Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The New York Botanical Garden Unveils Commissioned Installations by Renowned Belgian Floral Artist, Daniel Ost, for their 16th Annual Orchid Show Launching March 3

Yesterday was the annual Press Preview for The New York Botanical Garden’s (NYBG) premiere exhibit, the Orchid Show. Orchids are the “eye candy” of the plant world and I’d be hard-pressed to name a single soul that doesn’t find them completely irresistible.

Their dazzling colors, shapes, “faces,” fragrance, mystery, and sheer beauty have captivated cultures around the world, as well as plant explorers, writers, fine artists -- painters and photographers and jewelry makers - - and of course, visitors to this annual blockbuster.

We just can’t get enough of orchids.

I for one, just recently trekked up to the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest (from where I was working at Hacienda Cusin in San Pablo, near Otavalo) where there are more orchids than anywhere due to the country’s biological diversity. This Andean paradise boasts more than 30,000 wild orchids so far identified -- almost 25% percent of Ecuador’s flora. I’ll provide a complete cloud forest and orchid discovery posting about that soon.

Closer to home, the annual Orchid Show at NYBG has gained a much-deserved reputation for strutting the orchid’s glamorous good looks as well as teaching us about the orchid plant’s diversity and cultural significance to a number of countries, including last year’s inspiring Thailand-themed exhibit or previously, the dazzling and “uplifting” chandelier installations that compelled you to look up in 2015 or the take-your-breath away beauty of the 2013 show .

This year, it was quite evident how much professional respect and love and mutual admiration there is between the NYBG Horticultural staff and the revered Daniel Ost and his team.

Todd Forrest, Arthur Ross Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections & Daniel Ost at press preview

Scores of the press in attendance were swooning over Ost and past features they’ve been honored to write.

I saw that my botanical artist friend, Ellen Hovercamp (I own three of her fabulous pieces, featured in our bedroom; Ellen collaborates with horticultural expert, designer, and author, Ken Druse, most notably in the book, Natural Companions ) had retrieved Ost’s book Floral Art and The Beauty of Impermanence - a stunning compilation of the artist’s unparalleled floral designs.
Botanical Artist Ellen Hovercamp with her Daniel Ost book ready for autograph 

No less CBS has described him as "the world's leading flower designer," while the New York Times says that "to call him a master flower designer is akin to calling Annie Leibovitz a shutterbug.”

NYBG notes “Ost is celebrated worldwide for his eye-catching installations in private and public spaces, working with both living and cut flowers.

His large-scale artwork has drawn comparison to that of renowned sculptors Anish Kapoor, Claes Oldenburg, and Andy Goldsworthy. In Belgium he has been called “the Picasso of flower arranging,” and in France he was touted as “the international star of floral decoration.” Daniel Ost lives and works in Sint-Niklaas, Belgium, where he was born and raised.

Mr. Ost’s recent YouTube interview for the Garden helps explain his approach to the installation. Many orchids are epiphytes -- meaning they grow on the surface of another plant or tree, getting their nutrients from the air, rain, and water. And Ost says he was very much drawn to the orchid’s ability to grow like this.

He also explains why he chose the clear, plastic tubes that the orchid blossoms are attached to “like vines,” he says - throughout the three key installations in the show.

There is a huge funnel-like structure in the Palms of the World Gallery, right near the entrance to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory where the Orchid event is located at NYBG.

Rather than seeing a breathtaking display reflected in the moody black water of the pool here - the towering design in the Conservatory’s Palms of the World Gallery, is an 18-foot-tall sculpture by Ost that is meant to complement the height of the 90-foot-tall dome overhead.

“In the Seasonal Exhibition Galleries, his designs speak to the architecture of the glasshouse.”

There are two more site specific living art installations: a bamboo dome that holds an array of color-coordinated fiery yellows, oranges and red orchids.

The other is a hanging bamboo structure that runs the length of the central axis and is filled with Kodedama -- hanging orchids planted in moss.

I do love these and have been successfully growing one made by floral designer and landscape architect, EunYoung Sebazco and graduate of the Gardens School of Professional Horticulture, that I got at the “Nature in Art” show I curated not too long ago.

Within this area there are also kaleidoscopes of drop-dead gorgeous orchids and companion plants. These “orchid companions” include croton, dracaena, and more.

I especially liked the unique kalanchoe - Kalanchoe, Vrisea, Phormium on display that picked up the soft, subtle greens and flamingo pinks of the orchids.

We were told that Ost spotted these within the Garden’s Collection and insisted he wanted to have them in the installation. What a great eye for harmony the master has ...

I do recommend you go to see and experience the Orchid Show - and moreover, all the special collateral, orchid-themed events the Garden has lined up.

This show underscores the fact that art is provocative - it moves us and touches each of us in unique and profound ways. For me, I didn’t care for the clear tubes woven in and about the orchids like so many skeins of yarn. It looked like life support tubes in a medical environment and detracted from the simple elegance and sheer beauty of the orchid plants. I know. I know. I get the narrative and the artful back story. I have more than respect for Ost and his informed and impressive floral art installation. I write this with hesitation. I don’t want to be arbitrary or a spoiler. But I must be honest. It’s just that I prefer to see the orchids. In a more pristine or pretty design.  This appears “messy” to me.
I had a challenge getting past the plastic tubes...

