Big, Bigger, and Biggest take Rhode Island

Even at nearly a ton, it doesn’t take a town to raise a giant pumpkin. But it might take a town to lift one! Fresh off his record-smashing win in Massachusetts, grower Ron Wallace was back in his home state of Rhode Island recently to have a go at one-upping the benchmark set by his own 2009-pound pumpkin in September. Hundreds turned out for a bucolic romp through Frerichs Farm in the town of Warren, hopping hay rides, bopping to live music, and showing off their mighty produce while pumpkin growers from around the northeast gathered to throw their weight around.

While the mood may have been light, the subject matter was anything but.

Ron’s second contender for the crown had estimates predicting a weigh-in somewhere around 2100 pounds, which explains the forklift needed to hustle this hefty squash around. But while hopes were holding high, the plump pumpkin fell just short of the record with a final weight of 1872 pounds; it may sound like a big difference, but at their peak these pumpkins put on 35 pounds a day. Still not at all shabby, considering it’s the second-heaviest pumpkin ever grown. Ron not only maintains his rank as the Pumpkin King (don’t tell Jack Skellington) with the 2009-pound beast under his belt, but he’ll also be making his way to The New York Botanical Garden this weekend to join us for our Haunted Pumpkin Garden carving event. That’s with his Ocean State heavyweight in tow, naturally.

With Ron’s pumpkin in the mix, we’re set to kick off the Garden’s Halloween centerpiece on Friday, October 19 at Grand Central Station, where Ray Villafane and his partners in crime will make the first cuts toward creating this year’s farm-grown zombie masterpiece. The festivities then shamble to the NYBG on October 20 and 21, where the team will sculpt, hack, scoop and scrape a few of the world’s heaviest pumpkins (Ron’s included) into a horror show unlike anything you’ve ever seen. We’re nudging everyone to stop in and watch Ray’s monsters in the making–seeing is definitely believing when it comes to someone climbing inside a pumpkin to get all the seeds out. For scheduling, check out our event page.

This entry was posted
on Wednesday, October 17th, 2012 at 2:37 pm and is filed under Color Report, Video.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Related Posts:

Spooky Nighttime Adventures!

No luck digging up your skeletons before sundown, or devils at dusk? You know it’s called “All Hallow’s Eve” for a reason! At The New York Botanical Garden, we’re all about the value of a good after-dark scream, and we’re not going to let New Yorkers go wanting when it comes to finding one. Join us weekends throughout the tail end of October for “Spooky Nighttime Adventures,” a safe opportunity for you and your kids to scare out the ghosts and goblins of the city when they’re meant to be seen. How often do you get to see the Garden in the light of the moon, anyway?

While our evening events and activities are put together for children ages five to 12, kids at heart are more than welcome to join us. We’ll be decorating treat bags near the Reflecting Pool and sniffing out sweet treats along the Whole Foods Market Trick-or-Treat Trail. We’ve got a few bones to pick at the Discovery Center as we Frankenstein our way through some owl pellets, or you can suss out what sort of creepy crawlies slither in the dank, dark world under a forest log. Try your hand at calling for owls at the Boulders, discover the many secretive creatures of the night, or, if your nerve is steeled, take a peek at Ray Villafane’s ghastly pumpkin sculptures; a jack o’ lantern may be a funny fruit in the light of day, but turn on the shadows for a fright larger than life!

So we’re agreed, then? You bring the courage and we’ll supply the flashlights (not to mention the treats)! And it wouldn’t be Halloween without a costume, so we encourage kids to dress for the occasion. Pick up your tickets early and join us at the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden for these special events, 6:30 to 8 p.m. on October 20, 21, and 26 through 28–all a part of The Haunted Pumpkin Garden at the NYBG. For more info or to register tickets for you and your own little spooks, visit our Halloween page.

This entry was posted
on Tuesday, October 16th, 2012 at 1:00 pm and is filed under Programs and Events.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Related Posts:

Weekly Greenmarket Preview: Plentiful Pumpkins

How could I possibly cobble together this week’s Greenmarket preview without a nod to October’s star of show? Oh, right–I couldn’t. Today marks the arrival of some of the country’s biggest and best to The New York Botanical Garden, and in honor of their prize-winning rotundity, we absolutely must give culinary credit where credit is due. So here’s to Halloween’s most hallowed heavyweight: the pumpkin!

