A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Plant of the Week: Tetradenia riparia (Iboza)

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

This aromatic plant is one of the gardeners’ favorites and is worthy of being featured again. It made its first appearance on the blog in January 2017.

A pleasant spicy scent hangs in the air of the Palm House this time of year and its origin is not immediately obvious. settingOnly when accidentally brushed does the culprit reveal itself. It is iboza (Tetradenia riparia), a shrub native to much of eastern Africa, from KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, to Ethiopia.the-plant

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-2close-up

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

Plant of the Week: Idesia polycarpa (Idesia)

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

One of the glories of a visit to Wave Hill in winter is the sight of our idesia trees, loaded with their orange-red berries.close-up

Native to China and southern Japan, the idesia (Idesia polycarpa) is a medium-sized tree. In summer, when both the foliage and developing berries are green, it is not especially noticeable. But once the berries have ripened and the leaves have dropped, the tree is unmissable.

It is a dioecious species, meaning that individual trees are either male or female and both are necessary in order for there to be berries—pollen from a male tree must be available to fertilize the flowers of the female. Because of this, multiple trees must be planted together, and this explains why it is seldom seen outside large estates and botanic gardens: few private yards have room for a grove of idesia!

Our trees are located just to the south of Wave Hill House, shown here first, and in the Shade Border, close to the Aquatic Garden.setting-WHHsetting-Aquaticsetting-Aquatic-2

Plant of the Week: Ilex opaca ‘Clarendon’ (American Holly cultivar)

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

Evergreens are easily overlooked in summer when they have to compete for attention against the distractions of colorful blooms and the diverse foliage of the surrounding deciduous trees and shrubs. In winter, when much of the garden is bare, they take center stage.close-up

Ilex opaca ‘Clarendon’ (a low, spreading form of American holly) is a perfect case in point. There are several fine specimens in the Shade Border and, despite their size and lustrous foliage, they merge into the shadows during the growing season but now, set against a monochrome background and illuminated by the winter sun, they stand out beautifully. In this next shot, we’re looking west towards Wave Hill House.setting

A walk through the garden at this time of year reveals just how important evergreens are to the landscape. It is no wonder that many cultures have revered them as a sign of the continuity of life in the depths of winter.

Plant of the Week: Lachenalia quadricolor (Four-color Cape Cowslip)

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

This four-color Cape cowslip (Lachenalia quadricolor) is one of the first of a succession of South African bulbs which will be on display during the winter months in our Palm House, the central section of the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory.the-setting

It has gray-green, mottled foliage and spikes of tubular flowers, banded in pinkish-orange and yellow and with purple tips. Altogether, it’s a very colorful plant with a fresh, spring-like character.close-up

There are more than 100 species of Cape cowslip, all native to southern Africa and related to the hyacinths. The misleading common name—a cowslip is a type of yellow-flowered primrose, and not at all related—probably arose because some species do have pale-yellow blooms.

The genus Lachenalia is named for an eighteenth-century Swiss botanist, Werner de Lachenal.

Plant of the Week: Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’ (Miscanthus cultivar)

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

The fluffy seed heads of this miscanthus (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’) make a fine display in the Flower Garden at this time of year.close-up

It is a large, perennial grass that can grow up to seven feet high during the summer and produces tufts of bronze-colored flowers by early fall. As they mature, these flowers turn into off-white, feathery seed clusters.close-up-2

The plant begins to die back to the root in late fall and an over-eager gardener might be tempted to cut it back to the ground as part of “fall clean up” but, by leaving it to stand, it makes an elegant dried arrangement for the winter. But cutting-back might be required if it collapses following a heavy snow- or ice-storm. In any event, it should be completely cut back before new growth starts in early spring.plant-and-setting

Plant of the Week: Lagerstroemia ‘Natchez’ (Crape Myrtle cultivar)

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

Crape myrtles are usually associated with the warmer areas of the U.S.—they are common in the elegant gardens of Charleston and Savannah—but they can thrive further north, even here in the Bronx.

