Autumn amble at New York Botanical Garden


After touring Wave Hill on October 11, my daughter and I took the train to the New York Botanical Garden. Although both NYBG and Wave Hill are located in the Bronx, mass transit between the two ate up some time, and we had tickets to a Broadway show that evening. We knew we wouldn’t be able to stay long enough to see all 250 acres and 50 gardens.


Rather than stress about it, we explored at random, taking paths that wound around enormous boulders fringed by Japanese forest grass and white anemones and into woods tinged yellow and orange.


The afternoon was overcast and chilly, but the morning rain had ended, and we saw more people here than we had at Wave Hill. From a nearby sports arena we heard an announcer’s voice, cheers, and air horns. The cool weather, turning leaves, and game noise reminded me of fall days in the Southeast, where I grew up.


All that we lacked was the smell of wood smoke in the air.


I’ve admired council rings since first encountering one at Chicago Botanic Garden’s Evening Island. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have one in a home garden, with a fire pit in the middle?


I loved this meadowy scene atop a boulder-strewn rise.


It was one of the prettiest areas we saw.


Grasses, garlic chives gone to seed, asters, and pink daisies combined in a tapestry of fall color.


In a lower part of the garden, a swale for collecting and funneling rainwater leads the eye to a mound of vertical boulders.


A closer look


Woodsy paths beckoned with leaves just starting to turn.


Chipmunks scurried here and there, collecting nuts for winter…


…and stopping to eat one or two.


Who could resist a path like this? Not us.


My daughter picked up a fallen leaf and made a hair ornament of it.


Nothing bought in a store could be as pretty.


Fallen leaves adorned the ground too.


On a bridge high above a creek we looked down on more golden trees.


We saw a few reds as well.


A lovely native plant garden with a large pond offered a boardwalk stroll…


…past woodland borders with plenty of fall color.


Ferns were still green then but probably not for long.


At the sunnier end, we noticed a swath of colorful pitcher plants in the mucky soil along the decking.


Aren’t they lovely?


I’m noticing pitcher plants everywhere these days, especially in container plantings. Are they the plant du jour, wresting the crown away from tillandsias?


From wet-loving plants to dry-loving, this garden has it all. Devil’s tongue (Opuntia humifusa) looks quite happy, even in New York (yes, it’s native), nestled amid heat-reflecting boulders.


This must be a birder’s paradise with so many food sources, including coneflowers and grasses gone to seed.


I wish I’d taken a few photos inside the gift shop, which was quite nice and very large as botanical garden gift shops go. An extensive gardening book section captivated me for a while, and imagine my delight when I saw that they carried my book, Lawn Gone! — and it was even displayed face out! I swear I didn’t turn it that way for the picture.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my garden visits from New York. For a look back at Wave Hill (1 of 2 posts), click here. And for my extensive write-up of the High Line (1 of 2 posts), click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Visit to Wave Hill in New York City, Part 2


Wave Hill, an estate garden in the Bronx in New York City, which I visited on October 11, was romantically blowsy in the Pergola, Elliptical, and Flower Gardens near the entry. But it got a bit bolder, even Hollywood, in the Aquatic and Monocot Gardens.


These two gardens share a large, hedged “room” that visually separates them from the rest of the gardens. I’m nuts about those Dr. Seussian yuccas at the far end, their pincushion heads atop skinny trunks of varying heights. Like golden fireworks exploding against dark-green hedges, you can almost hear them going pow Pow POW! My daughter, standing with her umbrella, provides a sense of scale.


Although first frost couldn’t be far off, the pond plants were still full and lush. The water lily even had buds, though they were closed tight against the chilly rain.


Large, arching grasses with rosy plumes anchor each end of the pond…


…adding to the beautiful fall show.


Golden and variegated foliage cozies up to butter-yellow flowers for a nice color echo.


Clustered pots of tropicals by the bench offer sun-kissed color and bold foliage.


It’s formal symmetry done beautifully. The long pergola at the far end of the pond is part of the Monocot Garden.


I won’t bore you with the definition of monocot (the garden’s website explains; maybe you know, but I had to look it up). Let’s just say this garden is all about bold foliage.


Spiky and tousled heads of agaves in pots mingle with grasses, colocasia, bulbine, and other interesting foliage plants for a display that might even look at home in Austin.


Gourds dangle from the pergola, just begging to be turned into birdhouses.


Chartreuse foliage and a nearly black canna add to the drama.


We took shelter from the rain under the long pergolas that line each side of the pond garden.


No planting opportunity is overlooked, not even cavities in the toothy, stone walls that edge the pergolas.


The two pergola walks lead to stunning focal-point containers backed by a green hedge and set amid a grassy groundcover. This may be toothless sotol (Dasylirion longissimum) with small succulents.


By now the rain was really coming down, so we ran up a shady path to a covered pergola, where we shook off the rain, sat on a bench, and admired the view.


That’s the Hudson River in the distance.


This is the Wild Garden, which, according to the garden’s website, “was inspired by the informally planted English wild gardens as championed by William Robinson (1838-1935), an influential nineteenth-century author and garden designer.”


Tiers of tall grasses and cane climb the hilly edge of the garden.


Lovely combos like these were starting to show fall color.


This meadowy, forest-edge view reminds me a bit of the Oudolf design on the High Line.


Just downhill from the Wild Garden, planted in the ruins of a former greenhouse, you enter the Herb and Dry Gardens.


Stone paving and walls retain and reflect heat and give this garden strong structure.


Climbing the stone stairs…


…you reach the Alpine House, where beautifully arranged troughs display rock-garden plants.