Our Greenmarket has seen a steady trickle of pumpkins, gourds, and squashes in general over the past while, and we expect to see this bounty pick up in the coming weeks as we dig deeper into fall. But this Wednesday is also notable in that it’s something of an unofficial precursor to our weekend festivities. While you’re shopping your way through piles of fresh autumn eats, we’ll be prepping their monumental, record-breaking cousins from around the country that are even now making their way to the NYBG. Starting this weekend, each giant will go under the knives of master carver Ray Villafane and his band of artful miscreants as they create the most terrifying and titillating Halloween display we’ve rolled out yet.

In the meantime, I’ve included a simple pumpkin recipe below, because what’s fall without putting this orange squash into everything you eat? Don’t worry, no pumpkin spice lattes or beers to be found here; I figure you get enough of that every time you turn around. As always, grounds admission and parking at the NYBG are free on Wednesdays. The Greenmarket takes place along Garden Way in front of the Library Building every Wednesday through November 21, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. To make things even easier, our vendors accept EBT, WIC, FMNP and NYC Health Bucks.

Weekly Walking Club – Meets every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. by the NYBG information table

Join Public Education staff for an invigorating 1.5 mile loop around the Garden. Wear your walking shoes and bring a bottle of water for a walk that makes a great part of a healthy lifestyle.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup
By Elise of Simply Recipes

Ingredients (serves 8)

4 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Pinch ground cayenne pepper (optional)
6 cups chopped, roasted pumpkin (or 3 15 oz. cans 100% pumpkin)
5 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream


  1. Cut sugar pumpkin in half, scoop out seeds and pulp, lie face-down on tin foil-lined baking pan and bake 45-60 minutes at 350°F, or until soft.
  2. Let cool, then scoop out flesh.
  3. Melt butter in 4-quart sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened–about 4 minutes. Add spices and stir for a minute more.
  4. Add pumpkin and 5 cups of chicken broth; blend well. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmering for 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Transfer soup, in batches, to a blender or food processor. Cover tightly and blend until smooth. Return soup to sauce pan.
  6. With soup on low heat, add brown sugar and mix. Slowly add milk while stirring to incorporate. Add cream. Adjust seasonings to taste. Add teaspoon of salt or to taste if necessary.

This entry was posted
on Tuesday, October 16th, 2012 at 2:58 pm and is filed under Programs and Events.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Related Posts:

There’s a New Fungus Amongst Us

This is an image of a mushroom that I have never seen on the NYBG campus as long as I’ve been here (around 28 years) and I am 99.9% sure it has never before been reported here.

There are several unrelated genera of mushrooms that seem to prefer growing on wood chip mulch as a substrate and seemingly have a global distribution. Right now after the recent rains, the mushrooms that favor this artificial habitat are in nearly every flower bed on campus.

The name of the mushroom is Leratiomyces ceres, described for the first time from Australia in 1888.

Roy E. Halling, PhD is the Curator of Mycology at the Institute of Systematic Botany at The New York Botanical Garden.

This entry was posted
on Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 at 4:01 pm and is filed under Science.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Related Posts:

Mulch Monster: A Diamond Z at the NYBG

What’s as big as a school bus, full of hammers, and can chew up a log the size of a Mini Cooper in just a few seconds? That would be The New York Botanical Garden‘s new Diamond Z tub grinder, the latest addition to our collection of groundskeeping machinery and easily the most impressive.

Tub grinders in this class are essentially glorified mulchers, using rapidly swinging “hammers” to break down organic material into an easy-to-manage pulp. Think of the trailer-sized woodchipper the average home landscaping company uses, then scale that up to industrial proportions, and you have the Diamond Z. It’ll handily take down a bundle of twigs and weeds, but its real talent is in gobbling up enormous segments of tree trunk–up to 30 tons of them per hour–and spitting out useable mulch or compost. After the past year’s fluke storms left us facing damaged trees across the Garden, this was exactly what we needed to tidy up our wood piles.

Thanks to a generous grant from the office of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., we were able to replace the 20-year-old tub grinder the Garden had relied on since 1992; it was prone to breakdowns and slowed our clean-up when speed was an absolute necessity. Now, we’re chomping through literal tons of compostable material like a giant knife through tree-sized butter. And each pound of compost or mulch that we create helps the Garden not only to recycle what is grown here, but to be more self sufficient in how we tend to our landscape; it will be reused in collections around the NYBG, inspiring new growth for years to come.

