Category Archives: Conservation

A Park for the People of New York: Brooklyn Bridge Park

Members of the Garden Club of Irvington began the fall 2015 season with an expert guided tour of Brooklyn Bridge Park by horticultural supervisor Rashid Poulson.

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Rashid

We enjoyed the magnificent views while learning about the park design, plantings, and challenges the staff faces, such as keeping weeds in check during the hot, dry summer.

Rashid, above left, who’s worked at the 85-acre park since 2009, is a graduate of the Million Trees NYC Training Program, a Bloomberg-administration program designed to provide opportunities to inner-city youth. Born and raised in Flatbush, Rashid is one of two supervisors of the horticultural staff. The park itself — in addition to providing a 1.3 mile greenbelt along the East River — has changed New York into a more accessible place for all its citizens, including the kids who play in the fountain sculpture (a temporary exhibit, below, that was being dismantled during our visit) and the teens who play on the the basketball and handball courts and skate and play hockey in the ice rink.

Fountain

Skating

This is a park that even has a book cart and comfortable place to sit and read.

BookCart

Of course, Garden Club members were most interested in learning about the Park’s seven interconnected ecosystems that provide habitats for wildlife. With the magnificent skyline as a background, we toured paths and viewed woodlands, meadows, marshes and berms, all of which are planted with natives and grown with recycled rainwater and without chemical pesticides.Among the fall plants we enjoyed — several members gathered seeds and small branches for propagating are — were Winged Sumac (Rhus copallina), Mist Flower (Eupatorium coelestinum), Blue Wood Aster (Aster cordifolius), and Montauk Daisy (Nipponanthemum nipponicum). Come to our Garden Fair and Plant Sale on the first Sunday in May and you will surely find offspring of the plants pictured below.
Staghorn Sumac
Mist Flower
Blue Wood Aster
Daisies
L1160863
Skyline… all of which were viewed, of course, with the East River and Manhattan skyline as a backdrop.

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Using Natives in Your Garden

Famed landscape designer Larry Weaner gave Garden Club members and guests an important presentation on gardening with native plants of the Northeast. Here are some of the the main points of his illustrated talk that may be helpful in planting your garden:

Plant Communities

A plant community with Liatris spicata (blazingstar) and Veronicastrum virginicum (Culver’s root). If plants grow together in nature, they most likely will be good companions in a garden.

• HABITAT: Look at plants, how they grow, and “who” they grow with.

• The same plant combinations that grow successfully in the wild can be planted successfully in a garden with the same temperature, water and soil conditions.

• Match each plant to its ideal habitat. For example, as shown in the photo below, perennial lupines typically grow at the forest edge in well-drained, sandy soil with slightly acidic pH. Scatter seeds of Lupinus perennis in the spring in a partly-shaded spot that has well-drained, sandy, slightly acidic soil, and within two years you may have a beautifully flowering stand.

Wild Lupine0010

A naturally occurring stand of Lupinus perennis (perennial lupine)

Disturbance 1

A naturally occurring stand of Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower)

• DISTURBANCE: Many seeds lie dormant, and when an event happens, like a fallen tree branch, it creates a disturbance that causes the seeds to germinate.

• Scatter seeds after disturbing an area to encourage growth. Monitor area for weed growth, most intensively during the establishment phase.

Disturbance 2

Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower) in the garden with Phlox paniculata ‘David’ (summer phlox), Amsonia tabernaemontana (blue star flower), and Heuchera villosa var. macrorhiza ‘Autumn Bride’ (hairy alumnroot)

• SUCCESSION: Use shorter-lived plants (you may start from seed) as “place holders” until longer-lived perennials develop.

• Choose plants that grow and mature at different time frames.

• Use plants that spread seed and roots to fill gaps naturally.

• Structure your garden in layers (tall, medium and low) as they would grow in a woodland setting or meadow.

• Use logs and stumps in the garden as a habitat for plants and wildlife.

