A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Wave Hill Nallies at Hortie Hoopla

Louis Bauer is Wave Hill’s Senior Director of Horticulture.

Earlier this week I shepherded our crew of five John Nally interns to the fifth anniversary of New York Botanical Garden’s “Annual Green Industry Intern Field Day,”  informally known as “Hortie Hoopla,” an event for horticultural interns and future professionals in the field.

Our Nallies have already been at work at Wave Hill for more than three months, so the afternoon was a good moment for them to pause in their demanding and, this week anyway, hot and humid work.Wave-Hill--credit-Wave-Hill

This early May shot of our current Nallies, Ayuki Akimoto, Christopher Bivens, Claudia Fugalli, Evita Rodriguez and Patrick C. Nyes, demonstrates an already impressive collaborative spirit.

In addition to welcoming remarks by the New York Botanical Garden, Fergus Garrett, head gardener at Great Dixter House & Garden was skyped in to offer his own welcome from Great Britain. Our Assistant Gardener Coralie Thomas has spent most of the last year at Great Dixter, by the way, as the first North American Christopher Lloyd Scholar, getting a practical education in the traditional style of ornamental gardening as practiced at two of the world’s most respected gardens, Great Dixter in East Sussex, England, and Chanticleer near Philadelphia. We expect Coralie back at Wave Hill this fall, in time for the busy harvest season in our gardens.

Each year, the organizers of Hortie Hoopla invite five professionals in the field to tell their own stories, horticulture being one of those career paths that tend to take many unexpected turns. Along with colleagues from the Prospect Park Alliance, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Bridge Park and the New York Botanical Garden, I was happy to contribute my own tale, which certainly has had its own twists and turns.

In high school, my interest was in art and mathematics, and by the time I was headed to college I had developed a keen interest in traditional architecture. When the cost of that academic path became just too burdensome, and I became too impatient, I took a sharp detour into the world of graphics and publishing. But after a dozen years or so, I began to miss growing things—I’d grown up among farmers—so I took a job at a florist and garden shop in Brooklyn. And that’s when I met Margaret Roach, Ken Druse and Marco Polo Stufano, among others. In the summer of 1993, with Wave Hill’s  Gardeners’ Party fast approaching, I learned from Margaret that Marco was desperate for some volunteer help in the garden, so I took myself up to the Bronx. By early 1994, I was on staff. What followed was a decade in the gardens here, another ten at Greenwood Gardens in New Jersey, and then a happy return to Wave Hill in early 2014.

Not surprisingly, this year’s Nallies come to Wave Hill from varied work paths. One was working on a hydroponic farm, it’s true, and one in a wood shop, but the other three were most recently a technical writer, employed in a ceramics studio and working in an office in a midtown high-rise. You can expect to hear from the Nallies themselves later in the growing season.

Plant of the Week: Hesperaloe parviflora (Red Yucca)

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

Native to western Texas and northern Mexico, the red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) might not be expected to survive outdoors in the Bronx, yet we have specimens which have thrived here for many years, with a little expert assistance from our gardeners.the-plant-2

In a corner of the Wild Garden is a “micro-desert,” a protected, south-facing, planting bed with soil that has been amended with copious quantities of gravel.the-setting

This gravel increases soil-porosity and allows water to drain away quickly. It is poor drainage that kills many desert-dwelling plants because, although they can withstand freezing conditions, prolonged soil-wetness can cause their roots to rot.

Red yucca is also known as hummingbird yucca for the obvious reason that the flowers, which are usually red, but may be yellow on some plants, are very attractive to hummingbirds.close-up

Blooming begins around mid-summer and continues for many weeks.

A Fine Young Elm Comes Down

Louis Bauer is Wave Hill’s Senior Director of Horticulture.

Over the next few days, visitors are like to notice a new stump on the edge of the Great Lawn, near the Perkins Visitor Center. Until the early hours this Friday, July 14, it was the home of a Valley Forge elm (Ulmus americana ‘Valley Forge’).

This was actually the second elm we’ve planted in that spot since one of our magnificent copper beeches came down in 2005.

