The 8th Annual Healing Nature Forum: Horticulture as Therapy
Monday, April 7, 2014

On Friday, March 28, The Hort held its 8th Annual Healing Nature Forum at the Center for Architecture. The day kicked off with an introduction by The Hort's George Pisegna, Deputy Director & Chief of Horticulture, and Keynote Presentation from Virginia Burt, Principal of Visionscapes Landscape Architects, Inc. Virginia gave an illustrated presentation and shared images of Visionscapes Landscape Architect, Inc.'s built projects that highlighted the importance of three interconnected elements—people, place, and program—in successful healing gardens.

The morning Panel Discussions opened with an illustrated presentation from The Hort’s Executive Director, Sara Hobel, who spoke on behalf of Milton Puryear, Co-Founder of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, an organization founded to create and maintain the proposed 14-mile Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway.  Sara introduced the lineup of panelists which included, Jack Carman, President of Design for Generations LLC; Clare Johnson, Off-site Coordinator and Design Consultant at Chicago Botanic Garden; and Patricia Wilson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology at La Salle University.  Each panelist spoke on behalf of their specialized fields of study and presented photos and data from their projects that revealed the ways in which horticulture can successfully be integrated into healing practices.  The panel illustrated a range of healing gardens and examined topics such as landscape design, environment and identity, audience and programming, positive emotion, social affiliations, and more.  In the afternoon, the Keynote Presenter and Panelists led breakout sessions in which they explored their own projects more thoroughly while encouraging participants to exchange ideas, ask questions, and share their own work in horticultural therapy.

The forum was a huge success and would not have been possible without the generous support of this year's sponsor, W. Atlee Burpee Co., as well as the help, time, and expertise shared by our volunteers, presenters, and staff.

Thank you to all who contributed. We are already looking forward to next year!

Images: Top: Jack Carman; Side: George Pisegna, Virginia Burt, Sara Hobel, and Andrea Henderson Fahnestock.

Flowers Bloom in February at The Hort
Wednesday, February 12, 2014

On Wednesday, February 12, we celebrated the opening of Winter Blooms, The Hort’s seventh annual Sprout exhibition, with over 150 people in attendance, including our young artists, their families, and supporters. This year, our students dissected flowers then created unique paper collages and botanical watercolors from direct observation. They were inspired by the illustrations of children’s book authors Lois Ehlert and Eric Carle, as well as the collages of Henri Matisse. Ninety-eight works were selected from over 700 works created by students in seven participating public schools across Queens and Harlem.

Surrounded by their own inspiring works, the students and their families danced to live flamenco music by Alfonso Mogaburo Cid and friends. The proud artists enjoyed healthy snacks and milk, which was graciously provided by Organic Valley. Students also “hunted” for unique flowers and pollinators in the exhibition, and collaborated on a live drawing of their own imaginary garden. Each student received a certificate and complimentary passes to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

The show, a breath of color and warmth in February, will be on view at The Hort through Friday, March 7th. Please visit the gallery Monday through Friday, 10:00am to 6:00pm.

Enjoy more photos of the show on Flickr.

The Latest Buzz
Friday, December 20, 2013

The Hort’s “Wreath Interpretation” is being displayed in the Arsenal Gallery through January 9, 2014.

NYC Parks celebrates the holiday season with its 31st annual exhibition of unique, unconventional wreaths. The Hort is extremely excited to be participating with a diverse selection of 47 fine artists, horticulturalists, designers, and other spirited contributors. Neck ties, rat traps, acorns, recycled plastic bags and forged steel are among the many and varied materials used to examine themes as diverse as zombie apocalypses and water conservation.

This year, The Hort’s inspiration comes from our favorite guests staying at the Waldorf Astoria hotel – the bees that live in the rooftop garden! “The Latest Buzz” is made up of recycled materials, hand-crafted paper flowers, and found objects.

View Wreath Interpretations at the Arsenal Gallery located in Central Park (64th Street and 5th Avenue), now through January 9th. Gallery>hours are 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday. Click here for more info.

William Cullen Bryant High School Terrace Planting
Wednesday, October 23, 2013

This project started as a dream. A dream that all New York City rooftops would be alive! Growing luscious, organic food, with city teens who would call it their own, nurture it and learn from it. Today, part of this dream is a reality.

We are pleased to announce our newest garden; an urban farm at William Cullen Bryant High School. In partnership with Global Kids this dream started in July, with our summer institute. Fifteen and sixteen year olds focused on environmental action, green infrastructure and access to healthy, local foods. They identified rooftop farms as an environmental benefit in the struggle against rising ambient air temperatures, poor air quality, food deserts and excess storm-water runoff. If you ask Byrant Senior Amosh, he'll say "Greenroofs make sense for New York City and if you can grow food on them? What a bonus!"

The terrace farm designed by Amosh, Tenzin, Manny, Anisi, Elizabeth, Danielle, Maxine and Fatima features an 8-inch deep modular greenroof system. The Hort's own GreenTeam installed the modules then the students, school Principal Dwarka and A.P Troianos planted into them. The farm features fragrant herbs like rosemary, lavender, thyme, lemon balm, spearmint, sage and santolina. Amongst the herbs are edible companions like lovage, romaine lettuce, Thumbelina carrots, rainbow chard, and cheerful pansies. Edibles from the urban farm will serve over 2,500 high schoolers at William Cullen Bryan High School.

Funded by a generous grant from the Greening Western Queens Fund of North Star Fund, this project aims to ensure long-term sustainability in Western Queens. Some call this our "work." I call it a dream realized.

View more photos from our day of rooftop gardening on our Flickr page.

Celebrating Another Season of Botanical Art
Friday, September 20, 2013

On Friday, September 20, we celebrated the opening of the 16th Annual International with the American Society of Botanical Artists. We were excited to have many of the 41 artists in attendance – including three who traveled from Japan – for our reception and awards ceremony, which drew an enthusiastic crowd of over 200 people.

The forty-five paintings, drawings and prints in this year’s show were selected from a field of more than 200 submissions by jurors Patricia Jonas, Kathie Miranda, and Derek Norman. Works by Miranda (Strelitzia sp., Bird of Paradise) and Norman (Camassia scilloides, Wild Hyacinth) are also on display.

This year’s award for Best in Show, presented by The Horticultural Society of New York, was given to Ingrid Finnan for her exquisite oil painting of Dahlia. Finnan’s work presents the striking bloom with its supporting foliage and buds in fine detail and remarkable color.

Heeyoung Kim was awarded the ASBA’s Eleanor Wunderlich Award for Excellence for her Prairie Crabapple, a contemplative watercolor painting showcasing the tree’s structure and color in its spring bloom. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden Award for Drawings and Prints went to Joan McGann, whose exceptional colored pencil drawing of a blooming Devil’s Tongue Barrel Cactus highlighted against a black-and-white terrain is featured on the exhibition’s catalogue.

Other award-winners include: Carrie DiCostanzo’s intricate Jeffrey Pine (Ursus Award); Denise Walser-Kolar’s tender Lilac on vellum (New York Central Award); and Elaine Searle’s earthy Garden Rhubarb (Talas Award). Jean Emmons (Dwarf Bearded Iris), Asuka Hishiki (Giant Kohlrabi), Tomoko Ogawa (Anemone), and Rosalind Allchin (Birch bark) were awarded Honorable Mentions.

In conjunction with the show, three featured artists will hold botanical art classes in the gallery. Asuka Hishiki’s September 30th class focused on obtaining accurate color in botanical subjects. From October 16-18, John Pastoriza-Piñol will run an extended botanical art workshop, focusing on flower petals and anatomy. Beverly Duncan will teach a class on Friday, November 15, championing the subtle beauty of autumn leaves and branches. Each class is an amazing opportunity to learn from talented artists while surrounded by their exemplary paintings.

This inspiring exhibition of finely-detailed and artistically rendered botanicals will remain on view through Friday, November 22. A closing reception and walkthrough will be held on the evening of Wednesday, November 20.

View more photos from the opening reception on our Flickr page.

Greening Western Queens awards the Horticultural Society of New York
Monday, September 9, 2013

The Greening Western Queens Fund of North Star Fund awarded the Horticultural Society of New York a generous grant in 2013 to establish learning ecosystems at six public schools in Western Queens. The Greening Western Queens Fund is a $7.9 million initiative to invest in energy-efficiency and environmental projects in the Western Queens community affected by a July 2006 electric power outage. This program is supported by funds from the community's settlement with Con Edison. All six public schools are in the 2006 affected blackout area, with administrators and teachers who experienced the blackout first-hand.

In 2013, the Horticultural Society has been working with PS 12Q, PS 150Q, PS 151Q, IS 141Q, WC Bryant High School and Aviation High School to design and install new learning gardens.

During August, Garden Works and the Hort's own GreenTeam installed four new school gardens at PS 12Q, PS 150Q, PS 151Q and IS 141Q. All four gardens feature perennials flowers and herbs, which attract pollinators (butterflies, bees, and birds), and provide outdoor classrooms with tree stump seating. Three of the gardens have a dry creek bed with river rocks and underground rainwater storage with a hand-pump for accessing the water. IS141Q also has two rain barrels, a gazebo, and raised herb boxes. The green infrastructure projects at the two high schools will occur in the fall of 2013 and will involve the students in the installation phases.

Our children’s education department will provide training for teachers with inter-disciplinary and real-world applications of science, math, and English. A garden for local Queens students-from its design, to its construction, planting, and maintenance-provides a wealth of educational opportunities. And a revitalized, cooler green space for the entire community.

Waldorf Astoria Rooftop Garden Tour
Tuesday, August 20, 2013

On July 30th, Hort members and other urban farmers gathered on the 20th floor of 301 Park Avenue to explore the Waldorf Astoria’s rooftop garden designed and maintained in collaboration with The Horticultural Society of New York. Against the backdrop of a breathtaking city sunset skyline sat an array of growing green vegetables and herbs. Guests wandered through the garden, curiously inspecting the various plant beds and cautiously observing the different hives of honeybees at work.

The now thriving garden was implemented by the Waldorf’s executive chef, David Garcelon, and The Hort’s very own Director of Horticulture, George Pisegna. The garden initially began with the 6 beehives, resulting in what is now known as “Top of the Waldorf Honey.” The rest of the garden then followed, created and selected in coordination with beekeeper, Andrew Coté, to most effectively utilize and care for the bees. There are now nine raised planting beds, six trees, and various potted plants, all of which result in an estimated 40 to 50 fresh ingredients. These ingredients are being mixed into the menus of the Waldorf’s various restaurants, and horticultural society guests had the chance to sample some of these dishes as they were led through the gardens creation and function by Garcelon, Coté, and Pisegna. Selections included lavender-lemon shortbread cookies and honey-praline chocolates.

