Saturday, February 28, 2015

Look Up - Living Chandeliers Dazzle & Bejewel The New York Botanical Garden’s Orchid Show Opens February 28th




There is no getting away from it – the juxtaposition of two worlds colliding makes a special magic.  And so it was at the New York Botanical Garden’s Thursday press preview for the spectacular 2015 Orchid Show.  Snowflakes pirouetted outside – just beyond the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory’s windows. 
Inside the tropical, exotic, mysterious world of plants smiled their hothouse.











It is the 13th annual NYBG Orchids Show – and this is the Super Bowl of plant exhibitions.  It is easy to see why this show is a much-anticipated favorite  -- Attendance is expected to top the 150,000 visitors who came last year. Orchids are eye candy. Their brilliant colors are better than opening your own box of new Crayola’s.  
Plus orchids seem to beckon us in ways that are unlike other plants.  Perhaps its because orchids seem to have faces – their eyes and smiles seductively peering at the legions of admirers. 





This year’s Orchid Show theme is Living Chandeliers. It’s a brilliant choice of design inspiration.  


Made all the more so by the fact that this year’s show is curated not by an outside designer but for the first time by none other than the Garden’s very own Fran Coelho, Vice President for Glasshouses and Exhibitions.  
Fran Coelho, Living Chandelier Designer & NYBG VP


A graduate from the Garden’s School of Professional Horticulture, Coelho “was deeply involved in the major restoration” of the landmarked Enid A. Haupt Conservatory and its Living Collections.  
Fran Coelho & her Living Chandelier orchid design 

Why‘d they wait so long? 
Fran’s intimate relationship with the glasshouses reveals her unprecedented talent of the “greenhouse-as-palette.”  Her ability to create such a unique atmosphere in the crystal palace will make fine art curators pea-green with envy.  She knows where the light peeks in here or where the shadows cast a bit of drama there.   These subtle, garden art design elements all add up to a magical rare experience.

Entering the Haupt Conservatory is like stepping through the Alice in Wonderland looking glass.  The black pool of water is high drama in any show or display – but seeing the orchid orbs floating in the glistening, black pool of water beneath the 90-foot soaring cathedral-like ceiling, attended by soaring palm trees, is stunning. 

Talk about a Pinterest/Facebook/Instagram/Twitter moment! 
Free up the Cloud; bring a camera or two– you’ll want to share these images on all your social media “plantforms” – er platforms.
Utter “Eye Candy” hedonism. The world slips away and you are in a suspended state of awe.
You will have to tear yourself away.

But then, the doors to the main show open up like a portal to a Technicolor Never, Never Land.  You can’t help but blink back in astonishment and feel a heart-stopping moment.   What glamour.  What romance…
This is better than the any walk on a “Yellow Brick Road!” 
The plant compositions here on either side of the walk are studded with a variety of tropical companions including bromeliads, ferns, colecasia, palms, and ficus.

On each side are artful, hanging garden pendants, dripping with jewel-like, sexy orchids that wink at you with that come-hither look.  The Living Chandeliers here are suspended over pools of water, reflecting their glamorous beauty in a mirror image that even Dorian Gray would be jealous of.






You can’t help but notice there are orchids – everywhere!  Like stars in the heavens, there are exuberant displays of Phalaenopsis, Cattleya, Cymbidium, Oncidium and Epiphytes.
Yes, you are reminded to “Look Up” to capture the flower constellations.  And be sure to “Look In” – up inside the chandeliers.  It’s seeing plants from an entirely new, intimate, and exciting perspective.   
View Looking Up inside the Chandelier

At the same time, the Orchids have been accessorized with the tropical plants that provide form, structure, frilly greens, languid Spanish Moss, and regal tropicals.    

One of my favorite looks were the “Tree Warmers.”  This was my on-the-spot moniker for the small Moth Orchids: Phalaenopsis hybrids and Dendrobiums that Fran and her team have artfully wrapped on the Ficus trees standing happy sentinels on either side of the long axis walkway leading to the center, 45 -foot dome of the Conservatory.
Before I get to this show-stopper of the Living Chandeliers, I have to share the wonderful story Fran told me about those ficus.  They once belong to Enid Haupt – and she sent them along to the Botanical Garden with her collections.
Sweet.

While it’s true that every great garden tells a story; it’s also seems it’s true that every great seasonal exhibition has a backstory. 
Fran shared how the Living Chandeliers theme came about. 
While on a plant trip to Florida with NYBG’s president, Gregory Long, he noted the hanging Staghorn Ferns; Fran observed epiphyte hanging baskets nearby and it got her to thinking … Epiphytes grow on trees – many orchids are canopy-dwelling - so there’s that vertical look – and just like that – a show-stopping star design was conceived. 
Visitors can look up – to enjoy the orchid art from an entirely new perspective.