What we like about the Valley Forge elm is that it resists Dutch elm disease, which devastated the elm populations across the U.S. It also grows rapidly when young, its branches gaining as much as 12 inches each year and giving it a lovely shape. But those young branches are also somewhat weak. Here’s a shot of it earlier this year.Grounds

Two years ago, the top of the center branch of this young elm, planted a little more than three years ago, snapped off. We hoped that the branches below it would prove to be strong enough to make a solid crown.

Unfortunately, the heavy rainfall we have been experiencing recently, combined with the weakness of the branches results in another clean break, this time right down the center of the tree.July 13 2017

As you can see, this was a blow from which it would never recover, and this morning we removed it. The first elm in that spot, incidentally, came down for the same reasons. In that way nature has of forcing change on us, we have decided to let that corner of the lawn rest for a while, and mull over alternatives to putting another tree in its place.

In the meantime, there is one more elm to admire on the property, an Accolade elm, (Ulmus x ‘Morton’). It was planted about the same time as the one we’ve just lost.

You’ll find it midway between Perkins Visitor Center and Wave Hill House, on the right. Stop to admire it the next time you are headed in that direction.

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Plant of the Week: Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Prairie Sunset’ (Ox-eye Sunflower Cultivar)

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

The ox-eye sunflower is an imposing plant, native to much of central North America, where it may be found in tall grass prairies and light woodlands. The wild species (Helianthus helianthoides) has green leaves and stems and light-yellow flowers.the-plant-2

This cultivar (selection) ‘Prairie Sunset,’ has dark-purple stems, maroon-veined leaves and orange-gold ray florets―the petal-like structures found on most members of Asteraceae, the daisy family―arranged around a darker, central disk.close-up

It has a long blooming period and can be admired for the next the next several weeks in the planting bed just outside the Flower Garden fence, on the Hudson River side.the-plantthe-setting

Plant of the Week: Maianthemum stellatum (Starry False Solomon’s Seal)

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

The white, star-shaped flowers of this spring-blooming plant may have long since finished, but they are replaced by fascinating fruits. As they ripen, the fruits turn from green to dark red, passing through a curious striped stage.close-up

Maianthemum stellatum, formerly known as Smilacina stellate, is called “false Solomon’s seal” because the leaf arrangement is a little similar to “true” Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum spp.). The flowers, however, are arranged differently: on false Solomon’s seal, they are located in a terminal cluster, while on true Solomon’s seal, they dangle in small groups from underneath the stems.plant-1

Native to much of North America, it can be spotted in the Shade Border, not far from the front of Wave Hill House.the-setting-2

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Plant of the Week: Grevillea ‘Austraflora Fanfare’ (Grevillea hybrid)

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

Grevillea ‘Austraflora Fanfare’ has lustrous, finely cut foliage and a decidedly wide, spreading habit. New growth emerges a metallic-bronze and the blooms, which are appearing now, are like little upturned brushes—albeit, brushes that have bristles of a shining, pinkish purple!close-up

Grevilleas are native to Australia (and nearby islands) and are related to the proteas, most of which come from the Southern Hemisphere. This Grevillea hybrid is thought to be the result of a cross between Grevillea gaudichaudii and G. longifoliathe-plant

It is a winter resident of the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory but is enjoying its summer outside on the stone platform opposite the entrance to the Herb Garden.the-setting-1

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Get on the Map!

Barry Kogan, Wave Hill’s Senior Manager of Youth Programs, manages Wave Hill’s Forest Project, a six-week, paid summer internship for teens that works to improve the ecology of the Bronx, and the Woodland Ecology Restoration Mentorship (WERM), a 14-month program for high school students.

Through programs like our Forest Project high school internship, now more than 35 years old, Wave Hill has long recognized that civic groups and social networks are crucial to the lifeblood of a city. That’s why we have been involved since the Stewardship Mapping Assessment Project (STEW-MAP), a searchable database and map of stewardship groups in New York City, was completed ten years ago. A decade later, the Urban Field Station, a partnership between the US Forest Service and NYC Parks—which manages the map—is ready to update it. STEWMAPGTR_Figure6-RESIZED

We encourage you to check your inbox and mailbox for the survey and complete it as soon as possible, so you can ensure that your group is represented among the environmental stewards of New York City. Who should be on the map? All groups who conserve, manage, monitor, advocate for or educate the public about their local environments. That includes water, land, air, waste, toxics, food and energy issues. Your input helps support a vibrant, connected, green New York City. If you know of groups who share our commitment to good stewardship in the city, please follow the link to STEW-MAP and provide your input. And if you’d like to learn more, please feel free to contact me at barryk@wavehill.org, or the Forest Service at stewmap.ufs@gmail.com.