Just look at all these! They reminded me of an elegant, English version of my own succulent cinderblock-wall planter.


The effect is like a bonsai landscape.


Diminutive, gnarled trees in pots were ready to blaze into fall color too.


Inside the Alpine House, viewable through large, open windows, more rock-garden plants are displayed in pots amid artfully placed boulders.


Pitcher plants, hooded and open-mouthed like a chorus of cobras, enjoy a sunny spot on a wall nearby.


To escape the chilly rain, we had lunch in the cafe, located inside this lovely, old home.


Behind the other house on the property, beneath its rear terrace, we discovered this charming grotto pond.


A tall, trunking yucca or nolina out front reminded me of home, though it was incongruously set amid woodland-style shrubs.


A lawn sloped off to one side, framed by trees in pointilist, early-fall color.


Nodding, sleepy sunflowers were feeding a flock of birds until we walked up. Little bluestem was blushing at their knobby knees.


More fall color


As the rain pattered to a stop and the mist began to lift, we took a last long look at the view across the river. The Palisades and tall buildings on the opposite side were coming into clearer view.


On a drier day we’d have sat for a while in the Wave Hill chairs.


But I didn’t really mind the rain. It let us pretend the garden was ours for a couple of sweet hours.

Up next: An autumn stroll through New York Botanical Garden. For a look back at Part 1 of my visit to Wave Hill, click here. For my tour of the High Line park and garden in Manhattan, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Visit to Wave Hill, a Hudson River estate garden in New York City


I traveled to New York City with my daughter on October 10 to see public gardens. On Saturday, our first full day in New York, a chilly rain didn’t keep us from visiting Wave Hill, a 28-acre estate garden in the Bronx with a million-dollar view of the Hudson River and the Palisades, sheer cliffs of exposed, vertically striated stone on the opposite shore.

Wave Hill had a succession of owners and a few famous tenants between its construction in 1843 and 1960, when it was deeded to the City of New York. Mark Twain leased the place from 1901 to 1903, and as a boy Theodore Roosevelt summered here with his family. Two houses and a conservatory remain today, along with gardens acclaimed for their horticultural artistry.


We took the train for the 30-minute ride from midtown out to the Bronx, and from there a Wave Hill shuttle took us to the garden. Away from the bustle of the streets of Manhattan, we found ourselves in a serene oasis, with the soft dripping of rain and birdsong in our ears instead of honking horns and whooshing subways. You enter to views of a sweeping lawn leading to a long, vine-draped pergola. The river and Palisades view just beyond was partly obscured by mist.


Let’s save the pergola garden and turn right toward the simply named Flower Garden, a formally arranged garden of exuberant, colorful plant combos, surrounded by a Chippendale-style cedar fence and arbors.


Tall grasses partly screen the view as you enter.


Blackberry lily, tall verbena, and blanketflower add to the fall scene.


Pink cosmos threads through the grasses.


A wide brick walk runs through the center of the garden, with rustic cedar arbors and benches bookending the space. An impressive conservatory overlooks the garden.


Turning around, you can see the river and Palisades through a window in the arbor.


Paralleling the brick walk is a narrow stone path along the perimeter. Chartreuse plants glow even on this misty morning.


Glancing over the fence you see the lawn, with pairs of the famous Wave Hill chairs inviting you to sit and enjoy the view — on drier days, anyway.


Looking across the center of the garden, you see the conservatory framed by four fastigiate trees in pots. The bronze mound in the center is oxalis.


Yes, oxalis! I tried to part the foliage in order to discover how the mound was created: tiered containers, or mounded soil, or just a monstrous single plant? (Couldn’t be!) But it was raining pretty steadily by now, and I couldn’t juggle camera, camera bag, and umbrella well enough to look. It remains a mystery.


Looking to the far end of the garden you see the other arbor. Evergreen shrubs add year-round structure.


Turning around, here’s the opposite view.


I enjoyed this rich, purple foliage accented by orange and peach sunset hues.


Bold dahlias stole the show.


Red berries on a yellowing, potted tree make a pretty fall scene too.


Peach dahlias complement the bronze oxalis mound.


It’s such a textural garden, invitingly touchable, with sophisticated color combos.


We took a quick peek inside the conservatory, but aside from a few tables of succulents it wasn’t that interesting. So let’s go back to the pergola overlooking the Hudson.


Packed with potted plants and hung with vines, the pergola is essentially a container garden on steroids.


My daughter, investigating a plant or a fallen leaf from the shelter of her umbrella


Tearing my eyes away from the pergola garden, I paused to admire the mist-shrouded view from a handsome stone balustrade.


A double stair leads to the lawn below…


…and to the Elliptical Garden, formerly the site of a swimming pool.


Twin golden pots mark the entry to this small garden.


Concrete benches offer contemplative places to rest.


I love the melancholy, going-to-seed splendor of the autumn garden.


There are wooded trails to explore below the Elliptical Garden, but they were muddy and overhung with dripping foliage, so we headed back to the balustrade stairs and the pergola.


Summer’s zinnias were still hanging on.


Ivy was hanging too.


Back in the main gardens I admired the fall color in this scene: burgundy foliage and purple beautyberries.


We liked this cheerful vegetable garden too, planted along a vine-swagged, golden-yellow fence in the Paisley Bed, so named for its comma shape. The Paisley Bed is redone every year to new effect, so you won’t see the same design twice.

The Flower Garden and pergola views were gorgeous, but the best was yet to come. Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Wave Hill visit, which includes the dramatic Monocot Garden and pond, Mediterranean-style Dry Garden, and windswept Wild Garden.

For a look back at my 2-part tour of the High Line, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.