“The space for the show is the same every year, but we look to make the conceptualization of the display different each year,” Fran explained.  And speaking of space – this year’s Orchid Show was designed so that there is more open areas, allowing for better vistas – and accommodations for the robust visitors who come from all over the world to view this stunning orchid display.
I especially liked the diminutive bromeliads that adorn the moldings on both sides of the dome-area’s gateway.  Inspired garden glamour for home design, too. 
The plants are mounted and then attached with wire; covered with Spanish Moss.  Green moss would work too.

Fran noted it takes a about a year to bring the show from concept to putting the plants in place for the Orchid Show.  Which was what was happening Thursday as the press preview was trying to take it all in.

So back to that genormously huge central Chandelier in the center of the show.  In true “Hort-Art” fashion, I can’t take my eyes off this glamorous globe. 
I dream it could be a floral fairy from the planet Avatar where plants rule.
The Living Chandelier here is framed on the ground by two crescent pools on either side where the mirrored chandelier images radiate the orchids’ beauty. 
The water element is like breaking the third wall of a design dimension. 
The lighting effect that Fran so skillfully employs is yet another design dimension.

The size of this garden pendant is unprecedented: it’s three tiers – the top tier is 11 feet around  -- “And with the orchid flowers reaching out – it’s really more like 15 feet wide,“ noted Coelho.  The middle tier is nine feet and the bottom tier is seven feet around.

How did she come up with the royal chandelier color and design, I asked Fran.  And how did she choose the more than 500 white, yellow and puffs of pink/purple Phalaenopsis and Oncidiums, accessorized with lush ferns and moss that adorn the Living Chandelier? 
In a curious twist (no pun intended) Fran tells me she was inspired by the show graphic she produced for the marketing and advertising campaign.
She took me to see the poster and pointed out how she arranged the hanging basket for Dana Meilijson to photograph. 
When I pointed out that the graphic usually follows the real-life art, she smiled.  After all, she created both the hanging basket ready for its close-up and the Living Chandelier now ready for its starring role.
Fran finds the yellow, white and pinkish orchids in the chandelier, “Calming.”

There are more than 100 chandeliers, orbs, and hanging baskets, featured in the show! 
I asked Fran how many orchids are in the show.  “Approximately 4,500 and with the 2,500 orchids that will be used to replenish and refresh the show orchids, the total will be about 7,000 orchids by the time the show ends,” (April 17th)

Where do all the orchids come from?  I couldn’t help but think the NYBG Orchid Show must be a bonanza for orchid growers across the country.  Indeed.  According to Fran, while the Garden has a world-class orchid collection – managed and supervised by the Garden’s “resident orchid expert, Marc Hachadourian, Director of the Nolen Greenhouses for Living Collection, most of the orchids originate in California, Hawaii, and Florida. 
Hachadourian is the go-to orchid expert for garden notables across the country, including Martha Stewart who frequently hosts Marc on her television show and in her print media. 
At the show’s conclusion, some of the orchids will be selected to help build the Garden’s Collection.  Other orchids are donated to area hospitals, schools, and nursing homes.  How lucky are they?

Hachadourian noted, “Orchids are a charismatic group of plants – they draw visitors.” Almost like no other plant, I will add.  It’s that “eye candy” allure.  
He says that for the Garden this is an ideal “teaching moment” to demonstrate the Garden’s mission of Research, Education, and Display   “Here we can help teach the appreciation of beauty – visitors will not only see the diversity of the orchid world but also learn about the companion plants featured in the displays,” he said pointing out the red-hot bromeliads, for example.
The Garden has strategically placed Orchid Care signage throughout the show’s display too – in order to help us visitors understand about the living plant art.
I asked about the Darwin Orchid (Angraecum sesquipedale) - he told me they will bring out this very rare specimen for the show.  Don’t miss this conversation piece and star of its own horticultural historical adventure tale.
Marc added that Fran’s design for the Living Chandelier show this year demonstrates her perspective, her amazing eye for color -- and her passion. 

How will the gorgeous plants keep their “cover girl” looks?  Fran explained they water the plants very carefully! “It’s a challenge,” she said.  “Each plant may be in a different planting medium, different sized pot, with differing watering needs.”  This year there lots and lots of miniature orchids too (Good things come in small packages.)
For the giant Living Chandeliers, the Garden staff mounts a 10-foot ladder and a sprinkler with a special nozzle to get the precious water to the orchids’ roots.

Orchids are Romantic

Do not miss this show.  Go for the gorgeous, inspired orchid garden display designs. 
For the first time, the show runs throughout the Conservatory – so there’s more to see – plus walking through the show adds that jolt of oxygen we all need - especially in this “frozen” winter of extreme cold.  
The Living Chandelier Orchid Show is for everyone.  Kids will love it too.

