Monday, November 29, 2010

Almost Dusk, Almost the Desert

We're nearing the shortest day of the year, with a few weeks to go, but as far as the sunset time goes, the sun won't set much earlier than it did tonight. The sun went down right around 4:29 pm this afternoon. In the last 45 minutes it was up, I walked into the Desert Pavilion and was pretty knocked out. This pavilion is always kind of magical, and I think it's so even for people who don't necessarily spend a lot of time thinking about or studying plants. (I don't imagine there are that many people who aren't impressed with a cactus, particularly people from this part of the country where the climate and landscape is so different than New Mexico or Arizona.) But with the sun low in the sky right now, that last bit of almost-winter light is pretty amazing amidst the otherworldly plants of this conservatory. But you never know. Maybe I would have been just as stunned walking in there at noon.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Things Not What They Seem

Berries from a vegetable plot at Floyd Bennett? Nope. They're the seeds of my neighbor Eddy's Belamcanda chinensis, also known as the Leopard Lily or Blackberry Lily. Not only are the seeds not blackberries, the plant is not a lily. It's an Iris with a pretty orange and yellow flower that blooms in the summer. In fact, according to Wikipedia, the plant's name has been changed recently to Iris domestica. Confused yet? Get used to it. As Dr. Susan Pell explained to BBG's hort interns last week, the name change game happens a lot in the horticulture world, where current advances in science and the study of DNA are changing the way families are grouped and named, and species too. Whatever you choose to call this plant, correctly or incorrectly, I think I may find it in my strawberry bed next summer if it creeps under the fence or sets viable seeds, which is fine by me. The flowers are pretty and the seed capsule extends interest well into fall. How far it will spread remains to be seen and maybe I will be sorry I let it into my world. It spreads both by rhizome and seed.

And above, what I might have thought was the fruit of the American Bittersweet vine (Celastrus scandens) until the horticulture interns' Herbarium tour and brief talk with scientist Dr. Gerry Moore this summer. Then I learned that most likely what I see growing along the bike path down by Plumb Beach is an Asian species (Celastrus orbiculata) that outcompetes with our similar-looking American native, perhaps even to the point of eradicating it. The New York Metropolitan Flora Project, which BBG's scientists have worked on for 20 years, maps species found within the New York metropolitan area, native and otherwise, and only the Celastrus orbiculata is listed for Kings County.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Roads Taken

Native Flora Garden in spring and the Rose Garden in summer.

Through the Lily Pool Terrace and underneath a Japanese Maple.

To the Japanese Garden and Bluebell woods in bloom and through the Native Flora Garden again at summer's end.

Every journey its own thing and, thankfully, no path through a garden ever the same thing twice. These are just some of the paths I've walked while working at Brooklyn Botanic in 2010 and the things appreciated along the way.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Here's to the Camellias blooming now at Brooklyn Botanic in the cold and especially to a year with the opportunity to wonder and wander among trees, some nearly a century old, on a daily basis.

And to my brother's roses, still blooming and almost as enchanting as my nieces in their various dresses today, and his very tasty thanksgiving bird. It's been a good year.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Three Seasons, One Place

Beneath the Kiwi Vine Arbor looking out at the Tamarix bed in the South end of the Garden, Plant Family Collection. Spring...

Summer and Fall.

I like that the world of horticulture in some aspects is about slowing down and coming to know a place or a plant by paying attention to it through the seasons.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


We spent much of the day raking leaves in the Japanese Garden. You have to wonder, with bark and limbs like this will anyone even miss the leaves, fantastic and delicate as they are, from this Japanese Maple in winter?