The great success of such another rooftop garden is very exciting for The Hort. We look forward to watching the garden and menus grow, hopefully serving as an example for many others to begin similar horticultural projects. For a chance to view the garden, consider becoming a Contributing Member of The Hort. Tours are organized several times during the peak season for members at the Contributor level and above.

To see pictures of the garden and the event, visit our flickr page:

Edible Manhattan visits Rikers Island GreenHouse Program
Friday, August 2, 2013

This past spring Edible Manhattan visited our GreenHouse program on Rikers Island. Read their report, including interviews with inmates, Commissioner Dora Schriro, Sara Hobel, and Hilda Krus, in the current issue.

Read and Seed: Free Summer Learning!
Friday, July 26, 2013

For the past thirteen years The Hort has offered Read & Seed to students during the summer months at New York City's public libraries. Read & Seed provides free literacy, hands-on science and gardening to kids throughout New York City. The program has been made possible by generoud funding from the Robert Bowne Foundation.   Working alongside dedicated librarians, our Read and Seed staff connects literacy and gardening, teaching in libraries in the Bronx, Harlem, Brooklyn, and Queens.

Every week excited kids, from tot to teen, come to their local library to get their hands dirty, learn about plants and hear a story that connects to the theme of the day. The dedicated young learners of Read and Seed study plant parts, herbs, and seeds. This summer they started herb gardens, made edible sculptures, and potted seedlings to take home. The students’ enthusiasm for Read & Seed is incredible and contagious. At the end of last week’s lesson on herbs, one East Harlem three-year-old could not contain her glee as she ran up to the our instructor to exclaim, “I LOVE PLANTS, I LOVE PLANTS, I LOVE PLANTS!”

Barge Celebration!
Tuesday, July 9, 2013

On July 9th The Hort hosted an evening of horticulture-themed festivities at the Waterfront Museum with Wilder Quarterly, whose own Celestine Maddy led guests in the easy process of creating seed bombs.

Guests eagerly dug into the task of forming seed bombs—made from clay, soil, and wildflower seeds—in order to participate in this very popular method of gardening in urban areas, which allows seeds to be sown in hard to reach places.

After successfully preparing their very own seed bombs, guests enjoyed the refreshing "Due North" rum and local honey cocktails provided by Van Brunt Stillhouse, paired with organic garden fresh veggies and cheese from Stinky Bklyn.

The Waterfront Museum, aka the 1914 Lehigh valley barge No. 79, is the last American wooden barge of the "lighterage era." Normally docked in Red Hook, for a few nights only it sat before the Manhattan skyline on an evening that was blissfully bathed in a scintillating pink sunset on Brooklyn Bridge Park's sixth pier. Guests gazed across the water as they listened to the live music of alluring alternative rock singer, Galen Cohee Baynes, and drummer, Adam Rule.

Another successful celebration of nature fused with urban living!

Check out more pictures from the Barge Celebration on our Flickr page

To make sure you don't miss out on the next Horticultural Society event, visit our Facebook page at or our blog at

by Morgan Hopper, Hort Intern

GreenHouse Cut Flower Garden Workshop
Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Flower arranging at the GreenHouse—one addition at the GreenHouse in 2013 is our beautiful, brand new cut flower garden. The flowers in this bouquet all are our own and were picked in late June. The women made the bouquets in a group effort during a flower arranging workshop as centerpieces for a staff appreciation event on Rikers honoring DOC programs staff, members of the DOE, and organizations providing educational services like The Hort. All 14 women presently enrolled in the program participated.

During the workshop, there were animated discussions about color schemes, height, what should go where, and how many of the golden butterflies should or should not go into the bouquets. The flowers also sparked a lively exchange of stories about flowers that hold a special meaning or memory for the women and the special occasions when they were given flowers. In the end, we all were elated about the result.

The flowers in the bouquet are: hydrangea, daylily, rose campion, delphinium, yarrow, cocks comb, verbena Bonariensis, butterfly bush, Russian sage, lavender, Queen Anne’s lace, lambs ear, smoke bush, monarda and seed heads of allium.

For more details about our GreenHouse program, visit our Horticultural Therapy page.

The Unveiling of the Waldorf Astoria Roof Garden
Friday, June 8, 2013

On Wednesday, June 5, 2013 the Waldorf Astoria unveiled their new rooftop garden in partnership with The Hort. The garden will function as an aid to the surrounding environment while also providing ingredients directly to the hotel's restaurants.

David Garcelon, The Waldorf Director of Culinary and Executive Chef, worked with The Hort's George Pisegna on selecting hard-to-find herbs, fruits, greens, and other vegetables that will thrive best in the garden—even taking input from David's enthusiastic chefs on what they would like to eventually harvest to use in the kitchen.

At the unveiling, happy bees buzzed around the seven tomato varieties as attendees sipped on seasonal cocktails, such as the "Wax Poetic", which included house-made honey syrup collected from the hives just a few feet away.

We were thrilled to be joined by the talented and humble Tim Gunn, a longtime supporter of animal rights and greening initiatives. George and Mr. Gunn (golden shovel in tow) planted a Sour Cherry Tree gifted by the New York Restoration Project to celebrate the garden's unveiling.

For more details about garden design and landscaping services offered by The Hort, visit our Garden Services page.

Images from top to bottom: The Waldorf Astoria rooftop garden and bees; The Hort's George Pisegna and Tim Gunn at the roof garden unveiling; Gunn and Pisegna planting a cherry tree at the roof garden unveiling; detail of dill growing in one of the garden's raised beds.

The 3rd Annual Urban Agriculture Conference
Monday, May 20, 2013

Wednesday, May 15th through Friday, May 17th The Hort held the 3rd Annual Urban Agriculture Conference (UAC).

We kicked of the 3-days of programming with an opening reception and in-progress viewing of the urban farming documentary, Growing Cities. Over 120 people piled into the Brooklyn Lyceum to sip drinks, watch the film, and share their excitement about all things gardening. Filmmakers, Dan Susman and Andrew Monbouquette made an appearance (coming all the way from Omaha, Nebraska) to answer questions and reconnect with some of the farmers featured in the documentary who were in attendance. 

On the second morning of the conference, UAC participants from around the world joined together at the NYU Kimmel Center to hear Manhattan Borough President, Scott M. Stringer give an inspiring keynote address. The first round of panel discussions and presentations were given by a diverse group of urban agriculture professionals—including representatives from the University of Colorado, Boston Natural Areas Network, and AgroParisTech.

In the afternoon, keynote speaker and Burpee Seeds CEO, George Ball, kept the enthusiasm pumping with his speech—highlighting the little-discussed unsustainability of flower consumption in the U.S.  and the importance of urban agriculture in tackling issues such as these.  Panel discussions continued afterwards, focusing on themes of public policy, food sovereignty, and innovative urban farming techniques.

On the final day of the UAC, groups of participants got a chance to visit multiple urban farms in Brooklyn, Manhattan, or Queens. The Hort organized trips to some of the most productive and unique farming projects—including the Brooklyn Grange, Boswyck Farms, and our own garden atop the Waldorf Astoria.

The conference was a huge success and would not have been possible without the generous contributions of our sponsors, as well as the help, time, and expertise shared by our volunteers, presenters, and staff.

Thank you to all who contributed in some way. We are already excited for next year!

Images (top to bottom): ©Miguel Bernard, Urban farm tour of Brooklyn Grange Queens; ©Miguel Bernard, Goats at Queens County Farm; Lauren Mandel speaking about the evolution of rooftop agriculture; Manhattan Borough President, Scott M. Stringer giving the morning keynote address.

Check out more pictures from all three days of the 3rd Annual Urban Agriculture Conference on our Flickr page.

Burpee Seed Report: The Big Gigantic Seed Festival
Tuesday, May 8, 2013

Here in the Children's Education department, we think of ourselves as "optimistic gardeners"—We plant tomatoes on May 1: Early girls, Juliet's, and Sungolds. Our Director of Horticulture, George Pisegna, says May 26. Our Director of the GreenTeam Projects, John Cannizzo, says May 15. So, is May 1 too early? These lovely little pear tomatoes can't wait another day! In the ground they go!

Planted from a seed on March 1 under the direction of Chelsea Fields, the Vegetable Product Manager of W. Atlee Burpee and Company, they looked like the bottom image just 8 weeks later. Ms. Fields addressed an eager bunch of seed starters from our partner organizations. These include: The Bridge, Bowery Mission, Common Ground, National Sorority Big Sister Center, AIDS service center, Southside United HDFC, DOE fund, Hell's Kitchen Farm Project, Brooklyn Rescue Mission, and New York City Public Schools. Ms. Fields stressed the importance of even watering, bright lights and gentle transitioning of seedlings. A generous donation from W. Atlee Burpee & Co, enabled participants to start seeds in specialized seed trays (appropriately named the ULTIMATE GROWING SYSTEM) with organic and heirloom varieties.

Burpee says: Tomatoes need warm weather to grow and produce fruit, so planting in winter does not hurry things along: plants perform best when daytime temperatures are between 70 and 85 degrees and nighttime temperatures remain above 55 degrees.

We plant in early May, in hopes that by June 26 (the last day of NYC public school) we'll be sampling our sweet fruit treats. Our early tomato plants are nestled into sunny courtyard gardens, under 2 liter seltzer bottles and under cold frames. 1,000 students will watch over them, waiting, and ready to harvest by late June. Send us a picture of YOUR tomatoes!

Please visit For more info on tomatoes!

Images (top to bottom): W. Atlee Burpee Yellow Pear Tomato seeds at 4 weeks; at one week; Listening to Chelsey E. Fields, Vegetable Product Manager of W. Atlee Burpee & Co. at the Big Gigantic Seed Festival at The Hort; Yellow Pear Tomato at eight weeks.

Seed Starters' Happy Hour: Starting Seeds!
Friday, April 12, 2013

Last Friday The Hort welcomed our Seed Starter members for an evening of starting seeds, sipping spring inspired cocktails, and making new friends.

What better way to show our appreciation to the newest members of our horticulture community than with a seed starting demonstration? Participants chose from a variety of peas, beans, and herbs to plant in recycled seed-starting pods—many of whom were experimenting with urban gardening for the first time!

As our community continues to grow, we hope to expand and diversify our membership by offering fun, free events focused on learning, meeting new people, and inspiring a more sustainable city.

