Category Archives: Conservation

Native Flowering Perennials Your Garden Needs

Why not let the flowers in the Native Plant Garden for Pollinators at Greenburgh Nature Center be your inspiration? Here are close-ups of native plants selected for their ability to attract butterflies and bees, that are blooming now, and that will come back year after year. 

 

Cathy Ludden, designer of the Pollinator Garden, points out the benefits of natives like Agastache foeniculum (anise hyssop), 

What are ‘native’ plants and why are they important? Cathy asks those questions in the introduction to her booklet, “Plant This, Not That.” “Native plants are the species that were here before European settlers arrived,” she writes. “They are critically important because they are the first link in the food chain. Insects native to our region co-evolved over millions of years with native plants. They cannot eat non-native plants. Monarch butterflies are a good example. They must lay their eggs on native milkweed plants or the larvae will die. In recent generations, as gardeners have favored non-native plants, insects have struggled to find food. Our native birds depend almost entirely on insects to feed their young. Songbird populations in our area are crashing and many species are disappearing. Loss of insect populations is one of the primary reasons.

“Increasing the number of native plants in our gardens increases food sources for insects and enables songbirds to feed their young. There’s another problem with non-native plants. Because our insects can’t eat them, these plants have no natural controls. As a result, they may become invasive and overwhelm native plant populations. As you drive along our highways and see trees smothered by vines, you witness the result. The same thing is happening in our woods, parks, and neighborhoods.”

This post introduces outstanding natives that are now blooming in the Native Garden for Pollinators at Greenburgh Nature Center in Scarsdale. These plants may be purchased in local and online nurseries and are easily incorporated into your garden. “Substituting natives for non-natives—or just adding more native species to existing plantings—will increase food sources for the insects necessary to sustain our native bird populations,” Cathy writes. “In addition, you may find yourself using less water, less fertilizer, and maybe even less labor to enjoy a beautiful garden.”

A mix of native meadow grasses and flowers like this will add a wow factor to any garden.

 

Ruellia humilis (wild petunia)

This plant can be a wonderful addition to anyone’s garden, even shade gardens. It blooms in the heat of summer if given a little extra water and it reseeds readily. And it provides food for the Buckeye and several other butterfly species.

 

Coreopsis verticillata Zagreb (threadleaf tickseed)

You probably already know coreopsis. This showy threadleaf variety is a full-sun perennial that’s easily grown in dry to medium, well-drained soil, but it’s known for thriving in poor, sandy, and rocky soils. And the plants can be sheared in mid- to late summer to promote a fall rebloom of gorgeous yellow.

 

Penstemon digitalis (beardtongue) growing above Zizia aurea (golden Alexander)

Penstemon digitalis has white to pink tubular flowers and may reach 3′ in height. It prefers medium to dry medium soils and can adapt to many light conditions: full sun to part shade. It is very easy to grow from seed. Its flowers attract long-tongued bees, including honeybees, bumblebees, Miner bees, Mason bees, and hummingbirds.

Zizia aurea a native that could find its place in almost every garden. It is fairly easy to grow and, although short-lived, will self-seed and persist in many sun/soil situations. It’s an important plant to a number of short-tongued insects that are able to easily reach the nectar in the small yellow flowers. Caterpillars feed on its leaves. Golden Alexanders have a long bloom time, giving the garden/prairie some well-deserved early color for several weeks in late spring to early summer when many other plants have not yet flowered. Also called Golden Zizia, Golden Alexanders will tolerate a lot of shade but prefer full sun or light shade.

 

Penstemon digitalis and Panicum vergatum (switchgrass)

Switchgrass was an important component of the prairies which once covered large areas of the country, especially the Midwest. It will grow in both wet and dry soils and can be found in prairies, open woods, stream banks, and along railroad tracks. Yet its interesting columnar form that reaches 3′ tall, 6′ tall when in bloom could be an interesting addition to your garden, especially in midsummer when it’s topped by finely-textured, pink-tinged, branched flower panicles that hover over the foliage like an airy cloud. The seeds are a food source for birds in winter.

