Monday, July 17, 2017

New York Botanical Garden's "Hortie Hoopla!" Turns Five

The number five is good -- we all wave a “high five” when we are saying congratulations in a physically demonstrable way, don’t we?

I researched the significance of the number five and found that “People with the lucky number five/5 usually tend to pursue freedom.

They do not like to be bounded by their surroundings or other people.

They judge or enjoy things with their senses…”

Well if all that doesn’t more or less describe the Hortie Hoopla attendees’ spirit, I don’t know what does.

Freedom and celebrating nature and the environment with all of our senses is truly a hallmark of those who choose to make horticulture their career.

This Wednesday, July 19, 2017, marks the fifth anniversary of The New York Botanical Garden’s (NYBG) Annual Green Industry Intern Field Day -- or as it’s affectionately referred to: Hortie Hoopla, and hosted by NYBG’s School of Professional Horticulture (SoPH).

(Karen Washington speaking at last year’s Hortie Hoopla.)

The brainchild of Charles Yurgalevitch Director, School of Professional Horticulture, NYBG, and inspired by the rather prescient feature that successful author and horticulturist Ken Druse wrote for Rodale Press in 2013 where Ken introduced us to “The Next Generation” - six young horticulturists, emblematic of the Emergent professionals who are the future of American gardening, Hortie Hoopla has grown to become the seminal event for the future of professional horticulture.

Of the original six, several have spoken at past Hortie Hoopla events - I especially love that Kelly Norris! Here I am last year showing Kelly the spelling of my name so he could autograph his book, Plants with Style for me.

Me, Kelly, and Ken. Happy Plant People.

Kelly Norris speaking at 2016 Hortie Hoopla at NYBG

Brie Arthur is really on a successful roll - this firecracker of a plantswoman is now a first-time author with her just-released book, The Foodscape Revolution, (can't wait to get my autographed copy) published by St. Lynn’s Press; she is the recipient of the American Horticultural Society’s (AHS) first-ever “Emerging Horticultural Professional.”

The AHS clearly took a cue from Hortie Hoopla. High-Fives to that!

Brie is also the Keynote speaker at this year’s Hortie Hoopla. Again, High Fives all ‘round.

According to Charles, this year’s Green Industry Intern Field Day has a whopping pre-registration of nearly 250 attendees; over 175 of whom are interns or seasonals. “Further, the event has grown to be regional - attracting attendees from a broader geographic base than the original city or tri-state core audience,” explained Charles. “We’re hosting young professionals from as far away as North Carolina and Massachusetts,” he added, with great pride.

If you are a an intern or seasonal and haven’t yet registered, you can still do so - SoPH and Charles’ team make an exception for you.

Here are the details for Hortie Hoopla's schedule:

5th Annual NYC-area Green Industry Intern Field Day - Hortie Hoopla 5

When: Wednesday, July 19, 2017 @ NYBG

2900 Southern Boulevard

Bronx, NY 10458-5126

Time: 11 a.m.–dusk

Join NYBG for its annual event for interns and seasonal employees involved in the green industry.

This free industry-sponsored event features remarks from top horticulturists around the Tri-State Area.

Plus this being a magical kind of garden, you may discover a special surprise - or two - on this very remarkable day.

View the Garden’s collections and talk with the Garden’s Horticulture curators, test your plant ID skills with a contest, and wrap up the day with food and refreshments, games, and prizes. Nice!

The School of Professional Horticulture is very proud to host Brienne Arthur as the 2017 keynote speaker.

In addition to being a first-time author, Brie helps lead the national suburban foodscape movement -- a model of community development that incorporates sustainable, local food production.

To Register: RSVP with the name and email address of each person attending, and the name of your organization to Eric Lieberman at 718.817.8580 or

Space is limited to one supervisory staff member per group of interns.

Arrive early to view the breathtaking works of art created by world-renowned artist Dale Chihuly in his first major garden exhibition in New York in more than ten years.