Want to learn more about becoming a member of The Hort? Visit our memebership page or call 212-757-0915 x112

Hort Spring Cocktail Recipes:

The Forager
3 cups fresh watercress (stems removed)
1 cup agave syrup (diluted with one cup boiling water)
5 limes

  1. Once agave/water mixture has cooled blend together with watercress
  2. Strain out and reserve liquid
  3. Muddle lime slice in bottom of glass and add 1oz. of watercress simple syrup
  4. Add ice to cup and 2 shots of gin
  5. Finish with seltzer

Gardner’s Punch

1 Bottle white wine
2 cups rum
1 cup (each) of sliced strawberries, lemons, and granny smith apples
1 liter of lemon lime soda

  1. Combine wine, rum, and fruit into a large bowl and refrigerate for 4-6 hours (or overnight)
  2. Add additional fresh fruit slices (and swap out any that look browned)
  3. Pour liter of lemon-lime soda over punch
  4. Serve with ice 

Landscape Architecture Month: Focus on Green Infrastructure
Thursday, April 4, 2013

On Thursday, April 4, The Hort hosted an opening reception for Currents in Green Infrastructure: Designs for a Sustainable New York City, an exhibition presented with the New York Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA-NY). The reception also served to kick-off a series of related events for Landscape Architecture Month.

Introductory remarks were given by Laura Starr, President of ASLA-NY and partner at Starr Whitehouse.  Angela Licata, DEP’s Deputy Commissioner of Environmental Planning and Analysis, and Bram Gunther, the Parks Department’s Chief of Forestry, Horticulture, & Natural Resources, also spoke, emphasizing the important role green infrastructure is playing in creating a more sustainable city for future New Yorkers.

Broadly defined, green infrastructure represents a suite of methods that utilize natural systems, including soils, plants and grading, for retaining or detaining stormwater. By diverting this rainfall from the city’s combined sewer system, we lessen the burden on stormwater treatment plants and the discharge of combined sewer overflow (i.e. raw sewage and rain water) into the local waterways. By incorporating plantings into green infrastructure, these systems provide the added benefits of urban beautification, natural habitat, and reduced heat island effect.

The exhibition features plans, renderings, and photographs from some of the leading examples of sustainable design currently being planned and built throughout New York City. The five featured projects are: Brooklyn Bridge Park (Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.); BQE Enhancement Study and Bushwick Inlet Park (both Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners and Kiss + Cathcart Architects); Queens Plaza Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvement Program (Marpillero Pollak Architects); and Gowanus Canal Pilot Sponge Park™ (dlandstudio).

Currents also highlights the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Green Infrastructure Grant Program, as well as their Greenstreet and bioswale programs, which are part of their Right-of-Way initiative. The two DEP-funded projects that are highlighted are Brooklyn Grange’s rooftop farm in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Queens College’s rain gardens and permeable plazas.  You can get an up-close, exclusive look at the Navy Yard’s rooftop farm during our Urban Agricultural Conference.

In honor of Landscape Architecture Month, The Hort and ASLA-NY are hosting a series of events, including a panel discussion on DEP’s Grant Program (April 8), a lecture by the New York Botanical Garden’s Travis Beck on two of their recent green infrastructure projects (April 16), and a practical panel on plants, soils, and other materials used in green infrastructure projects, which will take place on Monday, April 29.

The exhibition will remain on view at The Hort through Tuesday, April 30.  The gallery is free and open to the public Monday through Friday, from 10:00am to 6:00pm.

Images (from top to bottom): Opening Reception at The Hort Gallery; Bram Gunther, Chief of Forestry, Horticulture, & Natural Resources, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation; Adrian Benepe, Laura Starr, ASLA-NY President and Partner at Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners, PLLC, and Angela Licata, Deputy Commissioner of Environmental Planning and Analysis, NYC Department of Environmental Protection.

The Healing Nature Forum: Planting the Seeds of
Health and Sustainability

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Hort, in partnership with NYU Langone Medical Center’s Horticultural Therapy Program, organized a forum on the healing powers of nature last week at NYU Langone Medical Center.   The Healing Nature Forum, Planting the Seeds of Health and Sustainability, brought together experts in the field of horticultural therapy, therapeutic horticulture and members of the supportive housing community with an eye towards advising supportive housing administrators on the benefits of horticulture programs for their populations and inventive ways of obtaining funding.  The program’s keynote speaker, Dr. Keith G. Tidball, Senior Extension Association at the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University, and Associate Director of the Civic Ecology Lab and Program Leader for the Nature and Human Security Program, discussed his inquiries into nature and green spaces as places of renewal, particularly for populations recovering from violent conflict or disaster.  Dr. Tidball cited many examples of what he termed “urgent biophilia” or the urgent impulse to turn to nature as a source of recovery and renewal, citing efforts in Detroit, Japan, and New Orleans, places traumatized by severe economic or natural disaster, to cope by intensive planting and other nature-related activities.  Dr. Tidball also cited the “memorialization mechanism” or spontaneous and collective memorialization of lost ones through gardening and tree-planting.activities.  It was noted that opportunities to garden in supportive housing facilities could provide respite and healing for populations ravaged by homelessness, AIDS, and domestic violence.

The morning panel, Starting Horticultural Programs in Human Service Organizations, brought together practitioners of horticultural therapy from NYU Langone Medical Center’s Horticultural Therapy Program -- Kate George, Lori Bloomberg, and Maureen Reagan – in a discussion moderated by Jolie Milstein, Director of Real Estate at Praxis Housing Initiatives, a supportive housing facility for persons with HIV/AIDS in the Bronx.   NYU’s Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation, whose horticultural therapy program, founded in 1959, was the nation’s first, has recently expanded its outreach to the community and has programs at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, a senior center on the Upper East Side, Project F.I.N.D., homeless senior centers in mid-town, and at the Queens Botanical Garden, where an inter-generational group tends a large garden plot.  The genesis of all three programs was discussed, as were the cognitive, physical and emotional benefits to the participants.

The afternoon panel discussion, Funding Horticultural Programs in Human Services Organizations, brought together development and research experts in an informative session moderated by Laura Hansen, Director, City Life Program for the J.M. Kaplan Fund.  Ms. Hansen, who works to improve the parks, natural areas, waterfronts, plazas and street of New York City, advised seekers of funding to be focused and persistent, and reminded them of the importance of relationship building with program officers.  Carole Gordon, Director of Housing Development at the Bridge, an organization that provides housing for homeless and HIV/AIDS populations with serious mental illness, discussed their horticulture programming, and credited their partnership with the Hort in the success of these programs.  She advised development staff to expand their outlook and research other possible sources of funding such as in the areas of nutrition and vocational training, for example.  (After finding that blood sugar counts in program participants dropped as a result of eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, Ms. Gordon was able to secure funding in the area of nutrition.)  She also cited the importance of a supportive board and to enlist its help whenever possible.  The Hort’s Executive Director, Sara Hobel, with broad experience in fundraising for the Hort’s social service programs, also stressed the importance of turning over every stone in seeking funds, and to consider all components of horticulture programs whether it be the possibilities of artistic expression, physical and mental health restoration, social bonding and community building, or reducing stormwater run-off.  She also advised development staff to clearly define the need and to describe how the garden will provide the solution.  Finally, Matthew Wichrowski, Senior Horticultural Therapist at NYU Langone’s Medical Center, took a clinician’s view of the garden, and discussed the importance of research in seeking funding for horticulture programs.  He encouraged programmers to devise measuring tools to document the efficacy of the garden, such as journal observations, informal conversations, focus groups and surveys.  He also mentioned the ease of finding research to support requests in the brave, new Google world (Google Scholar, for example) and that many, many studies existed documenting the healing powers of gardens and nature.    

For further reading and information:

Greening in the Red Zone, Disaster, Resilience and Community Greening, K.G. Tidball, Cornell University and M.E. Krasny, Cornell University, editors. 
A compilation of research and writings from experts and practitioners from around the world on how creation and access to green spaces promotes individual human health, especially in therapeutic contexts among those suffering traumatic events. 

Community Gardening References compiled by Matthew Wichrowski MSW HTR, NYU Langone Horticultural Therapy Services 
A compilation of research citations on the efficacy of garden programs in various communities.

Images: Keith G. Tidball, Ph.D.Senior Extension Asssociate, Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University; Informational brochure and 2013 Healing Nature Forum Program.

The Philadelphia Flower Show
Friday, March 8, 2013

Last week some Hort staffers took a trip to Philly for the Philadelphia Hort Society’s annual Flower Show.

The theme this year, Great Britain, was demonstrated brilliantly with whimsical pops of color and the incorporation of English pastimes, such as cricket and high tea. Walking around the ceiling-high flower-scapes felt like traveling through Alice’s Wonderland, but we had the most fun looking at the huge variety of award winning succulents and cacti. We even bumped into some of our New York friends, Twig, and the Hudson Valley Seed Library, selling their wares in the vendor section of the convention.

If a long day of looking through endless rows of flowers and plants inside the cold and dark walls of the convention center taught us anything, it is that we are definitely ready for spring!

The Hort Staff Volunteer Day
Friday, November 29, 2012

On November 16th, a group of The Hort staff piled into a pick-up truck and drove down to Coney Island to lend a hand in the Hurricane Sandy relief effort.

At our first stop, MCU Park, we packaged and handed out bags of food to families without electricity or heat. For the three hours that we were there, the line of people coming to pick up supplies was long and constantly moving. It was cold and windy but we were happy to be lending a hand!

After MCU Park, we took the truck over to Home Depot and packed it full with cleaning supplies. We dropped the items off at the far edge Coney Island community of Sea Gate, which lost many homes to the storm. Volunteer organizers there seemed genuinely appreciative of our offer to volunteer but explained that most residents were not in the cleaning stage yet, even three weeks after the storm. Special thanks to the fabulous bartenders from to the JakeWalk, who generously donated their tips from our Year-End Celebration for the Home Depot run.

In a general consensus for the group, Stephanie Chin, Special Events Manager, explained, “It was heartwarming to see what a difference we could make in just a day. I know that most of these places are kind of far to get to for most people but I would totally encourage someone to even just take a few hours out of their day to lend a hand in some way. It is obvious how much work still needs to be done.”

The Hort’s Hilda Krus Honored with Horticultural Therapy Award
Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hilda Krus, (pictured, second from right) Director of the GreenHouse Program on Rikers Island and Horticultural Therapy Programs for The Hort, was honored at the annual meeting of the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA), which was held last week in Olympia, Washington. Ms. Krus was the recipient of the Rhea McCandliss Award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the field of horticultural therapy.