 

Asclepius tuberosa (butterfly weed)

Aptly named, this bushy perennial, which can be grown from seed or root cuttings, attracts Monarch and Queen butterflies. It’s also prized for its large clusters of showy flowers, ranging from yellow-orange to bright orange. The dark green foliage provides backdrop for the flower heads.

 

Anemone virginiana (thimbleweed)

Wow. Just about ready to bloom, this perennial’s erect, multiple stems, which rise 2 to 3 feet, will soon be topped by beautiful greenish-white flowers with a center that resembles a sewing thimble. Anemone virginiana grow in full sun to part shade, even in dry, rocky soil, can be easily divided, don’t require much water, are poisonous to deer, and tolerate drought and deep shade. What else could you ask from a plant?

The Garden Club member who took these photos and researched the captions is now inspired to pull out half of her hostas and plant Anemone virginiana and the other plants featured in this post.

How about you?

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Greenburgh Nature Center is located at 99 Dromore Road, Scarsdale, NY 10583, just off Central Avenue above Ashford Avenue.

 

 

Filed under Conservation, Garden History and Design, Landscape and Garden Design

A New Native Plant Garden at Greenburgh Nature Center

Planted in one intense day in early June, the Native Plant Garden for Pollinators at Greenburgh Nature Center is already in bloom and thriving. It’s a gorgeous tribute to the Garden Club member who inspired it, Gerrie Shapiro.

 

400 plants native to our region, purchased with contributions to the Gerrie Shapiro Memorial Fund, were staged in Cathy Ludden’s driveway prior to planting at Greenburgh Nature Center.

A Garden Imagined — and Planted

 

The garden was imagined, planned, sketched, and planted by Cathy Ludden, GCI’s conservation chair from 2012–2016 and the Garden Club of America’s 2021 Zone III (New York) Civic Improvement Award winner. She’s perhaps better known as a longtime Greenburgh Nature Center (GNC) board member and its immediate past president. Since retiring from corporate law, Cathy has devoted herself to conservation matters, especially the benefits of native plants to the environment. She began the project last year by planting a small pollinator garden and GNC as part of the Town of Greenburgh’s Pollinator Pathway project. This June, GCI co-president Anne Myers worked with her to significantly enlarge it to frame the woodland path leading to the existing Native Plant Meadow.

Made possible through the generosity of friends and family in memory of Geraldine “Gerrie” Shapiro, the new Native Plant Garden encompasses more than 800 square feet at the sloping woodland edge of the Great Lawn near GNC’s honeybee hives. Working with landscape designer Bill Boyce and colleague Guy Pardee, Cathy created a path to circle the beds so that the garden’s native grasses and perennials—which provide nectar and pollen for pollinators including bees and hummingbirds—can be viewed up-close and from various vantage points.

It was “all hands on deck” to get more than 400 plants—which had been collected and staged in Cathy’s driveway—in the ground and to keep the beds weeded and watered. Although the planting was completed in one hot, intense day, maintenance is ongoing by volunteers including GCI members and GNC staff and interns. Educational signage about the importance of pollinators, native plants and native bees will soon be added.

On a hot Friday in early June, Cathy Ludden (left) planted the 800-sq-ft garden with the assistance of garden guru Abel Racinos; Jim Blann, current GNC board president; and Anne Myers, GCI co-president.

 

The design was laid out with a curved path to allow viewing from many vantage points.

 

By mid-June, the plants were established and thriving.

Why Natives?

