Mum’s The Word

Sonia Uyterhoeven is NYBG‘s Gardener for Public Education.


Chrysanthemum rubellum 'Sheffield'

Chrysanthemum rubellum ‘Sheffield’

We are heading into the final weekend of Kiku: The Art of the Japanese Garden. The show is awash with vivid autumnal color and exotic chrysanthemum blooms in every shape and size imaginable.

For those curious, there are 13 different classes of chrysanthemums. Some of my favorites are the Edo varieties which fall into the last class of mums—Class 13: Unclassified or Exotic. These are the chrysanthemum flower shapes that do not fit into any established category. They often have twisted, bi-color florets that change their shape as they open.

Beyond these, there are many fun and fanciful chrysanthemum flower forms to cover. Chrysanthemums from the Brush and Thistle class look like an artist’s paint brush. Spider mums look like fireworks exploding in the sky. They have long, tubular ray florets that hook or coil at the end. Anemone-type mums have centers that are raised up like a pincushion, and chrysanthemums from the Spoon class have long ray florets with tips that are shaped as their name suggests.

Chrysanthemum rubellum ‘Sheffield Pink’

Chrysanthemum rubellum ‘Sheffield Pink’

The exhibition mums take from 9–12 months to grow. They are fed, pinched, and laboriously trained into ornate shapes. The showiest display is Ozukuri or “Thousand Bloom.” From one small cutting, the mum is trained into five main branches that are repeatedly pinched to form an intricate framework of flowers. Kengai or “Cascade” is trained in a fishbone pattern to cover a large panel. After 10 months, the frame is tilted downwards to form a flowing cascade.

While the exhibition mums are fragile and require an enormous amount of care, homeowners can have their fall chrysanthemum color without all the hassle. Granted, they will not be trained to perfection or come in all the exotic flower forms mentioned here—unless that happens to be your expertise!

Belgian mums are readily available on the market these days for the casual mum gardener. They are hardy provided they are planted in September and given enough time to establish a solid root system. These mums are no-pinch and are flexible enough that they do not break easily. Varieties of these mums are categorized by flowering time: very early, early, mid, and late. You can extend your flowering season from early September until early November by selecting mums from different flowering categories.

This year in the Garden we have planted one of my favorite mums, Chrysanthemum rubellum ‘Sheffield Pink’. It is another hardy chrysanthemum that looks more like Korean mums than the ubiquitous florist or Belgian mums. These mums reach 2–3 feet tall and spread to form an open, loose clump. They often require staking and it is a good idea to pinch these mums back once or twice earlier in the season (late May into June), or to cut them back by half in early June.

Chrysanthemum rubellum ‘Sheffield Yellow’

Chrysanthemum rubellum ‘Sheffield Yellow’

This year in our container displays we have ‘Sheffield’, ‘Sheffield Pink’, and ‘Sheffield Yellow’ planted. ‘Sheffield’ opens up apricot and takes on pink overtones as it matures; ‘Sheffield Pink’ is a baby pink that has a small white halo around its yellow eye; and ‘Sheffield Yellow’ is a cheerful yellow with apricot and gold buds.

Mums like full sun to partial shade. They thrive in rich, well-drained soil. Add compost or organic matter when you plant. If you are pinching your mums, it is best to pinch before July 4th, otherwise they will flower too late in the season. Wait until spring to cut back your mums or at least leave several inches for winter protection and lightly mulch around them if they are planted in an exposed site.

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Morning Eye Candy: Glittering Glasshouse

The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory catches the morning light beautifully.

Enid A. Haupt Conservatory
The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory – Photo by Ivo M. Vemeulen

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Article source: http://blogs.nybg.org/plant-talk/2014/10/photography/morning-eye-candy-glittering-glasshouse/

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Inside Ray Villafane’s Apocalyptic Zombie Carving

Ray Villafane Zombie carving The Haunted Pumpkin GardenLast weekend was our Pumpkin Carving Weekend with Ray Villafane, and the Master Carver himself executed a massive pumpkin sculpture, after his own design, with the help of his crack team. The fruits—or gourds—of his labor are on display through October 31 as part of The Haunted Pumpkin Garden.

In case you missed the opportunity to see Ray’s zombie carving come to life, we have a video with Ray himself taking you through the process of carving his pumpkin sculpture for NYBG. The end result is a bone-chilling zombie climbing out of a 1700-pound pumpkin! Check out the installation this weekend as part of our annual Award-Winning Giant Pumpkin Display, or for the full Halloween experience get tickets to one of our upcoming Spooky Nighttime Adventures and see Ray’s creation fully illuminated for the first time in his four years working with the Garden.