And it’s so romantic – Orchid Evenings are perfect for a special date. Swoon with your lover(s) amid the magic and mystery of the Conservatory, stir in a few cocktails “inspired by Guerlain’s Orchidée Impériele line” -- or Champagne on select nights -- sprinkle in the sounds of live music, and even the orchids will be dancing and whispering sweet love songs for you and your sweetie.

There’s a smart-phone tour for the show, along with a companion guide you can use while shopping to learn more about orchid care.   The Shop in the Garden offers a variety of rare and easy-to-grow orchids.

Before you go:
Try to purchase your tickets ahead of time.  The show is understandably well attended so waiting in line shouldn’t be part of the plan. 
You can become a member and dispense with waiting on line! 
Here to all things Living Chandeliers Orchid Show 2015 – from transportation to hours to about.

A Few Facts about Orchids from NYBG:

Orchids represent the height of evolutionary success in the plant kingdom. With more than 30,000 naturally occurring species, they are the largest family of flowering plants.  Orchids are adaptable, diverse, and grow in almost every habitat – from semi-desert to Arctic tundra – on every continent except Antarctica.  They come in a dazzling range of sizes, from miniatures with tiny flowers less than 1/16 of an inch in diameter to giants more than 25 feet tall with flower spikes up to 10 feet long.  Orchids also come in an amazing array of colors and shapes. 
Some mimic bees, wasps, butterflies, and moths.  They are the entertainers and performers of the plant world.






Saturday, February 14, 2015

Spanking Your Flowers! Symbols and Meaning for Valentine’s Day Blooms & Blossoms & more


Photo courtesy of Techuloid


Did you you know that every blossom gets “spanked” at the airport when the flowers land in the US?!  Yes, Federal Agents “spank” or shake the plants to make sure they are free of some hijacking pests or bugs.
I saw the news report on CBS TV the other morning and enjoyed the presentation.
CBS News Valentines Day Roses  "From Rose Farm to Table."  (The co-host Charlie Rose (how perfect is his moniker for this feature?) - has a moment!) Here's the newscast:





Valentine’s Day offers passionate plant lovers  a holiday like no other. Besides the many luxury gifts designed to woo a special someone -- including chocolates, champagne, fragrance, and jewelry -- glamorous, glorious flowers, blooms, and blossoms are the Valentine gift sure to elicit that romantic swoon.  The thing is - all those other luxury gifts are inspired by and composed of --- plants!  Think about it - chocolate comes from a plant bean, champagne from a grape plant, jewelry is most often a flower or blossom rendered in earth’s metals of gold, silver or diamonds. So why not go with the original gift of romance - the authentic messenger of love?  Plus, there are legends and stories about most every plant and flower, right down to the meanings of color and the mysterious effect on our ardent -- and lustful -- desires.


According to CBS, Americans will spend more than $2 billion on flowers this Valentine’s Day - the “Superbowl of Flowers” said Joann Whitley, flower manager of the chain, Fresh Market grocers.  The holiday statistics demonstrate Valentine's Day is indeed the number one holiday for florists, according to the National Retail Federation as reported by About Flowers.
Of fresh flower purchases only, Valentine's Day ranks No. 1, capturing 36% of holiday transactions and 40% of holiday dollar volume, with red roses racking up 61% of all rose purchases, followed by pink roses.  


I’m “In the Pink” this Valentine’s Day!  I received a sweet, happy, feminine, and glamorous arrangement that is a mix of pink roses, lemon leaves, purple daisies, fragrant, beguiling, heavenly-scented Stargazer lilies, and Peruvian lilies (Alstroemeria).  Those last two have those flirty freckles adorning their faces.   



Say it with Flowers
Over time, flowers have taken on meanings beyond their sheer beauty.  Perhaps it was the garden sprites or Garden Goddesses that sprinkled their fairy dust -- adding more romance to nature’s jewels -- as symbols of virtue and ardor and more.


For example, my Peruvian lilies are noted as a symbol of devotion.  Peruvian lilies can say to a companion or loved one that you will always be there for them and that you trust in your lasting bond. The depth of meanings for Peruvian lilies is a compliment to their beauty, and the message that these flowers send is profound in its authentic simplicity, according to Proflowers.  
Further, my pink roses signify grace and elegance, Stargazer lily, aka the “floral celebrity” represents wealth, prosperity, innocence, and purity.


I make my annual Valentine’s Day arrangement with tulips - their meaning is “Perfect Love!” And Red Tulips are “most strongly associated with “true love.”
Did you know tulip the word comes from “Turban?”  See, tulips originated in Persia and Turkey and residents there wore the tulips in their turbans - so western Europeans mistakenly gave the tulip its name mixing the flower with the hat.  
For my Valentine’s floral candy confection, I place a glass inside the vase, line it with the Sweetheart candy -- the heart-shaped ones with the cute, conversation love letters like, “Kiss Me,” or “Love” - or now, emoticons - and are in fact, THE best selling Valentine’s Day candy.  
The tulips go inside the glass.  Sweet.