Cathy’s passion is educating and encouraging homeowners to plant natives instead of non-natives in their gardens. She speaks and writes about how native perennials, shrubs, trees and grasses can offer blooms early in the season and add dramatic fall color to the landscape. And, more importantly, that they offer specific, valuable benefits: they provide nutritious fruits for birds and other wildlife; contribute to biodiversity; flourish without pesticides; offer food and protection for wildlife; support beneficial insects that help control garden pests; contribute to clean air and water; and deter soil erosion. Most natives, when established, are drought and deer resistant.

The garden’s plant list includes nearly 50 species including the familiar flowering perennials baptisia, coreopsis, dicentra, echinacea, monarda, penstemon and rudbeckia—plus others that should become better known, like Waldsteinia fragarioides  and Zizia aurea.

By mid-July, the garden was in bloom, its tall native grasses surrounding flowering perennials including coreopsis and penstemon. (Photo by Dori Ruff)

Inspiration of Gerrie Shapiro

Geraldine “Gerrie” Shapiro 1932–2020

A woman of varied talents and interests, Gerrie served in many positions in GCI and actively volunteered her time and expertise to protecting and improving the quality of Westchester’s natural environment. After earning her certificate in landscape design from the New York Botanical Garden, she established an Irvington-based consulting business and designed public and private gardens in the area and served on conservation and gardening-related boards.

Planting native plants, supporting pollinators, educating the public and beautifying public parks are all activities consistent with Gerrie’s passions and of the values of the Garden Club of Irvington. Thus, GCI established the Gerrie Shapiro Memorial Fund in support the creation of this garden, dedicated to her memory. Many who knew and loved her gave their support to the project. Remembering Gerrie with this garden and honoring her devotion to nature and to beneficial gardens are fitting tributes.

Come and See

Earlier this week, Cathy Ludden led a tour for GCI members, who were delighted and impressed not only by the plants themselves, but by the droves of insects and butterflies who were buzzing happily through the air and alighting on the flowers.

Although the blooming season is at its height, the beauty and life of the Native Plant Garden for Pollinators will continue through the fall. We invite everyone to explore, discover, and connect with native plants and their pollinators over several visits to GNC. Attached is a PDF of Cathy Ludden’s “Plant This” booklet, The Beauty and Benefits of Native Plants,” which you can view or download via this link and which we hope will inspire you to plant natives in your garden.

Garden Club of Irvington members found the tour inspiring. We hope you will, too. (Photo by Ellen Shapiro)

 

Swarms of butterflies are busily pollinating GNC’s Native Plant Garden. (Photo by Renee Shamosh)

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Greenburgh Nature Center is located at 99 Dromore Road, Scarsdale, NY 10583, just off Central Avenue, north of Ashford Avenue.

Filed under Conservation, Garden History and Design, Horticulture

City Pickers for a Suburban Harvest

Learn how one Irvington family is deepening their connection to the earth and each other (and having fun) by growing their own food — using some very interesting, rewarding, and easy-to-emulate methodologies.

by Gwen Merkin

Irvington resident Gwen Merkin, Program Manager for Corporate Sustainability at UL, has more than ten years experience in the fields of energy efficiency, corporate sustainability, green building, waste auditing, and city planning. She lives in a pondside house near Sunnyside Lane with her husband, Ryan Merkin, also a leader in building science and energy consulting, and their two young daughters. She spends her limited free time fostering connections between people and the Earth, and loves the magic of plants.

Throughout the quarantine, our family has found growing our own food to be incredibly soothing — from the bonding it brings as a family activity, to the wonders of nature and science, to the confidence of increasing self-sufficiency. We are feeling grateful for our deepening connection to nature.

Last year, after years of tinkering with vegetable gardening that resulted in very small yields, we bought three City Pickers, which are mobile, self-watering, raised-bed grow boxes. The plants live above an aeration screen that enhances the oxygen flow to roots and encourages faster growth. They worked really well for snap peas, cucumbers, arugula and kale.

This year, we bought two more City Pickers and seven Earth Boxes (a similar solution, made from recycled-content plastic), and decided to test a few more strategies to see if — on our 200-square foot deck and a plot in the back yard below — we can produce enough veggies to feed four adults and two children throughout the summer and early fall.