When I got on the subway this morning I saw an image that was reminiscent of the installation's tubes ...

Don’t hate me because I see the link with the Ost orchid tubes …

In years’ past, the orchids help tell the story of a culture or environmental diversity but at the same time were set in a tableau or “living picture” that was more sensual and inviting. And well, to be frank and honest, it was more glamorous and elegant.

Though, I do like the artist’s dreamy rendering: (there was just a lot more tubing in the final look).

Floral Artist Daniel Ost A Daniel Ost conceptual rendering for The Orchid Show

I’m sure that evenings in the show will be spectacular and help to showcase the blooms.

During “Orchid Evenings throughout the run of the exhibition, visitors experience music, tours, and special performances, with cash bars offering for purchase beer, wine, and cocktails, including the Dancing Lady, especially created for Orchid Evenings by Edible Bronx’s head mixologist.” The Garden notes “You can warm up around fire pits on Conservatory Plaza, then head into the glasshouse to explore the exhibition. Live performers add extra flair to the stunning displays of orchids, while curated music by a live DJ creates the perfect atmosphere to explore The Orchid Show. Alice Farkey’s whimsical Orchid Ladies roam the Conservatory.

Orchid Evenings are from 6:30– 9:30 p.m. on March 17, 24, and 31, April 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, and 21, and are for adults 21 and over.

Back to the floral art displays. We were told the clear tubes capture the sunlight and reflect… But I thought it was a bit of the Emperor’s New Clothes… There was the inarguable fact that there is a lot of plastic tubing to look at. I don’t like plastic. I was doomed.

The Ost-designed installations were also disappointing to me because while there were three, they are similar in style using clear tubing and bamboo as structural elements with the orchids featured on that. No reveal or aha or heart-clutching mystery…

While there are more orchids on display this year I was told, it didn’t create that impact or visual...

Let me know what you think after you experience the show.

The overwhelming element is: the orchids are sublime. 
Go for the plants!

This year, NYBG’s 16th Annual Orchid Show Runs from March 3 through April 22, 2018

News on the show from the NYBG team: “The 2018 edition of The Orchid Show at The New York Botanical Garden, exhibiting commissioned works by Daniel Ost, opens on March 3 and runs through April 22, 2018. Entering its16th year, the popular exhibition, showcasing thousands of dramatically displayed orchids in the Botanical Garden’s historic Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

One of the world’s leading floral designers, Ost uses flowers as a means of expression. He identifies himself as a bloembinder, the Dutch term for an artist who works with flowers. His large-scale artworks have been tailored to the unique environment of the landmark Victorian- style Haupt Conservatory, complementing the architecture of the building while creating a transformative, dazzling spectacle of color, form, and texture. Bamboo arranged in grids and calling to mind the glass grids of the Conservatory, and clear tubing meant to both evoke water and connect to the Conservatory’s glass, are among the materials employed in his artful installations to which individual orchids are attached so that each flower and form can be seen and appreciated. The works pay homage to his training in ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging. In ikebana, artists value the ideas of wabi-sabi, a philosophy that finds beauty in imperfection, asymmetry, and impermanence.

Ost trained in Belgium and the Netherlands before visiting Japan for the first time in 1983 where he befriended Noboru Kurisaki, one of the most prominent grand masters of ikebana, who became his mentor and teacher. He taught Ost that a single flower used the right way can be more impactful than thousands of flowers used en masse. This concept is particularly evident in one of Ost’s designs on view in The Orchid Show.

The Hudson Garden Grill is open for meals and light bits before Orchid Evening festivities.

Dining options include Hudson Garden Grill, NYBG’s full-service restaurant, and at the Pine Tree Café.

Orchid Show visitors may select from thousands of top-quality orchids, from exotic, hard-to- find specimens for connoisseurs to elegant yet easy-to-grow varieties for beginners, available for purchase at NYBG Shop, along with orchid products and books. Along with plenty of other, plant-inspired objets d’art, tablescape accessories, fashion, fragrance, and hostess gifts.

Orchids are eternally fascinating and have so much to teach us. Adult Education at NYBG gas thoughtfully produced and curated a number of classes you’ll enjoy participating in. See the lineup here:

Myths abound about how hard it is to care for this ever-popular orchid. Jim Freeman dispels those myths with plenty of sensible advice on how to treat your phalaenopsis so that it blooms year after year. Light, water, nutrients, repotting, and root care are all key. Walk away feeling confident and equipped with the knowledge to make your orchids thrive.

Saturday, March 17; 11 a.m.–2 p.m., NYBG Instructor: Jim Freeman


Frank Guida, beloved Botanical Art teacher and orchid aficionado, shows you what he’s learned from years of helping out in NYBG’s Nolen Greenhouses, demonstrating when and how to divide and repot your orchids without trauma (to you or the plants!). Learn about different types of containers and potting media and making your own bark mix.

