Monday, August 18, 2014

Gardening as Therapy: Why Nature is Good for the Soul

Written by Garden Glamour reader and Contributing Writer, Emma Crosby.
Although we’re certainly living in an age of technological developments and scientific advances, life for many is still incredibly difficult and stressful; financial worries, employment problems, health issues and personal problems are all common and can lead to isolation, depression and loneliness. Worse still, it was recently reported that despite wanting to work, eighty per cent of people with mental illness and substance abuse problems are unemployed – a statistic that is both sad and worrying.
Dealing with such problems successfully can be incredibly difficult, but international mental health charity MIND have conducted a study which researched the effects of interacting with nature and other people and the results are astoundingly positive. Officially titled ‘ecotherapy,’ the study reports that the process of spending time with other people out of doors, either gardening, crafting or helping with conservation can help to ease both physical and mental health issues.
The use of horticulture as treatment is certainly not a new thing, however; the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) have reported this method of treatment being used in ancient times, and also mention the fact that it was both popular and successful in treating injured veterans following the second world war. Centuries later, the great outdoors continues to be a favored method in helping patients with mental illness and substance abuse, and one of the main advantages is how easy it is to incorporate it into other treatment programs.
Get involved with conservation
With the environment being such a huge current concern, one of the best ways to get outside and get involved with nature is to join a local conservation program; whether you’re interested in helping to clean up beaches, repopulate wooded areas and forests or help to protect rare species of flora and fauna, The Nature Conservancy can put you in touch with a huge variety of projects which will get you out and about. Covering all fifty states, they aim to connect individuals with the most suitable ventures in their area; not only are the ecology benefits obviously huge, but time spent outdoors with like-minded people is proven to be advantageous to mental health.
Explore the possibilities in your own garden
The popularity of gardening and horticulture has exploded over the last few years, with more people than ever before growing their own fruit, vegetables and flowers; from tiny urban gardens on balconies and rooftops to ordinary back yards and acres of space, everyone is getting in on the act.
If you’ve never attempted to grow anything before, don’t let that put you off; start small with something simple such as tomatoes, strawberries or some bee-friendly annuals such as cosmos, Californian poppies and the beginners favorite -- the humble sunflower -- and just enjoy being outside and connecting with nature. A good garden centre is the best place to start; you’ll find staff are always keen to help aspiring gardeners and total novices, and will point you in the right direction of everything you’ll need to get growing.
Practice outdoor arts and crafts
Horticulture and nature aren’t the only natural treatments that have been used in healing mental health issues, arts and crafts have also been well documented as having a thoroughly positive effect on people who might be suffering with anxieties and other problems; so it makes sense then that taking part in outdoor crafts groups and attending arts festivals would be doubly positive experiences.  Learning a new skill can be absorbing and interesting, and can easily be combined with a natural setting by simply taking your project outdoors; cross-stitch, crochet and knitting are all really portable crafts, and can be picked up as easily in the local park or nature reserve as they can on the couch – surround yourself with fragrant flowers and leafy green trees, and lose yourself in the great outdoors.
Join a Community Garden program
If you don’t have the space or the inclination to begin gardening on your own, there’s always the option of joining a local community garden project; one space tended by several people, this kind of project combines sowing and growing with interaction with others, and the benefits include fresh produce to take home, an increased sense of community in the neighborhood and a renewed connection with the natural world. Becoming involved in a group gardening project can be an incredibly positive move; as well as being entitled to a percentage of the fruit, vegetables or flowers, there are also the environmental benefits to consider, and the social contact – mixing with other keen gardeners not only helps to build new friendships, but also means you can add to your horticulture skills by learning from those more experienced than you.
True garden glamour…

Friday, August 1, 2014

Garden Encore: The Second Annual NYC Green Industry Field Day at NYBG

The second annual NYC-area Green Industry Intern Field Day, affectionately referred to as “Hortie Hoopla!” resonated with quiet expectation the morning of July 23 as the horticultural interns arrived at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) to sign in for the day’s jam-packed event -- billed from 10 am till dusk.
(I just love that word – so filled with the joy of being outdoors. It’s an unabashed nod toward nature’s rhythms vs. a more “Metro North tempo” clocking in the day’s end at a rather precise sounding 8:37 pm. Don’t you agree?)

