A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Plant of the Week: Bartlettina sordida (syn. Eupatorium sordidum)

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

This plant has several common names, including “dirty thoroughwort,” “blue mist flower” and “purple torch of the clouds.” It has more than one scientific name, too: it is now known as Bartlettina sordida but previously was classified as a eupatorium, hence the inclusion of Eupatorium sordidum as the synonym above.


A change of name is not unusual in the world of botany. It can result from new research (often via genetic testing), which might show that a certain species has more in common with a different genus, or even different plant family, than the one it to which it was originally assigned. Hence it has to be reclassified and given a new name.


Another common reason is that more than one name may have been given to the same plant species. Different botanists might have discovered it on different occasions with each discoverer ascribing it a different name. Confusion can reign until it is established (by clearly defined scientific protocols) which name is officially recognized.

Nomenclature aside, this handsome plant is great for a cool greenhouse—such as our Palm House, the central section of the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory—where its large, slightly raggedy, purple flowers make a wonderful contrast against the tidier blooms of the orange clivias nearby.




It is native to the cloud forests of Mexico and it looks like a larger and wilder cousin—which indeed it is—of the more familiar ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum), a common summer bedding plant used in gardens and containers.

Plant of the Week: Strongylodon macrobotrys (Jade Vine)

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

Turquoise is not a common color in the plant world but that is exactly the hue of the extraordinary blooms of the jade vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys). Native to the Philippines, it is a vigorous tropical vine and can grow up to 50 feet long.


In Wave Hill’s Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory, it extends under the roof for much of the length of the Tropical House―the left-hand arm of the building―and its spectacular, two- to three-foot racemes (elongated flower-clusters) hang down conveniently at head height—allowing for a very close view.


close-upIt is a member of the pea and bean family (Fabaceae) and, in the wild forests of its homeland, it is pollinated by nectar-drinking bats.

Plant of the Week: Helleborus foetidus (Stinking Hellebore)

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

Stinking hellebore, despite its unfortunate name, is a very welcome sight in the early spring. Its light-green flowers and their Chartreuse bracts—leaf-like structures that surround them—contrast nicely with the finely cut, darker-green foliage.


In reality, the scent released when the foliage is brushed is not really so unpleasant. Many gardeners think of it as just a strong, “fresh-plant” smell.

Hellebores get their generic name from the Greek helein, meaning destroys or injures, and borus, meaning food, and is an unsubtle reference to the toxins present in all parts of the plant. (Don’t eat it!) The specific epithet foetidus is pretty self-explanatory.


It is native to much of Western and Southern Europe and can be seen at here at Wave Hill in the Wild Garden and along the Shade Border, near Wave Hill House.


Plant of the Week: Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis (Dwarf Sweet Box)

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

Dwarf sweet box (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis) is a low-growing evergreen shrub that blooms in late winter or very early spring. The flowers are small, white and very fragrant. In cool weather, this scent is hard to detect but on a mild day—a not infrequent occurrence recently—the air around it fills with a sweet, slightly spicy aroma.


Native to China, it has been grown in the gardens of Europe and America since the mid-19th century and, in addition to its fragrance, is much prized for its attractive, glossy-green foliage and dense growth habit.the-plant

Too much exposure to sun, especially in the winter, will cause damage to the foliage and so it is best planted in a shady location. Here at Wave Hill, find it in such spots as the southwest corner of the Wild Garden and opposite the front of Glyndor Gallery, at the north end of the plantings there.



Plant of the Week: Adonis amurensis (Adonis/Pheasant’s-eye)

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

One of the very first perennials to bloom at the start of the growing season is the cheerful, yellow-flowered Adonis amurensis. It usually flowers right after the winter snows have gone—in fact, it will even pop up through a late-February snow—and always brings a smile to the face of anyone who sees it.


Commonly known as pheasant’s-eye or adonis, it is a member of the anemone family (Ranunculaceae) which, according to Greek mythology, was created by Aphrodite when she sprinkled nectar on some blood of the recently-gored Adonis.


There are several species of adonis and this one is native to Far East Asia. The specific epithet amurensis commemorates the Amur, a major river in that region. Here at Wave Hill, look for it along the Shade Border, where these bright little beauties were found, and in the Wild Garden.