The prestigious award is named for Rhea McCandliss of the Menninger Foundation who realized the benefit of garden settings and working with plants for the mentally ill. In 1971, her findings resulted in the formation of a partnership between the Menninger Foundation and Kansas State University and the development of a training program for horticultural therapists.

The GreenHouse program at Rikers serves as a model for prison horticulture worldwide and Ms. Krus’s total dedication to the program and passionate belief in the practice were cited in the nomination, as was her willingness to respond to the many, many requests for information, visits, and general assistance with establishing other horticultural therapy programs in correctional settings throughout the world. For years, the program at Rikers has also served as a visit site for students at NYBG’s Horticultural Therapy program, and dozens of prospective horticultural therapists have visited the program, experiencing first-hand the restorative and therapeutic powers of the garden and garden activities.

Recently, the GreenHouse internship program has greatly expanded, bringing the knowledge and practice of horticultural therapy to broader and more diverse groups of students from the fields of social work, psychology, art therapy, and criminal justice. The Hort’s Horticultural Therapy Forums, and the information disseminated therein, were also cited in the nomination as an important meeting ground for students and practitioners in the field, especially in the New York City area.

This recognition was long in coming, as Ms. Krus has worked tirelessly in the field, from her arrival in the US from Germany ten years ago to pursue an internship in the program at Rikers, to her hiring to work alongside former director James Jiler and her present position as director of the program. Thank you to Claire Murray-Chow, one of our GreenHouse horticultural therapy interns, for bringing Ms. Krus’ work to the attention of the awards committee. Ms. Krus was also nominated to the board of AHTA, and will serve a three-year term with a focus on requirements for professional registration.

Congratulations to Hilda Krus for an award much deserved!!

Learning Garden Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at P.S. 85
Wednesday, October 10, 2012

This year, The Hort, in collaboration with Garden Works, worked with P.S. 85 in Queens, New York to design and install its new learning gardens. At P.S. 85, The Hort will provide teachers with inter-disciplinary and real-world applications of science, math, and English. Council Member Peter F. Vallone Jr., and P.S. 85’s principal and students attended the ribbon cutting, which took place on October 3, 2012.

The new P.S. 85 school garden, created on 800 square feet of impervious surface, is a unique greenspace, an ingenious marriage of rainwater collection and outdoor classroom. The garden, made possible by the generous contributions of the Greening Western Queens Fund of the North Star Fund and Garden Works, features an outdoor classroom with seating for 20 students, compost unit, drip irrigation for two planting areas, and 110 square feet of an extensive green roof. The school's students will use the garden to examine the effects of climate change and to grow edibles in their own backyard. The Hort will provide intensive professional development for teachers and facilitate the creation of a school leadership team of both teachers and students. On-site workshops for the entire school community will ensure the long-term sustainability of the garden as an educational tool for the school and the larger community for years to come.

Images: top, Assistant principal Samolis, Council Member Peter F. Vallone Jr., Principal Gordon Chang, and P.S. 85 students cut the ribbon; below, Ashley Cruce, Pam Ito, Principal Gordon Chang, Sal Bacarella, and students

Celebrating Fifteen Years of Contemporary Botanical Art
Monday, October 1, 2012

On Friday, September 14, we celebrated the opening of the 15th Annual International with the American Society of Botanical Artists. We were excited to have many of the thirty-nine artists in attendance for our reception and awards ceremony, which drew an enthusiastic crowd of over 200 people.

The forty-three paintings, drawings and prints in this year’s show were selected from a field of 200 submissions by jurors Patricia Jonas, Kathie Miranda, and Derek Norman. This year’s awards were selected by Patricia Jonas, Kathie Miranda, and Jessica Tcherepnine.

The award for Best in Show, presented by The Horticultural Society of New York, was given to Heeyoung Kim for her impressive painting of Compass Plant (below, left). Kim, who lives and works in Chicago, renders the various textures of the plant in extreme detail in color and fine gray line.

The next two awards were received by local New York artists. Ingrid Finnan won ASBA’s Eleanor Wunderlich Award for Excellence for her oil painting of Panicled Hydrangea (below, center). The judges were impressed by her ability to render white flowers on white paper in the unforgiving medium of oil paint. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden Award for Drawings and Prints went to Monika E. deVries Gohlke, whose striking hand-colored aquatint etching of papaya (below, right) many will recognize from the exhibition’s card.

Other award-winners include: John Pastoriza-Piñol’s Sierra Dawn Lily (Talas Award); Leah Kaizer’s Tasmanian Blue Gum (New York Central Award); and Carrie Megan’s Northern Red Oak and Gray Birch (Ursus Books and Prints Award). Lizzie Sanders (Bamboo Grass) and Andrea Wilson (Flowering Quince) received Honorable Mentions.

This stunning exhibition of exquisitely rendered botanicals will be on view at The Hort through Wednesday, November 21. In conjunction with the show, four featured artists will be offering botanical art classes in the gallery. This is an amazing opportunity to learn from such talented artists while surrounded by their inspiring examples. For the full schedule of classes, please visit our exhibitions page.

Click here to see more photos from the reception and awards ceremony.

Food (and Seeds) for Thought
Tuesday, September 25, 2012

In addition to providing high-yield fruit and vegetable seeds at a reasonable price for families across America, Burpee provides essential financial support for social service programs that help introduce the importance of gardening and the joy of growing your own fruits and vegetables to populations that are often deprived of that experience.

Over the last ten years, Burpee’s support has been vital to the growth of our GreenHouse program on Rikers Island, as well as the jail-to-street vocational training program, GreenTeam. Every single day we are reminded of this support in a very literal sense: Burpee seeds grow into delicious vegetables, lush flowers, and medicinal and culinary herbs that are enjoyed and appreciated by all our students.

With Burpee, we know we have a true gardening friend on our side, one that understands the nutritional and emotional benefits of growing food and flowers. Through their generous funding we have been able to continuously maintain the high quality of our work while expanding it to reach a wider audience. Just this past year, Burpee increased the funding for our program that enabled us to add a new farm program to the GreenHouse. This farm, which will be framed by a lush border of flowers, will focus on growing vegetables and a variety of herbs for craft and culinary use.

Right now, our gardening season is winding down, but we still look forward to enjoying the remainder of our harvest. In midwinter however—when gardeners start to feel the ache for spring—we plan the new season with our students by evaluating successes and failures of the previous year and by dreaming about what we’d like to grow and eat in the coming seasons. We teach the students what can or cannot be grown in our climate, how to read seed packages, and to memorize the vocabulary. And then—just when we need it most—the much-anticipated Burpee seed catalogue arrives! The Burpee seed catalogue, with its beautiful pictures and helpful descriptions, is a perennial favorite of the students in our program. It is so popular that we have waiting lists to borrow the catalogue for the weekend, and to the complete bewilderment of their dorm mates, our students spend hours reading the descriptions. Every year we let the students choose three different varieties of seeds they’d like to start. Once the seeds arrive and get planted, the students follow “their” plants through the growing process and hope to still be with the program when the plants start to fruit or flower.

What sounds like a cute story is in fact evidence of important changes and developments in our students: they learn about nutrition and the satisfaction of growing their own food; they learn important horticultural vocabulary and how to make informed choices; they learn the responsibility of something in their own care; and they learn to collaborate and work with each other to achieve a greater goal. It is our goal that students take these new skills with them and that they share them with their families and communities, encouraging others to see what can grow from a single seed.

Greening Western Queens: New Learning Garden at PS 70
Friday, September 14, 2012

In 2012, the Horticultural Society, in collaboration with Garden Works, has been working with PS 2, PS 70, and PS 85 to design and install new learning gardens. At PS 70, we just completed a rainwater retention garden to incorporate into the school’s curriculum. The learning gardens will provide teachers with inter-disciplinary and real-world applications of science, math, and English. A garden-from its design, to its construction, planting, and maintenance-provides a wealth of educational opportunities for students. Through the learning gardens, students will be encouraged to apply creative solutions to urban environmental issues.

Student classes will begin next week and three PS 70 teachers will attend our DOE accredited P-course called Beyond the Lima Bean: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Plant Science. By serving the teachers, students and school community we aim to create gorgeous, child-friendly, sustainable green spaces.

Click here for more information about our Greening Western Queens Fund award.

Rikers Flowers—Blue Ribbon Winners!
Friday, September 14, 2012

A fiery red-orange zinnia, a perfect Paul McCartney rose, heavily perfumed, and a snow- white dahlia with a center splash of magenta—all won ribbons at Green Thumb’s Harvest Fair. The fair, an annual celebration honoring community gardeners for their work during the season, also provides a forum for showing off their harvests. And for those who think they’ve harvested a winner, the Harvest Contest gives an opportunity to compete in various categories including flowers, vegetables, floral design, art from nature, and culinary.

Greenhouse interns Claire Murray and Genevieve Dimmitt learned of the event and organized the Greenhouse students in selecting the best flowers from the gardens. After careful garden strolls, the best rose, dahlia and zinnia were selected, then wrapped for transport home by Claire. The next day, after two hours of intense deliberations, the judges awarded the Rikers rose and zinnia blue ribbons in their class, and the dahlia, second place. Also, students from the Hort’s program at East River Academy made floral bouquets, selecting interesting flowers and foliage from the garden’s 100+ plant species, some using non-traditional material such as herbs, purple hyacinth beans and even some lamb’s quarter!!

Three of the bouquets won the top prizes—first, second and third place. The students, many of whom have never received a prize, at first reacted with disbelief, then with pride and ownership that something so beautiful, and coming from their own handiwork, had been recognized and awarded. There was also satisfaction and a lesson learned, we think, that the vigilant and patient watering, weeding, staking, and pruning, the tender nurturing, in a trying situation and in intense summer heat, had paid off. Thanks to interns Claire and Gen for organizing this activity and congratulations to our students, blue ribbon winners each and every one!!

2012 East River Academy Graduation Day
Thursday, July 5, 2012

Twenty-six graduates—22 young men and women from the East River Academy and four adults—were recognized for their academic accomplishment on June 26, 2012, at a graduation ceremony on Rikers Island. Both the Department of Correction’s Commissioner Dora Schriro and Department of Education’s Chancellor Dennis Walcott spoke at the event, which was held in the George Motchan Detention Center auditorium and attended by many graduates’ family and friends, as well as DOE and DOC staff.