What does all that color mean?
According to Michael Skaff, FTD, as reported by ABC-TV Chicago:
Red is for passion and love. These are best suited for the person who you are on clear terms with, like you're both in love or serious about dating.
White is for purity, renewal and freshness. If you've messed up recently, these may be a good way to make amends.
Yellow is for friendship. These are best reserved for someone you're close with and care about very much.
Purple is a complex color that can evoke a variety of different emotions; integrity, fantasy, enchantment. This color says "I'm intrigued by everything you do." It is also on trend for 2015.
Pink can mean flirtation, femininity. It's also evocative of passion. It's a safe color for those flirtatious relationships that may still be in the "honeymoon" phase.
Orange is for desire. You wouldn't normally think of Orange of Valentine's Day, but the can say how much you desire him or her and can be a color that's outside the box.


Local Flowers


And not to douse the aforementioned floral ardor, this is a perfect occasion to highlight the gospel and work of one of my favorite floral visionaries: Debra Prinzing


Just as I espouse growing edibles and eating food that is locally-sourced, Debra has championed a more sustainable floral business/”industry” using locally-grown ornamental flowers.  Termed a “Slow Flower” Movement, she advocates for growing your own flowers or buying from local growers.  For many of the same reasons.  Do we really need to have billions of exotic flowers flown in every day?  
If we can recalibrate our floral aesthetic, we can enjoy glamorous floral designs and practice a more eco-friendly and sustainable environment - not to mention creating lots more local jobs.


Prinzing has authored two books on this important subject: The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Locally Grown Bouquets from the Garden 




Photo: Debra Prinzing


Debra’s news release quotes: “The book follows Prinzing through 52 consecutive weeks during which she challenged herself to pick, arrange and photograph a seasonal bouquet using only local ingredients. She sourced flowers, leaves, branches and seedpods from her own garden, from friends' gardens, and from the meadows and fields of her favorite flower farms. Like an easy-to-use cookbook, Slow Flowers features vivid images of each finished bouquet, a thorough ingredient list and step-by-step design instructions. Special "takeaway tips" share expert flower growing advice and eco-design techniques.
Photo: Debra Prinzing


"After being immersed in the 'slow flower' movement and documenting  the dramatic transformation in how cut flowers are grown, designed and used, my own relationship with flowers - and floral design - changed," Prinzing says. "Gardeners and flower lovers have so many exciting botanical options to collect for their vases. Slow Flowers demonstrates that living in the moment - each season - is just as rewarding for flower lovers as it is for foodies who cook seasonally-inspired menus."
Photo: Debra Prinzing


In her richly-photographed book, Debra celebrates each season's unique character -- with fresh blooms, ornamental twigs, colorful foliage, gorgeous vines and many other gifts from nature. Each of the arrangements begins with a design "muse," be it a beloved antique rose, a new variety of seed or a family heirloom vase. Debra photographed her bouquets in and around her home, close to the garden where many of her ingredients were sourced.”
Photo: Debra Prinzing 

Check out Debra’s books - it can change your mind to look at flowers and floral arrangement design in a whole new way - celebrating what Mother Nature has so generously gifted to us right in our own backyard using seasonal arrangements inspired by the beauty of a garden.  


Happy Valentine’s Day.   Enjoy the glamour…



Monday, February 9, 2015

Garden Book Stars: Recommended Reading for Horticulture, Plant Breeding, Foraging, Garden Design & more


Garden Books: Inhabitat.com image
Garden books as a publishing and reading category is vast.
It should be.  
The spectrum of garden literature and their authors’ contribution as our link to nature’s web is peerless.  Altogether, the sheer variety of garden and garden-related books represent the exciting, integrated web, or prism, by which we can see how plants are undeniably our true life partners.   
Just think about the limitless and expanding garden genres: design, science, breeding, photography, history, DIY, organic, sustainability, celebrity gardeners, regional -- not to mention that there are books that, ahem, dig deep, into a singular plant genus and species – from roses to tomatoes to salvias.
All perfectly natural...
Can you think of another category that is more diverse than nature, plants, and garden design?
I cannot. The possibilities are infinite for garden book subjects to explore.
So without further plant and garden intro talk, here is my elevated recommendations for your garden library.
But not before noting that all of my garden book experience come first-hand; meaning I get my books by way of attending lectures, talks, panel discussions, and social media exchanges.  
I’m endlessly thrilled, as you might imagine, to show off our home library filled with garden and cookbooks autographed/signed by all the noteworthy authors and writers.  It is sheer luxury and garden glamour bliss to possess these books!  I reference them in my designs and writings.  And just as often, I revel in their sheer beauty and information - a portal into a mysterious and beautiful other-world.
So here, in no particular order, is my list of must-have garden books for your home library from my 2014 garden book adventures:
The Plant Lover’s Guide to Salvias

