Category Archives: Conservation

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.

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Aerial shot of Montgomery Place in fall

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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

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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.

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Alpine plants drape over stone walls at Stonecrop

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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

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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.

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

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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
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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

What’s Eating Your Trees?

Are your trees suffering from the effects of disease, insect infestations, pollution, or ??? What can you do about it? Which trees should you plant and which should you avoid? Dr. Gary M. Lovett of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY, has the answers.

Dr. Lovett’s research is focused on the effects of air pollution, climate change and exotic species on forests. He is the author of many scientific publications and has edited two books on the subject. His recent research projects have taken place in New York’s Catskill Mountains and Hudson Valley, and in Maine, New Hampshire and Tennessee. The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, where he is senior scientist, is an internationally recognized center for ecological research and education.

Dr. Lovett is typical of the expert speakers that address the Garden Club of Irvington-on-Hudson at our public meetings. He discussed the insects and diseases that are destroying trees in our area and identified which trees are at risk and/or should not be planted any longer. This is invaluable information for anyone interested in which trees to choose for a public or private landscape in the Northeast.

 

Filed under Conservation, Horticulture, Irvington Garden Club Events

GCI “Gilded Cage” Flower Show a Success

"Anna's Hats in Bloom," a design complementing a hat in Lyndhurst's costume collection.

The Garden Club of Irvington-on-Hudson’s GCA Flower Show last spring honored Lyndhurst and the Victorian era. The show was held at The Carriage House at Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, and was open to the public on Friday and Saturday, April 16 and 17, 2010.

The theme “THE GILDED CAGE,” a play on “The Gilded Age,” was inspired by the Gothic arches of Lyndhurst and its greenhouse, built by railroad tycoon Jay Gould, who made the Tarrytown landmark his family’s country estate in 1880.

“A GCA Flower Show is a competition judged by the rigorous standards of the Garden Club of America and exemplifies artistic and horticultural excellence,” said show chairman Nancy Stoer. “Our members worked for a year to present an outstanding show that included elaborate flower arrangements and horticultural specimens judged against ‘perfection’ as defined by GCA judging standards. Entries were prepared by members of our own club, who live in the River Towns, and GCA garden clubs throughout the tri-state area.”

Visitors enjoyed the "Victorian Wedding" arrangements staged on pedestals. The arrangements were designed as if for the 1913 wedding at Lyndhurst of Helen Gould, daughter of railroad tycoon Jay Gould, to Finley Shepard.

Floral arrangement exhibits included designs using flowers that were grown in the original Lyndhurst greenhouse (now restored and used by the Garden Club to cultivate plants for its annual plant sale in May); large arrangements suitable for a Victorian wedding; table settings for a card party on a Lyndhurst’s terrace overlooking the Hudson; and designs complementing hats in Lyndhurst’s extensive costume collection. Village of Irvington schoolchildren ages 8-12 made an exhibit of “tussie-mussies,” small hand-held bouquets expressing “the language of flowers.”

Cut specimens: Flowering trees and shrubs in bloom

Pot-et-Fleurs featuring Neomarica caerulea (Fan Iris), Phyllitis scolopendrium ‘Undulatum’ (Hart’s Tongue Fern), Lysimachia nummularia ‘Goldii’ (Creeping Jenny), Oxalis triangularis (Purple Shamrock), and three kinds of zonal and scented Pelargoniums.

Horticultural exhibits included “Lord & Burnham Presents: Nineteenth Century Favorites,” which featured orchids, ferns and palms and cut specimens of locally-grown nineteenth-century favorites such as rhododendrons, magnolia, prunus, and blooming stems of narcissus and tulip bulbs. The challenge class was to grow from seed a Victorian favorite Pelargonium, ‘Black Velvet Rose.’ “Pot et Fleurs: In the Victorian Style,” featured large containers planted with with a minimum of three different species or cultivars reflecting the Victorians’ love of carefully planned excess. Special classes included topiaries and “glass houses” or terrariums.

Vistors viewed an exhibit of landscape and horticultural photography and a conservation/education exhibit that focused on the London Plane Tree or Sycamore, and showed how this magnificent tree has contributed to the ecology of the lower Hudson Valley.

Filed under Conservation, Flower Arranging, Garden Club Flower Show Categories, GCA Events, Irvington Garden Club Events, Irvington NY, Nature Photography, Rivertowns Westchester NY, Tarrytown NY, Zone III Events