rue morning glory—and a type of spiderwort (Tradescantia pallida ‘Blue Sue’), with lovely, blue-gray (glaucous) foliage.e414353f-e9dc-42d0-b02b-78dcb40a4ae3

Dichondra (Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’) completes the arrangement with stings of silvery foliage spilling down the sides of the container. Not accidentally, the container stands at the center of a roundel of blue-gray flagstones.6642b0eb-6624-475e-ba4b-6bb79e9b997c

Look for this and other yellow and blue-themed containers in the Flower Garden over the next few weeks.

In the Garden Now: Everything’s Coming Up Paisley

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

Wave Hill’s Paisley Bed is an example of seasonal bedding—that is, a decorative planting scheme intended to last only a few months. It is a form of gardening which was very popular during the Victorian era and plantings of this type would have been seen in municipal parks, private estates and even modest private gardens.

Over the years, Wave Hill’s interpretation of this style of gardening has demonstrated many whimsical and amusing themes. “Wave Hillton” (2011) featured a plant-surrounded patio, complete with outdoor furniture, “upholstered” with hundreds of tiny succulents. “Front Yard/Backyard” (2014) showed off a vivid selection of colorful annual flowers in the front with an orderly garden of vegetables in the back, the two separated by a picket fence.

This year features a return to Victorian formality with compact knots of plants in an exuberant pattern. Colorful cultivars of coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides UNDER THE SEA® series), the first photo below, are arranged in miniature paisley shapes—mimicking the form of the entire bed—with coppery-golden blooms of marigold (Tagetes ‘Strawberry Blonde’) and pink puffs of globe amaranth (Amaranthus globosa cvs.) providing decorative infill between them. Larger, exotic specimens, such as the cranberry hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella) and the fearsome-looking prickly umbrella plant (Wercklea ferox), the second photo below, add structure and drama and are very much in keeping with the style.e80e694a-46cf-4a9e-9264-3702779956cc

732f795a-08a5-4947-b1d7-5e226688ab29The paisley name comes from the town of Paisley in Scotland, which was a center of textile production in the 19th century, a time when this pattern was all the rage in Europe and North America. The teardrop motif originated in ancient Persia and is thought to represent a spray of flowers, combined with a cypress tree. The design is common across Central and South Asia and was introduced to the West via the silk trade.

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In the Garden Now: Deep Burgundy and Pure White

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

A Wild Garden has a “planted by nature” appearance. It is an informal style of gardening but one which involves thoughtful design and management. Arising from the Art and Crafts Movement in the latter part of the 19th century, the concept of the Wild Garden was popularized by William Robinson, an Irish gardener and writer who worked in England for most of his life.80dc6f26-d382-44d6-a959-63f448651845

Set in its hillside landscape, Wave Hill’s Wild Garden perfectly demonstrates this style of gardening. Rustic paths meander between irregular beds, each one filled with a fascinating range of plants. Evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs provide perfect conditions for shade-loving plants while more open areas keep the sun-lovers happy. Some of the beds are home to low-growing plants while others are filled with much taller species.

Plants are allowed a certain amount of freedom to spread themselves around and, with the right management, attractive effects result. One example is a particularly striking color combination seen along both sides of one of the paths right now: deep burgundy reds, set against pure white, are softened here and there with accents of pink and purple.

The dark-red foliage of red shiso (Perilla frutescens ‘Atropurpurea’) provides the burgundy backdrop, while the delicate, white leaf edges of snow-on-the-mountain (Euphorbia marginata) show up as pure as the snow for which the plant is named.

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Both are self-sowing annual plants—meaning that they grow, flower and produce seed all within one year. Seeds germinate the following spring and the process is repeated. A little goes a long way and our gardeners—Gelene Scarborough, assisted by Christopher Bivens—artfully instill some discipline early on in the growing season. Tiny seedlings have to be identified and thinned so that just the right number of plants remain to achieve the result we see now, but without swamping the whole area with too many of one type. Indeed, shiso can be a very aggressive spreader and needs close supervision.

