A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Plant of the Week: Seseli gummiferum (Moon Carrot)

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

Moon carrot is an odd name for this rather odd-looking plant. As a member of Apiaceae (the parsley family), it is indeed a relative of the carrot, but its origins are not extra-terrestrial. In reality, it is native to the coasts of the Black Sea and the Aegean.the-plant

In common with many seaside plants, the moon carrot (Seseli gummiferum) is protected from strong sunlight and desiccation. The leaves are covered with a fine coating of wax, which reflects the sun’s rays and helps to prevent moisture-loss from contact with salty seawater spray.

close-up-1The flowers first appear in flattened clusters of pinkish discs, but turn to white as they mature. The disks change, too, and slowly become a collection of white, fluffy balls.close-up-2

See it blooming right now in the Dry Garden, adjacent to the Herb Garden.the-setting-2

Plant of the Week: Angelica gigas (Korean Angelica)

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

Korean angelica has the familiar appearance of many members of the parsley family (Apiaceae), except that the umbrella-shaped flower-clusters (umbels) and stems are a deep maroon color, rather than the more usual yellow or white of most of this family.the-plant-2

It is a self-sowing biennial plant, meaning that it germinates readily in the spring from seeds that dropped from ripe seed heads the previous fall, but it takes two years to reach maturity. The first year’s growth produces a rosette of foliage with no flowers.close-up

As with many other self-sowing plants, our gardeners have to recognize these plants as soon as they have germinated so as to avoid removing them when weeding.

In the second year, after a winter’s dormancy, the plant is sufficiently established to produce a flower stalk and, by late summer, it sports several tennis-ball sized (or larger), purple flower-heads. They are loaded with nectar and attract many types of pollinator, including butterflies, honeybees and a surprising selection of wasps.hornet

There are some fine examples in the Wild Garden and this is a great time to see them.setting-2

Plant of the Week: Kirengeshoma palmata (Yellow Wax Bells)

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

Yellow wax bells (Kirengeshoma palmata) is an exception to the rule that most shade-loving perennials bloom in the spring. Growing to a stately six feet tall and producing numerous waxy, bright-yellow, bell-shaped blooms, it really does live up to its name.plant-2

plant-1These blooms open from August into September, and it is a lovely plant for a tree-shaded garden area.close-up

Related to the hydrangea, it is native of Japan and Korea but makes itself perfectly at home here in our Shade Border. There is a large clump near to the arbor—close enough to admire while you are seated on one of the benches.setting

Plant of the Week: Sarracenia flava (Yellow Pitcher Plant)

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

Exotic-looking and bizarre, pitcher plants could be from a mythical tropical jungle, or even another planet! In reality they are native to much of North America, where they are found growing naturally in moist grasslands and bogs.the-plant-out-of-water

Such moist habitats have acidic soils, which are low in plant nutrients, and these plants have come up with a clever adaptation to supplement their diet: they trap and digest insects. The “pitcher”—a modified leaf—is a tall tube with a slippery mouth at the top and a pool of digestive juices at the bottom. The inside of the tube is lined with minute, downward-facing hairs which make it hard for prey to escape. The lid above the mouth of the pitcher prevents rain from diluting the fluids inside.plant-with-bug

close-up-1The yellow pitcher plant (Sarracenia flava) hails from the southeastern United States and there are several subspecies and selections. As with all pitcher plants, they require special conditions to grow in cultivation. They need a fibrous, acidic soil—kept moist but not too wet—plenty of sunshine and an ample supply of insects.

All this may be seen in our Aquatic Garden this year, where we have different selections of Sarracenia flava growing in large containers, set just above the surface of the water.the-setting-2

Plant of the Week: Gladiolus murielae (Abyssinian Gladiolus)

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

Some of the blooms in the garden at this time of year are courtesy of the summer-flowering bulbs which our gardeners planted in spring. One of these is the Abyssinian gladiolus (Gladiolus murielae, formerly known as Acidanthera bicolor), a tall gladiolus with scented, perfectly white flowers with a dark-maroon center.close-up

As the common name suggests, it is native to eastern Africa but, despite being tropical in origin, it is perfectly happy to grow here during the summer months. The bulbs (or, more correctly, corms) must be dug each fall and kept in a cool, dark place until they can be planted again the following spring.the-plant

When planted in a mass, as they are in the middle of the Flower Garden this year, their white blooms, almost bird-like in shape, brighten up a planting just as the flowers of midsummer are fading.the-setting

Plant of the Week: Clethra alnifolia (Summersweet/Sweet Pepperbush)

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

There are plenty of reasons to take a stroll in our Shade Border on a hot afternoon in late summer. Most obviously, it is a good place to find some cool, leafy shade, but another reason soon becomes apparent when you detect the delightfully sweet scent of this summer-blooming shrub.

the-plant-2the-plant-1Called summersweet or sweet pepperbush, Clethra alnifolia is native to moist, wooded places in many parts of eastern North America. Its habit of flowering in late summer is unusual because most woodland-dwelling shrubs bloom in spring, before the foliage of the tree canopy overhead has shut out the sunlight.

There is a planting of summersweet that spreads for some distance along the path leading to the Shade Border Arbor from the direction of Wave Hill House. Look for it in the far left foreground of this shot taken looking toward the Shade Border Arbor.the-setting

Growing up to eight feet high and covered with masses of spikes of pure white flowers, it is hard to miss—especially with the fragrance wafting on the air for yards around.close-up

Plant of the Week: Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste Tree)

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

The chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) is a large shrub that is only just winter-hardy in our climate. When grown with some protection, such as against the sunny wall, however, it will produce masses of spikes of lilac-purple flowers late in the summer.the-plant

Pollinators, including bees, butterflies and even hummingbirds, love these fragrant flowers and may be seen busily collecting nectar on any warm afternoon.close-up

Originally from southern Europe, it can be found in many of the warmer parts of the world. We have two fine examples along our Lower Lawn Road, which runs below the Great Lawn and the Pergola. The first shot is looking north towards the Pergola, just visible above the roadway.setting-north

The second is looking south toward Glyndor Gallery, barely visible in the far right of the shot.setting-south

It has been called chaste tree for many centuries. Ancient Greeks, Romans and medieval monks all believed that taking a decoction made from the tree’s fruits and /or shoots would encourage chaste behavior.

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.