You may not be able to see the tub grinder in person, but the above video should push the point across: we’re getting things done at the NYBG, and the Bronx is chipping in!

This entry was posted
on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 at 11:00 am and is filed under Around the Garden, Video.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Related Posts:

Lendemer’s Lichens: Combing the Smoky Mountains

You’ll find them clinging to rock faces like flecks of gray paint, or carpeting a tree trunk with skeins of red whisps. Lichens come in myriad shapes, sizes, colors, and consistencies. But while they’re often overlooked during your average hike, they’re worth giving a spare glance the next time you’re outdoors–lichens play an important part in the ecosystem. Few know this so well as the NYBG‘s Dr. James Lendemer. Like many of the Garden’s globetrotting scientists–Michael Balick, Bill Buck, and Roy Halling, to name a few–Lendemer’s field odysseys carry him well beyond the laboratory door in his hunt for specimens. In recent years, that chalks up to long days spent trekking through the Great Smoky Mountains of the eastern United States.

For the uninitiated, lichens are cryptogams–fungi that reproduce by spores, as with other fungi and some groups of plants. But unlike either, lichens are unique in that they’re composite organisms, often a symbiotic combination of fungi and algae. Think of them as codependent roommates; the former acts as a sort of bodyguard for the latter in exchange for nourishing sugars from the algae’s photosynthesis. At large, lichens make the perfect bird nests by some avian standards, and the growths also have a penchant for breaking down dead trees and rocks while providing nitrogen for soil. Unassuming as they are, they’re integral to maintaining healthy biomes.

As a CUNY graduate student, Lendemer first found himself working under The New York Botanical Garden banner with a donor-provided fellowship in 2007. Since then, Lendemer has teamed with Drs. Richard Harris and Brendan Hodkinson to create a lichenological collaborative here at the Garden, using a National Science Foundation grant awarded earlier this year to inventory the lichens of the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain–an area the size of Alabama threatened by climate change and urbanization. Through the course of this collaboration, Lendemer’s team would be joined by Dr. Erin Tripp of the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, a botanist and long-time associate of James’. And together, they’ve since shattered the belief that the Smokies are spent for new discoveries in the world of lichens.

Together, Lendemer and Tripp prove a formidable team.

Lendemer and Tripp pegged Gorges State Park as the first major territory for their lichen inventory, a large tract in the mountains just beyond the Smokies. The decision wasn’t difficult; these mountains were once home territory for Tripp, who finished her undergraduate studies in nearby Asheville, NC. And there’s nowhere in eastern North America that receives heavier rainfall, making it a biodiversity hotspot for mosses. The wealth of lichens growing there aren’t much of a surprise, either, including several species completely new to science. It was a discovery that would set the tone for future excursions into the Great Smoky Mountains and the Appalachian range that encompasses them.

“At the time we began our work in the Smokies, the dogma was that 99% of its lichen species were already known,” explains Lendemer. “However, Erin and one of her colleagues had established a one-hectare study plot in an old growth forest there where we inventoried the lichens. Seven new species have been described from that plot since, and two of them have never been seen again anywhere else.”

Since sampling that small plot of forest, the team has expanded its studies to cover a broader area, producing numbers even more impressive than first expected: a 60% increase compared to what was cataloged in the Smokies before, tallying more than 800 lichen species in the area. Not exactly small potatoes when you consider that most authorities felt the park was already tapped out.

“We have continued to work in the Smokies since then,” says Lendemer, “and every day of hiking yields at least one surprise we hadn’t seen before. For all the work we have completed, there’s still so much to discover in the 816 square miles that this park comprises, but already we have shown that it’s a hyperdiverse area for lichens with many previously undocumented species. Understanding the lichens of the park is the only way to conserve and manage them, and even the National Park Service has become interested in the project; they’ve been very helpful in facilitating our work.”

There are currently over 5,000 species of lichens known in the U.S., and through Lendemer’s continued work, we hope to see that number shoot up. The time frame of the Smoky Mountain project boils down to however long it takes to get the job done.

“We intend to continue working in the park until we reach the point that we feel we have adequately completed our survey,” Lendemer says. “On our last trip, we hiked over 100 miles in two weeks, visiting more remote parts of the park. Every hike yielded significant new discoveries.”