Program of Events

  • 11 a.m.— Early Registration
  • Lunch on Your Own (Pine Tree Café open all afternoon)
  • 12:30–3 p.m.—Arthur and Janet Ross Lecture Hall

  • Todd Forrest, Arthur Ross Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections

“My Stories”/Featured Speakers:

  • Louis Bauer—Director of Horticulture, Wave Hill
  • Francisca Coelho—Vivian and Edward Merrin Vice President for Glasshouses and Exhibitions, New York Botanical Garden

  • Ken Druse, author/photographer

Keynote Address: 
  • Brienne Arthur, author of The Foodscape Revolution 

3–5 p.m.—Visit the Collections at NYBG, including, 
The Thain Family Forest, 
Native Plant Garden, and 
Green Materials Recycling Center (new composting facility), & Hands-on composting demonstrations
Plant ID contest (ongoing)

5 p.m. to dusk—Food and refreshments, fun, games, and prizes in the Clay Family Picnic Pavilion

Food and drink generously provided by:

Floral Landscape Services

Etain Health

Landcraft Environments, Ltd.

Mario Bulfamante & Sons

Bartlett Tree Experts

NY State Arborists Association

Riverside Park Conservancy

The Bronx Brewery (I love this craft beer!)

Thank you, sponsors.

If you are a green industry professional - or want to become one -- this event is for you. See you at the Garden.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Romancing Bridal, Engagement Showers & Garden Parties with Pretty Floral Drinks & Punch Recipes

Hinterland Punch with Jagermeister 

It’s the season for showers - not the spring showers that bring May flowers; rather the bridal and engagement kind that brings -- well, love. Love of family. Love of nature. And love of food and drink.

I’m sharing some of my favorite new - and tried and true - cocktail recipes to make the party pretty and special - and delicious.

Remember, finishing touches creates the ambiance that will be talked about long after the party swag bags are emptied and enjoyed. The experience lives on.

First up, is Hinterland Punch that is as pretty as a nosegay.

Hinterland Punch

Created by Josh Mazza

Serves 6-8


12oz Jägermeister

5 oz Grenadine

10 oz Ruby Red Grapefruit

20 oz Roobis tea

1 Bottle (26 oz) Sparkling Rosé

8 oz raspberries

8 oz strawberries


Add edible flowers to tea and freeze in a bread pan. Combine other ingredients in a punch bowl. Add frozen tea/flowers.


Cut berries and add into punch.

Aperol Spritz
This is one of my most favorite go-to summer drinks. And this year, I made it for our annual Independence Day Fireworks / Birthday Party event

Every year I put out a hostess drink on the kitchen island so that when guests arrive I can offer them a warm welcome and a refreshing drink with gracious hospitality.

This is the prep and testing -- the crystal glasses came out later!

You could readily set this up for a shower either on an island or on a hostess cart.


1 part Aperol

2 parts Sparkling white wine or Prosecco

3 parts Q Club Soda

I added 1 part homegrown Rhubarb simple syrup


Build cocktail over ice in a tall collins glass or white wine glass or a small cordial glass. Or a punch bowl

Orange Twist or quarter "smile"

photo: Pinterest
My Finishing Touches Garnish is to add a homegrown garden sprig of orange thyme clipped to the glass with a teeny-tiny clothes pin -- orange-colored, of course. The essential oil in the herb gives a hint of earthy, refreshing orange with every sip. Bellissimo!

You can also use the recipe in a punch bowl - and float the oranges and herbs.

I make a special ice ring for pure punch pizzazz.

My famous bridal punch with the rose wreath encased in ice mold is a favorite with the “ladies who lunch.”

This is a dreamy, special bit of floating florals surrounded by a peachy or pink punch confection. It never fails to elicit the oohs and ahhs that something pretty and out of the ordinary does to our senses.