A beautiful example is Lagerstroemia ‘Natchez,’ a hybrid crape myrtle developed by the National Arboretum in Washington D.C. A fine specimen can be seen in front of Wave Hill House.setting

It is attractive throughout the year, with masses of white flowers in late summer and lovely, copper-tinted foliage in fall. In winter, when the main stems and branches are more noticeable, the bark glows a warm cinnamon and is particularly beautiful when set off against a blanket of snow.close-up

Most crape myrtle species are native to the Indian subcontinent and southeastern Asia. This cultivar (‘Natchez’) is a hybrid between Lagerstroemia indica and L. fauriei.

Plant of the Week: Begonia fuchsioides (Fuchsia-flowered Begonia)

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

This glossy-leaved begonia, with its deep-red stems and light-pink flowers, is called the fuchsia-flowered begonia because at a casual glance it could be mistaken for a fuchsia.close-up

Many hundreds of species of begonia exist and almost all come from tropical or sub-tropical regions of the world. This particular one, Begonia fuchsioides, is native to Columbia and Venezuela, where its blooms range in color from bright-red to a soft pink.

The genus Begonia is named in honor of Michel Bégon (1638-1710) who, as intendant (governor-general) of the Windward Isles of the Caribbean, developed a keen interest in the local flora.the-plant

While there, he met the botanist Charles Plumier who, because of his generous habit of celebrating his friends when applying names to new genera, was a good person to know. Plumier also honored botanists of earlier generations, including Leonhart Fuchs (1501-1566), now remembered principally by the name of the plant we know as the fuchsia.

Our fuchsia-flowered begonia can be seen in the Palm House section of the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory.setting

Plant of the Week: Pinus parviflora ‘Azuma’ (Japanese White Pine cultivar)

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

Sitting in a large pot at the center of the Flower Garden is Pinus parviflora ‘Azuma,’ a dwarf Japanese white pine.setting (1)

It is a very handsome little tree with a neat yet informal framework of branches, covered in dense tufts of blue-green needles that, because they are slightly curved, show off the narrow white lines on their undersides.close-up (2)

Dwarf mutations of conifers occur naturally, often in the form of a “witches’ broom”—a compact, many-branched shoot arising from just a single bud of an established tree.

Propagation material is taken from these growths and grafted onto rootstocks, which are young specimens of the regular species, thereby producing trees that display this compact habit. A close look at the base of this tree’s trunk reveals a difference in girth just at the point where it was grafted by the nurseryman, many years ago. The rootstock is much thicker because it doesn’t have the dwarf habit of the cultivar.root

“Dwarf” can be interpreted as “slow growing” and that is certainly true of this tree. It is at least two decades old and yet stands barely three feet high.

Planted around the edge of the container is a planting of perennial pansies, adding a touch of color for season.plant (2)

Plant of the Week: Veltheimia capensis (Sand Lily)

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

The sand lily (Veltheimia capensis) is one of many South African bulbs that will be on display this winter in the Palm House, the central section of the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory.the-setting

It produces a spike of tightly-packed, pink flowers from a rosette of wavy-edged, sea-green foliage and can be spotted this week, perched on one of the window sills.close-up

This relative of the hyacinth comes from the southwestern region of South Africa, where summers are hot and dry and the winters cool and moist. Many of the plants from this region grow and bloom during the more amenable winter months and go dormant before the searing heat of summer.

The genus, Veltheimia, is named for Count Augustus Ferdinand von Veltheim (1741‒1801), a German geologist.

Plant of the Week: Photinia villosa var. laevis (Christmas Berry variety)

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

One of our finest trees for fall foliage is certainly not the largest. Located in the area of the garden just to the north of the visitors’ parking lot is the small, but highly colorful, Christmas berry tree (Photinia villosa var. laevis). It is on the right in the shot below, which was taken on the path east of the Flower Garden.

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It is a member of the rose family (Rosaceae), and related to such flowering trees as the apple, pear and hawthorn, and it puts on a similar show of five-petaled, white blossoms in spring.

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The small, mid-green leaves of summer slowly turn into a fiery orange by late autumn and they contrast strongly with the tiny, red berries which are just beginning to ripen. These berries remain on the tree into winter, long after the foliage has dropped, and give the tree its common name of Christmas berry.

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Native to East Asia, it is not often seen in parks or gardens. Our specimen is well worth a visit this week.