Lendemer/Tripp photo courtesy of Emily Darling, National Park Service.

This entry was posted
on Thursday, September 27th, 2012 at 11:00 am and is filed under From the Field, Science.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Related Posts:

This October: Greenhorn Birders Welcome

The New York Botanical Garden is, first and foremost, a world-renowned collection of flora. But you’d be hard-pressed to spend more than a few minutes walking under the boughs without recognizing the sing-song notes of our most gregarious residents. The birds of the Garden represent some of the most varied fauna in New York City, and not only are we a haven for passersby making the trip to cozier climates, but we’re further home to a menagerie of year-round species in all shapes and sizes.

It so happens that we get the best of both worlds in the fall. Migrating species gather up for the flight south while the locals buckle down for the coming winter, and Debbie Becker, binoculars in hand, is always there to see it; join her for our in-depth NYBG birdwatching course beginning in October and you’re sure to walk away with a new skill.

While the herons and egrets are soon to take flight for the season, and the hummingbirds already have their eyes on the clock, few realize how abundant the wildlife is here in the autumn. Thankfully, Becker has the roll call down pat. She’s been leading Saturday Bird Walks at the NYBG for over 25 years, making her one of the area’s foremost experts on NYC’s winged things. And while newcomers are always welcome to glean what they can from her weekend walks, motivated beginners won’t want to pass up Becker’s primer on birdwatching fundamentals.

Beginning October 11, the Garden’s Midtown location will host a multi-session course on all things avian, from identifying native species in urban environments to essential field guides and gear selection. Debbie will even be teaching a few bird calls. And because birding can prove something of a rabbit hole (once you dive in, it’s tough to give up the passion), you’ll also take part in the tradition of creating a “life list.” Just think of it as a bucket list for the feather chaser.

“With the fall,” says Debbie, “comes the arrival to New York of the winter birds: juncos, white-throated sparrows, chickadees, titmice, ducks, and owls. Some birders think that winter birding is the best, and it begins in the fall.”

The chickadees and titmice form crowds of hectic little puffballs, pecking for morsels while the Great Horned Owls cruise the Forest nearby. There’s the staccato chatter of the woodpeckers as they hammer away at the tree trunks. And, true to form, the wild turkeys are too oblivious not to show their faces well into Thanksgiving (though our turkeys certainly don’t have anything to worry about). Spring and summer may be the flower’s heyday, but it’s the birds that stand out in the cooler seasons. And the best part about birdwatching? It’s an excuse to get outside and meet new people, with very little investment beyond a pinch of quiet patience and a pair of binoculars. For more information or to register for Debbie’s course, head over to our Adult Education page.

This entry was posted
on Monday, September 24th, 2012 at 4:20 pm and is filed under Adult Education.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Related Posts:

Morning Eye Candy: A Bronx Breakfast

We don’t keep chickens at The New York Botanical Garden. Not yet, anyway. But elsewhere, well, that’s another story. The Bronx is becoming a hub for urban agriculture, and many community gardens around the borough have cleaved not only to edible gardens, but to rooftop beehives, goats, and even chicken coops. You’ll get a taste of the movement when you join us for an Urban Farm Tour, the most recent of which took place on August 18; keep it here for updates on future events.

Photo by Ivo M. Vermeulen

This entry was posted
on Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 at 6:00 am and is filed under Around the Garden, Photography.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Related Posts:

Weekly Greenmarket Preview: Cornucopia

Wednesdays are foodie days at The New York Botanical Garden, and the twelfth is no different! If your palate’s been hunting for something a touch more scintillating than what you can sniff out at your average midtown hot dog stand, it’s not a crime to look outside your borough–the Bronx, perhaps? As always, our Greenmarket is a cornucopia of home-grown goodies!

Peppers in many a color were last week’s highlights–orange, yellow, and red, all crisp and piquant–while apples flaunted sweetness among the pre-fall fruits. Even the fresh bitterness of dandelion greens was on call. Not to be outdone by the “two to four servings a day” crowd, The Little Bake Shop and Millport Dairy made a delectable point with fresh-baked breads, raisin oatmeal cookies, and berry pies to put any dessert tray to shame. Wash it down with a fruity juice from Red Jacket Orchards and you’re sending off summer with all the right flavors.

I’m not so sure what we’ll see this Wednesday (it’s always a pleasant surprise), but I thought I’d spotlight some of the flavors we’re seeing so much of in recent weeks. Below, just a few recipes to prepare you for tomorrow’s shopping.