We started from seeds we’d been collecting over the last few years, plus a few purchased online from Seed Savers Exchange. We planted them in a combination of trays designed for growing seedlings, hydroponics (for lettuce), recyclable plastic salad containers (which are maddening as a single-use product), plus direct sowing into the 12 City Pickers and Earth Boxes. We borrowed a grow light to help expedite the process of turning the seedlings into viable plants.

We like this Parks’ domed seed-starting tray with 60 cells.

We use bagged potting mix — which is soil-less and designed to maximize growth in pots. The raised-bed systems require it — plus a blend of dolomite (crushed limestone) and organic fertilizer. We’re growing cucumbers, kale, mustard greens, arugula, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, cilantro, and basil. The ‘garden’ is up on our deck so we don’t create a tasty buffet for the abundant deer and geese.

The black plastic ‘mulch’ comes with the Earth Boxes. It helps retain moisture and keeps the weeds and critters out. In this box, we’re growing arugula and snap peas. You water the Earth Box through the pipe in the corner. The water is stored in the bottom of the container and the plants suck it in; you can’t overwater because the excess drains out through the bottom.

This is our electric hydroponic grow station, in which we’re growing butterhead lettuce. The dials on the bottom let us know if we need to add water or food. It took approximately three weeks from planting until we were able to enjoy the first crop (it was good)! The next round should be ready in half the time; the leaves are getting big again.

We put all our food scraps (except for meat, cheese, fish) in this FCMP Outdoor Tumbling Composter, and it makes amazing compost fertilizer. We start with an equal volume of leaves and vegetable peels and scraps. In spring temperatures it takes three to four weeks to make compost; it’s a lot slower in the colder months and faster in the summer. I also bury unfinished compost right in the backyard, and have seen it transform our clay soil into beautiful, worm-filled garden beds.

We are obsessed with watching the magical process unfold.

While our six- and eight-year-olds have not yet taken to eating salads (in a bowl, anyway), they love to pick leaves straight from the plants and pop them into their mouths!

 

Filed under Conservation, Horticulture, Rivertowns Westchester NY, Vegetable Gardening

Happy Trails Along the Saw Mill

Steve Pucillo, board member of Groundwork Hudson Valley, spoke about how he headed up the transformation of 14.4 miles of crumbling, 19th-century railroad tracks along the Saw Mill River Parkway in Westchester County, NY, into the beautiful South County Trailway.

The work, which is continuing, includes clearing away tracks, cleaning and widening the pathway, placing benches, birdhouses and bridges.

The South County Trailway is now a haven for walking, running, biking, roller-blading in three seasons, and x-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter.

Filed under Conservation, Recreation, Westchester County, NY, Rivertowns Westchester NY

How to Develop a Pollinator Victory Garden and Pollinator Pathways

Did you know that communities all over the world are making and linking pesticide-free, native-plant gardens, meadows and forests to encourage beneficial insect and bird species? Especially bees, which are dying out and so essential to our ecosystems.

And we can do this right here in the Rivertowns, beginning in our own gardens.

This free public event with Kim Eierman of EcoBeneficial® is typical of Garden Club of Irvington programming.

Kim is a well known environmental horticulturist who specializes in ecological landscapes and native plants. She teaches at the New York Botanical Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and The Native Plant Center.

Please subscribe to this site and get updates and invites to all our 2019-20 events.

Filed under Conservation, Horticulture, Irvington Garden Club Events, Rivertowns Westchester NY, Tarrytown NY, Zone 7 Native Plants, Zone III Events

Fab Flower Show “On The Sunny Side of the Hudson”

washingtonirvingsbooksThrough flowers and plants — our 2017 GCA flower (and plant) show celebrated the life and work of Irvington’s own Washington Irving. All club members worked very hard on this for more than a year to make this show happen.

