Category Archives: Landscape and Garden Design

More Reasons to Love Our Garden Club

The pergola at Wave Hill frames glorious views of the Hudson River and the Palisades. Wave Hill’s 28 acres of gardens and woodlands are located in Riverdale, the Bronx, New York City.

The benefits of belonging to the Garden Club of Irvington include the many trips we take to botanical gardens and private gardens in the New York City area. In recent years, we’ve enjoyed visits to the Bartlett Arboretum, Battery Park Gardens, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Cloisters, the High Line, private gardens in Bedford (including Martha Stewart’s), and Untermyer Gardens Conservancy. The trips are always guided by expert docents and followed by lunch onsite or at a nearby restaurant. We recently had the pleasure of visiting Wave Hill on a beautiful late spring day. Our members are not only interested in the ever-changing plantings, but in honing their photography skills. Here is a selection of shots taken that day, with kudos to the photographers.


Alison Gilmore


Alison Gilmore


Deb Flock


Edna Kornberg


Edna Kornberg


Ellen Shapiro


Kathy Evers


Dorrie Bernstein


Dorrie Bernstein


Renee Shamosh


Renee Shamosh


Our guides Tony Courtade and Eileen Kreisle, a Garden Club member who volunteers at Wave Hill.

Filed under Garden History and Design, Horticulture, Landscape and Garden Design, Nature Photography, NY and CT Public Garden Tours

Two-Hour Plant SALE May 18!


Thanks to all the friends and neighbors who came to our Two-Hour Plant Sale on May 18. It was so fun, and we SOLD OUT in one hour. What was for sale?

• Beautiful, healthy plants at discounted prices, including shade-friendly and deer-resistant native perennials, many grown in Garden Club members’ gardens.

• Unusual, colorful annuals grown from cuttings and seeds. Plus free expert gardening advice.

And many thanks to everyone one at the O’Hara Nature Center who made it possible. We’ll do it again next year, we hope, with more plants, live music and snacks.


Get there early for the best selection. The O’Hara Nature Center is located at 170 Mountain Road in Irvington. (Note: All road construction on Sunnyside Lane will be completed.)

Filed under Family Event, Irvington Garden Club Events, Irvington NY, Landscape and Garden Design

Art by Garden Club Members Celebrates “Cathy’s Meadow”

Detail from photograph by Dorrie Bernstein

Nature is always our inspiration, our muse. And this year, our muse has been the meadow at Greenburgh Nature Center (GNC) which was dedicated on October 23 in honor of the force behind its creation, our longtime member and GNC board member, noted local conservationist Catherine Ludden.

Cathy was the mover and shaker behind the design, planting, and funding of the two-acre meadow.


Previously infested with invasive weeds, six years later it is home to pollinator insects and a diverse array of the native plants that support them. And it’s a serene, beautiful place for learning, contemplation and enjoyment — just off Central Avenue in Scarsdale, one of  Westchester County’s major commercial thoroughfares. “One person made all this happen,” reads the Certificate of Recognition presented to Cathy. “Cathy Ludden, past president, major donor, passionate volunteer.”

The members of the Garden Club of Irvington agreed with the leadership at GNC: let’s honor Cathy as well as celebrate our new partnership by mounting an art show in honor of Cathy and the Meadow. We got to work. Making and framing art, hanging it and decorating the Manor House. And of course we attended the dedication.

And now all the art is for sale!

James Blann, Board President of Greenburgh Nature Center, presents the new signage to Cathy Ludden.


Cathy is congratulated by Alix Dunn, GNC Executive Director.


The signage features a map of Cathy’s Meadow designed by GCI member Ellen Shapiro. This original watercolor by artist Steve Stankiewicz highlights the meadow’s features: Stone Classroom, Butterfly Arbor, Beehives, and Oak Circle, plus the correct species of airborne pollinators and most significant flowering perennials: Joe Pye Weed, Goldenrod, Milkweed and Echinacea.


After the dedication and a tour of the meadow, the party moved indoors to GNC’s Manor House, where members of the Garden Club of Irvington hosted a reception that featured their flower arrangements on the tables and their original art—most of which was created for this show—on the walls.

All the art shown here (except for the map, which has been installed on the site) is for sale. If you are interested, please use the contact page to get in touch.  We will connect you to the artist.


At the art show, GCI Co-President Renee Shamosh with five of her oil paintings celebrating the meadow.


The title of this 24 x 30″ painting by Renee Shamosh is “Cathy’s Meadow.”


Botanical artist Nora Galland with her display of original watercolors and giclee prints.


On the mantle, three posters by graphic designer Ellen Shapiro and black-and-white photograph by Harriet Kelly


Work by members of our Photography Committee: Dorrie Bernstein (top row) and Edna Kornberg (bottom row). Photo by Veronica Gedrich, second from right, bottom row.


Watercolor by Lisa Maxwell, “Dering Harbor Magnolias”


Botanical art by Lisa Maxwell


At the reception, members and guests raise their glasses to Cathy, the Meadow, and the Garden Club of Irvington’s partnership with Greenburgh Nature Center.


If you would like to contact the artist about purchasing any painting, photograph or posters, please use our “Contact” form and we will put you in touch with the artist.

Filed under Botanical Art, Conservation, Greenburgh Nature Center, Horticulture, Landscape and Garden Design

Seed Saving, Sharing, and Planting with the Garden Club of Irvington

“For many annuals and perennials, propagation from seed will provide a profusion of new, beautiful blooms that might otherwise be unavailable. I always think of a plant grown from seed as a little miracle,” says Renee Shamosh, Horticulture Chair of the Garden Club.

Under a redbud tree in a member’s garden, Renee demonstrated practices for saving seeds from perennials, annuals, and vegetables. Members brought seeds they’d collected from pollinator plants.

Saved seeds must be kept dry, so when it began to rain the group protected their collected seeds under a table set for tea and cake. The rain did not dampen the enthusiasm.

This seed-saving workshop included a demonstration of how to save heirloom tomatoes. One of the varieties Renee propagates was saved by a friend’s 98-year-old aunt. In the method shown under the “Horticulture Tips” tab (scroll down), the seeds are scooped from ripe tomatoes onto absorbent paper towels, then dried, labeled, and stored in a basket until spring planting time.

The members discussed the importance of identifying which plants are best grown from seed; which, like hostas and astilbes, are better propagated by division; and which, including Columbine and “see-through” Verbena (Verbena bonariensis), will self-sow, that is, spread their seed without any help from you.

The group traded seed pods from plants that are best grown from saved seeds, including butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), false blue indigo (Baptisia australis), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), coneflowers (Rudbeckia), and zinnias.

This seed pod of milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is ready to disperse in the wind or share with others.

Perennial seeds can be planted in fall or mid-spring, depending on whether they need to be stratified (kept in cold, dry storage in order to germinate) or left outdoors in cold weather. They can be broadcast into a prepared area of loose soil (not lawn or hard ground) that’s clear of weeds, or they can be started outdoors in containers.

The meeting included a plant exchange, so everyone left carrying flats of plants dug and divided from their gardens, as well as with envelopes of seeds we hope to grow in the coming seasons.

One member has already had success with her Baptisia seedlings that are growing in containers.

Following are specific instructions [adapted from Hudson Valley Seed Company] for sowing milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), which can be applied to many other perennials.

Method 1: Sowing in Containers in the Fall

By sowing in containers, the seedlings will be able to grow big and healthy before transplanting. In order to become well established and come back year after year, each [milkweed] plant should grow to about 24″ high, allowing it to form a healthy rhizome, which it needs to overwinter before transplanting in the garden.

How to start: Fill 4″ to 6″ plastic pots with well-drained potting mix. Sow 5 to 10 seeds per pot, spacing them evenly, about 1/4 inch deep. Press into the mix and water well. Place the pots outdoors—on a porch or at the side of a house is ideal—and leave them to overwinter. In the spring, when temperatures warm, the pots should be moved into full sun to germinate in a spot protected from wind and hungry predators.

Method 2: Direct Sowing into Prepared Garden Soil in the Fall

The ease of this method is appealing. And it’s most similar to how milkweed propagates itself in its natural habitat. To be successful with this method, however, you’ll need to plan the location of your spring/summer patch now, in the fall, when most garden chores have ended. And if you broadcast, Renee warns, don’t walk away and assume that nature will work its wonders; some weeding will be required. The seedlings will also be susceptible to pests, perhaps even some very hungry caterpillars, which can keep them from surviving over the winter.

One member collected seeds from just one pod of what she believes are Echinacea Big Sky ‘Harvest Moon,’ which grow nearly four feet high in her pondside garden (where all the shorter varieties are eaten by groundhogs). She plans to try several sowing methods and see which works best.

Method 3: Sowing in Containers in the Spring

This is almost the same as Method 1, except you’ll need to “vernalize” the seeds, as follows: Eight weeks before the last spring frost—just after March 1 in our area—start the seeds in 4″ to 6″ plastic pots, as directed above. Water them well, cover them with plastic wrap, and place them in a refrigerator for 2 to 4 weeks. Then proceed as above. You can also start the seeds in cell trays, but larger pots are preferable because the root systems will have more room to develop.

Method 4: Direct Sowing into the Spring Garden

This is almost identical to Method 2, except you will sow the seeds in early spring, when nighttime temperatures are still in the 30s. The seeds can be sown later, though you might see decreased germination as the weather warms.

Happy growing!

This sweet red pepper was grown in a pot from seed. 

Renee with her bounty from the workshop.

Filed under Horticulture, Landscape and Garden Design, Zone 7 Native Plants

A Tour of the O’Hara Nature Center

Early fall. It’s still warm and there are plenty of opportunities to visit the Rivertowns’ outdoor treasures. One of our most treasured is the O’Hara Nature Center, located in 400-acre Irvington Woods at 170 Mountain Road, just off the Saw Mill Parkway.

Over the last five years, resident horticulturists CJ Reilly and Peter Strom have worked with the Irvington Recreation and Parks Department to design the ten demonstration gardens that work harmoniously with the  environment, preserve water resources, and increase biodiversity by providing natural habitats for pollinators.

Members of the Garden Club of Irvington enjoyed a recent tour. Here are a few highlights:

After an introduction to the ONC’s history and programing, Barbara Defino, an active member and past president of the Garden Club, received an award for her devoted and ongoing support. Flanking her are CJ Reilly and Peter Strom.

The ONC building is a model of attractive, energy-efficient, green design. Custom bookshelves were made from a sassafras tree that grew in Irvington Woods Park.

Before the tour, Peter Strom carefully relocated a confused bumblebee to its rightful home, a Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens).

The tour was led by the ONC’s Education Director CJ Reilly, a graduate of Teachers College, Columbia University, where his field of study was data visualization and educational development — skills he uses for the benefit of all visitors. “This is an example of true community partnership,” he said, explaining that the Village of Irvington, the School District, the Eagle Scouts, the Parks and Recreation Department, members of the Garden Club, and many volunteers have worked together to conceptualize, build, support, and maintain the facility and the grounds. It is also an example of bringing new life to a community devastated by a tragedy: the crash of TWA Flight 800, which killed three members of the O’Hara family.

This structure, a “bee hotel,” supports a diverse array of solitary cavity-nesting bees and wasps. Dried plant stems such as hollow Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium fistulosum), Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), and Cup-plant (Silphium perfoliatum) stems are saved from the gardens and repurposed into nesting material. Here is a link to CJ’s educational materials that explain the process in detail. (More photos and details to come in the next post.)

During our visit, a grass-carrying wasp (Isodontia Mexicana) returned to the hollow Joe Pye Weed it filled with grass and other reserves for its brood inside.

CJ described the 25 heirloom grafted apple trees in the ONC, including all nine varieties that were grown at Washington Irving’s Sunnyside.

He then introduced the step-by-step educational materials that guide ONC visitors through the apple-tree grafting process. Similar materials, which explain horticultural processes in detail, are posted throughout the site.

The ONC has two outdoor classrooms for the school and community educational programs it hosts.

You don’t have to be on a tour or in a program to enjoy these facilities. Just walk in, it’s free… and enjoy the beauty around you. (And perhaps stop to read the educational materials or admire an insect in its rightful habitat.)

Filed under Conservation, Horticulture, Landscape and Garden Design, NY and CT Public Garden Tours, Rivertowns Westchester NY, Tarrytown NY

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?

: : :

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

Cultivating a Beautiful Rose Garden

The Garden Club of Irvington has been restoring and maintaining the Rose Garden at Lyndhurst for more than 50 years. Club members, led most recently by Rose Garden Chairman Lou Zapata, plant, weed, prune, fertilize and generally care for a wide variety of roses throughout the year to maintain healthy plants and robust bloomers.