Again, the Greenmarket takes place along Garden Way in front of the Library Building, every Wednesday through November 21, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Parking and grounds admission to the NYBG are free to all, and our vendors accept EBT, WIC, FMNP and NYC Health Bucks.

Weekly Walking Club – Meets every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. by the NYBG information table

Join Public Education staff for an invigorating 1.5 mile loop around the Garden. Wear your walking shoes and bring a bottle of water for a walk that makes a great part of a healthy lifestyle.

Family Garden Program Preview — Pollinator Pals: Bees and Butterflies — 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Join us in learning about important pollinators: honeybees as well as Monarch butterflies that are passing through on their way to Mexico. Get buzzy doing the honeybee dance, observe up-close the workings of a beehive, and sample honey from different nectar sources.


Dandelion Greens

By Diana Rattray, Southern Food

Ingredients (serves 4)
1 pound dandelion greens
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 whole small dried chile pepper, seeds removed, crushed
1/4 cup of cooking oil
Salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese


  1. Discard dandelion green roots, and wash greens well in salted water. Cut leaves into 2-inch pieces.
  2. Cook greens uncovered in small amount of salted water until tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Sauté onion, garlic, and chili pepper in oil.
  4. Drain greens; add to onion and garlic mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then top with grated parmesan.

Pickled Lady Apples

By Martha Stewart

Ingredients (serves 12)
2 pounds lady apples (or crab apples)
2 cups apple-cider vinegar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 teaspoons whole allspice berries
3 whole cloves
1 dried bay leaf
3/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/2 cup fresh cranberries


  1. Prick apples in a few spots with a skewer. Bring vinegar, sugars, water, salt, cinnamon sticks, allspice berries, cloves, bay leaf, and peppercorns to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves.
  2. Add apples, and return to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until a paring knife inserted in center of an apple meets slight resistance, about 8 minutes.
  3. Stir in cranberries, transfer to a bowl, and let cool. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours (or up to 1 month). Serve pickled apples cold or at room temperature.

This entry was posted
on Tuesday, September 11th, 2012 at 12:49 pm and is filed under Programs and Events.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Related Posts:

Heads Up from the Pumpkin Patch

I can say with sureness that this upcoming October will be a big month for The New York Botanical Garden. And I mean that in as literal a sense as possible. “But how big is it?” you most certainly ask. Well, if we need to get down to brass tacks, we’re talking about squash waaaay bigger and badder than anything you’ve seen in your neighborhood market–pumpkins trucked in from around the globe that weigh in at nearly a solid ton (that’s 2,000 pounds by U.S. standards). In other words, they make your porch jack o’ lanterns look like carved grapes in comparison.

Each of the growers that contributed mammoth pumpkins to 2011′s Halloween in the Garden–members of the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth hailing from California, Pennsylvania, and even Quebec–supplied a home-grown monster the likes of which most have only seen in The Nightmare Before Christmas or Cinderella. I’m talking record-breaking squash weighing 1,600, 1,700, and even as much as 1,800 pounds in some cases. After the weigh-ins and the awards, each found its final resting place in the Garden, where Ray Villafane took knife to squash in an artful if ghoulish manner.

This year’s undertaking looks to be even more unsettling on the sculptural front, but as the pumpkin growers tell it, beefing up these autumn icons has been more challenging this season than in years past.

“2012′s heat and drought knocked many growers off of their routine,” says Karen Daubmann, NYBG Director of Exhibitions and Seasonal Displays. “Some growers have persevered, however–they kept up with the daily diligence of babying their crops despite the conditions.”

As you can see from the photos above, the weather hasn’t stopped these squash specialists from making every effort to break last year’s pumpkin record of 1,818.5 pounds, held by Jim and Kelsey Bryson of Ormstown, Quebec. But few are about to show their hand to competitors–we can’t even tell you where these pumpkins are being grown.

“Talk amongst the growers is circulating,” says Daubmann. “There is speculating, while some are quiet with their news and others host patch tours. No one can tell who the next world record winner will be. Sometimes pumpkins crack and split before they can make it to the scale, so at this point only time will tell. You can see the winners at the NYBG beginning October 20.”

This entry was posted
on Thursday, September 6th, 2012 at 11:00 am and is filed under Programs and Events.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Related Posts: