A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Plant of the Week: Mahonia eurybracteata (Grape Holly species)

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

This small, evergreen shrub is blooming now in our Palm House, the middle section of the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory.plant-and-setting

Native to western China, Mahonia eurybracteata has delicate, narrow leaves and spikes of soft-yellow flowers.close-up

It is one of the many species of grape-holly that are found in the wild in various parts of the world, including western North America, Central America and eastern Asia. All are evergreen and most have tough, glossy foliage, which can look very much like that of a holly.

Flowering occurs in most species in the late fall or winter and is followed by small, blue berries. The fruits of the Oregon grape-holly (Mahonia aquifolium) look very similar to grapes and the foliage is particularly holly-like.

The genus name honors the American horticulturist Bernard McMahon who assisted in the handling of plant specimens received from the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804‒06).

Plant of the Week: Acer palmatum ‘Dissectum’ (Japanese Maple cultivar)

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

The recent, hard frosts may have shortened this year’s fall foliage display out on the grounds, but inside the T. H. Everett Alpine House, our little Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Dissectum‘) is putting on a splendid show.close-up

Rooted into the gravel-covered bench, it has lived there happily for many years, spreading over the eastern end of the greenhouse and providing cover for the shade-loving plants placed under it.the-setting

Maple trees, as well as alpine plants, require cool conditions to trigger winter dormancy, and although this greenhouse is kept above freezing, the temperature is allowed to drop to only a few degrees above 32˚F. Consequently, the maple and all its tiny neighbors are able to complete their natural cycle but protected from the fiercest of the weather.

Plant of the Week: Clematis tibetana (Orange Peel Clematis)

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

Visitors at this time of the year often remark about the fluffy pom-poms near the central entrance to our Flower Garden. They are the seed heads of the orange peel clematis (Clematis tibetana), a climbing vine which is allowed to grow over the panicle hydrangea.the-setting-2

the-plantEach seed is attached to a silky tail and there are several seeds clustered together into a seed head. Eventually, the clusters break apart and the seeds drift away, carried on the wind by their wispy tails.close-up

Another attractive feature of this particular clematis is its gray-green (glaucous) foliage. This will be remain until it is killed back by the first severe frosts of winter.

The orange peel clematis is native to the Himalayas, as the specific epithet tibetana suggests.

Plant of the Week: Enkianthus perulatus ‘Compactus’ (White Enkianthus cultivar)

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

Some of the finest fall color in the garden can come in a small package. Sitting in front of Glyndor Gallery and slowly turning more intensely-hued each day is this compact selection of the white enkianthus (Enkianthus perulatus ‘Compactus’).the-plant

It stands barely three feet high and five feet wide, but its fiery display of orange-red leaves, backlit with yellow-green buds, causes it to stand out in the plantings in front of Glyndor Gallery like a beacon.close-up-2the-setting


Plant of the Week: Rhus copallina (Shining, or Winged, Sumac)

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

The shining sumac (Rhus copallina) is native to eastern North America and is often found in large colonies on hillsides and along country roads. It is a spectacular sight in autumn when its glossy, dark-green foliage turns to an exquisite mix of orange-red and burgundy.the-plant-2

Although smaller than its cousin the staghorn sumac (R. typhina), it is not a plant for a small garden: A multi-stemmed shrub, it spreads aggressively. Ours is situated between the Dry Garden and the Alpine area and would attempt to take over both, were it not confined by the surrounding stone walls!the-setting-1

the-wallsThe glossiness of the leaves gave it the name of shining sumac while the other common name, winged sumac, comes from the narrow, wing-like growths along the sides of the central stem (the rachis) of the compound leaf.close-up

Taxonomical purists insist that the name should be Rhus copallinum, but botanists, gardeners and nurseries have always used the feminine copallina. Linnaeus, it seems, wrote it both ways in his original descriptions. It might be a while before the corrected version becomes universally accepted.

Plant of the Week: Salvia guaranitica ‘Blue Ensign’ (Anise-scented Sage Cultivar)

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

Much of the floral color in the garden at this time of year is provided by our large collection of ornamental sages. Related to the culinary sage (Salvia officinalis), they vary in size and leaf shape (and foliage scent) and have blooms that range from white, through yellow, pink, red, purple and many shades of blue.

This particular selection of the anise-scented sage (Salvia guaranitica ‘Blue Ensign’) can be seen in the Wild Garden and is true to its cultivar name; the flowers are a lovely blue.close-up

Native to parts of Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina, the lands of the Guarani people (hence the specific epithet of guaranitica), the anise-scented sage is a tender perennial and seldom survives the winters here.the-plant

Our gardeners collect cuttings of all the tender salvias before the first frosts and grow them as new plants in the greenhouse. These are planted out in the spring to provide another colorful display by the following autumn. In the last shot, taken in the Wild Garden, you can just catch sight of the roof of the Conservatory in the background. the-setting

Plant of the Week: Luffa aegyptiaca (Loofah)

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

A stroll under the pergola beside our Monocot Garden will reveal a remarkable sight: nearly two dozen large gourds, hanging from the beams above.the-setting

The majority of them, the ones that look like huge cucumbers, are fruits of the loofah (Luffa aegyptiaca), the source of the natural scrubbing sponge. As with most of the gourd family, the plant is a vigorous vine that will grow quickly from a seedling planted in spring, and easily covers a structure like the pergola by late summer. Ours are grown for ornament only.the-plant

Despite the specific epithet (aegyptiaca), the loofah appears to have originated in Southeast Asia and was introduced to the Mediterranean region in ancient times; hence the apparent misnaming by later botanists.

Among the loofahs are some examples of Lagenaria siceraria ‘Speckled Swan’, an attractive cultivar of the calabash gourd.second-gourd

Plant of the Week: Solanum quitoense (Naranjilla)

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

Guarding the entrance to the Conservatory, and lurking in the both the Paisley Bed and the Herb Garden, is the spectacular, if slightly sinister, Solanum quitoense.the-setting

It is a member of the nightshade/tomato family and its fruits do, indeed, look like small, slightly fuzzy tomatoes. It comes from Colombia, Panama and Ecuador: the specific epithet quitoense means “of Quito.”the-plant

The fruits turn orange when ripe—hence the name naranjilla, “little orange”—and they yield a tangy juice. They are soft and easily damaged and therefore not easily transported fresh.close-up-2

Even as an ornamental, it is a fascinating plant. With large, pale-green foliage and fearsome-looking spines arising from the upper side of each leaf, it never fails to attract attention.close-up-1

Because it is a tropical plant, in our climate it can only be grown outdoors in the warmer months.

Welcoming Hidcote Manor Garden


We were delighted to welcome Hidcote Manor Garden head gardener Sarah Malleson and Assistant Head Gardener Sarah Davis (third and fourth from left) to Wave Hill today. Late afternoon found them surveying the Wild Garden with Wave Hill Gardeners Shane Pritchett and Gelene Scarborough (first and second from left).


Also visiting was former Wave Hill Gardener Coralie Thomas (far right), who has been on a year-long sabbatical to Great Dixter as a North American Christopher Lloyd Scholar.

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Hidcote Manor Garden is a very fine Arts and Crafts garden in the north Cotswolds, close to Stratford-upon-Avon.

Plant of the Week: Begonia grandis ‘Alba’ (Hardy Begonia cultivar)

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

Most begonias need the protection of a greenhouse for the winter, but Begonia grandis, a species from East Asia, is a hardy exception and it will survive outside throughout the year. Unsurprisingly, it is called the hardy begonia.the-plant

Winter frosts will kill the foliage to the ground, but the tuberous roots remain unharmed and new growth will emerge in late spring. The upper surface of the leaf is a light green but the underside is tinged with pink and crosshatched with red veins. When backlit by speckled sunlight, the effect is like stained glass.underside-of-leavesunderside-of-leaves-2

Typical begonia flowers appear in late summer of early fall. Those of the original species, Begonia grandis, are deep pink, but the cultivar ‘Alba’ has blooms of the palest pink, almost a pure white.close-up

Both can be found under the shade of the pearlbush (Exochorda racemosa) in the southwest corner of the Wild Garden.the-setting