Saturday, March 24; 10 a.m.–12:30 p.m., NYBG Instructor: Frank Guida

ORCHID MOUNTING (image from orchids made easy)

Show off the exquisite beauty of an orchid by mounting it on cork. Not only is this a showstopping piece of living décor, it is also healthy for the plant, mimicking the way epiphytic orchids grow in nature. Frank Guida, botanical artist and orchid aficionado, will discuss which species thrive on mounts and how to care for your newly mounted orchid.

aturday, March 24; 2–4:30 p.m., NYBG Instructor: Frank Guida

Get an exclusive opportunity to photograph The Orchid Show using your DSLR 100- 300mm telephoto lens, and dedicated speedlights. Master techniques to achieve

the best lighting and exposure for these vibrant flowers without the use of tripods or monopods. Afterward, return to the classroom for a review and critique of your images.

Required Equipment: DSLR, zoom telephoto lens (100-300mm focal length), other lenses if you desire, lens hood, dedicated speedlight, brackets, hotshoe cable or remote, and lunch.

Tuesday, April 3; 9 a.m.–3 p.m., NYBG Instructor: Jeffrey Falk


Create a mini rainforest with air plants and orchids in an open-style terrarium. Maria Colletti, author of Terrariums, will guide you as you design your own, and provide instruction on the care and maintenance of your miniature plant world.

Wednesday, April 4; 6:30–8:30 p.m., NYBG Monday, May 21; 6:30–8:30 p.m., Midtown Center Instructor: Maria Colletti

Get pro tips on how to care for orchids in less than optimal environments. Barbara Schmidt, award-winning exhibitor at the Philadelphia Flower Show and author of Orchid Care: For the Beginner, will walk you through which orchid genus will fare best in your indoor environment, as well as how to ensure your orchids have what they need to grow and bloom. Optional: Bring Your Own Orchid so Barbara can help you identify and/or troubleshoot its problems.

Saturday, April 14; 11 a.m.–1 p.m., NYBG Instructor: Barbara Schmidt

Register for classes at

For more information about The Orchid Show and to purchase tickets, please visit the Garden’s Web site,

Some last minute prep by the Hort staff proved to almost be the best part of the orchid show. 
Thank you.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine's Flowers: Roses & Orchids, Champagne, Cocktails, Kissing, Dining Out & Love...

I’m thinking there is no more enduring, more classic, more romantic way to say “I love you” and to celebrate Valentine’s Day than with champagne, roses, and - I thought a new twist on the classic - with orchids.

Incredibly, as I was writing this loving holiday blog post, my husband, Bill, came home and surprised me with a floral arrangement of blossoms and fragrant blooms in luscious colors - that he selected from the florist.

And guess what? The composition included those very same blooms I was dreaming - er, writing about!

I don’t know about you but my experience with floral design has not been one where these two exotic and beloved blooms have been natural partners.
I did a Google search to confirm my curiosity - and by and large - it’s true.


Orchids are love. They elicit emotions.

Did you know there are more than 28,000 distinct species of orchids? Ecuador - with only 0.21% of the world’s landmass is home to approximately 4,000 orchids. (The US has fewer than 200) -- according to a wonderful book, “Birds, Butterflies, and Orchids - A Life in the Cloud Forest,” authored - and autographed - by Carlos Zorrilla.

I chose to include the orchids because - well - they are the jewels of the plant world.
Orchids are eye candy. And The New York Botanical Garden will premiere its Orchid Show soon - I’m looking forward to the press premiere in a week or so.

And even more significant - I’ve just returned from this year’s garden design and horticulture work at Hacienda Cusin in Ecuador -- a kind of plant paradise to say the least.

And while there, I scooted up to the Cloud Forest to not only meet Sandy - my Spanish instructor -- (we do Facebook classes but I’d never met her in person - and she runs an Air BnB there as El Refugio de Intag ), but to see and discover the incredible and rare orchids there in the Intag. Sandy and her husband gave part of their land to Ecuador for the reserve where the orchids grow. More on this in another post but by way of reference - orchids have really been on my mind as of late, as you can imagine.

Here are a few of the images from my rare orchids discovery adventure in the Cloud Forest.

Many see faces in their glamorous blooms and love in their expressions.


This is a monkey orchid!

Most folks don’t know that Vanilla is an orchid.

It’s a legendary plant and flavor; loved the world over.

You can combine almost any orchid in your flower arrangement and a vanilla flavor in Valentine’s Day cocktails.

A rare breed of a gold orchid can also be enjoyed in tea or broth or as part of a facial spa skin treatment. Dendrobium has a wonderful taste of honey. Or use the rare orchids that have been artfully crafted intp a special fragrance to be gifted to your loved one.

Sustainable Flowers

Veriflora® Sustainably Grown certification assures that cut flowers meet the very strictest standards of environmental and social responsibility.

So when you give flowers this year, you can tell your loved one that you are also taking care of the environment, farmworkers, and farm communities.

This is the “gold” standard in sustainability certification for ornamental horticulture. Third-party certification assures buyers and consumers that cut flowers and potted plants have been produced in an environmentally and socially responsible way, with practices that achieve the highest level of product quality.

I asked the ladies at Veriflora a few questions about the certification, costs, and if the certificate is US only.
In less time than you can say Dendrobium or Trichophilia fragrans they were back with answers. I’m was happy to learn the certification program has been active since about 2003. And embarrassed I hadn’t had this on my radar until now. (why is that?!)

Veriflora certifies domestic and imported flowers, as well as potted plants. And, to the best of their knowledge, these flowers are not more expensive than non-certified so that makes it a no-brainer to ask for them at your local florist.
Their clients are certified across the U.S., as well as in Columbia, Costa Rica, and Ecuador.

Up until this year, visitors to Hacienda Cusin where I work every January doing garden design, could explore the nearby rose plantations and operations. The Sierra in Ecuador is known for its roses and dairy. A few years ago, I wrote about “Spanking Your Flowers! and the Symbols and Meaning for Valentine’s Day Blooms & Blossoms” that was, in part, inspired by the rose-growing in Ecuador where they grow an abundance of the world’s roses -- and not surprisingly, the end of January is crazy busy time as they line up the rainbow of roses for the world.

Coco Chanel once said “I only drink champagne on two occasions: when I am single and when I am not.”

Coco is not just my fashion hero - but I have blissfully inherited her name as my nickname - so christened by friends/associates at The New York Botanical Garden and garden clients, too. I love it.

And love the Coco quote…

I’ve selected a few champagne infused cocktails here for your celebration - today and well, every day that Cupid strikes…

The Siren by Ingi R. Sigurdsson

Photo courtesy of Reyka


1.5 fresh Lemon juice

1 oz simple (1:1)

1 oz St. Germain

3 oz Reyka vodka

6 oz champagne


Combine all ingredients into cocktail shaker except champagne.

Shake, top with the champagne - or prosecco - garnish and serve in a Bordeaux/Burgundy wine glass over flower ice cubes.

How to Make the Flower Ice Cubes:

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

Ingredients for flower ice cube liquid:

4 liters - or a little more than a gallon of water

24 oz simple syrup 1:1

10 droppers Orange flower water

10 droppers rose water


Stir till all ingredients combined

Freeze in 1x1 molds with the Sonia Orchids

I adore champagne - and maple syrup - nectars of the goddesses and gods.  So when I was sent this recipe by the Maple Guild, I did a double blink back. Too good to be true!
Photo courtesy of the Maple Guild

Beau & Arrow by The Maple Guild


1 oz vodka

½ oz creme de cassis

¾ oz champagne

1 tsp The Maple Guild Vanilla Bean maple syrup

Shake all but champagne in the cocktail shaker. Pour into a coupe glass. Top with the champagne.  Garnish with a maraschino cherry or raspberry or chocolate maple candy from that box that you probably just opened.

Winter Rose

Photo courtesy of Vivanco 

2 oz Vivanco Rosado Wine

2 oz Brut Champagne

.5 oz Elderflower Syrup

Splash of Pressed Clementine Juice

Garnish with Halved Fresh Cranberries

Sprinkle of Ground Clove

* Build over Ice

French 75

The French 75 is one of two cocktails named after the French 75mm field gun, which was commonly used in World War I.


2 ounces gin

1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 teaspoons sugar

Champagne or sparkling wine

Garnish: long thin lemon spiral and cocktail cherry


Fill cocktail shaker with ice. Shake gin, lemon juice, and sugar in a cocktail shaker until well chilled, about 15 seconds. Strain into a champagne flute.

Top with champagne. Stir gently, garnish with a long, thin lemon spiral and a cocktail cherry.

If you plan to drink your champagne straight - please choose a quality sparkling wine. It’s a special occasion, after all. I researched and found this complete guide to champagne from Wine Folly that sorts out all the different brands at every price point.


Pucker up -- kissing is a sweet exercise just made for Valentine’s Day. Hugging is another romantic “workout” along with hand-holding and …. Well, all this food and drink are mere aphrodisiacs, no?

Because lot’s of kissing is surely in order, it is important to keep your lips healthy and moisturized -- year-round -- but now that the year’s most kissable holiday is here, the lips can use some extra care. And my friend Trish Alkaitis has a sweet offer.
Check this out: Alkaitis gifting you a free 'Love Your Lips' Organic Lip Treatment with any online purchase of $89 on

The Organic Lip Treatment gives your lips that shiny attractive glow while protecting and nourishing them, providing a long lasting deep treatment.

Dining out

If you you’re in Gotham, you might relish a four-course meal from Irvington at W Union Square. Dishes like Arctic Char Crudo and Chestnut Agnolotti are on the the $65 pre-fixe menu, as well as a dessert platter for two.

Even sweeter? There’s a $55 champagne pairing available as well, including Domaine Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Dom Perignon and Moët Rose.

Midtown? Check out Kingside in Viceroy Central Park is offering up an À la carte Valentine’s Day menu with dishes like ravioli and a Moulard Duck dish for two. Top the meal off with $55 champagne tasting featuring luxe selections like Veuve Clicquot and Moët Rose.

If you’re planning to go out, here’s a splendid spot in Gotham: bar Sardine, Gabriel Stulman's intimate Greenwich Village neighborhood gastropub.

Managing Partner/resident cocktail guru Brian Bartels has crafted a special NOLA-inspired drink menu for the occasion of Mardi Gras/Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day (sort of a hat-trick of holy occasions), featuring smart cocktails like the Big Freedia 63 (a take on the French 75 with singani, lillet, lemon, lavender, prosecco... and twerking) and Forgive me Father, For I Have Pimmed -- it is Ash Wednesday, after all. This one is inspired by the classic Pimm's Cup with rye, becherovka, amaro, and Pimms. I love most everything with a good amaro.

Dining In

Be sure to create a tablescape worthy of your loves: friends, family, food, drink - and entertaining. 
I am creating one for a Ladies Who Lunch Valentine’s / Lunar New Year celebration next week. It’s the Year of the Dog!

Here’s the work in progress: (details to follow)

Photo courtesy of Virginia Popik

Photo courtesy of Virginia Popik 

Kisses and hugs for a sweet Valentine’s Day celebration filled with glamorous flowers, drink, food, and lots and lots of love.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Mark Your Garden Calendars: Wave Hill's Annual Lecture Series features Sarah Raven 2/21; Timothy Young 3/21

Sarah Raven, Photo Credit: Jonathan Buckley

The 2018 Wave Hill Horticultural Lectures are devoted to the subject of garden design and the meaning of our interactions with plants and the natural world, offering the opportunity to enjoy three evenings -- two remain on the schedule - with speakers distinguished in their fields.

I always enjoy these artful garden lectures - the speakers are world-class and the content of the talks are all about the world of gardens - but not strictly in a horticultural perspective.

Plus, the venue is a good one - relaxed, sophisticated, and easy to get to.
Held at the New York School of Interior Design in Manhattan, the annual series is hosted by Wave Hill's Senior Director of Horticulture and the Friends of Horticulture Committee.

Sarah Raven: The Cutting Garden is the second in this year’s series.

An inspirational and passionate teacher and award-winning author, Sarah Raven has been running cooking, flower arranging, growing and gardening courses at Perch Hill—her farm in East Sussex—and across England, since 1999.

Her talk is all about how to prepare, plant, maintain and harvest buckets of flowers from your garden—from March to November—with her best sowing and growing techniques. Raven has written for The Saturday Telegraph, Country Living, Gardens Illustrated, The English Garden and more.

The final lecture of the series takes place on March 21, when Timothy Young focuses on the archival legacies of several 20th-century writers and artists who built gardens.

Timothy Young: Paper Trails−Writers and Gardens in the Archives
The stories of great gardens are told in their physical presence—and on paper. Archives show the planning and execution of gardens through journals and sketches. They also reveal the philosophy of the gardener.

This lecture focuses on the archival legacies of several 20th-century writers and artists who built gardens, including Vita Sackville-West, Robert Dash and Rupert Barneby and Dwight Ripley. Timothy Young holds the title of Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts at Beinecke Library at Yale University.

New York School of Interior Design
170 East 70th Street · New York, NY 10021

Wednesday, February 21, 2018, and Wednesday, March 21, 2018, 6–7:30PM

Single Lecture: $25/$20 Wave Hill Member or student

Seating is limited, and advance reservations are recommended, online.

Enjoy the garden glamour in this special series.
A 28-acre public garden and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades, Wave Hill’s mission is to celebrate the artistry and legacy of its gardens and landscapes, to preserve its magnificent views, and to explore human connections to the natural world through programs in horticulture, education and the arts.

HOURS: Open all year, Tuesday–Sunday and many major holidays: 9AM–4:30PM; Mar 15–Oct 31, closes 5:30 PM

ADMISSION TO THE GROUNDS: $8 adults, $4 students and senior 65+, $2 children 6-18. Free Tuesdays and Saturdays until noon. Free to members, children under 6.

DIRECTIONS: Getting to Wave Hill is easy - and kind of fun - because you pass my favorite train station stop: Spuyten Duyvil -- (I just love saying that name - maybe because it harkens back to my Dutch ancestors…) and also because Wave Hill actually picks you up in a van - so you feel like a star!

Located only 30 minutes from midtown Manhattan, Wave Hill’s free shuttle van transports you to and from their front gate and Metro-North’s Riverdale station, the W. 242 Street stop on the #1 subway line, and to and from our free offsite parking lot. Limited onsite parking is available for $8 per vehicle. Complete directions and shuttle van schedule at

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Metro Hort's Plant-O-Rama Recap: Glamorous Plants Premiere; Landscape Design featuring Dan Pearson

Plant-O-Rama banner

This was the best Plant-O-Rama ever. (Do I say that every year?)

Seriously, I’d argue, it was. I’ll be willing to wager there’d be few disagreements among the more than 1,000 attendees - the largest in the nearly quarter of a century that Plant-O-Rama has produced its peerless plant extravaganza, dedicated to horticulture in the New York metropolitan area; with implications for the world of horticulture.

Horticulture is one of the few careers whose professionals are ceaseless in pursuing more knowledge, more education -- the pros want to explore the latest plant discoveries and releases and plant design trends - all to improve and enhance a client’s garden beauty and health and to create landscapes that dreams are made of... Tracing evolving climate conditions, we learn about new drought-tolerant beauties, or plants that thrive in sunnier or shadier spaces; along shapes and textures that contour to smaller urban or suburban gardens - and then there’s new colors and fragrance plant gems that add the glamour to our gardens. It’s like the spring runway collections on view.

Officially, this was the 22nd annual Plant-O-Rama event. The day-long program hosted by Metro Hort was brimming with its plant ‘pillars” or foundation elements, including:

  • Symposium 
  • Breakout Sessions
  • Trade Show
  • Jobs Fair
  • Silent Auction
  • Book Sale 
Adding value and sizzle to the plant “pillars” or foundation of this horticulture tradition is what enfuses and distinguishes the marquee event for the area’s hortie hoi polloi.

There’s a running joke now about how every year there is a snow storm for Plant-O-Rama (POR) -- so much so that even if you were a meteorologist in training - you’d be safe in forecasting snow - no matter what the Farmer’s Almanac or the satellites were predicting!

POR is held annually at Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG), ever since Bob Hyland, who had recently served as BBG’s vice president for Horticulture there - hatched the concept and presented it to then BBG president, the venerable Judy Zuk. And I am forever grateful for Bob’s enduring garden design at BBG: Bluebell Wood. It’s an enchanting spring garden destination. And was the site for Dave Matthews’ Dream Girls video featuring Julie Roberts. It was fun managing this production one fine spring day when I worked at BBG.

This year, the newly installed president of Metro Hort, Charles Yurgalevitch, greeted the SRO morning audience, outlining the day’s agenda, along with touting the benefits of Metro Hort membership - including field trips to area gardens and parks, lectures, job postings, calendar of events, resources, and plant professional’s networking.
Charles Yurgalevitch, President of Metro Hort greets audience at Plant-O-Rama 

BBG’s president and CEO, Scott Medbury, welcomed the audience to the Garden, noted the annual snow that dusts the plants and marks the occasion -- and the Garden did indeed look breathtaking, I must add. Very Instagram-worthy:

Medbury invited all to tour the garden in its “winter white,” highlighting new and renovated gardens and described a new, woodland garden that will premiere in 2018, to be named for Elizabeth Scholz, BBG’s Director Emeritus, former president and at 97 - a beloved icon to all.

Bob Hyland,

POR’s father/founder, who now lives in a kind of plant paradise in Portland, Oregon where he designs gardens from his Contained Exuberance - wouldn’t miss the annual event for love or money. Well… Bob thanked all the important sponsors who make the event possible: Town & Gardens, Brooklyn Brewery, media sponsor: Heritage Radio Network - along with the full list of POR sponsors. Thank you.

With full fanfare - Bob then introduced the featured speaker, Dan Pearson the celebrated English garden designer, naturalist, and media personality.

This is why we got there early to enjoy a front row seat!

Featured Speaker - Dan Pearson

With a colorful presentation that was narrated by Dan in his light, British cadence, we were taken on chronological journey detailing the life - so far - of Dan’s horticultural transitions from a child who gardened with his father to today.

His first garden triumph was a yellow border he planted at his childhood home -- an early 1900’s cottage. “This was my first recorded garden plan,” explained Dan - showing a garden design drawing. “I used planting combinations to create space.” he said. This strategy seems to have become a core tenet of Dan’s landscape design throughout his illustrious career.

This charming anecdote demonstrated the garden designer possessed the gift at a very early age.

He continues to adhere to the belief that gardens are “places that recalibrate you - that make you sing.” How lovely.

Dan secured a scholarship at Wisely, the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) world-class garden to study horticulture. Here, and later traveling to such locales as Jerusalem or the Valley of the Flowers in the Himalayas, he explained was a true revelation seeing the gardens in natural setting. He showed images that he said “Draws itself back.”

From that home acre of a hedged garden to the world’s natural gardens was a journey that allowed Dan to explore, observe, learn and eventually, create a natural landscape design portfolio that has brought him worldwide acclaim.

At 17 years old, Dan was able to secure his first commission. His client was a French fashion designer with three gardens and a four-acre pallette. Here, he was able to implement a “No Boundaries” look, working a Borrowed Landscape design style with waves of plants - not unlike his garden travels showed him.

Dan also discovered how color changes mood. The “hot” colors of the color wheel could send pulses racing. As a proof point, Dan noted how Fast Food establishments use this body and mind alteration to augment their need for speed -- you get you in and out faster because the color is helping to generate a sense of urgency. Yikes. Not your Gramercy Tavern idea of dining…

Next, Dan shared his first garden designs for the prestigious RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Classic designs.

It was there that he met a garden design client from Rome. She slipped travel tickets under his door -- and soon, he was roaring down an Appian highway with his chain smoking patron!

Here he worked with the landscape to create a naturalistic, wild garden on the 400 hectares filled with steps, walls, vistas - and plants.

I love the way he described that it wasn’t a garden “a toll” rather it was “small moods and atmospheres” -- a dramatic, fragrance-filled retreat.

Love the white floribundas wisteria near the house...

Back in the Britain, Dan worked on Maggie’s Center - a cancer care facility that was clearly close to his heart.

This project was a “restoration but looking forward” according to Dan. He was inspired by the Arts & Crafts movement as inspired by Gertrude Jekyll.

This was to be a healing garden - in the truest sense. He described how often, it takes the patients (members?) more than three attempts to just get in. The enormity of their cancer is just too overwhelming… The gardens have allowed them a serenity and “a way to look at time differently” as the plants are always changing - calibrating the times of the year - pulling people in to stop and see and experience the environment. The courtyards and ornamental and edible gardens are designed to heighten the transporting plant immersion and experience.

There is a rhythm to the gardens there that all appreciate.

What did the gardens here provide? “Hope.”

Next, Dan brought us to work he did in some public spaces. Sadly, the government budgets are being cut in Britain too. But he was delighted to have the opportunity to work on London’s Kings Cross Development and its pocket parks and squares -- employing his signature back-to-nature and the seasons style. He used a series of rills and a reference to old train lines to showcase a sense of place and a respect for the history there. “We got to work with really good plants; use really good horticulture practices in order to create the series of spaces,” Dan explained.

The next project was fueled with an ethereal respect for nature and the landscape.

Located in the Tokachi district in the Hokkaido prefecture of Japan -- close to Russia - where the temperatures can plummet -25 degrees possesses a haunting beauty.

Owned by a Japanese newspaper magnate, he approached Dan to collaborate on a series of landscapes and to create a reconnection to the natural world; to safeguard the trees who call the 400 hectares home. The team was charged with making an ecological park that would last for 1,000 years.

It’s a soft-sell education that appeals to multi generations.

Dan envisioned and then designed a series of spaces. Once again. While designing a look that appears like the clearings at the edge of the forest.

He gently manipulated the native plants there: Forget Me Nots, Primula, a kind of skunk cabbage and persicarias.

He designed a landscape plan that included 18 plant combinations. The strongest plants take hold and are then the gardener can steer & direct the plants.

He created and worked with plant drifts in the glade and lots of ornamental grasses.

Along with Midori, the onsite horticulture lead on the landscape, Dan created a space that leads out through planting areas via a series of waves. “Children seem to disappear or to go over the edge.” Dan laughed as he described how parents watching their children from inside react with alarm at seeing what they think is their children dropping away - then run out to retrieve them - and then they too drop away.”

He added, “It gets people into landscape.”

They are making a difference - changing way people think - about landscapes and horticulture with design.

“We’ve created a dreamy feeling. Visitors can get lost in the immersive, natural landscape,” said Dan, pointing out how here again, color creates a mood.

Speaking of dreamy - before showing us a few images of his own country house in England -- which is very much dreamy -- he showed a massive project restoring and designing for the future of Lowther Castle and Gardens that’s been nestled in the Lake District since the 1700’s.

Peppered with a family history that rivals a film narrative, but grounds that boast Capability Brown elements too, this is an incredible garden story that includes some magic, lots of discoveries, and personalities. He’s been working on this scale since September, 2016, taken in bite sized, 2 year project pieces.

He said he doesn’t tend to use specimen plants but here it worked -- stately trees that set off the oak benches in the courtyard that’s used for events such as Halloween or Guy Fawkes.
Here's a time-sped video of the planting in the courtyard:

And creating parterres as tapestry.

Those walls are an incredible gift of a backdrop.

Also, Himalayan poppies are special things with high Horticulture value seen in the high windows as aperture.

He’s also creates a rose garden with a maize to move through - using a rose as the blueprint for the paths to lead you through.

I love that he designed the benches with legs as thorns.

His own place is 20 acres in Peckham, near Bath.

“It has Incredible soil!” he shared with glee. Of course he has incredible soil. What luck…

He created series of landfalls here, the first was an edible garden.

Again, he uses the borrowed view to design his garden rooms.

“I’m in tune with the seasons. With the environment, here. I can experiment with plants and designs.Not on client.”

It’s a living portfolio.

You can follow along on his Blog, Dig Delve.

And you get order his book, Natural Selection. I got my autographed copy for my home library.

More from Plant-O-Rama

Underused Plants of Interest

This was a breakout session hosted by Jim Glover, Glover Perennials and Joyann Cirigliano, Atlantic Nurseries. (What a happy hortie name: Joyann!)

Jim was a very good speaker - I liked his honest and pragmatic - and passionate delivery. “Some aren’t so great!” and “These are good performers” appealed to me and the audience of working gardeners.

A few of Jim’s stars included: Primula sieboldii ‘Fuji Snow’ that is a good choice for hot, humid summers.

He also showed ‘Drag Queen,’ ‘Seneca Star’ and ‘Musashino’.

Jim pointed out a number of great Ferns - that are great companions too for Platycodons for the ephemeral spring gardens. The Bellflowers are excellent cut flowers and hardy to Zone 4, he noted.

There were so many great plants Jim showed and described.

Here’s a partial list:

Geum triflorum - a spring-blooming reddish pink herbaceous plant - the Native ‘Prairie Smoke’ that is astonishingly pretty in pink.

I will surely use this in border garden designs this year.

Deer resistant Zone 3

Zizia aptera 'Alexanders'

Heart shaped leaf big yellow umbles . May - July attract pollinators

Full sun - some shade

Zone 4. Three-feet tall natives - and they self sow. So be careful.

Jim said they work well in Rain Gardens or a Meadow -- as they are best with a plant interplay.

Monarda bradburiana, Bee Balm.

May- July. Exceedingly drought tolerant pinkish, small 12-18-inch tall; doesn’t take over. Blushed copper on new growth. Beautiful seed head fall to winter.

Love this. Will joyfully pursue using this beauty.

Astrantia major 'Abbey Road'

(Photo:NetPS Plant Finder)

Pink Masterwort pin cushion to white to purple 2-3 ft tall Versatile. June to August bloom prefers light shade

Attracts pollinators.

White Giant and Roma are gorgeous bloomers in the same family.

Spirea alba MeadowSweet is a July to August bloomer that grows 3-4 ft and is “Super versatile” according to Jim. Because of its moisture requirements, it’s a top recommendation for Rain Gardens. It has a dry flower stem in a chestnut brown with native burnt orange fall foliage

Deer resistant pollinator.

Chamaecrista fasciculata, Partridge Pea: Self sows! - Be careful. Yellow blooms July and August. The pea pods are 2 feet tall. Attracts pollinators = Jim showed us an unbelievable congregation of bees and butterflies in one place.

Native, deer resistant.

Jim suggested to sprinkle seeds in the garden for following season- no gaps - and you will get a tapestry affect. I say, “be careful.”

Fargesia robusta - Clumping bamboo 10ft tall best privacy screening. Evergreen wide 6-8 foot wide. Takes pruning.

Solidago - Goldenrod: drought and deer resistant

Leucosceptrum japonicum - Fall bottle bush

Selaginella braunii is an arborvitae - looks like a fern - with a bronze winter foliage

Joyanne’s suggestion for Woody Plants

First off, Joyann claimed she’s an Ecosystem Specialist but not “Native Nazi.” Rather, she follows the pollinators as a way to explain her love for certain woody plants and trees.

Quercus alba - white oak. Her favorite. “We need resistant cultivars” she admonished.

Paper Birch - Prairie Dreams stress tolerant Zone 6-3, Single or multi stem

Sweet Gum Tulip Poplar - 'Little Volunteer' - 30 feet or less

Nyssa sylvatica, Red RageⓇ - Wildfire Black Tupelo - single stem that birds adore.
'Sheri’s Cloud' - variegated clone of a black gum. Medium sized tree with green leaves and a creamy white variegation that turns to pink then bright red in autumn!

Picea - orientalis golden tipped spruce yellow foliage that gets better as it ages.

Abies koreana - Indigo blue pine cones, silver color

Pinus strobus ‘Angel Falls’ weeper with a mini twist waterfall branches

Cryptomeria japonica ‘Gyokuryu’ that has green foliage growing in pretty sprays. (cryptomeria means “hidden parts!”)

Cercis ‘Pink Pom Poms’ is a new fruitless redbud!

Cotinus coggygria 'Velveteeny' - a royal purple Smoke Bush that stays red all summer. Gotta have it!

Crepe Myrtle Ebony Series- flowers seem to glow against the almost black foliage.

Ilex crenata ‘Jersey Jewels’ - dwarf shrub holly.

Ilex Crenata 'Drops of Gold'

Thuja 'Ember Waves' plicata, has bright gold foliage that matures to chartreuse, and in winter, it turns deep gold with orange tips. Thuja plicata has a ripcord like grass and is compact.

Spirea japonica Candy CornⓇ with leaves that are orange to yellow. I’ve never been a fan of what I consider a “too-common” shrub but this baby is pretty glamorous.

Same goes for Blue KazooⓇ another hearty but now pretty with its cool blue foliage.

New blue berries: Bluecrop blueberry with two harvests - self-pollinating and works in colder climates.

Plus, vines and ground covers, two new Knockout Roses (a peachy coral and pink floriflorious): and new small hydrangeas and more.

Plants are so glamorous...

Some of the highlights from the Trade Show included: Womanswork.  I purchased two pair of garden gloves - one pair is an Arm Saver - that thumb-to-elbow protection often needed when working with some tough plants.
I also learned our beloved and respected horticulturist and author, Ruth Clausen, has an "Ask Ruth" column featured on the Womanswork website.  No better authority than Dear Ruth.  Kudos!

I also highlight my friends at Pennoyer Newman whose antique and handcrafted resin pots, containers, and sculpture I recommend and use for my clients. I love Virginia and team so much that I bid on the pot they provided POR for the Silent Auction - and won!  (I just need to figure out how to get it home from BBG!) 
I also loved seeing Siebert and Rice - the leading American importer of handmade terracotta planters and urns from Italy.
There was the Structural Fiberglass Planters by Tintori Castings that caught my eye. I like their grey, lightweight planters that work so well for rooftops and places where weight is an issue. A kind of skinny pot!

The Horticultural Associates are a grower's resource for the landscape artist.