Students from the Hort’s Horticulture Vocational Training Program at East River Academy contributed to the day by preparing all flower arrangements for the celebration. Four large vases filled with masses of sunflowers, delphiniums, and golden butterflies—echoing the blue and gold graduation colors—graced the auditorium stage, and 30 small vases filled with yellow roses, chamomile, veronica, and more golden butterflies, were set out on the luncheon tables. Students in the program were given instruction in flower arranging—balance, scale, eye movement—as well as a description of Manhattan’s flower district on W. 28th Street, and the international cut flower market. The students were invited to attend the event, and cheered happily for the achievements of their fellow students. Click here to watch video coverage of this event via NY1. Look for the flower arrangements in the background. You can’t miss them!

The Hort Greens Putnam Triangle Plaza
Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Hort Garden Crew recently went to Putnam Triangle in Clinton Hill to apply some of their newfound horticultural skills to help prune, weed, mulch, and clean up the planters and Greenstreet gardens. The Fulton Area Business Alliance oversees this temporary Plaza area designed and complemented by the NYC Department of Transporation's Public Plaza program.

The Putnam Triangle Plaza is a great new spot to soak up the sun, read a paper, eat lunch, or play a few games of chess, and we were glad to help keep it green and beautiful for the community.

Photo credits: FAB Alliance

Curious Beauty: The Art of Jessica Tcherepnine
Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Beloved friend and supporter of the Hort, Jessica Tcherepnine, is featured in the Summer 2012 edition of Watercolor. In the past, Jessica has generously given the gift of time to the Hort, such as this previous December when she trekked out to Rikers Island to offer our GreenHouse participants a workshop in the art of botanical drawing (click the link to read more about that day).

This new issue focuses on how Jessica's work "revitalizes the tradition of botanical art in the United States by inspiring a generation of artists who are new to the genre." Focusing on her meticulous techniques and attention to detail, the article illuminates her journey as a botanical artist over the years.

Click here to purchase the Summer 2012 issue of Watercolor magazine online.

Open Days at Burpee’s Historic Fordhook Farm
Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Locally based garden company W. Atlee Burpee & Co. is hosting a wonderful Open Days event at Fordhook Farm on Friday, June 22 through Saturday, June 23. A research facility and test garden in Bucks County, PA, Fordhook Farm was the home of Burpee’s founder. There will be spectacular perennials for sale, free guided garden tours (featuring over 3,000 species of plants!), and free demonstrations all day long.

Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D Rutgers University, is giving four lectures (two each day) about humans experiencing happiness in relationship to flowers. This amazing work comes from her Human Emotions Lab and her field of inquiry "The Ecology Of Happiness". Discover the secrets of how flowers trigger happy emotions, heighten feelings, and elevate moods. As we look for easy and natural ways to enhance our lives, one simple answer is right before our eyes and under our noses.

Join "Bottom's Up"—a trail of on-site demos of the root systems and the requirements of maintaining plant health. Talk to Burpee specialists, who can tell you everything you always wanted to know about this perennial but could never see, with a group of several "bottoms" to show. And for the perfect addition to your garden, the big sales tent will have a variety of both rare and common perennials.

Refreshments will be sold on-site. Event admission is $5.00, applicable to the plant sale. Lecture tickets are $15.00 each and can be purchased online at and on-site at the event. Lecture times for both days are 11 am and 2 pm. Free parking will be available on Fordhook Farm grounds. For more information on Open Days, click here to visit Burpee's website.

The GreenTeam Puts the 'Green' in Greenpoint Library
Tuesday, May 22, 2012

On Thursday, May 17, our GreenTeam installed a garden at Greenpoint Branch Library. In keeping with our mission to environmentally remediate and green New York City, we planted over 100 perennials, five trees, and ten shrubs. In tandem with installation, the Hort's education program has launched a gardening project for local "tweens" and unique conversational workshops for non-English speakers at the branch. All other patrons can enjoy books from our mobile horticultural cart.

This project is sponsored by the NYCEF Newtown Creek Fund of the Hudson River Foundation (supported through the Environmental Benefits Program). This project will reduce storm-water run-off and improve air quality in the neighborhood.

To view more photos from this day, please visit our Flickr photo album.

2012 NYASLA Design Awards Ceremony and Exhibition Opening
Tuesday, April 17, 2012

On Tuesday, April 3, The Hort hosted the 2012 Design Awards Ceremony and Exhibition Opening for the New York Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (NYASLA). Honor and Merit Awards were given in five categories: Landscape Architectural Design; Small Project Landscape Design; Collaborative Design; Planning, Analysis, Research, Communications; and Un-Built Projects.

Thomas Balsley Associates received an Honor Award and three Merit Awards for large-scale urban park and waterfront designs for the cities of New York and Tampa. Edmund Hollander Landscape Architect Design received three Honor Awards and a Merit Award for residential garden and courtyard projects. HM White received an Honor Award in Un-Built Projects for the King Abdullah Financial District Conference Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a civic space featuring a living roof and ribbon-like green walls that weave throughout the interior.  Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects won an Honor Award in Planning, Analysis, Research, Communications for their Greening America’s Capitals plan for Hartford, CT.

Introductory remarks were given by The Hort’s Executive Director Sara Hobel and NYASLA President Denisha Williams. The awards were presented by author and architecture critic James Russell, who spoke about the unique challenges and opportunities of landscape architecture and urbanism today. The awards ceremony and the reception that followed were attended by over 200 guests, including principals and representatives from each award-winning firm.  We were also honored to welcome New York City Departments of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe, who was thrilled to help out at the bar! Click here to view additional pictures from the ceremony and reception.

You can read about all of the award-winning projects, including those highlighted above, in the exhibition guide, which can be viewed here. The exhibition is on view at The Hort through Wednesday, May 2.  The gallery is free and open to the public Monday through Friday, from 12pm to 6pm.

In honor of Landscape Architecture Month, The Hort and NYASLA are hosting a series of events, including Building Sustainable Communities (Tuesday, April 24), a panel presentation and discussion with 2012 NYASLA Award Winners, and Recreation (Saturday, April 28 and Sunday, April 29), an interactive walking tour in Central Park with poet and artist Jon Cotner.

Urban Agriculture Conference 2012
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

On Friday, March 16, the Hort reached full capacity as people flocked in from the tri-state area to attend our 2012 Urban Agriculture Conference. The day started off with keynote speaker Thomas Fox delivering his speech, "Urban Farming in 2012: Anything New Under the Sun?", where he addressed whether urban farming is here for the long haul, or if it's just the latest iteration of a “back to the land” reflex that occurs whenever the nation or economy is threatened. Fox's outline of the history of urban farming, particularly over the last decade in the United States, provided an excellent foundation for the day's discourse.

Following Fox’s opening lecture, there was a panel discussion featuring some of the most productive and innovative projects in the city’s urban farming community. Community representatives included Erika Brenner, Annie Novak, Phyllis Odessey, EunYoung Sebazco, Britta Riley, Zach Pickens, and Camilla Hammer as moderator. Our panelists talked about the individual farming and garden projects they belong to, then addressed the future of urban agriculture as a group.

To view more photos from this day, please visit our Flickr.

Keeping the Culture in Agriculture
Tuesday, March 6, 2012

On Friday, February 17th, the Hort held an opening reception for Art of the Heirloom, second annual exhibition with the Hudson Valley Seed Library. The exhibit features artworks commissioned by the Hudson Valley Seed Library to decorate this year’s seed packets and promote the cultural and genetic diversity of New York. Ken Greene, co-founder of the Hudson Valley Seed Library, led a walk-through of the exhibition, and spoke about the artists’ work, as well as the mission of the Seed Library.

The opening was well attended by lovers of art and agriculture from all over New York.  Local refreshments were generously provided by Ommegang Brewery and Tuthilltown Spirits, who distill their fine whiskeys in the Hudson Valley. Please click here to see a series of photos from the reception.

For the 2012 Art Pack seed collection, all of which are on view here, the Seed Library selected 23 artists from 130 who responded to an open call for submissions.  If you’d like to submit your work for next year, they recently posted the call for submissions on their blog at

Of particular note is an illustration by Will Sweeney entitled, “Cosmonaut Volkov Tomato” featuring the tomato of the same name. April Warren’s Evergreen Scallion, painted in oil, and Kat Cappillino’s Starflower, a low-relief paper collage, highlight the variety of media used to celebrate the  particular identities of each seed in their collection.

We are also pleased to announce that the exhibition was featured on NY1. Rachel Wharton of Edible Manhattan interviewed Chris Murtha, Curator of Exhibitions at the Hort, about his impressions of the show; please click here to see the video.

Even though the show is over, you can get a head start on your garden and pick up these unique seed packs in our gallery through the end of March.

If you missed the show, you can see a virtual tour of the exhibition below (Silverlight plugin required).

The 6th Annual Horticultural Therapy Forum in Review
By Deb Shaw
Friday, March 2, 2012

The 6th Annual Horticultural Therapy Partnership Forum was presented by The Hort on February 10, 2012 in collaboration with The Supportive Housing Network of New York.  A capacity crowd of over 120 attendees came together for an inspiring and informative program of speakers followed by a panel discussion with supportive housing providers and community leaders.

Hort Executive Director Sara Hobel opened the proceedings by expressing delight in the impressive turnout and affirming the importance of Horticultural Therapy in the ongoing mission of The Hort.  She introduced Ariel Krasnow, Director of Green Housing Initiatives for The Network, who extolled the restorative and therapeutic benefits of HT programs offered to tenants in supportive housing.

The morning session included four speakers, beginning with the Hort’s own Laurie Sexton, HTR, Horticultural Therapist and Instructor in the GreenHouse Program on Rikers’ Island, who presented an introduction to the practice of HT, a profession grown from ancient roots employing horticulture in support of behavioral therapy and physical and emotional rehabilitation.

Hilda Krus, HTR, Director of the GreenHouse and HT Programs at The Hort, followed Laurie with a wonderfully illustrated talk about how the GreenHouse program combines vocational training, education, and HT as a framework for students to reflect and grow as they acquire new and applicable job skills and cultivate a life-changing relationship with the natural world.  Photos showing students beaming with pride as they displayed armloads of fresh–picked vegetables and fragrant bouquets, and excerpts from their own writings revealed an incredible depth of engagement.  Hilda’s presentation was inspirational and many in the audience expressed a desire to visit and observe the program first-hand.

The second part of the morning session was devoted to The Bridge,  a leading citywide organization providing supportive housing to men and women with mental illness,  the homeless,  and people with HIV/AIDS.  Carole Gordon, Director of Housing Development,  and Patricia Callahan,  Associate Director of the Personalized Recovery Oriented Services Program,  gave an overview of their organization and its partnership with The Hort,  which began in July 2005 with the building and planting of a roof deck at their West 108th St. headquarters, and continues today with expanded horticultural programs at additional residential facilities.