Chock-a-block with powerful botanical elements, the Green Industry Field Day agenda was thoughtfully prepared by Charles M. Yurgalevitch, Ph.D., Director, School of Professional Horticulture, (SOPH) NYBG and his enthusiastic team.
(The government needs that Eric!)  
NYBG's Eric Lieberman does the heavy lifting #HortieHoopla

Hortie Hoopla is Yurgalevitch’s brainchild.   Years hence, you can bet that the great nursery-people, plant explorers, designers, writers, public and private garden executives, and leading plant breeders will be referencing the impact this program had on their careers and their commitment to pursue a green industry path to success.

The NYC Green Field Day program offered a mix of inspired career stories, gardeners’ experiences and insightful guidance, together with lunch, a career information session, hands-on, exciting and educational hort tours accompanied by a stimulating Plant ID contest, followed by the BBQ, beer, fun games, and networking in the Family Garden.  

What was forecast as the first -- and the only really hot, humid day of what has been an otherwise delightful summer weather-wise -– the morning air was already thick by the time I arrived at the Garden at 8:45.  The GreenMarket was already up and buzzing; had to grab a Red Jacket Tart Cherry drink (hard to get sometimes at my Union Square GreenMarket).

Inside the cool lobby of the Ross Lecture Hall tables were already lined up waiting for the event’s food and drink Sponsor representatives and business supporters for the career sessions with Town & Gardens, Organic Gardening Magazine, NYC Parks & Recreation, Central Park Conservancy, Shemin Landscape Supply, GrowIt!
In addition to Town & Gardens, other food and drink sponsors included, Landcraft Environments, and Verdant Gardens Design, along with the NYBG bookshop. 

There, NYBG’s John Suskovich was setting up the Shop’s books to sell – many were the books authored by the Hortie Hoopla’s illustrious speakers. 

(John shared with me that he only had one left of my book but would be ordering more of The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook.  Music to my ears.)

Why, speaker Ken Druse alone has produced more than 20 books!  Druse is an award winning, acclaimed garden writer, speaker, photographer, and host of the weekly program, "Real Dirt" 
I adore all things Ken Druse- have most all of his books in our home library and often proudly gift his books.
I often joke I’m a card-carrying member of the Druse fan club.   
One of my most favorite books from the Druse collection is is Natural Companions: The Garden Lover's Guide to Plant Combinations
It’s a gorgeous book – unique in its presentation, and full of helpful plant pairings.  Be sure to check out all of Druse’s books and order for your home library – or to gift.  The make a great hostess gift, too.

Plus, Druse’s seminal feature article, The New Generation Meet six young horticultists who are helping to shape how America gardens for Organic Gardening magazine about the future of horticultural career professionals ignited the very concept for the creation of the Hortie Hoopla, helping to inspire Yurgalevitch's vision for Green Industry Field Day.  A match made in garden / heaven.

This year’s Organic Gardening magazine follow up feature, Next Generation 2.0 The American Garden Scene is Blooming describes four different “young professionals" and the overwhelming success of the series. 
The feature’s head note overview describes how: “The Week the magazine came out (last year), some of the profiled people launched a Facebook group called Emergent: A Group for Growing Professionals.  The group quickly reached more than a 1,000 members…”

Druse and the horticulture mentors had clearly tapped a nerve; they were onto something.
This was a hort revolution of a different source. 
Not your Sissinghurst kind of gardener. This was power gardening for a world of environmental change and climate chaos and urban farming and – wowsy excitement.

Later I asked Druse how he came to identify the candidates for the articles. After all, there truly is an ocean of unrecognized hort talent that abounds in our country.  How does he locate the best ones to feature?

Not a surprise to learn it takes extensive research to come up with his top-tier selections.  Druse said he looks for hort professionals under 30 years of age (seems daunting already) who impress him as “lively” and that he thinks will have an impact on the profession in the years to come.” 
Following the search, he winnows the list with interviews, then comes the writing and editing. 
Druse also noted it’s especially challenging to find female candidates and ones from diverse parts of the country. 
A big salute to Druse for his steadfast commitment to seeking out these hard-to-locate hort pros. 
And here’s hoping the horticulture profession’s top dogs double down its outreach to attract not only women and those from all pockets of the country but to diverse and minority populations, too. 

Knowing Druse’s pioneering commitment and the “planting” of his flag in the “land of future hort,” I couldn’t wait to hear Druse’s talk.
His presentations always prove to be full of imagery, thought-provoking ideas and not inconsequentially - talked about for long after.  
I anticipated his Hortie talk with keen zeal.

On my way in to the Ross Lecture Hall, I saw Druse and another man on the empty stage – scoping out the space. As I was picking up a book to look through at the NYBG table, I learned from Suskevich that the book;  Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener was written by the keynoter Joseph Tychonievich.

Just then Druse and Tychonievich walked into the lobby together, following their stage walk- through.
Tychonievich was a featured New Generation in Druse’s Organic Gardening article, showcased as “The Hybridizer.”

Read the article and I double dare you not to want to gift an heirloom plant for that someone special in your life.  Isn’t an heirloom rose, tomato, or lily or whatever you select to give more enduring and unique than any gift you can think of?
I will be writing more about this heirloom breeding idea!

After the appropriate horticulture hugs and handshakes, I was able to garner Tychonievich’s autograph and ask him about his entrée into the world of plants before becoming an author and speaker. 
Hortie Hoopla Keynoter & Author, Joseph Tychonievich

He told me his enchanting story. 
He is almost the Joseph & Joseph (as in Julia & Julia) of the publishing world. If we swap out plants for cooking and insert a Tom name…

See, Joseph has the hort pedigree: he is a nursery manager at Arrowhead Alpines in his native Michigan, studied plant breeding and genetics at Michigan State and Ohio State universities. And he writes the “Greensparrow Gardens” blog.
So when he wrote a blog posting and got an email from Tom Fischer at Timber Press asking if he’d like to write a book, he did what anyone would do: he ran around the house waving his arms and screaming over and over, “I just got a book deal! I’m gonna be an author!!” 
See the Julia connection now?
Is a film not far behind??

This fairy dust call from a major publisher just doesn’t happen. It’s a myth, a unicorn kind of narrative told to up and comers…
But it did happen to Joseph.

His book, Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener was published by Timber Press in 2013 and he’s working on his second book about Rock Gardens.
I promptly suggested he needed to visit the NYBG Rock Garden – it’s truly one of my most favorites at the Garden.  Surely sprites, or a unicorn might be spotted there…

Before heading off to forage for some good coffee for Druse and me, I saw the Director of the SOPH, Yurgalevitch, carefully managing the morning’s preparations. 
L to R: Tychonievich, Sabine Stenzenbach, Charles Yurgalevitch, Ken Druse
According to Director Yurgalevitch, Hortie Hoopla II was a day to inspire, to introduce to educate, and to unwind. 
He also said “This year’s attendance exceeded our expectations.” The event was oversubscribed.  “For reasons of food, drink and the tours, we were was supposed to max out at 130 total attendees.” 
However, Yurgalevitch said later, he could not turn away the Hort Interns – and so the day attracted a total of 160 of which 120 were interns! 

The day was a Grand Slam home run success by anyone’s count. 

The Stories:

After a warm welcome and overview provided by Yurgalevitch,   Each told a brief, inspiring and commencement-like talk about their journey from hot intern to successful horticulturist.
NYBG's Yurgalevitch Welcome & Overview
he then introduced a succession of five successful, career horticulturists -- chosen expressly because they launched their professional career paths as hort interns.

Ladies first:

Lynden B. Miller, public garden designer in New York City, director of The Conservatory Garden in Central Park, and author of the best selling, Parks, Plants, and People: Beautifying the Urban Landscape
was the first speaker.

Full confession: Lynden is one of my hort idols and I’ve long admired her artful approach to garden design, along with her pragmatic recognition for public garden maintenance even in times of budget constraints.
Good public gardens are nothing less than an investment in living art and better communities.

Miller cited Beatrix Farrand, a pioneer in landscape design and presently, one of the featured women of the Garden’s seasonal exhibit: “Groundbreakers: Great American Gardens & The Women Who Designed Them.”   

Don’t miss the artful nod to Farrand’s work in the Enid A Haupt Conservatory. 

Speaking with a dedicated passion, Miller described being “moved” by public spaces – by the power of well-planted places.  She talked about how these places “bring people and nature together.” 
Miller further explained how a city’s public spaces provide both spiritual and economic benefits, citing the High Line and Bryant Park as just two popular examples.
She encouraged the interns to search for areas that are the “soul of the City” – and to develop them.
“Go for it,” Miller cheered the interns. 

Next speaker up was Annie Novak, co-founder of Eagle Street Rooftop Farm and Manager of NYBG's Edible Academy. Not unlike Facebook’s super successful COO and best-selling author, Sheryl Sandberg; Annie encouraged the interns to “Lean-In” to their mentor.
Novak spoke to the point that “How we share gardens with other people is our way of living.  It’s our Nest Egg.” 
She explained horticulture can be solitary – even if you are working in a public space. “So enjoy your times with the public. Enjoy your visitors,” Novak directed the interns.

It was time for the Gentlemen:

Uli Lorimer, is a former intern and gardener at Wave Hill, now Curator of the Native Flora Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and one of the curators and gardeners I am honored to have worked with.  His knowledge is vast, his ability to communicate his love of plants and the environment, along with his boundless curiosity, appeals to visitors, Martha Stewart, or a Board member, and it makes him ever so valuable to our world of horticulture.  And to the Hortie Hoopla’s message of communicating the values of Hort.

Lorimer told the intern audience about growing up in Germany and with his grandmother’s urging, began what would become a lifelong garden habit: keeping a notebook.  Throughout his life – from college to the National Arboretum to Wave Hill, he’s kept a garden notebook, chronicling plants he likes and doesn’t like. Same goes for garden experiences. .  He encouraged the interns to do likewise.  He added that a career in horticulture and botany is never boring. “The natural world is just so exciting!”

Nick Storrs, former intern at the Last Resort Farm, now the Urban Farm Manager at Randall's Island Park Alliance is also a very poised speaker.  I’ve had the pleasure of learning from Nick: on-site at Randall’s Island Urban Farm, at the Food Tech Conference where he led a panel that featured their efforts to grow rice – the first-ever – in New York City. 
Storrs’ talk employed a very effective way of rendering practical advice: by saying not only what he did do but those things “he wished he’d done.”
This way, he could share not only those things that worked for him on the road to success; he was able to provide wisdom gleaned from his experiences – those things he hadn’t done for any number of reasons but that the interns might look to do if the opportunity presented itself. 
How many of us wish we’d done something different in our professional careers? 
Well, this was a smart and modest way to communicate how to build on opportunities. 

Storrs told the audience of growing up on 100 acres in New Hampshire; how he learned to manage ecosystems to support people.
He urged the interns to think about their financials early on, to look for people to work for who inspire and are non-judgmental.  He shared an example. 
“Three years ago I was graciously given the opportunity to work for two people I very much respect: Phyllis Odyssey and EunYoung Sebazco” – who helped push him to help grow rice in New York on the Randall’s Island Farm – “to play with ways to grow rice.”
He explained it’s been a “powerful and invigorating” experience. 

The next speaker, Brenden Armstrong, was also a featured Hortie–to-watch in Organic Gardening’s “Next Generation” feature.  Armstrong is a 2012 graduate School of Professional Horticulture, did a summer fellowship at Cornell, and is pursuing his BS at KSU.

Armstrong talked about working on a chestnut orchard, his love of keeping busy with new things as he did researching while at Cornell.  Overall, his advice is to continue to learn.  “The more you learn, the better prepared for challenges you will be.”  He still seemed to marvel at where the Organic Gardening feature has led him on his hort career path.
“Look for learning opportunities outside of your field,” he urged the interns.  “Change someone’s life.”

It was now time for the featured speaker, Ken Druse. 

Druse has a measured, authoritative speaking style that seemed to generate a palpable sense of professional pride and bonding within the intern audience.  
What hort intern wouldn’t feel honored to be a part of a long and respected tradition hearing Druse describe how “plants & gardens were venerated – how plant explorers were revered.”

Druse also employs humor to make his points. 
Jake the “body gardener” is a YouTube character (and a real one, I came to find out – not an attempt at parody!) 
Jake is an extreme visual – a poster-child of the all-too-ubiquitous “Mow, Blow, and Go” hapless claim to that of a “landscaper” foisted on unsuspecting homeowners. 

Jake’s video channel that gives “advice” on easy plant and lawn care. 
It’s not good or sound advice, mind you. 
The point Druse is making here is that all too often, horticulture is “dumbed down” and as professionals, we need to fight this perception and work to better inform the population as to the value of true horticulture and best practices.

At the same time, Druse elevates the interns’ dedication to higher hort education and to take aim at those who desecrate our profession and unparalleled historical traditions and their impact.

Druse points out even prominent hort “experts” sometimes extoll the “easy” aspect to gardening over the respectful artful pursuit of well-designed gardens and plant choices, plant preservation, and enduring gardens that are part of our cultural hort patrimony. 
Druse notes HGTV showcases landscapes that “take no time.”
To this, Druse dramatically says, “Noooo!  Landscapes and horticulture do take time!  It’s Not easy!”
You could almost feel the audience revving to a standing ovation.
“It’s what we do!” he emphasizes, giving heightened credibility to the hort professionals.

At that moment, the hort interns all became Druse fans, too!

To further amplify the notion that the general population is too far removed from the world of plants and the need for the hort profession to step up and communicate about our intrinsic connection to flora and the environment, Druse went on to tell about an incident he recently witnessed in Bryant Park where a mother scolded her child: “We do not touch nature.” 
(Think how much that kid’s connection to nature will be diminished.  He’s gonna’ miss so much of life…)     

When Druse checked his watch for the length of his talk at one point, he saw he was just about out of time. But when he attempted to “skip” through a chunk of the presentation, a spontaneous disapproving roar from the audience erupted.
Therefore, Druse dutifully accommodated and continued his talk – much to everyone’s delight.
We loved his inclusion of Fibonacci – why I just love even saying “Fibonacci!”

“We’d be dead without plants.” Druse said, pointedly. 

Eventually it was time for Keynoter Tychonievich.

He is a good speaker: full of enthusiasm, hands-on, relatable experience, and an outgoing visionary trajectory that allows him to offer an authentic, “all-in” experience that sparked the Hortie interns and resonated as a beacon.

Tychonievich talked about his earliest experiences in horticulture: being a part of the Grow It Society, getting into gardening at age five (take that "Plant Blindness" naysayers).   
“I wanted to be a florist back then – it was the only job I knew that had plants and flowers,” he joked.
Tychonievich reiterated an earlier point that he too looks for learning opportunities galore in every nook of horticulture.  “There’s a value in unexpected opportunities,” he noted. He also recommended looking for feedback: online or face-to-face in the garden or nursery. “Learning is huge! Have fun.”

He explained how he has fun “educating” using stories about plant genetics.
Tychonievich showed his Michigan State-colored corn that captured locals’ imaginations better than all the science lectures could hope to.  

He urged the hort audience to better communicate about the fascinating world of plants and what plants can do, what the future of horticulture can be – and perhaps most important, “Where we want to take it.”

“We don’t need a big tulip display to capture our audiences’ attention.”

Celebrity Chefs and Horticulture

Tychonievich compared horticulture to the gourmet food industry to make a few points.
“We need to have that same sense of excitement as celebrity chefs bring to the world of cooking and food.  

Also, “The gourmet food industry doesn’t promote junk food,” he said.  
In the same way, hort professionals shouldn’t “dumb down” or promote the common, monoculture of plant selection and breeding that is becoming all too common. 
“Forget the Knockout Roses. Or ‘trashy annuals.’”
Leave those kinds of plants to the uninformed, he suggested.  

In the same way as a foodie culture, customers frequent restaurants to try new things – both tasting and for the experience, he related.

“Visitors to botanic gardens, public gardens, parks or nurseries should be exposed to plants in the same way.  Offer them the heirlooms, the exotic.”
We need “Gourmet Gardening,” he urged.  

From my own sweet spot where the world of gardens kisses the edible food world – after all, that’s how my book came about – I wanted to explore the nexus of culinary and garden art: to share how growing inspired ingredients allows chefs to create seasonal, local cuisine -- I would add that today’s top chefs and food thought leaders are increasingly turning to learning more about sustainable agriculture to improve soils and taste and yield. 
Look no further than to Blue Hill’s Chef Dan Barber, Chef Tom Colicchio, or Chef Ferran Adrià.
Perhaps the horticulturists and the chefs can come together at the dining table and share talents and passions in a meaningful way… Next year, NYBG?

“Take your customers to an environmental level,” recommended Tychonievich. 

He cited Ikea as an example of an inspiring business model because they set up display compositions where the customer can “see” themselves in the kitchen or living room or whatever room they are selling.
So too, Chanticleer Gardens, for example, inspires its visitors to imagine their garden room compositions at home, he explained. 
I’d add that NYBG inspires too, in its many display gardens, especially the perennial garden and the Ladies’ Border.

Hitting full stride, Tychonievich went on to suggest we need more fun in the garden.
“As horticulturists, we need a way to connect to our gardens and enjoy a social aspect of the garden experience. Beyond the garden clubs.”
He named a kind of Meet-Up for garden enthusiasts that got its start in Austin: Bloggers Fling.
The group just had their 2014 event in July in Portland. ( 

“We need more events like this,” he suggested.  

“Thank God for the Internet” he continued.  “Here, all is possible.  No one needs to ask permission – we can just do it!”
 “The internet is a powerful online world.”

The message was to connect to other hort professionals -- to those who share the passion, the curiosity, the vision and ultimately, the ability to remake our world of gardens, plants, and horticulture.  

The morning was but a passing pfft and it was already time for the break and lunch.  

Lunch & Garden Chat

The interns stopped to talk to the sponsors and business supporters before and after the delicious lunch provided by the Garden. 

The companies hoped to talk and woo the interns much like a job fair or a networked recruiting event.
The Hort-based businesses manning tables were eager to talk to the Hort Interns about career opportunities and new technologies geared just for them. 

For example, while just baby steps away from it’s beta-incubation stage, the GrowIt! Garden Socially App was enthusiastically presented by its horticultural professional developers as a product targeting Millennials and tapping into the need to give power to horticulture and plant geek lovers.

Talk about Pay Dirt!

GrowIt! was also offering three, $500 scholarships. 
Scholarship winners will be chosen from Hort students or those engaged in a related field who use a smart phone (is that redundant?!) and who contribute at least 30 uploads to the App.  Winning candidates will be based on quality and variety of plants provided to the Grow It! App.   

I’ll write a separate review of the GrowIt! App in a forthcoming Garden Glamour blog.  Meanwhile, download the Free App. It’s fun and informative.

It was a swell al fresco lunch of sandwiches, beverages, and conversation where interns and hort leaders chatted about their gardens and park work.  
Lynden Miller & BBG's Mark Fischer

I got to speak with my tablemates who hailed from Ohio and were working at Battery Park. 

I learned one had been a turf manager at a country club in Bronxville but wanted to cycle out of the turf area into plants.  The other intern was gaining experience in the gardens that will contribute to his work as a landscape architect when he completes his studies.
He showed me a series of photos on a recently-completed water garden and native plant walk.  He’s got the chops!

All through lunch, Organic Gardening magazine interviewed the horticulture professionals for an upcoming online video segment.

When it was time for my on-camera interview I was a bit stumped -- not knowing what it was really all about. 
But the interviewer was very good and asked about my background before the interview.  This way she said she could direct appropriate hort and garden questions to ask.
Now all I had to worry about was the bad hair day.
Those record-high temps and humidity contributed to a less then happy coif!
The interview went well enough according to her feedback… 

The Garden Tours

This was not a day for all talk and no action!  

There were separate tours running concurrently.  A Garden curator and/or senior hort executive expertly directed each tour.

The Hortie Hoopla II afternoon was a portfolio of NYBG tours including, the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory and Perennial Garden and the Ladies’ Border, Native Plant Garden and Thain Family Forest, and LuEsther T. Mertz Library, William and Lynda Steere Herbarium

I readily admit I’m way too smitten with the plants, blossoms, and garden design compositions. 

But just like the tech geek I was when working in consumer electronics, I’m equally taken with the engine room – or the back of the operation.

The Library and Rare Book Room are must stops on your next garden visit -- there is just sooo much history and art there.  

I’ll post more about these tours in an upcoming Garden Glamour post.  

Hort interns visit the Herbarium

A highlight of the Garden tours has to be Marc Hachadourian.  Marc is the Director of The NYBG’s Nolen Greenhouses for Living Collections, and knows how to mix his encyclopedic knowledge of the plants, botany, taxonomy with a fun, practical, plant sense to make the tour one you don’t want to end.
NYBG's Marc Hachadourian leads Hortie Hoopla tour of the Conservatory

Throughout the tours, the interns appeared as awed as the Green Professionals were.  
Wave Hill's Director of Horticulture, Louis Bauer

I could sense the interns increasing pride in their chosen career.  It wasn’t just the crazy, pretty, clever plants.  
It was also the diversity of career options.
In a world of Doctor, Lawyer…reality show -- and even within the world of hort where gardener (or florist) may have been fueling their horticulture passion, here they saw hort professionals, growing, breeding, curating, preserving, writing, and managing -- that heretofore they just hadn’t experienced.
The world suddenly was their oyster.  Or orchid!

The interns were also working on the Plant ID Contest throughout the tours, which was a fun way to add an extra dimension to the tour - plus a chance to win prizes at the BBQ dinner.  

Garden Caper

This is an aside or a sidebar experience…
Getting to the dinner held in the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden from the main building proved to be a bit of an adventure.  And not the rewarding plant adventurer kind.

Finishing up our tour of the Groundbreakers’ exhibit in the Library, it was me, Ken Druse and a Planting Fields intern, Alexandria Bogo who found ourselves together, determining how to get to the dinner party in the Edible Landscape from the Watson building.

See, the Family Garden is clear on the other side of the 250-acre Botanical Garden.
So despite priding ourselves on our hardy outdoor styles, we were reluctantly reduced to realizing we didn’t want to walk…
Just then, it seemed the Calvary arrived.  In the form of the Garden’s Tram – that takes visitors on a pre-programmed tour of the Garden.

We were happy enough for the lift. 
But as we meandered past the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden – the driver headed in the opposite direction – heading off to where? The Conifer Collection?
I wasn’t sure.
So I stood up (I’m short ) and called out to the driver to please stop.  The tram is like an elephant daisy-chain and we were far to the rear of the pachyderm-like cart so he didn’t hear me.
I tried to be louder.  No go.
I thought we might be on this Gilligan’s Island tour for far longer than we had time for, so therefore I asked my travel mates if they wanted to jump off. 
I know, I know…
But we did.
Then, no sooner did we hit terra firma than the driver brought the entire tram to a halt.
Mercifully, he didn’t seem the least disturbed.  Rather he said he’d drop us at our destination in five minutes.

True to his word, we were soon walking through the raised beds of the Global Gardens found in the Family Garden and I was pointing out my favorite, The Korean Garden.  The family who tended this garden was always most kind to me…

Dinner in the Garden

Even if it had been a scorcher of a day, it was all cool and happy by the time we arrived and the party had already blossomed.

It was as magical as fireflies in June.  

The tableau was a sensory palette of colorful flowers, spirited laughter, poofs of BBQ clouds and a tablescape set with fresh, homegrown food.

Plus there was craft beer gifted from the Bronx Brewery!  

Along with other beverages, including wine, soda, and water…

The most important ingredient? The networking.  
Yurgalevitch & Planting Field Intern Alexandria Bogo

In a profession that we lament is all too often mostly a solitary one, even when part of a team, here was a chance for the best, brightest, and ambitiously-aspiring, to effectively share ideas, experiences and dreams with one another. 
And we know how this movie ends – the key players collaborate and support one another, great ideas are born and success happens.

Over a bite to eat I had the chance to talk to a few ladies from the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm and learned of their impressions of the day (all good) and their hopes of a future in hort along with hort’s future.  They spoke of their desire to do small-scale agriculture, food production, food justice and access, education, and sustainability.  Wow.

Then as I was leaving, I heard one intern from Parks & Recreation say to her associates while serving up her dinner plate:  “I’m just sooo happy right now.”  

How great is that? 
Put a fork in it. The Hortie Hoopla II was yet another success.

I left to walk to the train while the event continued its lovely, happy setting.


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All are top-tier experts, leaders in our horticulture, garden, and local communities.  Their craft contributes to a better, prettier, tastier, and more sustainable lifestyle. 
They are investing in the next generation of green professionals -- Please support them with your patronage.

Town and Gardens, Ltd:

Landcraft Environments, Ltd

Organic Gardening

Verdant Gardens Design

Bronx Brewery

Carl Schurz Park Gardening Volunteers