Monday, November 22, 2010


Common Green Darner in Brooklyn Botanic Japanese Garden

I have to admit that much of the inspiration for my insect pictures comes from the desire to dazzle my faraway nephew who loves bugs. He would have appreciated the Dragonfly (Common Green Darner) that seemed to sit for a picture for me this afternoon in the Japanese Garden and the Jurassic-looking grasshopper from last month in the Rose Garden. They were both giants in the insect world.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Weeping Beech

Friday morning, while on the south side garbage patrol with Susan. This grand tree was late to leaf out in the spring, and just started to change color this week.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Four minutes in the Warm Temperate Pavilion

Encephalartos altensteinii and its tremendous cone

Euryops pectinatus

I'm not sure how much a flight would cost to South Africa, but a quick walk into the Warm Temperate Pavilion on the way out of work Friday afternoon was free and a chance to witness some beautiful plants I might not ever see growing outside in their native habitat. It was a nice way to end a workweek filled with projects and presentations and the final class in the Horticultural Certificate program.

Friday, November 19, 2010

And They All Fell Down

Tuesday night's rain and wind left its footprint in the way of strewn leaves everywhere and I spent Wednesday morning in the Rose Arc raking up the fallen Beech leaves I was admiring just last week. It's not true that all the leaves of fall fell this week, but the landscape was noticably different Wednesday morning. The rest of the week was reminiscent of some of the first workdays of this internship in early April. The sky is dominant again now that the canopy of the decidious trees is emptying at Brooklyn Botanic. Hopefully Joe and I will find some bags of raked leaves on our way to Floyd Bennett this weekend and we can make some good winter compost and leafmold piles.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The most popular plant in design class hands down

The Yucca. Perhaps not surprising for a class centered around the theme of xeriscaping, but I think people chose the plant for many different reasons. You could probably choose it alone for the gnarled remains of its flower stalk, as seen above this week in BBG's rock garden. I was inspired to use it with a tall grass behind it, as it is in the Monocot border. I like how those different plants look in juxtaposition to each other right now. The Yucca is green and squat and sharp as the grass seed heads sway and brown above it. Carol and I were just admiring that view late this morning.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New Favorite: Cut-leaf Beech

Leaf buds on a cut=leaf beech

You can get a sense of how fine a plant the Cut-leaf Beech is just from looking at the way its buds are arranged on a branch. You'd almost swear that it was Japanese, a bonsai perhaps. It looks like it was crafted by deliberate hands. There is a beautiful specimen in Prospect Park as you come up the east end of the loop whether walking or biking or driving that I've fallen in love with. Above and below though is the beautiful European Cutleaf Beech nestled between the Osbourne and Native Flora Gardens. How many favorite trees are you allowed to have?

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Our American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)in the Native Flora Garden. Grand foliage, bark and all.

And one of the massive beeches, an Oriental, behind the Rose Arc in Bluebell woods. It's hard to imagine an improvement on the sight of this giant's smooth grey bark and golden leaves in the fall.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Week in Rhododendrons

Rhododendron 'PJM' in the Rock Garden

Rhodendron austrinum)outside of Native Flora Garden, an east coast native and a favorite of Susan's for its bright orange and yellow blooms.

I didn't know this would turn into such a theme for the week, but these buds caught my attention. There are even a few scattered early blooms on some Rhododendrons in the Osbourne Garden and it's not even close to spring, though you wouldn't know it by the weather the last two days.

By the Osbourne entrance.

Friday, November 12, 2010

November Rose

They certainly take their toll on the gardener. There are the countless hours spent deadheading in the blazing sun, the scratched up arms from battling with thorns, and shredded clothing (two pairs of pants for me this year). But the roses reward all that effort by going on and on and on and on. Below, the earliest rose at Brooklyn Botanic in April while the cherries were blossoming, and above, perhaps one of the last roses of the year still blooming in November.