Also in the dark-red category is Korean angelica (Angelica gigas), a member of the parsley family (Apiaceae), with domed umbels of a superb, red-purple hue.8ef91765-3bf1-4aaa-9441-abcea3e5b89d

Accent colors are provided by some tall perennial plants. The pinks are courtesy of New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae cvs.) and garden phlox (Phlox paniculata)—shown behind the splashes of purple and white in the foreground of this last shot—while two ironweeds (Vernonia baldwinii and V. noveboracensis) and a bush clover (Lespedeza thunbergii) supply the purples. Some of these have spread themselves over the years, too, with volunteer seedlings being allowed to establish in suitable places.9c1080ad-367e-4e7d-8d04-f08f02a9805a

Material Culture as Visual Language: An Interview with Elana Herzog

Phoebe van Essche was a Curatorial Intern at Wave Hill through mid-February, 2019. She worked closely with the 2019 Winter Workspace Session 1 Artists, and sat down with of the artists in the program, Elana Herzog, to discuss her work, process and experience during the residency program. Phoebe is studying curation, art history and visual culture at Bennington College in Vermont.

From January to March of this year, the halls of Glyndor Gallery were bustling with the sounds of our Winter Workspace Residency. Wave Hill’s Session 1 artists-in-residence for 2019 included Melissa Calderón, Nandini Chirimar, Elana Herzog, Christopher K. Ho, Shervone Neckles and Armita Raafat. Our galleries and Sunroom space were converted into their artist studios, transforming our exhibition space to one dedicated to the creative process. The artists have six weeks to spend wandering the garden, admiring the Hudson River, and channeling their surroundings into a creative project. While it sounds like a long time, it passed in the blink of an eye. The Visual Arts team at Wave Hill has reviewed applications for the 2020 cohort of Winter Workspace artists, and by the time this post is live, we’ve notified the future participants in the program.

As an intern, my time at Wave Hill landed in conjunction with the first session of the residency. I found a kinship with the artists in our short-term, high-intensity experience of Wave Hill and the Glyndor Gallery. I found some time to sit down with 2019 artist Elana Herzog to talk about our time here, her work, and how the Wave Hill residency has influenced her practice.Winter Workspace Drop-in Sunday

Herzog’s work considers material culture as she creates a visual language that engages attraction and repulsion as aspects of aesthetic experience. Her work is a mixture of site-responsive interventions and intuitive explorations, as she navigates construction and deconstruction. Herzog’s past work includes the staple series, where she used thousands of metal staples to bind found textiles into industrial surfaces. When they are finished her installations are a mix of this fine repetitive work and playful experimentation. To quote her website, she “delights in the dematerialization of form, only to embed those broken-down forms into larger contexts like museums and institutions to see what meaningfully joyous havoc they will wreak.” We spoke about meaningfully joyous havoc and more in our short interview.

Phoebe van Essche: How are these pieces different then, from those of the past?

Elana Herzog: A lot of what I’ve done in the past has been labor-intensive in that it’s made through a very repetitive process – like the staple pieces you’ve probably seen images of, which have that kind of obsessive quality. This [Wave Hill] project in some ways resembles that—it’s labor-intensive too. The use of embroidery references a certain craft that it doesn’t really exemplify; it’s not like I’m mastering embroidery. The staple pieces were much more de-constructive, and these new pieces are perhaps more constructed, although on some level I do de-construct aspects of their components, maybe making you aware of them in different ways…The other [staple] pieces were always kind of characterized by the sense that they had no structural integrity, and were very ephemeral. Maybe these are less so…I mean the other [staple] pieces were pretty culturally specific because the sources of the materials were culturally consistent. These are more of a collaging of different references, more eclectic…They try to establish relationships between different cultural references.Winter Workspace Drop-in Sunday

PVE: Textile has a very rich history in cultural identity and creative expression, but also can be a representation of class differences and class culture. When you choose fabric, are you making conscious decisions with these things in mind? How do you make those decisions?

EH: Well, I have always said that attraction and repulsion are both things that I am motivated by, and that I like to inspire in the viewer—you know, discomfort, as well as appeal. I think that ideas about taste—good taste/bad taste—create a sense of incompatibility, which I think is largely driven by class, as in the way we associate good taste with “higher quality” and superior production value. I like to invoke those distinctions in a way that challenges their ability to determine aesthetic experiences. I am very interested in aesthetic experience overall, and I always want it to be an aspect of a viewer’s perception of my work. Even when I use something that I think is hideously ugly, I use it in a way that is intended to generate beauty.Winter Workspace Drop-in Sunday

I’ve come to have a more complicated view of what textiles transmit as I’ve learned more about them. For instance, the idea that textile design and production has, historically, been a form of creative expression is a bit simplistic…I would say that it’s heavily moderated by tradition, and determined by the demands of the industry, commercial production and markets. Pretty much everything I’m working with now is produced commercially. When I was researching Russian textiles, I saw a lot of related folk art and a lot of icons. I think that most of the people who worked on these things, whether they are making textiles or painting icons, are doing what they have been taught to do in a faithful way. Not necessarily innovating, not questioning…

PVE: Almost like a ritual practice.