Plant of the Week: Hamamelis ×intermedia ‘Orange Beauty’ (Witch Hazel cultivar)

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

Winter-blooming witch hazels are one of the joys of a visit to the garden in February.

the-plantThey are in flower throughout the month whenever the weather is not completely frigid—even when it is snowing.


This witch hazel, Hamamelis ×intermedia ‘Orange Beauty,’ is situated near the Perkins Visitor Center and is looking at its best right now. It is covered in coppery-orange flowers which seem to glow when they are illuminated by the afternoon sun.


the-setting-2The thread-like petals, four to each bloom, curl up during a cold spell but they roll open again as soon as it passes.

close-upThe flowers give off a sweet scent on milder days and this can be enjoyed as you stand close by to admire the majestic views of the Palisades and the rest of the winter landscape.

Plant of the Week: Jasminum nudiflorum (Winter Jasmine)

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

“What is that yellow flower?” is a frequent question from our winter visitors. As the common name suggests, winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) does indeed flower this time of year, but will do so more readily during mild spells.

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Native to northern China, it is hardy to our area and, with its vigorous and sprawling habit, it makes a great cover for a wall or a steep bank.

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We have it in two locations, one is at the north end of our parking lot, where it covers the retaining wall.

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The other is tucked into a corner between the Flower Garden and the east end of the Cactus and Succulent House, the right-hand wing of the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory.


The delicate foliage emerges in spring, after flowering has finished, and remains a healthy green for the entire growing season.

Plant of the Week: Lachenalia aloides var. aurea (Cape Cowslip/Opal Flower)

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

Lachenalia aloides var. aurea is one of the many winter-flowering South African bulbs that can be seen at Wave Hill this time of year.


The Lachenalias are commonly referred to as Cape cowslips or opal flowers and are very showy when in bloom.

There are more than a hundred species of Lachenalia, some of which, like L. aloides, demonstrate natural variations, which is indicated by the contraction “var.” in the botanical name.


These are most usually variations in flower color and, as the last part of its name (aurea) suggests, this one is golden-yellow. Clustered in several pots, it creates a wonderful splash of sunshine on the floor of the Palm House, in the center space of the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory.


All the Lachenalias hail from southern Africa and this particular example is native to the Western Cape.

Plant of the Week: Ludisia discolor (Jewel Orchid)

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

Small and highly decorative, the jewel orchid is aptly named. It has attractive, dark-greenish-red leaves, marked with contrasting, pale veins. Spikes of small, pure-white and lightly fragrant flowers appear for a few weeks each winter.

close-upKnown as a terrestrial orchid, it grows naturally in the soil of the rainforest floor—unlike the majority of tropical orchids, which grow in nooks and crannies on trees—and, because of this, it prefers shady locations. (Very little sunlight reaches to the ground in the forest.) Too much sunlight will cause the foliage to turn pale and can even cause it to burn.


The genus Ludisia contains only this one species, Ludisia discolor, and is native to the jungles of Southeast Asia. See it blooming in our Tropical House, the left wing of the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory, just to the left of the steps as you enter the Tropical House.


Plant of the Week: Canarina canariensis (Canary Island Bellflower)

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

Native to pockets of cloud forest in the mountains of the Canary Islands, this climbing vine, shown here in the foreground of this first shot, is programmed to do all of its growing and blooming in the cool, moist, winter months.the-plant

The annual growth dies back in spring to a tuberous root system and the plant remains completely dormant through the hot and desert-like Canary Island summers.

Gardeners have to be aware of this growth cycle. Watering the plant during the summer months must be avoided, because any wetness can cause the roots to rot, but once growth starts again in late autumn, water is essential.

The yellowy-orange flowers appear in mid to late winter and have the familiar, bell-like shape of most of the members of the bellflower family (Campanulaceae). The petals are translucent and delicately traced with darker-orange veins.close-up

Our specimen is on display in the Palm House, where it holds its own against the equally orange, and spectacular, flame vine (Pyrostegia venusta), covering the wall above and to the right in this last shot.the-setting