Meanwhile, Wave Hill’s 2017 summer internships get started today. Forest Project interns—mostly teens from the Bronx—conduct restoration projects in Wave Hill’s woodland, studying the methodology and sharing it with the ecological restoration community at large. That includes participating in volunteer stewardship events in local natural areas like Riverdale Park, Enders Garden and Van Cortlandt Park.first-pic

In addition to working in the woodland, our teens will be taking two intensive courses, one on the history, science and planning of stewardship/restoration projects in the city, the other on learning basic mapping skills―used for projects like the STEW-MAP. A new group of students in our 14-month Woodland Ecology Research Mentorship start this summer, too. They will be working with science mentors on three research initiatives, eco-flora of New York City, the Gotham Coyote Project and the Billion Oyster Project.11924284_1473092396349956_8531634699806882774_n (1)

Here’s to a productive summer!

Summer 2017: A Global Cast to the Paisley Bed

Louis Bauer is Wave Hill’s Director of Horticulture.

Each spring, we plant up succeeding waves of brightly hued tulips. This shot of the bed in May, 2015, tells that story.

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Once summer arrives, the bed gets planted up again for the longer stretch of summer into fall.  Each year, the bed displays a particular character, and this year is no exception.

Here’s what it looked like in 2011…

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…and in 2014.

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Sometimes the hardest aspect of planting up this bed is the fact that it is small and has a particular (paisley!) shape. So, what to focus on and how many plants to include for an interesting and aesthetically pleasing bed?

We’ve all been reading a lot about people from other parts of the planet, about whom I suspect we actually know little—especially about the plant life in their home towns, villages and cities and countryside. That gave me the idea of selecting plants that originated in Mexico and several nations with majority Muslim populations, as a way to offer a fresh perspective on countries that are very much in the news.

Summer is a very busy season in the garden, so when I had a chance to get to the Paisley Bed a week or so ago, I seized the opportunity to plant up my selection.

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Mind you, many of them are plants that already grow at Wave Hill, in different spots and different combinations. So, many of them will be familiar to visitors, but I think you may be surprised to learn their origins. Some of the plants we depend on in our kitchen, for instance, hearken from another region of the world—tomatoes from Mexico, for instance.

You can expect the plantings in the bed, especially the castor bean plant and amaranth, to be several feet tall come fall. Enjoy the slow but sure transformation! In the meantime, the Perkins Visitor Center, just a few steps from the Paisley Bed, will soon be armed with lots of details, provided by our Horticultural Interpreter Charles Day, about the plants I finished putting in last night.

Plant of the Week: Spigelia marilandica (Indian Pink)

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

The Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica) is not exactly pink. Bright red flowers with dazzling yellow is closer to the mark, and it is a magnet for hummingbirds.

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Although native to the southeastern US, its closest relatives are mostly tropical in origin, including the sinister strychnine tree (Strychnos nux-vomica). Even if the Indian pink is not quite as toxic as its fearsome cousin, it should be treated with respect.

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It begins its colorful display in early summer just as many spring-bloomers are finishing up, and often blooms again, periodically, over several months. Spot it in a couple of places in the Shade Border, at the edge of the lawn.

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Plant of the Week: Callirhoe involucrata (Poppy Mallow)

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

Native to central and southern United States and northern Mexico, this member of the mallow family (Malvaceae) is an attractive and tough ground-cover plant.

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Procumbent (sprawling) stems emerge from a long, fleshy tap root and fan out over the ground, sneaking between other plants and creating a convenient mat of fine foliage—which is exactly what it can be seen doing in one of the central beds in our Wild Garden, portrayed in this next shot..

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Its magenta, cup-like flowers appear from late spring into early summer, but will often show up at intervals later in the season.

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Another common name for the plant is “winecups, ” alluding to the shape of the flowers and, supposedly, their wine-like color.