EH: It is a ritual practice, but it’s also their job. A lot of it is about repetition, craft, and inherited wisdom. It’s only occasionally that you see that thing that makes you pay attention. I think that applies to just about everything.

Note: We’re also pleased to share that there will be a forthcoming article about Elana Herzog in Sculpture magazine.

Duy Hoàng: The Art of Mad Science and (Quasi) Natural History

Emily Alesandrini is a writer, curator, advocate and culture enthusiast living and working in New York. Her research concerns contemporary representations of race and gender with a particular focus on issues of displacement, marginalization and the body in art by women and artists of color. She served as the 2018–2019 Curatorial Fellow at Wave Hill.

During his 2019 Winter Workspace residency at Wave Hill, artist Duy Hoàng could be spotted at the far corners of the garden’s grounds, camera and binoculars in hand, trailing after fledgling robins and collecting samples of fallen petals and pine-needles. Often arriving before the staff and working in his studio until closing hours in the winter months of February and March 2019, Hoàng’s zealous curiosity for the flora and fauna around him almost served as a performance piece, highlighting a remarkable potential for playful scientific inquiry most of us have likely left untapped since childhood. (I used to collect arrowheads and geodes in a patchwork leather pouch with white feather tassels. What happened to that impulse?)

In Hoàng’s workspace, he installed botanical sketches on graph paper, photographs of trails and animal tracks in the snow, tea bags, compostable plates, push pins, glass vials, tweezers, glue, newspapers in a variety of languages, succulents in coffee cups, prickly things and band aids, scanned prints of antique botanical artworks, and piles of grass, twigs, and dirt collected from his “field work” throughout the garden. Orange and blue string tied to light fixtures, crown moldings, and door hinges held blooming branches up in cups of water on table tops. Reclaiming the cabinet of curiosities Wunderkammer tradition from a problematic history of colonialist plundering, Hoàng neither sells nor keeps his vegetal collectables. These artwork worlds, which the artist considers “basecamps” or “expeditions”, live only once before being composted, or “put back” in their original outdoor locations, at the end of their installation. The works resist commodification (and, by extension, the art market) in their ephemerality, and instead prompt a subjective reflection on mortality and the inevitability of the decay of all living things, resonating with the art historical memento mori and vanitas traditions.

On one wall displayed enlarged photographs of the Google Translate app applied to trees and leaf piles, the program translating these random natural forms from “Japanese” into English words like pollution, carefully, data, supremacy, mobile, fuel, news, beaten, memory, heat, and innumerable others. In this humorous demonstration of the absurdity of our classification systems and technology dependence, Hoàng shows us that sometimes the thing we hope to understand exists beyond the limits of our expectations. Reflecting on this project, the artist shares, “The generated words resemble a poem, composed by nature and human extension through technology; the result also feels like a desperate attempt to communicate and understand between the natural world and human.” Though this workspace installation no longer exists in Glyndor’s middle gallery, Hoàng will create another highly experimental and site-specific world of quasi-scientific natural wonder in Glyndor’s Sun Porch opening on September 15, 2019.

After moving to the US from Vietnam in his adolescence, Hoàng developed a keen sense of observation and awareness—necessary social assets for a young immigrant. His family’s edible garden traveled across the ocean with them, and Hoàng continues to think about transplanting as a metaphor for migration. Indeed, his accumulation installations resonate with an intention of nesting, of creating a temporary home or sanctuary. A self-proclaimed “mad scientist wannabe”, Hoàng holds an MFA from Columbia University  (where he used an archaeology lab room as an artist studio). He was recently awarded a 2019 New York Community Trust Van Lier Fellowship at Wave Hill, a year-long program which includes the opportunity to participate in both our Winter Workspace residency program and the Sunroom Project Space. The artist’s complex and often interactive sculptural practice engages with topics of survival and memory, notions of “home,” and the potential of growth and inevitability of decay of both cultivated plants and their human caretakers. In a time when digital screens demand more and more hours of our daily attention, Hoàng’s work revives our better instincts to wonder, wander, play, and discover.