The floral designs, judged by an esteemed panel of experts, were:

• “360 Degrees and Sunny” — glorious mass flower arrangements featuring yellow flowers in season.
• “The Book Party” — fanciful table settings for a book-signing by none other than Washington Irving at his Sunnyside Cottage,
• “Short Stories” — tiny miniature arrangements displayed on a mantelpiece
•  “Sleepy Hollow Awakenings” — designs with some flowers in bud and others in full bloom.

The horticulture classes included displays of  “Rip Van Winkle” alpine garden troughs and “Home Grown” window boxes — and dozens and dozens of beautiful cut stems and branches of the best in local perennials and flowering shrubs and trees in season.

Visitors also delighted in a display of photographs of historic houses and gardens at rest, among other subjects. All work was done by members of our own and other Garden Club of America clubs who register via the GCA website.

A special and timely conservation exhibit demonstrated the importance of native plants in our landscapes.

The show, chaired by Barbara Defino, was free and open to the public at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, May 10, 2017, and from 10 am to 1 pm on Thursday, May 11, at the Lyndhurst Carriage House. Photos to come soon…

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), a native plant that is an important food sorce for Monarch butterflies. The conservation and education exhibit will feature native plants to consider for our gardens, such as the common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), which is an important food source for Monarch butterflies.

The conservation and education exhibit will feature native plants to consider for our gardens, such as the common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), which is an important food source for Monarch butterflies.

Filed under Conservation, Garden Club Flower Show Categories, Horticulture, Irvington Garden Club Events, Irvington NY, Rivertowns Westchester NY, Tarrytown NY

Four Historic Hudson River Gardens, a Virtual Visit

Garden Club of Irvington members and guests recently enjoyed a slide lecture by garden historian Judith Chatfield, author of notable books about Italian gardens, who spoke about four dramatic New York properties and their gardens. If you are planning to tour the Hudson River Valley this spring or summer, here is a suggested itinerary based on points made in Judith’s talk.

Judith Chatfield, center in red sweater, with Deborah Flock and Joanna Gurley of the Garden Club of Irvington.

Judith Chatfield, center in red sweater, with Deborah Flock and Joanna Gurley of the Garden Club of Irvington.

We begin by making our way 80 miles up the Taconic Parkway to Red Hook to Annandale-on-Hudson to visit Montgomery Place, an historic estate designed for Janet Livingston Montgomery, a Revolutionary War widow. The Federal-style mansion is the last remaining of its kind in the Hudson Valley designed by architect Alexander Jackson Davis. The property — designed by Andrew Jackson Downing to be at its peak in October — includes an arboretum, woods, and orchards. It was acquired and renovated by Historic Hudson Valley in 1985 and sold to Bard College in 2015.

FAIR.MontgomerPlAerial

Aerial shot of Montgomery Place in fall

MontgomeryPlace2

Naturalistic landscape at Montgomery Place

In Hyde Park, 30 miles south of Bard via Route 9, Bellefield is an 100-year-old Beatrix Farrand garden at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Museum and Library. A prominent landscape architect in the first half of the 20th century, Farrand designed gardens for notable families and institutions, including the Rockefellers and Princeton and Yale Universities. In 1912, her cousin, Senator Thomas Newbold and his wife, Sarah, commissioned her to create the gardens at Bellefield, their 18th-century estate. Lining the grass lawn are beds of perennials selected for their soft color harmony, bloom sequence, and texture — a technique Farrand helped spearhead. This style became the standard for American garden design, replacing the practice of placing annuals in beds cut into the lawn.