The afternoon was given over to a panel discussion on the efficacy of various HT programs city-wide. Jolie Milstein, Director of Real Estate for Praxis Housing Initiatives, Inc. moderated a panel that included:
  • Jennifer Plewka, Director of Environmental Education at the Phipps Community Development Corporation.
  • Leigh Kusovitsky, Nutrition Resource Manager at United Way of NYC’s Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program.
  • Susan Palm, Assistant Coordinator for Urban Oasis at the Kingsboro Psychiatric Center in Brooklyn.
  • Erica Packard, Executive Director of the Bronx and Manhattan Land Trusts.
  • Jon Sheffield, Tenant Services Coordinator at Common Ground.

Following the panel discussion there was a Q&A with representatives from the NYS Office of Mental Health, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development about possibly expanding HT programs.

As the enlightened crowd dispersed in mid-afternoon, business cards were exchanged and promises made for springtime garden visits, everyone eager to get back to growing.

Black History Month at the Hort (Part 1)
Thursday, February 23, 2012

Throughout the month of February, the Hort is proud to be hosting a series of lectures, presentations and films which highlight the work of extraordinary individuals. From renowned speakers to no-less-extraordinary new voices, the guests we have for Black History Month work under the social radar with the same dedication and passion for integrating the lives of people of color and the whole human family with the natural world.

In their work as scientists, shamans, healers, activists, researchers and environmentalists, the common thread that unites these talented individuals is a vision that highlights the importance of a closer relationship with the natural world. This relationship is one that people of color have enjoyed historically, both as a vehicle for healing and for addressing pressing social issues—poverty, food security and social inequality.

We've had three wonderful events so far (read below for a recap) and have three equally great events remaining this month—we hope to see you at them!

African Herbal Traditions: the Diaspora and Beyond

On February 3rd, CUNY Professor Brandon Rosser gave a presentation that was equal parts history lecture, fireside chat and natural remedy clinic. Professor Rosser, a priest of the Lukumi tradition, shared with his rapt audience the knowledge of traditional medicinal practices of West Africa—all the way to the modern day folk traditions still practiced throughout the Diaspora. As samples of plants, dried herbs and various barks made their way around the room, the audience was treated to a sensory experience, reminding them that the traditions and practices of the ancestors of the Diaspora has left a substantial botanical legacy and is very much alive here in the New World.

Emancipation Oaks: Seeing the African American History of a NY Landscape

Morgan Powell, a landscape designer, researcher and historian, gave a PowerPoint presentation that was nothing short of amazing. He has done voluminous research on ecological restoration and environmental activities of people of color—particularly in the Bronx—and kept the audience’s attention well into the evening as he journeyed to historical sites in and around the Bronx River Watershed. From Wakefield to Hunts Point, Powell weaved in points and people of interest as well as seminal environmental moments and activities. His journey through 350 years of African American environmental history is a work of significant achievement and the Hort is proud to have been instrumental in hosting this presentation.

Aquaponics: A History of the Future

Dr. Philson Warner is a scientist, pioneer, innovator, entrepreneur and visionary, reminiscent of George Washington Carver in his brilliance and long list of achievements. Dr. Warner returned to the Hort for a presentation that highlighted a life and career of seminal accomplishments at the forefront of sustainable agriculture and his research and demonstration of aquaponics. His work with aquaponics demonstrates that this technology holds enormous potential for a world facing crises generated by food security and climate change issues.

With wit, charisma, and erudition, Dr. Warner took the audience through a life that included: growing up between the West Indies and New York, a long career at Cornell University, an incredible list of international professional achievements, and a primer on aquaponics technology that captivated both beginners and professionals alike.

Beekeepers in the News
Monday, February 21, 2012

(Courtesy of Andrew Coté)

Andrew Coté, who was at the Hort this past Thursday for a talk on beekeeping, has a great write-up on the Epoch Times. Read an excerpt below:

As new beekeepers pop up around the five boroughs two years after a city law was amended, taking introductory classes can help newcomers avoid mistakes and learn what beekeeping entails.

“Once urban beekeeping became legal [in New York City] … a lot of people just got the bees and they were very, very excited about it,” said Andrew Coté, founder of two groups dealing with bees, including the New York City Beekeepers Association. “And two weeks later they forgot that they had bees on the roof.”

During a talk at the Horticultural Society of New York, Coté described the classes the association offers.

“[You] learn about how to be safe and responsible for the bees and the neighbors and yourself,” said Coté.

Read the full article at the Epoch Times.

Homegrown at The Hort
Friday, February 17, 2012

This past fall we kicked off our new Homegrown Series at the Hort. Our idea was to host workshops that served as an exploration of the things we can create in our own homes with botanically-derived materials. We were pleased to host Beth Linskey of Beth’s Farm Kitchen, a long-time presence at the New York City Greenmarkets; Beth gave a hands-on lecture on how to make jams and preserves from Greenmarket produce. Robert Schaeffer of Divine Brine taught a course on home pickling and canning, Claire Briguglio and Sam Adels gave a lecture, demonstration and tasting on home-brewed beer, and we ended the series with Tara Pelletier and Jeff Kurosaki of Meow Meow Tweet giving us a new appreciation of botanical soap-making.

Fortunately, the series was such a success that we’ve decided to continue it into the winter and spring of 2012.  We’re hosting a series of five workshops, using popular themes from last season as well as brand-new topics.

On February 22, you will have the opportunity to build a soda bottle planter, creating your very own passive hydroponic system made out of a reused plastic bottle. This is your chance to become acquainted with hydroponics by the experts at Boswyck Farms. Boswyck Farms was founded in 2008 by Lee Mandell with the idea of growing fresh food for the surrounding community. Lee is an urban farmer specializing in hydroponics with over 20 years of experience in the field.

Next, on March 22, is a course and hands-on workshop on making botanical hand salves and lip balms. This is a great way to turn some of the plants we know so well into cosmetics that heal, particularly during the cold, winter months.  This class will be hosted by our own Hilda Krus, Director of the Greenhouse Program, who’s been making her own salves and balms for years, and teaches her students on Rikers Island to do the same.

Then, on April 26th, is something exciting for all you mycophiles: an intro to mushroom foraging with Ari Rockland-Miller, who ran mushroom research at Cornell University and hosts a popular blog on foraging. After a crash course on identifying safe culinary and medicinal mushrooms of our region, Ari will teach everyone to inoculate logs with shiitake spores, letting everyone bring the foraging harvest into their own kitchens. 

On May 24th we’re hosting a pickling workshop (back by popular demand), with Bob McClure of McClure’s Pickles. Based in Brooklyn and Detroit, McClure’s is a popular staple at farmers markets throughout the city.  Everyone in attendance will learn the craft of pickling and leave with their own jar of pickles to enjoy at home. Join us for one, two or all of these enlightening courses, and help us make this spring just as successful as the fall!

On top of all these interesting DIY topics, we’re hosting lectures on everything from keeping bees (on February 16th) to keeping chickens (March 7th), and the implications that they have on agriculture and horticulture on all scales. We hope to see you at the Hort soon!

Important Books & Authors: Jack deLashmet's Hamptons Gardens
Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Jack deLashmet signing copies of Hamptons Gardens (above) and presenting (side)

Important Books & Authors Series: On Tuesday, January 31st, over 80 guests attended an exclusive evening with Landscape Designer Jack deLashmet at Asprey to support the social service programs at The Horticultural Society of New York. Guests enjoyed cocktails and hors d'oeuvres in an elegant setting, and a talk by deLashmet on his recent book, Hamptons Gardens. The hosts of the evening were Bruce Addison, CeCe Black, Ben Bradlee, Ellen Niven Deery, Andrea H. Fahnestock, Mark Gilbertson, Jamee Gregory, Nina Griscom, Eric Groft, Tony Ingrao, Randy Kemper, Bill Manger, Kitty McKnight, Mario Nievera, Sally Quinn, Alexia Hamm Ryan, Frances Schultz, Barbara Slifka, and Mary Van Pelt.

To view more photos from the event, please visit our Flickr page.
Important Books & Authors attendees watch Jack deLashmet present his talk on Hamptons Gardens

The Gift of Time
Wednesday, January 25, 2012

This holiday season, Hort Board Member Jessica Tcherepnine gave one of the greatest gifts one can give—the gift of time.  In December, during rainy and cold weather, Jessica trekked out to Rikers Island (via two subway trains and a bus) at the break of dawn, to offer our GreenHouse participants a workshop in the art of botanical drawing. She brought with her a bag filled with pomegranates, persimmons, a purple cabbage, bright orange and yellow peppers, papery tomatillos, gnarly hands of ginger, along with some examples of her work (her watercolor of Quince, Cydonia Oblonga, is pictured above).

The students were thrilled to have such a renowned botanical artist in their midst. As always, untapped skills and abilities of the participants quickly became apparent, with masterly sketches of peppers and onions.  Others fearlessly tackled complicated subject matter like ruby red seeds spilling out of opened pomegranates, and the inner layers of a sliced purple cabbage.  Some examples of the students' work can be seen here to the right and below. As a learning experience, the workshop introduced the students to some unfamiliar fruits such as the persimmon. Some of these unexplored fruits were eaten at the end of the day, with yet another lesson, this one in “eating your colors.”  In the days following the workshop, students were eager to try their newfound skills and drew some wonderful studies of some of our houseplants.

We find these workshops not only educational and instructional, but also extremely therapeutic. Working with color, along with intense concentration on and studying of one object, allows the students to experience calm and quiet, to tap into creative reservoirs and to sharpen and improve powers of observation.

Thank you, Jessica, for making this experience possible.  It was a highlight of our holiday season.

Need Another Goal for 2012? Explore Vertical Space!
Thursday, January 12, 2012

New York City Public School teachers defied gravity in our Greenwall and Greenroof Technology course. Using Apple Seed Program techniques, we investigated the relationship between science and technology in the context of tools, processes, designs and products. The course culminated with the creation of two cooperative greenwalls.

The first greenwall was a free-standing or wall-mounted mini-vertical garden kit by Vertiscape. Four inch plants were transplanted into the framed unit and watered from above. The beauty of this unique kit is that its movable, self-contained, and has a built in water tray.  It brightened every corner that it was moved to.