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Duy_2._resized.pgDuy_3_resizedDuy Hoàng, Second Sightings, 2019, mixed media, natural materials, yarn, drawings, digital prints, tools, 20.25 x 14.5 x 10.5 ft, Wave Hill, the Bronx, NY.

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Duy Hoàng, In-progress Google Translate project, 2019.

Previous Works:

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Duy Hoàng, A Wide Area Where Three Rivers Gather, 2018, plants, rocks, ink on paper, books, 11.5 x 8.5 x 9 ft, Maruseppu, Japan.

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Duy Hoàng, Archipelago: Mayfly, 2018, mixed media, wood, insects, moss, drawings, spore prints, tools, dimensions variable, Rabbit Island, Lake Superior, MI.

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Duy Hoàng, Septal Nectary, 2017, plants, water, food coloring, container, tools, wood, light, mixed media, 58 x 48 x 127 inches, Singapore, Additional documentation: Cheryl Chiw, Denise Yap, Caterina Riva, Joel Chin.

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Duy Hoàng, Cultivar, 2018, mixed media, edible plants, water, food color, light, plastic sheet, 52 x 198 x 157 inches.
All images courtesy of the artist.

Plant of the Week: Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ (Japanese Forest Grass cultivar)

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

Some plantings rely more on foliage than on flowers. Leaves of different textures and shades, for example, can offer much interest, even in what might seem to be unpromising locations.

This week’s selection, a chartreuse-colored selection of Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’), lights up a shady section of the Wild Garden, providing a perfect foil to the darker greens of the surrounding plants. In this first shot, look for it in the bottom left of the shot, a burst of bright green along the path. The Wild Garden Gazebo is on the right, seen from behind.setting

The second and third shots show it in every greater focus.the-plant

close-upMost grasses come from open, sunny places (“grasslands”), but Japanese forest grass, as its name suggests, is a woodland plant. It is native to the forested mountains of central Japan.

Plant of the Week: Laurus nobilis (Bay Laurel)

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

Laurus nobilis is known by many names: bay tree, sweet bay, bay laurel, true laurel or just laurel. This tree pervades our culture. The word laurel crops up here and there in words and expressions, such as baccalaureate, poet laureate and to rest on one’s laurels—and how many dishes, including sauces, stews and roasts, would lack a certain something without the addition of a bay leaf?close-up

Native to the Mediterranean region, it has been used as a flavoring and for medicinal purposes since classical times. In ancient Greece, a wreath of laurel indicated great honor because of its association with the god Apollo. In Rome too, laurel wreaths were worn by victorious generals, emperors and other honored individuals.

During the summer, our fine bay tree can be seen in the Herb Garden.setting

Trained as a “standard”, that is, a lollypop shape, it looks truly noble in its large wooden container—actually a scaled-down version of a Versailles planter.planter

Despite its weight, the container does allow for the plant to be moved into protected quarters for the winters.

Plant of the Week: Allium altaicum (Altai Onion)

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

We have many types of ornamental onion in the gardens at Wave Hill, perhaps the oddest, and maybe the goofiest, is the Altai onion (Allium altaicum).

Upright, thick, tubular leaves surround a central, even thicker flower stem, on top of which is perched a spherical cluster of tiny white flowers. All of this endows the plant with a lot of personality.close-up

Native to Central Asia, it is thought to be the parent species of the bunching onion (Allium fistulosum), called the Japanese bunching, or Welsh, onion and is known for its tasty hollow stems—fistulosum refers to this hollowness.close-up-2

close-up-1The Altai onion can be found in a corner of the Wild Garden, not far from the Gazebo. You might just catch it giving you a wave as you pass by.

Plant of the Week: Clematis ×triternata ‘Rubromarginata’ (Clematis hybrid)

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

Covering the fence beside the western entrance to the Flower Garden is one of the Wave Hill gardeners’ favorite plants.plant-on-fence

It is Clematis ×triternata ‘Rubromarginata’, a cross between C. flammula (fragrant virgin’s bower) and C. viticella (the Italian, or purple clematis).close-up

Having inherited the fragrance of the former and the purple tints of the latter, it is a lovely clematis with delicate, scented, ruby-tipped white flowers. It will be blooming for several weeks from now through late summer.

Draped over the geometric wooden fence, with its billowy habit and masses of wispy blooms, this clematis epitomizes the beauty of the Arts and Crafts style of our Flower Garden.setting