How To:
photo: Pinterest
Photo: Pinterest
Photo: Pinterest
To make a Finishing Touches ice mold, simply fill a bundt pan three-quarters of the way full of distilled water. The distilled water has the impurities removed so the ice will be crystal clear -- the icicle white by-product of freezing tap water will not allow the visual delight of the blossoms or berries to be the star of the show.

When the water is frozen, add in an edible floral, herb, citrus peel or berry of choice. I’ve used rose petals, lavender, johnny jump-ups, and cranberries. You can match the bride’s colors or match to the tablescape.

Then add in another layer of distilled water on top of the fruit or herbs and freeze.

Take out of the mold when you’re ready to serve the punch, warming the bottom and sides with warm water -- I just run the tap a bit and use my hands to warm the pan. You could also set in a pan of warm water for a bit - especially if you’re preparing another dish and have water on the stove.

When you can see the ice is loose in the pan, turn over into the punch bowl. The mold will float while your guests enjoy the pretty and delicious punch. In the end, you’ll have a ring of flowers or blossoms in the bowl.

Another pretty drink for a shower - or a garden party showcasing the beauty of nature’s botanicals is the

Reyka Siren by Ingi R. Sigurdsson

This cocktail recipe showcases the additional garden glamour florals in individual ice cubes rather than the circle wreath. Here the mixologist Sigurdsson also uses flavors in the ice - not just visuals - and an orchid! How glamorous is that?
The St. Germaine provides elderberry flavor - from the plant Sambucus canadensis or nigra. The elderberry is such a pretty plant - you can’t help admire the inflorescence.

Victorians and today - Eastern Europeans - continue to love this traditional, natural herbal liqueur. Since 2007 it’s readily available from Bacardi as St.Germaine.

The taste is a little like honey with orange blossoms if that makes sense to you. It does to me!

I really adore this liquor and use it frequently to add nuanced florals to cocktails and punch.

I suggest you have a bottle on hand to add to food and drink recipes. You will thank me…

3 Parts Reyka Vodka

1 ½ parts Fresh lemon juice

1 Parts Simple Syrup (1:1)

1 parts St. Germaine

6 parts Champagne or sparkling wine


Combine all ingredients into cocktail shaker except champagne. Shake, top, garnish and serve. Shake/strain over the fruit juice cubes/top with 6 parts prosecco in a Bordeaux/Burgundy wine glass


With 2 cranberry juice cubes/2 grapefruit juice cubes/ 1 large simple syrup ice cube with orange blossom water, rose water, frozen edible Sonja orchid.

Garnish How-To:

For Flower ice cube liquid:

4 liters water

24 parts simple syrup 1:1

10 droppers Orange flower water

10 droppers rose water

Stir till combined

Freeze in 1x1 molds with Sonia Orchid

Empress Gin
The other drink recipe I must include here but will have more to say on later, uses Empress Gin

I plan to write a feature on this soon. However, I couldn’t allow a story on the oh-so-pretty punches and botanical party drinks go out without including this new, artisanal Empress 1908 gin. 
Besides being handcrafted, the gin is a natural, color-changing spirit. How cool is this?!

Guests will be cooing with the magic. I didn’t have a chance to taste the Empress Gin - I’m assured its botanicals are top-tier -- but I did try the the curious, authentic pea vine (Clitoria ternatea) or “butterfly pea” ingredient that waves its magic “leaf” to turn a drink’s color from blue to purple to red.

That’s a lot of shades on the color spectrum. And a whole lot of shades on the wowsy, happiness scale!

Plus, doesn’t every bride to be want to be a royalty of sorts? So Empress Gin is spot-on for a bridal party.

Empress and Tonic


2 oz Empress 1908 gin

3 oz Tonic Water



Build on ice in a tall glass. Stir well.


Grapefruit slice

For a punch-full of color and fun, just use the recipe and multiply by the number of guests.

You can also create an ice mold using grapefruit slices or peel. Or if you can get the butterfly pea leaves -- or local pea leaves - or pretty blue or red blossoms - you’re going to the star hostess.

Why do you think they call it "punch?"

How glamorous…