We also created an eight foot greenwall through the use of gorgeously planted Woolly pockets. We love woolly pockets as a sustainable, movable and practical solution for urban spaces. They boast internal moisture control and are made from recycled plastic bottles here in the USA.  The teachers created their own unique blend of colors and textures, selecting from lush, hardy plants like pothos, arrowheads, dracaenas, peace lilies, and peperomias supported by our newest board member Teresa Carleo of Plant Fantasies.

To connect with our supporters, please visit:

Our spring training will take teachers Beyond the Lima Bean: Incorporating Plant Science with Math, Art & Literacy to delve into plant parts with an innovative, interdisciplinary and sensory focus.  Participants will uncover botanical myths while sketching hairy roots, creating playful plant chants, designing floral arrangements and making chocolate from cacao seeds. To register, visit the ASPDP website at:

GreenHouse Speaks in North Carolina
Tuesday, December 6, 2011

“Egyptian Garden 1”, Quilt by Ann Fahl;

Horticultural therapy is an ancient practice but a fairly new profession. Court physicians in ancient Egypt prescribed walks in palace gardens for royalty who were mentally disturbed, Roman doctors understood the quieting effect that the peaceful, non-threatening garden environment had, and in the early 1800s Dr. Benjamin Rush, a professor at the Institute of Medicine and Clinical Practice in Philadelphia, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and considered the first psychiatrist, published findings that field labor in a farm setting had curative effects on people who were mentally ill. A rush of further testing ensued in hospitals around the world.

Today, the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) counts 800+ members from the U.S., Canada, Japan and beyond, and over 200 of them gathered on a recent fall weekend in Asheville, NC to attend the 39th annual AHTA conference. This year’s theme, Recovery and Rehabilitation: The Role of Horticultural Therapy in the Therapeutic Community, drew a record-breaking crowd of horticultural therapists, psychologists, social workers, landscape architects and master gardeners. The conference’s keynote speaker, Sharon Leigh Young, PhD and Chief Recovery Officer, Clinical Psychologist at CooperRiis Healing Farm opened up the conference with How to Become a Recovery Revolutionary, and described her work in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with individuals suffering from emotional distress. Other notable talks included What Gives a Garden Its Healing Power, The Impact of Horticultural Therapy on Adolescent Recovery, The Psychotherapeutic Application for Horticultural Therapy, and Nutrition Basics for Horticultural Therapists.

Hort staff members, Hilda Krus and Laurie Sexton, both registered horticultural therapists, attended, and presented Horticultural Therapy in Corrections: You Have the Right to Remain Planted!, a description and discussion of our GreenHouse program on Rikers Island. GreenHouse combines vocational training, education and horticultural therapy to help provide participants with the tools they need to redirect their lives in a positive manner. Aside from the vocational and educational benefits of the program, the setting itself, lush gardens that offer space for reflection, plenty of sensory stimulation and year round beauty, serves to quiet the mind and uplift the spirit, something the ancient Egyptians and Romans would understand very well.

Laurie and Hilda left for North Carolina with best wishes from colleagues and all their students. The presentation sparked a lively conversation among the conference attendees about benefits and possible limitations of HT in corrections, a field where HT is still under-represented. As a further gratifying result of the talk, The Hort received many requests from within the US as well as from abroad to visit the program, do internships with our programs and serve as a source of information for professionals aiming to set up HT programs within jails.

We will continue spreading the word about the powerful healing potential of Horticultural Therapy.

OpenHouseNewYork Weekend at The Hort
Monday, October 17, 2011

This past weekend The Hort participated in the 19th annual OpenHouseNY Weekend. This is a city-wide celebration of New York City’s extraordinary architecture and design. OHNY gives the residents of NYC and visitors a wonderful chance to encounter our city’s architecture with a fresh perspective. The weekend’s activities included talks, tours, workshops for all those you enjoy thought-provoking design—all free of charge.

The Hort offered a rare look at our spectacular multi-functional space with a tour given by Linda Pollak, principal of Marpillero & Pollak, the architecture firm who designed our midtown headquarters. Our 12,000 volume Library was open for visitors to peruse through our collection of horticulture and landscape design books.

Another treat was a tour given by the Hort’s curator, Chris Murtha, of the 14th Annual International Juried Botanical Art Exhibition, which runs through November 16th. This show highlights works from the top botanical artists around the world.

The festivities of the day drew an enthusiastic crowd of over 200 guests all looking for exciting things to experience on a beautiful fall day in NYC. Our workshops included pumpkin decorating, making your own organic tea, and a beer tasting of selected seasonal ales handcrafted by local award-winning Brooklyn home brewers.

Celebrate Our New Look!
Tuesday, October 4, 2011

For over 100 years, The Hort has ensured that people living in urban environments remain connected to plants.  From our beginnings as a meeting place for horticulturists and landscape architects to our recent work developing green infrastructure projects throughout the city, The Hort has inspired and installed everything from large scale urban farms and public school learning gardens to private backyard and windowsill gardens.  We are pleased to present a mission statement that fully represents this scope:

The mission of the Horticultural Society of New York is to sustain the vital connection between people and plants. Our social service and public programs educate and inspire, growing a broad community that values horticulture for the many benefits it brings to our environment, our neighborhoods, and our lives.

We want you to be a part of this growing community. To celebrate, we’re offering a special discount for new members: join before November 4th and receive a $25 discount on an Individual or Family Membership. Please enter 25OFF in the Discount Code text box when checking out at our Membership page.

To accompany and complement this mission, we are also launching a new logo (you may have already noticed a fresh, new look to the website).  Our new logo is an elegant and contemporary typographic mark designed by Henk van Assen at HvADesign, a firm that has worked with several prominent local arts and cultural institutions, including the Guggenheim, Museum of Arts & Design, and the Museum of the City of New York.

The design of the logo resembles plots in an urban landscape—or even a community garden—with the letters being formed by the spaces between blocks of color. The design reflects The Hort’s increasing involvement in landscape and garden design, green infrastructure, and urban agriculture, as well as our range of programming and the diversity of our constituents and members.

The new logo also embraces the colloquial name of our organization, “The Hort,” which we are also pleased to announce is reflected in our new website address,  We hope that you have noticed the continued work in the past few years to improve our website and email newsletters, developing new ways for our members and followers to engage with horticulture.  With the addition of our new logo, you will continue to see some changes to the design and look of our website.  We hope you enjoy!

The 14th Annual International Juried Botanical Art Exhibition
Monday, September 26, 2011

Last Wednesday, we celebrated the opening of the 14th Annual International Juried Botanical Art Exhibition with a reception for the artists.  We were excited to have many of the 38 artists in attendance—some coming from as far as Japan and the United Kingdom—as well as notable botanical art collectors Dr. Shirley Sherwood and Isaac Sutton.

Artist Kathy Folino, Mr. McCauley, Dr. Shirley Sherwood, Isaac Sutton, & artist Dorothy Gardner McCauley

Each year, this exhibition is presented with the American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA).  The forty-one paintings, drawings and prints in this year's show were selected from a field of 200 submissions by jurors Patricia Jonas, Kathie Miranda, and Derek Norman.  This year's awards were selected by Patricia Jonas, Barbara Macklowe, and Jessica Tcherepine. To take a virtual tour of the exhibition, click and drag the 3D panorama below (you may be asked to download Microsoft Silverlight, which is a safe software equivalent to Adobe Flash).

Lizzie Sanders, Nepenthes, Nepenthes sp., watercolor on paper; milly acharya, Sour Cherry, Prunus cerasus, watercolor on paper; and Bobbi Angell, Apple, Malus domestica, copper etching and watercolor

The award for Best in Show, presented by The Horticultural Society of New York, was given to Lizzie Sanders for her impressive painting of a dried Nepenthes flower.  Sanders bravely tackles the difficult subject of the tropical pitcher plant, which is seldom painted, especially in its dried form.  For the risk, she has achieved a stunning image, the heft of the trap borne by the spring-like tendril of the leaf.

Milly Acharya's intensely detailed painting of Prunus cerasus (Sour Cherry) won ASBA's Award for Excellence.  The Brooklyn Botanic Garden Award for a Drawing or Print went to Bobbi Angell for her elegantly hand-colored copperplate etching of Malus domestica (Apple).  Other award-winners include Karen Kluglein's (New York Central Art Supply Award); Margaret Farr (Ursus Award); and Heeyoung Kim (Talas Award).  Christine Battle, Jean Emmons, and John Pastoriza-Piñol received Honorable Mentions.
Artist Monika E. de Vries Gohlke

The exhibition will be on view at The Hort through November 23.  In conjunction with the show, three featured artists will be offering botanical art classes in the gallery.  This is an amazing opportunity to learn from such talented artists while surrounded by their inspiring examples.  The first class is Monday, October 17 with instructor Dick Rauh, President of ASBA.  For more information, please click here.
Award Presentation with Chris Murtha, Curator of Exhibitions at The Hort, and Carol Woodin, ASBA’s Director of Exhibitions; Opening Reception

Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony at PS 84
Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thanks to the generous support of the Greening Western Queens Fund of the North Star Fund, The Horticultural Society of New York celebrated the birth of another school garden with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the inauguration of PS 84's new Learning Garden in Astoria, Queens. This garden is much more that what meets the eye, its unique, underground water storage holds rainwater on site for its students to pump and deliver by hand. For more information about this green infrastructure project, please check the previous Recent News update.

This event was graced with the presence of parents, community members and local merchants as well as 60 middle schoolers who will maintain the garden. Sal Bacarella, President of Garden Works, who funded the garden's design and construction and New York State Senator Michael Gianaris, an alumni of PS 84 himself, were just two of the community members present. To see more great photos of yesterday's event, please view our Flickr. Click the image below to see the students in action in a video on NY1's site.

PS 84's New Outdoor Classroom
Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Hort and Garden Works broke ground on the first of August to create a green infrastructure project. This exciting new project is located on a grassy slope at PS 84, The Steinway School, in Astoria, Queens. The school administration asked our team to transform their slope into an outdoor classroom for living exploration. The school's 5th graders wanted a beautiful outdoor space that felt like "camp". The Hort hoped to build a living stormwater management system—able to collect rainwater and store it underground. These photos show the harmonious blend of those needs in an innovative, child-centered garden design, by Garden Works, an Astoria-based design/build firm.

The unique garden is equipped with a hand-pump, which the students will use for hand-watering the garden themselves. Rainwater collection and harvesting allows for re-use and storage of rainwater, as well as reduces storm run-off, which can flood sidewalks and nearby waterways. The garden has two levels—one with rustic Oak seating for outdoor exploration and the other for the underground water storage. Our Director of Children's Education, Pam Ito, provided training for PS 84's teachers on September 6 and workshops for the 6th and 7th graders will begin in late September.