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Article source: http://blogs.nybg.org/plant-talk/2014/10/video/inside-ray-villafanes-apocalyptic-zombie-carving/

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Morning Eye Candy: One By One

We’re approaching peak color in the next few weeks! Check our Foliage Tracker to make sure you catch the leaves at their most vibrant.

fall foliage NYBG

In the Thain Family Forest – Photo by Ivo M. Vermeulen

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Article source: http://blogs.nybg.org/plant-talk/2014/10/photography/morning-eye-candy-one-by-one/

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Morning Eye Candy: Tree of Life

Ross Conifer Arboretum

European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’) in the Ross Conifer Arboretum – Photo by Ivo M. Vermeulen

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Article source: http://blogs.nybg.org/plant-talk/2014/10/photography/morning-eye-candy-tree-of-life/

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Leaf Propagation: A Succulent Shared

Christian Primeau is the NYBG‘s Manager of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.


Nolen Greenhouses gardener Karen Drews takes leaf cuttings

Nolen Greenhouses gardener Karen Drews takes leaf cuttings

Who doesn’t love a sharer? Not an over-sharer, like Harold in Accounting, whose detailed inquest into his latest digestive afflictions has positively ruined my lunch hour three days running (I’m a horticulturist, not a doctor, Harold…we’ve been over this). No, I’m referring to the sweet woman who makes popcorn and secretly gifts you a handful, or the savior who brings coffee for everyone on Monday morning. And while you won’t even get within visual range of any popcorn or coffee in my possession, I am a prolific sharer of plants, so I do have a few friends left about the office.

Propagating plants can be as painless and satisfying as popping corn, pressing “brew” on the coffee machine, or simply eating lunch outside under a shady tree to avoid Harold. This is especially true of rosette succulents like Echeveria. Often referred to as Mexican Hens and Chicks, these Central and South American species adore sun, tolerate neglect, and exhibit a vast array of captivating leaf forms as well as flower and foliage colors. Truth be told, it’s a painfully easy group of plants to become enamored with and collect. The good news is that propagating and sharing your echeverias is a great way to make someone’s day and assuage the guilt of having spent far too much money on internet plant auctions. Be sure to remind your very patient and understanding spouse that smiles are priceless. PRICELESS.

Planted leaf cuttings

Planted leaf cuttings

Luckily, one Echeveria can yield a bounty of babies (and therefore smiles!) A word of warning, however: the first act involves courage as it entails “decimating” your lovely plant by gently detaching each mature leaf from the stem. Fear not—every thick, succulent leaf is a self-contained “power pack” with the ability to continue photosynthesizing and enough stored moisture to put that energy to immediate use growing new roots and leaves.

The second step is no more challenging. Simply lay each leaf directly on the surface of a moistened, well-drained cactus/succulent soil mix, or bury the detached end of each leaf in the medium at a 45-degree angle, tamping lightly around the base to secure it firmly in position. Place your leaf cuttings in bright, indirect light in a warm, well ventilated area.

Succulent leaf cuttings show the beginnings of new rosettes.

Succulent leaf cuttings show the beginnings of new rosettes.

For the next four to five weeks you’ll play the waiting game. If you keep the mix ever so slightly moist during that time, you will experience what I find to be one of the most rewarding aspects of horticulture. From the base of each leaf will emerge delicate young roots followed by one or more miniature new rosettes. These rosettes will grow and strengthen, absorbing moisture and nutrients in the soil as well as the still-attached “mother leaf.”

When the original leaf begins to yellow and shrivel, you can carefully transplant each new rosette into its own little pot. You are now poised to shower your friends and coworkers with leafy love. Yes…even Harold.

I encourage you to experiment with this simple propagation technique. Remember, it works just as well on Graptopetalum, Sedum, Kalanchoe, and many other succulent plant species. Have fun! Share! Go forth and multiply your plants!

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Article source: http://blogs.nybg.org/plant-talk/2014/10/horticulture-2/leaf-propagation-a-succulent-shared/

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Morning Eye Candy: One By One

We’re approaching peak color in the next few weeks! Check our Foliage Tracker to make sure you catch the leaves at their most vibrant.

fall foliage NYBG

In the Thain Family Forest – Photo by Ivo M. Vermeulen

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Morning Eye Candy: As The Trees Turn

Our Foliage Tracker is now at 35%!

Ross Conifer Arboretum

In the Ross Conifer Arboretum – Photo by Ivo M. Vermeulen

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Article source: http://blogs.nybg.org/plant-talk/2014/10/photography/morning-eye-candy-as-the-trees-turn/

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Morning Eye Candy: Nature’s Bounty

Perennial Garden
The Perennial Garden – Photo by Ivo M. Vermeulen

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Fruiting Frame of Mind

Jaime Morin is The New York Botanical Garden’s Assistant Curator in horticulture. She works with the plant records and curation teams to help keep the garden’s information on its living collections up to date. She also oversees the details of the garden’s Living Collections Phenology Project.