'Father Hugo' in mid- April, the first rose to bloom.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I'm starting to think that the buds above are on a Rhodendron or Azalea and that the large terminal bud is a flower bud and the smaller ones at its side are leaf buds. I took the picture at Brooklyn Bridge Park because I was struck by the color and beauty of the buds, but wasn't sure what plant I was looking at. It was partly defoliated. But after seeing some Rhododendron buds yesterday in BBG's Rock Garden and outside of the Native Flora garden, I think I see a similarity. I guess next spring I'll have an excuse to revisit the Brooklyn Bridge Park again and try to find out. I've been thinking about that park since I visited and about New York City investing in making its waterfronts more accessible and usable for people. I like the trend and not just because I enjoy being by the water. I like that it reminds me of the geography of where I am. It's pretty hard to forget you're on an island and not just in the city when you're surrounded by water. Appreciating the land you're standing on and the water it's surrounded by is probably the first step in deciding that you want to take care of it and that can't be a bad thing for this city.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In Today's Blue Sky

A lucky encounter with the Hawk, and the silhouette of a Sugar Maple that's ready for winter in the Native Flora.

And a long ways from the sky, buds on a rhododendron, next year's flowers I think. The buds are almost enough of a show on their own.

Swamp Azalea (Rhododendron viscosum)outside of Native Flora.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

On The Way Home

with some landscape design books borrowed from the BBG library in preparation for projects and design class, a quick stop in the Japanese Garden for extra inspiration in the last hour of daylight today. The sun's setting before five since we changed the clocks back, so time spent outside now in the light and good weather is starting to seem more precious again.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Cold Windy Day in the Osborne

There was some sleet even and still the Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) held on with a few blooms. What a plant. It thrives cascading down a rockwall, has blue flowers, and fall color to boot. Below, as it was, smothered with flowers in full bloom, on August 18th.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

As the Days Grow Shorter

the harvest gets smaller and the loot looks like it did in spring. Luckily there are still carrots getting longer underground and this week even some green tomatoes ripened in newspaper. Maybe we'll have a few more weeks before a real hard freeze and the broccoli will keep growing too. Right now there's just one small head. Next year I might finally get around to building a cold frame or getting row cover to extend the growing season.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Back to the Present

Japanese Maple, Brooklyn Museum

Edward Sibley Barnard calls the Japanese Maple the aristocrat of trees in his New York City Trees book and I'd have to agree. Everything about them is so refined. The one above has to be one of my favorite neighborhood trees, and just last week I found out from Dan that this Japanese Maple growing on the slope near the Brooklyn Museum used to be on Brooklyn Botanic's grounds. It still has an accession label hanging off a branch. All throughout the year, I've enjoyed walking past this tree on my way into the garden and right now it is this incredibly bright color that lights up the block. The Red Bistort below isn't nearly as an exalted plant, but still it looks pretty nice hanging on to its blooms in the Perennial Border when everything else is mostly finished.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It's All About Next Year

I like how gardening always keeps you focused on the future while at the same time making sure you appreciate the present. Yesterday we spent the day planting tulip bulbs for next year's big tulip show in the Lily Pool Plaza and in the evening I planted some garlic in my own garden for next year's summer harvest. The plants are always focused on the future too. Above, next year's flower buds on a saucer magnolia, one of the first winter buds I learned to recognize because they are so big you can't possibly miss them. Below are the reddish buds of BBG's champion Kansas Hawthorn tree, a leaf bud I hope to remember from this year. I don't usually look forward to the winter, but this coming one maybe will bring the opportunity to appreciate and get to know the buds of trees.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

First Frost

I don't think the recorded air temperature dipped below freezing, but pockets just above the grass in the South section of BBG must have because we saw the first frost of the season on Wednesday morning.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Brooklyn Bridge Park

A field trip with Joe on my day off to check out the landscape design elements and fall color of the new Brooklyn Bridge Park, and to try identifying species without handy labels nearby. Failure number one: the chrysalis above. No idea what kind of butterfly it might be, but I think it's hanging on a beech tree. The buds look pointy enough to me and similar to ones I remember on the beeches in Prospect Park last winter, but I can't be sure. Better success below, with the changing needle color of the deciduous Baldcypress and the beautiful Oakleaf Hydrangea.

It was a beautiful day with bright sunshine and blooming witchhazel, two of my favorite things. What's not to like about this new park and it's plantings?