Far and away one of the best I was honored to get in 2014 was The Plant Lover's Guide to Salvias, John Whittlesey, published by Timber Press
Not only do I adore salvias and use them to full visual max in most every garden design that’s appropriate - I kinda’  “won” this special book.  I write “kinda” because it was part of a social media outreach and I’d like to think the Garden Glamour fans and audience made this work…
It was a fun ride Tweeting and sharing the good plant news about this remarkable plant genus.  
The enclosed Timber gift card reads, “We hope you enjoy the book! Signed, Timber Press.
The very salient story is salvias are a true garden workhorse: the Kate Moss of the garden world.  Think of salvias as beautiful showy, versatile and varied, possessing rare charms, including that they are fragrant and hospitable.  Plants are the best hosts and entertainers.   Take note.
Plants host a plethora of pollinators.   The Salvia book starts with a love note of sorts: “Why I Love Salvias.”  The book doesn’t say this but to quote Shakespeare, “Let me count the ways.”  Salvias are not only fragrant but textured -- as in fuzzy or not - colorful -- as in blossoms or dramatic foliage.  Author Whittley writes, “ Planted strategically throughout my property, salvias create daily opportunities for me to observe hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies.”  
See, salvias are also the plant world’s rather social networking, relationship-building extension to a diverse and exciting world of pollinators.  They attract and promote that, special,  integrated relationship.
The Plant Lover’s Guide to Salvias is a “Look-Book” to this sexy-genus’ style, beguiling blossoms and showy, green-carpet, beautiful brushstrokes. You can peruse the 150 images to design a garden or  just fall hopelessly under the salvia spell.  
Private Edens

The extraordinary throw-back to elegant big books, Private Edens is a grand, pictorial tour of country estate gardens.  I reviewed Private Edens previously in 2014 -- Garden Glamour review of Private Edens  It’s a beautiful tome of a book. Plus the photos are by Rob Cardillo - arguably a garden's favorite photographer.




Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener
You love plants - but I bet you never thought you could breed plants.  Hold on, it’s not like breeding cattle or pigs or horses.  You can do it.  Joseph Tychonievich's Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener makes it fun and easy to create your own flowers and vegetables.
You make your own recipes, right?  You can make your own fashions, right?  You make your own spices, right?  You see where this is going. OK - so you can “make” your own “Unique Vegetables & Flowers” following Tychonievich fun and easy-to-follow “breeding recipes.”
At this year’s second annual NYBG School of Professional Horticulture's "Hortie Hoopla" plant breeder Tychonievich was a featured keynote speaker. That’s where I first met the “plant whisperer.”  He signed his book to me: “Leeann, Have fun making plants have sex. Joseph”   
With that autograph, you can readily see that Joseph takes a whimsical approach to making and creating plants.   


In addition to a brief history of plant breeding, the book goes on to feature seven chapters that detail key elements of plant breeding, including: The Blank Canvas - Making Breeding Goals, How to Make a Cross - as in the breeding (One can just hear a theme song with whistling words in the background -- “Birds do it, bees do it, even the tweezers do it - no wait!)
Seriously. Moving ahead, the following chapters attest to the DIY focus – and easy-to-do  plant breeding: Genetics Made Easy - and Why It Matters, Narrowing the Field - Evaluating and Selecting Your Favorites, Beyond the Backyard - Advanced Techniques and How To Breed Select Flowers and Vegetables…
Why breed plants? I mean, who has the time for this seeming esoteric pursuit?  Except for the “god” factor it would seem plant sex is best to left to the expert breeders -- and to the plants…
And yet, while Joseph cites several reasons to engage in breeding, not the least of which is the fun and the ability to produce greater flavor in the plants for you -- AKA the breeder – central to breeding is the ability to promote disease resistance and create stress tolerance for the plants. And well, for you too, in a matter of speaking.  
Plus, there is the opportunity to sell your creations.  Joseph points out that the widely successful ‘Knock Out’ roses, the “beautiful hybrid hollies of Ilex xmeserveae, and other many popular, successful plants were bred by amateur breeders.”
All good enough reasons.  No argument here.  But I will venture that just like foodies like to cook good homegrown food, gardeners like/will like, to breed their own homegrown plants.  
It’s not enough for a foodie to serve up just any ol’ beets, for example.  They will seek out the greenmarket’s chiogga beets because they are special - more rare.  
So too for authentic, impassioned gardeners.  
How can we ever go back to just store or nursery-bought coleus when you can create these colorful, frilly ornamentals that was a favorite of the Victorians, according to Joseph.  
Especially since they are so very easy to propagate.  Same goes for tomatoes.  I think it’s especially beneficial to home breed these favorites of the home garden given the blights these fruits have experienced lately.  Not to mention how the commercial tomatoes have too often had the taste bred out of them.  Now you can readily breed your home tomatoes and dial up the sweetness to your tongue’s delight.
Seriously - he had me at homegrown popcorn!
A bespoke plant world awaits…