Bellefield facade and perennial borders

Bellefield3

Formal gardens at Bellefield surrounded by clipped box hedges

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One of Bellefield’s garden rooms in spring

Leaving Bellefield, we make our way south to Cold Spring, across the Hudson from West Point, where we visit Stonecrop Gardens, originally the private garden of Frank and Anne Cabot, founders of The Garden Conservancy, the organization that hosts the Open Days tours every year. The Cabots were avid collectors of alpine plants, and finding choice selections hard to come by, started their own mail-order nursery. In the mid-1980s they engaged English horticulturist Caroline Burgess to make Stonecrop into a public garden. It now encompasses 15 varied acres of raised alpine stone beds, cliff rock gardens, woodland and water gardens, and enclosed English-style flower gardens that feature more than 50 plant families. A spectacular 2,000-square-foot conservatory housing tender specimens floats on a pond near the entry.

Stonecrop

Alpine plants drape over stone walls at Stonecrop

Stonecrop_pond_greenhouse

The ‘floating’ conservatory at Stonecrop, where seedlings are started and tender plants overwinter

Even closer to home in Garrison — less than 60 miles north of New York City — is Boscobel, a Federal-period mansion. The house was built in Montrose c. 1805 for States Morris Dyckman, who served the British army during the Revolutionary War. He died with only the foundation in place, and the project was completed by his wife, Elizabeth Corne Dyckman. Through the efforts of Westchester County citizens, the house was rescued from demolition in the 1940s, dismantled, and stored in barns until Boscobel Restoration Inc. had it rebuilt on the Garrison site. In 1959, Boscobel’s chief benefactor, Lila Acheson Wallace, hired the landscape architecture firm of Innocenti and Webel to transform the grounds into an appropriate historic setting. They implemented a Beaux-Arts and Neoclassical landscape that included allées of maples, mature shrubs and an entire apple orchard, installed to give the feeling that everything had always been there. In the 1990s, the grounds were expanded to include 29 acres of woodlands with a 1.25 mile scenic trail. Today, you can tour the house, now a museum featuring furniture and decorative arts of the Federal period, walk the trail, and explore 60 acres of grounds that feature rose and perennial gardens and magnificent views of the Hudson.

Boscobel_entrance_road

Approaching Boscobel in fall under an allée of mature trees

 

 

 

 

 

 

Filed under Conservation, Garden History and Design, Historic Preservation, Horticulture, NY and CT Public Garden Tours

A Winter Visit to the Wildflower Meadow

Cathy LuddenThere’s a new Native Wildflower Meadow at the Greenburgh Nature Center.

The meadow project, conceived and spearheaded by GCI member Cathy Ludden, left, president of the Nature Center’s board of directors, was designed by Bill Boyce of Biosphere Landscape Architecture and installed on a reclaimed two-acre patch that was once part of an apple orchard. In recent decades, Ludden explained during a recent tour for GCI members and guests, the area was neglected and overrun with invasive plants.

The meadow incorporates several remaining apple trees and existing stands of bayberry and sumac. New plantings include perennial beds with flowering native plants and grasses selected to provide year-around interest. The beds are bordered by mulched paths that showcase newly planted native trees and shrubs. There’s also an outdoor classroom area with seating made of granite slabs found on-site, an oak tree circle, and beehives.

GardenClub

Cathy Ludden leads GCI members and guests through the outdoor classroom at the Wildflower Meadow.

grasses

A stand of switch grass, Panicum virgatum, a perennial warm-season bunchgrass native to North America.

Meadow

A stand of sumac and ashy sunflower (Helianthus mollis).

The surrounding area has been seeded with native grasses and flowers to create a naturalistic meadow that will develop and change with time, always providing food and shelter for insects, butterflies, birds, turtles and small mammals. An arbor made of red cedar is being constructed as a centerpiece for the meadow, and it will be used as a structure to house the Nature Center’s annual summer butterfly exhibit.

Milkweed

A milkweed beetle on a milkweed seed pod. American milkweeds are an important nectar source for native bees, wasps and other insects, and a major food source for monarch butterflies.

