A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Plant of the Week: Haemanthus deformis (Paintbrush Lily)

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

Aptly named, this odd-looking plant from South Africa does indeed resemble an upturned paintbrush. Technically, the “flower” is actually a tight cluster of small, white blooms. Each bloom supports its own cluster of bright-yellow anthers which sit on top of long, white filaments.close-up

The leaves are wide and lay flat on the ground—or over the top of a flower pot, as with our specimen—and they follow an annual cycle. A new pair emerges at flowering time, just as the old pair begins to wither.the-plant

The genus name Haemanthus is from the Ancient Greek for blood (haima) and flower (anthos), referring to the color seen in the flowers of other species within this genus: Haemanthus sanguineus and H. coccineus.

This white-flowered species is sitting on the sill of our Palm House, the central section of the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory.the-setting

Plant of the Week: Cunninghamia lanceolata ‘Glauca’ (China Fir cultivar)

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

The China fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata) is a handsome tree from Southeast Asia. We have three specimens in the Conifer Slope, to the north of Wave Hill House. Two of these are the cultivar ‘Glauca’, a silvery-gray selection, and the other is the lustrous green form that is found in the wild.setting-2

Despite the common name of China fir, it is not actually a fir. Its closest relatives are in the cypress family (Cupressaceae), which includes the junipers and the giant sequoia. Although not likely to exceed the height and majesty of the latter, it can grow to an impressive 70 feet or more.

The flattened, needle-like leaves are attached spirally to the central stem but arrange themselves so that they appear to be naturally parted to either side.close-up-4

close-up-5close-up-1close-up-2The genus name honors Dr. James Cunninghame (c.1665 to 1709), who served in the British East India Company and who was the first European to collect botanical specimens in China. The specific epithet lanceolata indicates the spear-like sharpness of the foliage.

Plant of the Week: Citrus × meyeri (Meyer Lemon)

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

An impressive young Meyer lemon tree (Citrus × meyeri), covered with beautiful golden-yellow fruits, stands in the Palm House, the central section of our Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory.plant-and-setting

It is named for Frank Meyer, a plantsman who worked for several nurseries and for the US National Arboretum and collected useful and unusual plants from around the world. His expeditions to China, the source of many such plants, led to the introduction of improved selections of soybean, apricot and his eponymous lemon—a natural citrus hybrid.


It is less tart than most lemons and much juicier. The skin is thinner and smoother, too, which adds to it attractive appearance. But makes it less suitable for commercial use because it is damaged more when handled.

Our plant is approximately eight years old and is carrying its first good crop.

Plant of the Week: Mammillaria hahniana (Pincushion Cactus)

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

Despite their fearsome appearance, members of the cactus family (Cactaceae) produce some surprisingly delicate flowers. Wide-spreading and colorful, the petals can be so fine as to be nearly transparent.close-up

The old-lady pincushion cactus (Mammilaria hahniana), in the Cactus and Succulent House—the right-hand side of the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory—is blooming now.the-setting

Its flowers are barely a half-inch across, but they are intensely pink and are clustered in a ring near the top of the plant. The buds have been swelling for some time and they have just started to pop open whenever it’s sunny.

the-plantThe plant is nearly spherical, which is the best shape for reducing surface area and potential moisture-loss, and it is covered with white hairs and spines, giving it a frosted appearance. This cactus is native to central and northeastern Mexico.

Plant of the Week: Antirrhinum hispanicum ‘Gummy’ (Spanish Snapdragon cultivar)

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

Most snapdragons have dark-green, glossy foliage and spikes of flowers ranging in color from white and yellow, through pink and orange, to a dark red. The Spanish snapdragon (Antirrhinum hispanicum—formerly know as A. glutinosum) has grayish-green leaves and pale-pink flowers.the-plant

Native to southern Spain, this species is tolerant of heat and drought and will survive surprisingly cold winters, providing the soil is well drained. This low-growing selection, called ‘Gummy’, has a compact habit and white flowers with only the slightest trace of pink.close-up-2

close-up-1Several plants can be seen inside our Palm House, where they neatly cover their pots with handsome, slightly fuzzy, gray foliage.the-setting

They look very unlike the typical snapdragons often spotted out in the garden in summer. It’s only when the flowers are inspected close up that they reveal the familiar boca de dragón (dragon’s mouth) appearance.

Plant of the Week: Ajania pacifica (Gold and Silver Chrysanthemum)

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

The gold and silver chrysanthemum (Ajania pacifica) is the last plant of the fall to bloom in our Flower Garden. Despite the lateness of the season, and recent frosts, it still has fresh-looking foliage and cheerful, yellow flowers.close-up

Native to Japan, and related to the other chrysanthemums, its flowers lack the familiar “petals” (technically, ray-florets) and thus look like small buttons.

Its white-backed, neatly-edged green leaves lend a handsome appearance throughout the summer and would justify growing this plant as a ground-cover, even without the prospect of its flowering. However, when it does, the contrast of the gold against the striking silvery leaves perfectly justifies this plant’s common name.

This first shot is looking west. In the foreground is the entrance to the Flower Garden, in the distance the balustrade bordering the Great Lawn.the-plant

The last shot is looking into the Flower Garden, with the river behind us.the-plant

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