Further, I also believe that once gardeners are introduced to the concept and practice of breeding; we’ll do it.  After all, we start our seedlings indoors for spring planting in the temperate zones.  So it’s not much more of a leap to breeding.  
Plant breeding is authentic, artistic and a heady hort pursuit.  
Joseph’s book is your How-To, step-by-step guide.
The author also offers a plethora of Useful Website of other plant breeders at all stages of expertise and plant varieties, such as tomatoes, roses, daffodils or edible homesteading.  He also provides recommended reading for breeding ornamentals and edibles and seed saving, too. Finally there is a fairly extensive Plant Sources.
Plant Breeding is almost a too-perfect segue to the next book, Grow More with Less Sustainable Garden Methods.  “Less” as in “Less Water, Less Work, Less Money.”  

It's been almost a year to the day that I got the book and had it signed by author Vincent A. Simeone. He wrote: “Dear Leeann, to a fellow author and garden lover, wishing you all the best in the future!”  
See, there were three of us gardening authors who were asked to provide a book talk and book-signing at the annual Plant-O-Rama -- the plant world's favorite horticulture trade show and symposiuum.
We three anchored Plant-O-Rama's premiere author/book component. Curiously or surprisingly, books were never before featured at the signature Plant-O-Rama event -- surely a head-scratcher that both Metrohort and NYBG’s Charles Yurgalevitch and founding father Bob Hyland soon remedied.
While Plant-O-Rama is a popular, over-subscribed professional garden lover’s must-attend event, there hadn’t ever been a book component until 2014! I was honored to have been asked to speak and contribute to this “garden first.”
Besides Vinnie and me, there was gardener and author, Marta McDowell, there for her then, newly-released book: Beatrix Potter Garden.



Vinnie is a well-respected horticultural professional and gardening consultant and his talk was very well attended.  Attendees wanted to learn more about how to create a sustainable home landscape.  
Missed the talk?  No worries.  You can learn how from his highly-readable advice and recommendations.  Easy-to-follow charts -- as in Weed-Suppressing Groundcovers, presented by Plant, Habit, Height, Ornamental Value and Culture or Plants That Attract Wildlife in the Garden offer turbo-charged information at a glance. Likewise, the images are most helpful -- and nice to look at.  The pictures provide a high-quality look at not only the plants: both good ones and invasives -- so you will know what to look for but also for the pruning and tools, along with what invasive insects look like.  Tips on keeping accurate records, such as Vinnie’s sample IPM Record Keeper provide the amateur and sustainable gardening “newbie” a roadmap to how to go about eliminating pesticides.  


Grow More with Less part of the sustainable garden is providing a natural, healthy garden that encourages wildlife to share your garden.  Too often, us garden designers hear would-be clients ask to have butterflies in the garden but not bees!  Yikes.  And our gardens have become so sanitized that I never, ever see snakes or frogs or bats as was once common.  I did see a lone box turtle trying to get back to the untamed garden below our yard. But that was a singular sensation that frankly I think was the result of Hurricane Irene’s hocus pocus.  Grow More with Less points out how these reptiles or amphibians - -along with mammals and insects -- are a very beneficial -- essential really - to “controlling a wide variety of pests, including snails, millipedes, and harmful insects.  
Besides, it’s more interesting to have diversity - in the garden and in life.  A boring monoculture is a one-trick pony that is finally rallying food enthusiasts to embrace a greater variety of ingredients. So too should home gardeners insist on inviting birds, bees, and frogs and toads into the garden.  After all, you never know - one could turn out to just be a prince..


The chapter heading tell you what to expect in reading Grow More with Less.  For example, The Right Plant for the Right Place (a gardener’s mantra), Water Conservation (how to use Grey Water) , Eco-Friendly Strategic Planning For Your Garden, IPM, Sustainable Lawn Care (choose a fescue that serves your needs - lawns don’t have to be “high-maintenance or water guzzling,” he advises. And go ahead and mitigate the turf - put in edible!);  and Maintaining a Healthy Garden From the Ground Up (composting, soil management, planting and pruning)
While you may spend less money and time using Grow More with Less, you will assuredly learn a whole lot more using this helpful and interesting guide book to creating sustainable habitat in your home garden. Plan now for spring is less than a dozen weeks away.  
Another helpful, hands-on guide to gardening is the powerful Citizen Farmers - The Bioydynamic Way to Grow Healthy Food, Build Thriving Communities, and Give Back to the Earth, by Daron “Farmer D” Joffe.  