Callicarpa japonica beautyberry

Beautyberry (Callicarpa japonica)

Autumn is by far my favorite season. I know it doesn’t bring that sigh of relief the first warm day of spring seems to evoke, nor does it allow for long days at the beach or lake. Yet, what it lacks in promised warmth it makes up for in color. As a native New Englander I was brought up with a strong appreciation for bright fall foliage and the joys of falling into a freshly raked pile of leaves. What I didn’t begin to appreciate until I started really looking at plants in my professional life were the bright colors and interesting forms of fruit and seeds that autumn delivers to us. I don’t mean tasty fall favorites like the apple, but the smaller seed carriers that are often missed if you’re not looking for them.

Take a couple of my favorite colorful fruiting shrubs, beautyberry (Callicarpa spp.) and winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata), as examples. Callicarpa have attractive arching branches with demure flowers in early summer, but they shine brightest in fall when dense clusters of vibrant purple fruit cling along the stems creating the late season echo to the pink redbud flowers from spring. Similarly, Ilex verticillata isn’t your typical wall of evergreen holly foliage. By late October this shrub has dropped its foliage and the females are covered with fruit in fiery hues like orange or red.

What about fruits with interesting form? I love strolling through the Native Plant Garden, Azalea Garden, and Thain Family Forest in the fall to check out all of the different aster seed heads. This group of herbaceous perennials sets beautiful, dense clusters of fluffy seed heads that create plumes of delicate texture. They also seem to have a knack for catching the afternoon sunlight just right. If pretty and delicate isn’t your thing, look out for the sweetgum’s (Liquidambar styraciflua) one-inch “gumballs.” These mace-shaped fruit hang from their trees until late fall, when they drop to the ground. To me these cool, spiny seed bearers look like a medieval weapon ready to strike. If you’ve ever stepped on one in bare feet they feel like that, too!

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I must gently remind our enthusiastic readers that no matter how beautiful or delicious-looking a fruit may be, plucking things from our plants here at the garden should be avoided. Many of our gardeners and curators need to collect these seeds to further develop the garden’s collections. In fact, one of my favorite horticultural tasks involves collecting seeds for curators here and at other botanical institutions. To me the act of preserving species diversity and sharing wonderful plants with colleagues brings a feeling of purpose and excitement to an already festive season! We aren’t the only ones that try to track down these seeds, though. Migratory birds and small woodland animals preparing for winter also collect fruits and seeds to help them prepare for the harsh winter months ahead.

ginkgo biloba

Maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba)

Another beautiful fall feature (but too often dismissed as undesirable to many) are the seeds of Ginkgo biloba, or maidenhair tree. Female specimens of these iconic street trees produce smooth, round seeds with a fleshy red covering that are very pretty and have been cultivated for human consumption for centuries. Their one shortcoming in a garden, park, or campus setting is the putrid smell that they give off after they have dropped and sat on the pavement for a day or two. Because of this, many landscape designs call for male trees specifically. These plants often don’t reach sexual maturity until 20 years old so every once in a while you may get one that surprises you. My Nana always said “leave the world a little sillier than you found it,” and I truly believe that we can ascribe that same philosophy to unique plants as well. Despite their rank smell these fall seeds are too interesting to shy away from!

Of course I would be remiss to gloss over some of our interesting yet lesser known edible fruits. Kousa dogwoods (Cornus kousa) develop deep red wrecking ball-shaped orbs that hang from the trees. Their thick skinned fruits have soft orange flesh that is delightfully sweet albeit a little bit mealy in texture. Our native chokeberries also produce a delectable fall offering. Their tart black or red fruits pack an incredible punch of nutrients and antioxidants. Finally if you are a connoisseur of tart treats, the American cranberrybush (Viburnum opulus var. americanum) offers bright red treats that you won’t have to race the birds to. Our current first year class of SOPH students chuckled this past week as they watched me bite into one and cringe at its still-too-tart astringency.

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Please remember, though, to be wary of what plants you choose to eat from. You should never forage unfamiliar plants without the help of a professional. As city dwellers and suburbanites, we are instilled with a justified fear of unknown fruits. In fact one of my neighbors in my apartment complex gapes at me in horror as I harvest serviceberries from the tree in front of our building every summer. Each year I ask him if he would like some of the sweet bounty just to garner a response of “You’re going to poison yourself with those things and I don’t want you taking me down with you.” It’s an annual ritual between him and me that makes me happy for two reasons; it leaves more delicious treats for me and he is not risking his health because a random, petite girl in flannel says it’s alright.

Next time you go out for a crisp fall stroll remember to look beyond the flashy foliage to discover a whole world of shapes, textures, and colors in fruit. There is incredible diversity out there just waiting to be noticed and appreciated!

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Article source: http://blogs.nybg.org/plant-talk/2014/10/horticulture-2/fruiting-frame-of-mind/

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