A Little History

We are fortunate to have as an active member a longtime rosarian and expert in growing roses. Josyane Colwell has been deeply involved in the Lyndhurst Rose Garden since joining the Garden Club in 1982. She grew up on a family farm in southern France with her grandparents, who cultivated roses for the perfume industry in Grasse. As a child, she learned every aspect of growing roses—and is not reserved in sharing that knowledge.

Josayne was featured in a 1986 cover story in the Rivertowns Enterprise about Rose Pruning Day at Lyndhurst, which is usually a public event at the end of March. We hope to be able to sponsor it again next year.

In addition to sun and water, roses need expert care to nurture new growth (the “baby shoots,” as Josyane calls them) and to help the plants survive the weather, pests and disease.

Here is some of Josyane’s advice:


The pruning season begins in late March/early April with the removal of dead wood from the winter, and the removal of old, weak or dying branches and crossing branches, particularly those that are crowding the center of the bush. Shaping of the plant allows for strong growth, good air circulation and an aesthetic appearance during the blooming season. Cuts are made at an angle just above an emerging bud. The cutting of large canes requires sealing the exposed surface with a sealant such as Elmer’s glue to prevent future rot and disease.

Clean lopping shears or a folding saw are essential for the removal of larger canes in order not to damage the plant.


Cut at an angle with sharp, clean pruners.

Deadheading, the removal of spent blooms, should continue throughout the summer and early fall to encourage repeat bloomers to send out new buds and shoots.

This is also the time for heavy pruning to reshape and rejuvenate the plants so they can harden up before winter. When deadheading, never cut straight across; always cut on an angle, which prevents water from resting on the stems and causing them to rot. The cut should be just above the second branch of five (not three) leaves down from the spent bloom. Pruning shears should always be sharp and clean so as not to damage the cane and spread disease.

When the plant is pruned and deadheaded, healthy “baby shoots” emerge and bloom all season.

Climbing Roses

The pruning of climbing roses on a trellis or other structure is always a challenge, but can offer a wonderful display for a long time. In the early 1980s Josyane and her Rose Garden co-chair, Natalia Schell, could barely walk under the overgrown trellises. They spent hours almost every day removing the dead and diseased canes and tying back and training the younger canes to encourage growth and blooms on the outside of the trellises. The taller Natalia, from Russian aristocratic blood, held the ladder while the more diminutive Josyane from the farm pruned and tied from above. This French-speaking pair found great joy together in restoring the beauty of the rose trellises. Because many climbers re-bloom, this process continued throughout the summers as well. However, the length of bloom is worth the effort.

Trellises with climbing roses enhance every tier of the Rose Garden at Lyndhurst.


Fertilizing in the springtime will encourage healthy growth and beautiful blooms. On the farm they used manure to feed the plants. Most nurseries carry manure or can recommend an appropriate fertilizer. Turning the soil in early spring is also encouraged to allow moisture to reach the roots more easily.

Black spot, left, is a fungus that occurs in extreme heat and moisture and where there isn’t sufficient air circulation. Rose-related diseases such as black spot should be dealt with by a professional. However, gardeners can help stem its spread by removing yellow leaves with black spots, both on the plant and on the soil.

The Results

If you follow these simple tips from a seasoned rosarian, you can achieve results as stunning as these!


Filed under Garden History and Design, Horticulture, Landscape and Garden Design, NY and CT Public Garden Tours, Rivertowns Westchester NY, Tarrytown NY

It’s Time to Plan Your Spring Garden!

Jan Johnsen signs books at the O’Hara Nature Center in Irvington.

Noted local landscape designer and author Jan Johnsen delivered wheelbarrows of great advice at our January 2000 public event. She introduced her new book, Gardentopia: Design Basics for Creating Beautiful Outdoor Spaces.

Points she made included:

• A sheltered corner always lures visitors.
• Hide and reveal: There’s a mystery to what you can’t see, like what’s around that corner.
• The same for sun and shade: what’s in the shade is mysteriously and partially hidden.
• Use lightweight pieces; people like to move the furniture.
• Rounded forms are satisfying, especially when placed in front of straight edges, like pruned hedges.
• Hard-soft contrast is always interesting.
• Embrace the moss.
• Punctuate the garden with exclamation points like pillars, poles, tuteurs, and tall shrubs like Sky Pencil holly.


Filed under Landscape and Garden Design