In the food and garden talks for my book, The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook I often cite how food is a prism through which we can view our world.  Look closely and you can see politics, immigration, a fair wage, the environment, health, art, and so on.  
It’s fun to read that, launched by a turkey sandwich that “spoke” to Joffe, Citizen Farmer is motivated by some of those issues; mainly community, health -- for both our bodies and the earth’s -- and food.  
He was hooked on biodynamic farming after attending a seminar on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf education, a leader in social reform, music, arts, and architecture, and the father of biodynamic farming.
The sandwich told him he was a consumer - taking more than he was giving back.
Steiner’s teachings led Joffe to pursue a sustainable life.
Joffe writes: Biodynamics that is akin to The Farmer's Almanac: Plant and harvest with the cycles of the moon and stars. Raise animals, make compost, grow crops replenish the soil. Produce rather than import “input”  -- such as feed and fertilizer.  
It becomes apparent that the sandwich and Steiner speak from the same truth.
Citizen Farmer tells the ancient story of good stewardship:  The chapters salute the sustainable, biodynamic lifestyle.  The soft cover book is a handy reference that can be used as a guide while plotting and planning your sustainable garden, as well as an easy-to-tote assistant to take along to the nursery.  
There are plenty of photos, drawings, lists, tips, and charts to help guide you. He’s done all the work. Of particular note is his “Harvest Meditation” – it’s downright spiritual.  He writes; “It’s is not ironic that we often bow down toward the earth when picking produce. I see this as a gesture of humble gratitude to the forces of Nature…”
The most beautiful coffee table garden vanity book is bar none - Manolo Valdes, Monumental Sculpture: At the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) from the astonishing spanish artist, Manolo Valdes  
The photographic art is the essence of this art book, published by Assouline.  (Ok, the sculpture is grand and bold and subtly powerful...) 
The garden art here is rendered by my friend, James T. Murray  He presented us with a signed copy earlier this year. What a glamorous gift... We love showing it off to our guests.
Murray is the exuberant, singularly talented photographic artist whose work makes this book so compelling to look at.  And so enduring and haunting that you will return to to the pages to indulge in the imagery over and over...   Murray’s stunning photographs capture the soul of the towering sculptures. His work pays homage to the other arts.  
He documented Valdés installations at the Garden’s seasonal outdoor exhibition, Monumental Sculpture, that was on view from September 22, 2012 to May 26, 2013.  Created specifically for this exhibit, the nine-month display featured seven enormous bronze, steel, and aluminum sculptures  -- some over 17 feet tall and weighing more than 20 tons.  The “Towers of Culture” forms were all sculptured female heads adorned with hats or headdresses referencing the plant world.  Poised, or posed, in a “stately gravitis,” the seven ancient goddess were inspired by Nature and the Garden’s horticulture, according to Valdes and their monikers bear witness too: Butterflies, Ivy, Fiore, Guiomar, Alhambra, Galatea, and Arcadia.

These ladies of the garden offered an “air of serenity, watching the seasons, and the weather," including the winds, and rains of Superstorm Sandy.  Murray captured their shimmering essence, photographing them in all four seasons.  Each sculpture takes your breath away.  Some are featured as full pages, others as double-page beauty or fashion layouts.  Murray’s eye and lens captures the light just so… The look is ethereal and romantic and mysterious..  
I think I like the Autumn and Winter best. The colors of the autumn are so rich - soaking up and burnishing the sculpture’s bronze leaves. The winter photos embellish the palette - a gilding of the lily, if you will, that works like magic, making it appear just this side of heaven.   The sugary snow and the sun shining beyond - “kiss” the sculptured art so that the light glimmers off the silver metal making it appear not unlike like jewelry set on crystal.  This book is a must-have for your garden room or coffee table.
And finally, in a rather direct aside to Murray and Valdes’ garden art, is Foraging & Feasting - A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook by Diana Falconi and Illustrated by Wendy Hollender.

The author and illustrator collaborated on a Foraging & Feasting Kickstarter campaign that was successfully funded March of 2103.  The two artists’ appeal read: “Celebrate our local bounty and traditional foodways.
We are self-publishing this book and hope you will purchase it now to help us pay for production and printing costs! We believe you will appreciate Foraging & Feasting as an educational tool that can foster a more sustainable, regenerative and ecological way of eating. Foraging offers an adventurous and satisfying way to eat locally and seasonally. Our book will help readers reclaim the lost art of foraging and become immersed in the "Kitchen Arts." Readers will be able to identify, harvest, prepare, eat and savor the wild bounty all around them. Surely everyone will appreciate learning to create delicious, nutritious, healthy meals from scratch for a modest amount of money.”