A leader in environmental education since 1975, the 33-acre Greenburgh Nature Center, located off Central Avenue in Scarsdale, also features a woodland preserve with hiking trails, an organic garden, a green roof exhibit, a discovery playground for children, and more than 100 live animals. The Center is open from dawn to dusk all year round. Che their website for specifics, current exhibitions, and news.

Filed under Conservation, Rivertowns Westchester NY

A Park for the People of NY: Brooklyn Bridge Park

Members of the Garden Club of Irvington began the fall 2015 season with an expert guided tour of Brooklyn Bridge Park by horticultural supervisor Rashid Poulson.

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Rashid Group

Rashid

We enjoyed the magnificent views of the East River and Manhattan while learning about the park design, plantings, and challenges the staff faces, such as keeping weeds in check during the hot, dry summer.

Rashid, above left, who’s worked at the 85-acre park since 2009, is a graduate of the Million Trees NYC Training Program, a Bloomberg-administration program designed to provide opportunities to inner-city youth. Born and raised in Flatbush, Rashid is one of two supervisors of the horticultural staff. The park itself — in addition to providing a 1.3 mile greenbelt along the East River — has changed New York into a more accessible place for all its citizens, including the kids who play in the fountain sculpture (a temporary exhibit, below, that was being dismantled during our visit) and the teens who play on the the basketball and handball courts and skate and play hockey in the ice rink.

Fountain

Skating

This is a park that even has a book cart and comfortable place to sit and read.

BookCart

Garden Club members were most interested in learning about the Park’s seven interconnected ecosystems that provide habitats for wildlife. With the magnificent skyline as a background, we toured paths and viewed woodlands, meadows, marshes and berms, all of which are planted with natives and grown with recycled rainwater and without chemical pesticides.Among the fall plants we enjoyed — several members gathered seeds and small branches for propagating are — were Winged Sumac (Rhus copallina), Mist Flower (Eupatorium coelestinum), Blue Wood Aster (Aster cordifolius), and Montauk Daisy (Nipponanthemum nipponicum).
Come to our Garden Fair and Plant Sale on the first Sunday in May and you will surely find offspring of the plants pictured below.
Staghorn Sumac
Mist Flower
Blue Wood Aster
Daisies
L1160863
Skyline
… all of which were viewed with the East River and Manhattan skyline as a backdrop.

Filed under Conservation, NY and CT Public Garden Tours

Deer: the Problem is Bigger than Our Gardens

Deer are an increasingly difficult problem in this region. Even if fences and sprays were effective; even if everyone planted only “deer-proof” species; even if there were no traffic accidents or cases of Lyme disease, deer herds in the woods—like those we see along the Saw Mill Parkway, on Mountain Road, and throughout the Rivertowns—are destructive to our region and our planet.

In the fragile ecosystems of the woodlands that surround and weave through our suburban areas, the deer are eating and/or have destroyed the lowest growing plants and shrubs, including  tree seedlings. This is upsetting the balance of nature—of animal, insect and bird life—and is preventing regeneration of the forests, which are responsible through the carbon cycle for creating the very air we breathe.

Two recent speakers at Garden Club of Irvington events have educated members about this issue:

Carolyn Summers, a landscape architect and adjunct professor at Westchester Community College, is a local expert on biodiversity. She writes in Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East, “Instead of a sustainable number, perhaps ten or twenty deer per square mile, surveys are revealing population densities in the hundreds. Deer are eating themselves out of house and home. In the process, they are leaving little or nothing for other forms of wildlife, including the plants that support us all.”

Dr. Doug Tallamy, professor and chair of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware, and author of Bringing Nature Home, agrees: “The deer are above their carrying capacity—that is, the herds are larger than the land can support—because we have killed all their predators.  We have also created their favorite edge habitat, our gardens. In many places, the only plants the deer have left in our forest understory are invasive, unpalatable species. Our forests may appear to be healthy, but there is no recruitment; that is, the next generation of trees is being destroyed.”

 

Filed under Conservation