Natural Design

“Natural Design”: a planned meadow with Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot) and
Rudbeckia hirta (black-eyed Susan)

• “Meadows” can get weedy if not properly managed. But once established and if managed appropriately, a meadow’s dense vegetative growth can inhibit weed seed germination. Weed to favor desired species and discourage undesirables, especially during the critical establishment phase.

• Cut weeds instead of pulling. Pulling disturbs the soil, encouraging more weeds.  If you must pull, plant in the gap. To get rid of vines or larger weeds, cut and paint with a herbicide rather than digging.

Competition 2

A border of natives: Aspclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed), Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower), Liatris spicata (blazingstar), Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ (switchgrass), and Silphium perfoliatum (cup plant), Arctostaphyllos uva-ursi (bearberry), Cornus alternifolia (pagoda dogwood), and Rhus aromatica ‘Gro lo’ (fragrant sumac).

• If you consider views and vantage points — like viewing the garden from a distance looking up to the house — and plant using natives imitating the patterns of plant communities in nature, the results could be as rewarding as the two properties above.

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Deer: the Problem is Bigger than Our Gardens

Deer are an increasingly difficult problem in this region. Even if fences and sprays were effective; even if everyone planted only “deer-proof” species; even if there were no traffic accidents or cases of Lyme disease, deer herds in the woods—like those we see along the Saw Mill Parkway, on Mountain Road, and throughout the Rivertowns—are destructive to our region and our planet.

In the fragile ecosystems of the woodlands that surround and weave through our suburban areas, the deer are eating and/or have destroyed the lowest growing plants and shrubs, including  tree seedlings. This is upsetting the balance of nature—of animal, insect and bird life—and is preventing regeneration of the forests, which are responsible through the carbon cycle for creating the very air we breathe.

Two recent speakers at Garden Club of Irvington events have educated members about this issue:

Carolyn Summers, a landscape architect and adjunct professor at Westchester Community College, is a local expert on biodiversity. She writes in Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East, “Instead of a sustainable number, perhaps ten or twenty deer per square mile, surveys are revealing population densities in the hundreds. Deer are eating themselves out of house and home. In the process, they are leaving little or nothing for other forms of wildlife, including the plants that support us all.”

Dr. Doug Tallamy, professor and chair of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware, and author of Bringing Nature Home, agrees: “The deer are above their carrying capacity—that is, the herds are larger than the land can support—because we have killed all their predators.  We have also created their favorite edge habitat, our gardens. In many places, the only plants the deer have left in our forest understory are invasive, unpalatable species. Our forests may appear to be healthy, but there is no recruitment; that is, the next generation of trees is being destroyed.”

One of our members offers the following poem about this subject:

::

Deer Update

by Harriet Holdsworth

Oh deer, oh deer
Oh yes, my dear,
The deer are here.

Three, four, five, six,
Are my eyes playing tricks?
No, right here in my back yard,
To see them isn’t very hard.

Devil’s footprints in the snow
Just to let you know
Where they come and where they go.

Little piles of raisins on the lawn
Being laid from dusk to dawn.

A rose is a rose is a rose
And as everyone well knows.
The prickles and thorns of bright rose hips
Don’t bother their avaricious lips.

Devil’s footprints in the mud
Nipping all that’s in the bud.

It’s been many a year
Since a tulip’s bloomed around here.

Shredded shrubs and trimmed-up trees
And worst of all, oh please, oh please,
They carry ticks with Lyme disease.
Oh, oh, my aching knees!

Bambi lovers and devil deer
You should know where you can go…
Not here!
Not here!

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What’s Eating Your Trees?

Are your trees suffering from the effects of disease, insect infestations, pollution, or ??? What can you do about it? Which trees should you plant and which should you avoid? Dr. Gary M. Lovett of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY, has the answers.

Dr. Lovett’s research is focused on the effects of air pollution, climate change and exotic species on forests. He is the author of many scientific publications and has edited two books on the subject. His recent research projects have taken place in New York’s Catskill Mountains and Hudson Valley, and in Maine, New Hampshire and Tennessee. The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, where he is senior scientist, is an internationally recognized center for ecological research and education.

Dr. Lovett is typical of the expert speakers that address the Garden Club of Irvington-on-Hudson at our public meetings. He discussed the insects and diseases that are destroying trees in our area and identified which trees are at risk and/or should not be planted any longer. This is invaluable information for anyone interested in which trees to choose for a public or private landscape in the Northeast.

 

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GCI “Gilded Cage” Flower Show a Success

"Anna's Hats in Bloom," a design complementing a hat in Lyndhurst's costume collection.

The Garden Club of Irvington-on-Hudson’s GCA Flower Show last spring honored Lyndhurst and the Victorian era. The show was held at The Carriage House at Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, and was open to the public on Friday and Saturday, April 16 and 17, 2010.

The theme “THE GILDED CAGE,” a play on “The Gilded Age,” was inspired by the Gothic arches of Lyndhurst and its greenhouse, built by railroad tycoon Jay Gould, who made the Tarrytown landmark his family’s country estate in 1880.

“A GCA Flower Show is a competition judged by the rigorous standards of the Garden Club of America and exemplifies artistic and horticultural excellence,” said show chairman Nancy Stoer. “Our members worked for a year to present an outstanding show that included elaborate flower arrangements and horticultural specimens judged against ‘perfection’ as defined by GCA judging standards. Entries were prepared by members of our own club, who live in the River Towns, and GCA garden clubs throughout the tri-state area.”

Visitors enjoyed the "Victorian Wedding" arrangements staged on pedestals. The arrangements were designed as if for the 1913 wedding at Lyndhurst of Helen Gould, daughter of railroad tycoon Jay Gould, to Finley Shepard.

Floral arrangement exhibits included designs using flowers that were grown in the original Lyndhurst greenhouse (now restored and used by the Garden Club to cultivate plants for its annual plant sale in May); large arrangements suitable for a Victorian wedding; table settings for a card party on a Lyndhurst’s terrace overlooking the Hudson; and designs complementing hats in Lyndhurst’s extensive costume collection. Village of Irvington schoolchildren ages 8-12 made an exhibit of “tussie-mussies,” small hand-held bouquets expressing “the language of flowers.”

Cut specimens: Flowering trees and shrubs in bloom

Pot-et-Fleurs featuring Neomarica caerulea (Fan Iris), Phyllitis scolopendrium ‘Undulatum’ (Hart’s Tongue Fern), Lysimachia nummularia ‘Goldii’ (Creeping Jenny), Oxalis triangularis (Purple Shamrock), and three kinds of zonal and scented Pelargoniums.

Horticultural exhibits included “Lord & Burnham Presents: Nineteenth Century Favorites,” which featured orchids, ferns and palms and cut specimens of locally-grown nineteenth-century favorites such as rhododendrons, magnolia, prunus, and blooming stems of narcissus and tulip bulbs. The challenge class was to grow from seed a Victorian favorite Pelargonium, ‘Black Velvet Rose.’ “Pot et Fleurs: In the Victorian Style,” featured large containers planted with with a minimum of three different species or cultivars reflecting the Victorians’ love of carefully planned excess. Special classes included topiaries and “glass houses” or terrariums.

Vistors viewed an exhibit of landscape and horticultural photography and a conservation/education exhibit that focused on the London Plane Tree or Sycamore, and showed how this magnificent tree has contributed to the ecology of the lower Hudson Valley.

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Filed under Conservation, Flower Arranging, Garden Club Flower Show Categories, GCA Events, Irvington Garden Club Events, Irvington NY, Nature Photography, Rivertowns Westchester NY, Tarrytown NY, Zone III Events