Foraging & Feasting video created for successful Kickstarter campaign 


Fast forward. The book is artfully produced.  It’s a joy to read and view.  Knowing their passion for the project just makes the reading all the more exciting.

“The book features beautiful, instructive botanical illustrations and delicious, enlightening recipes.”  The two plant artists said “They shared this project .. out of our long commitment to connecting with nature through food and art. The effort weaves together Dina’s 30 years of passionate investigations into wild-plant identification, foraging and cooking with Wendy’s deft artistic skills honed over 15 years as a botanical illustrator. For the past three years we have been writing, drawing, designing and testing the recipes for this book. The result is an abundance of recipes and illustrations that celebrate wild plants and creative ways to bring them into our lives.”
The Foraging & Feasting book is a rare combination of a coffee table art book and a food and drink cookbook.
Dina is a home herbalist and mixologist.  Wendy is a world-class botanical illustrator.  Together they have created an exhilarating, informative guide to living a better, more interesting life.  Really.  Half the book is like viewing an exciting plant hunter or adventurer’s notebook (Think Darwin or more recently, Eat, Pray, Love’s, Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book, The Signature of All Things: A Novel - whose female star falls in love with a too-handsome botanical illustrator) with the beauty of the plants all there while also serving the very real purpose of indicating what to look for when identifying the plant while foraging.  The Forging & Feasting book presents tips on foraging and DIY herb care, along with delicious and I daresay, never before made recipes that should be crushing the foodie and culinary world as “the next Big thing.”
I've known Wendy since I studied at NYBG to earn my certificate in Landscape Design. (Today, I am instructor at the Garden.) The New York Botanical Garden where she was the Coordinator – i.e. head – of the esteemed Botanical Art & Illustration certificate program.  I was so taken with Wendy’s botanical artistry  I just had to write a feature piece for the NYBG Garden’s Member Newsletter  -- and as you can see– I can’t stop writing about her botanical art.  Writing that story, I learned how she was able to put the images directly onto fabric; she created scarves with botanical art by running the textiles through her printer.  Later, when I worked at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, we worked with Wendy to have her create a special cherry blossom scarf to mark a 25th Anniversary milestone of the cherry blossom celebration.
As a card-carrying member of the Wendy Hollender fan club, when it came time to create window treatments for our Garden State country house, there was never any double that I would have to have Wendy’s artful work accessorize our home.   
I wanted to create a very light, scrim-light kind of relaxed balloon window look, while showcasing local area native plants. I researched the plants I wanted to feature, including shore mallow and orchids and herbs and collaborated with Wendy, selecting the botanical art from her portfolio. She suggested we use Spoonflower fabrics. I loved their whisper-light fabric and the near-perfect soft blue/white that almost was too good a match to the window molding.  And this was a full year or so before Spoonflower earned/won a American Made by Martha Stewart Award


In terms of the book, Wendy’s botanical art opens the hardcover,  230+ pages of the Foraging & Feasting book.  Gotta get the ingredients first!
So from Amaranth to Violet, the botanical art's plant ID’s are there for you to locate and the plant that will be used as the main ingredient in the recipes that follow.  The authors suggest the plant IDs are best referred to as plant “maps.”  They write: … “Plant maps will help you navigate your way around the 50 wild edible plants “ featured  in the book.
The full-color, full-page foraging plant pages are rendered in full, glorious, botanical illustration  – meaning you can readily see the leaves, fruits, and explanation – just like those intrepid plant hunters. But here, your value-add is the bottom-of-the-page bar, noting the plant’s Habitat and its Culinary Uses.
Wendy explains “Botanical Art are plant drawings that are scientifically accurate.  Botanical illustrators draw what they want you to see  -  It’s my job to kind of lead the viewer around the plant and allow you to see what the artists want you to see,” she explains.    Dina says Wendy’s art offer a kind of bold, rich soulfulness to the book.  


The botanical art is reason enough to buy this book.  The locavore, homegrown recipes from clinical herbalist Dina are a homegrown, healing and delicious collaboration of “new” and tradition that “Turns the plants into delectable dishes.”
She goes on to explain that the book offers 100 master recipes – then throttling down on the feasting element of the book, she says you can make 30-40 variations for each recipe thereby you have potentially 3-4,000 recipes!   
The ingredients are local, so zero carbon footprint and zero cost. On the other side of the coin is the superior nutrition these ingredients provide.  “Find what grows in our ecosystem,” suggests Dina.   

Enjoy all these garden and edible/food books.  For years and years to come… You are their stewards. You can pass them on.