This project was made possible by a generous contribution from the Western Queens Fund of the North Star Fund and Mr. Sal Bacarella at Garden Works.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place on Tuesday, September 13, at 10am.

Photographing The Hort
By Bridget Collins, Photography Intern
Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Interning at The Hort this summer has been an incredible experience. I've been to all corners of the city, camera in hand, documenting the work The Hort is doing to make New York a greener place. While following the GreenTeam to their different job sites, I have discovered some amazing places I never could have imagined existed in the city. For example, the beautiful rooftop garden of Common Ground, a housing facility for the recently homeless, which just happens to be steps away from Times Square. I've also had the pleasure of discovering a rooftop farm in the heart of Bushwick, tomato plants ready to harvest in what was once Duke Ellington's backyard, and a garden overlooking the George Washington Bridge.

The greatest discovery I've made while interning here, however, is what a positive impact gardening can make on a community. The rooftop gardens at Common Ground and Georgia's Place are planted and maintained by the residents, and you can tell how excited gardening makes them just by chatting with them for a few minutes. Joyce Flowers, a resident of Common Ground, took the time to show me her tomato plants and identify many of the flowers in the garden for me, and that sort of openness has been common during my time working with The Hort. The members of the GreenTeam are so knowledgeable about their work and eager to share, I feel like I'm learning a million new things every day. This has only been the start of my work with The Hort, I'm so excited to see what I discover next.

Keets and Carrots at GreenHouse
By Hilda Krus
Thursday, August 18, 2011

As of Thursday, August 11, all the gardeners at the GreenHouse became aunts and uncles—of twenty-nine Guinea fowl keets! This year, our Guinea hens took longer than ever to hatch their babies, leading us to wonder whether or not we would have young ones in 2011. Maybe none of the adults were male? Unlike previous years, we did not find nests with the hens breeding. However, when we entered the garden last Thursday morning, we found nine babies! They must have hatched in weedy areas of the garden. These fluffy, tiny, eager miniature fowls were already up and running and pecking their siblings. Since then, two more nests must have hatched, and we now count twenty-nine keets running after their mothers. Eight of them are white with brown wings and heads, twenty-one are light brown all over. Monday morning during a slight drizzle we found the entire batch of young ones under one of the mothers. Only the tiny feet peeked out under the old hen. These young birds are a joy for all of us, and not one student, instructor, or officer is unaffected when looking at our little flock. Nature does its magic!

Part of our curriculum at the GreenHouse is growing food and then eating it. Yesterday we went on a tour through the vegetable garden with two of our male students, young men who grew up in the city and have never before eaten self-grown food. At the beginning of their stay with us, they viewed soil as filthy and self-grown food as something unthinkable, alarming. Since then, they went through the try this dandelion phase, the eat this leaf and tell us if you like it (arugula) phase, as well as you have the honor of eating the first sungold-hybrid tomato of 2011 (“But it's YELLOW! That's not a tomato!”—“Yes, it is!”). They seem to have resigned to the fact that at the GreenHouse, we encourage them to eat things they would never have considered edible. This time, we were heading towards the carrot patch. We showed them how to determine if a carrot is ready (see the top of the carrot peeking out the soil), and then simply to pull it. Complete wonder came from the faces of the students! The carrots were perfect, but DARK RED! We had planted different varieties, and these ones were purple dragons. These are not carrots! Yes, they are! Smell them, look at the leaves, wash them and let's eat them. I am very proud to report that both of our students washed the carrots under the garden hose, and after a last weak voicing of doubts about the color as well as the fact that the peel was still on, took hearty bites! There's no closer and more empowering way to experience gardening than ingesting our own produce. These young men will soon return to the community with a whole set of experiences they might share with their own young children.

The Hort at Columbia University
By Nathan Lamb
Thursday, August 11, 2011

This summer, the Public Programming department at The Hort has finally been able to get out of the office and get their hands dirty in gardens around the city.  One of the highlights from this season's long list of projects was the kitchen garden that we designed and installed at the house of the President of Columbia University.  Working directly with the head chef, Leslie Woodward, we turned a formerly unused space into a raised bed herb and vegetable garden that will be used and tended by the kitchen staff for years to come.

After cleaning up the space and removing the existing containers, we designed a chest-high white cedar platform to run the entire length of the patio space (23 feet), with six four-foot by two-foot planters on top.  Raising the beds optimizes sunlight exposure and allows the staff to access the beds and care for the plants more easily.  Because there was no drainage in the polyester planters, we drilled eight holes in the bottom of each, and filled them with approximately two inches of river stones for drainage.  After adding a mixture of equal parts compost and soil, they were ready to be planted.

The first bed (my favorite) was planted with seven delicious varieties of basil selected by Chef Leslie Woodward from the Union Square Greenmarket: Boxwood, Spicy Globe, Cinnamon, Thai, Golden and Greek.  We added a small verbena plant in the hope of minimizing pest damage.  The pepper bed, not to be outdone, was equally diverse, with spicy and sweet peppers all from the same market: Hungarian wax, Hot Sweet, Chocolate, Lemon Drop, Thai and habanero.  The finished garden was truly a celebration of the diversity that our local farmers bring to the city's Greenmarkets every day, featuring companion plantings of flowers in each bed (to reduce pests), chives, pineapple sage, rue, fennel, Italian parsley, thyme, oregano, the aforementioned basils and peppers, many cultivars of mint, and a three-foot tall grape tomato that is already producing ripe clusters of beautiful tomatoes.

The Hort Welcomes Dwaine Lee
Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Hort would like to welcome Dwaine Lee as the newest member of our team! Dwaine comes from Sustainable South Bronx where for 4 years he successfully ran the BEST Academy Ecology training program and managed numerous green infrastructure and ecological restoration projects for the organization. He is an Accredited Greenroof Professional with certifications in Urban Stormwater Management from Rutgers University, extensive training in Permaculture Design as well as a number of other related disciplines. Dwaine is also an avid Yogi, a certified Yoga teacher and a beekeeper of three years.

Dwaine will be working on a variety of special projects and as well as workforce development, to support continuing The Hort's mission of training the green workforce of tomorrow, today. He says, “I have dedicated most of my career to personal and global sustainability and social justice, and I am excited about continuing to do this work with an organization as venerable and dedicated as The Hort and its staff.”

P-Courses 2011
Monday, July 25, 2011

This July, The Hort's own AppleSeed program is holding two professional development courses for elementary-through-high-school teachers. The courses, taught by Pamela Ito, offer pedagogues' high-quality, convenient, low-cost alternatives to college courses in the areas of plant science and nutrition.

Recently, The Joy of Vegetables: Where Science Meets Nutrition class took a field trip to the Union Square Greenmarket for a VEGGIE CHALLENGE! This class assignment required teachers to come up with their very own vegetable recipe on a $10 budget. What resulted were a variety of nutritional, affordable vegetable dishes that looked as good as they tasted. To see photos and recipes of these culinary creations (that you can make at home!), click here.

The current course, Beyond the Lima Bean: Incorporating Plant Science with Math, Art and Literacy taught teachers to create “Leaf Land Art” by using leaves, bark and stones to construct elaborate scenes such as the one featured below, “Land River.”

Stay tuned for more photos and updates about HSNY's professional development courses!

From Farm to Gallery
By Chris Murtha
Monday, July 18, 2011

The gallery is asleep right now because of intensive, all-day education classes throughout the month of July. If you still need your plant art fix, head down to Gavin Brown's Enterprise to see First Mark, an exhibition of Peter Nadin's eclectic, multi-disciplinary work that fuses art and agriculture.

Born in England, Nadin moved to New York in 1976 and has worked in New York City and Old Field Farm in the Catskills since then.  After relocating his studio to the 150-acre farm, his art practice began to incorporate his agricultural interests.  The farm's products, including honey, wax, eggs, ham, black walnut, and cashmere wool, frequently turn up as materials in his art.  All the works in First Mark, which was originally shown at the Wilfredo Lam Center in Havana, Cuba, include materials from the farm.

The first of three galleries (and distinct works) features large-scale paintings on linen, with gestural applications of honey, wax and black walnut.  As Randy Kennedy writes in his recent feature in the New York Times, “The bees themselves are also allowed to work on the surfaces of some of the paintings, leaving behind crusty patches when they congregate on the honey and wax that Nadin applies to the linen canvas.” The middle room is filled with fifty-seven hemlock logs adorned with terracotta sculptures, many of them noses – which is fitting for this very olfactory exhibition (the gallery is filled with the earthy scent of honey and wax). The final piece in the exhibition, and the one that ties the other two together, is Raft, a large wood-framed pool filled with 6,000 pounds of dark honey that curiously looks both liquid and solid.  The centerpiece of the sculpture is a raft made of branches and twigs, which is surrounded by islands of rocky soil that are stacked with honey-glazed terracotta vases and wooden structures that resemble beehive houses.

Nadin is reluctant to call farming art but understands how each influences the other; that the impulses guiding both practices can be equally creative.  “A carrot is not a work of art. I'm not proposing that anyone think of a carrot as a work of art. But what I am saying is that a carrot and the art I make here are both results of the same process.”  To sample produce from Old Field Farm (including the amazing honey), don't forget to check out the Bootleg Buying Club, a farm stand set up in the back of the gallery throughout the course of the exhibition. On view through July 30, this is Nadin's first exhibition in the United States since 1992.  And hopefully not the last.

Images (top to bottom): The Bo'sun's Chair (two details), 2011, 57 Hemlock logs, terracotta, wood, string, nutria fur, wax, fabric, indigo pigment, bronze and galvanized nails, ranging from 60 - 122 inches high; Raft (two details), 2011, honey, terracotta, wood, twine, bank run, wax and ham, 288 x 288 x 9 1/2 inches.

Class of 2011: High School Graduation at Rikers Island Jail
Thursday, June 30, 2011

City Farmers, Urban AgricultureIn the past week, East River Academy on Rikers Island celebrated the 2011 graduation for students who received their high school diploma or GED. The students of our horticulture class within the male detention facility as well as male and female participants of the GreenHouse created gorgeous flower arrangements for the ceremonies. The accompanying photographs and following article are by Stephen Nessen of WNYC.

Nearly a year ago, 20-year-old high school dropout Benjamin was arrested in a gang-related slaying. Today, he is an award-winning student who was selected to speak before his peers at the first high school graduation for inmates at Rikers Island Correctional Facility.

"When I got locked up and got arrested, I felt that my whole dignity. My whole everything got taken away from me, like my whole life," said Benjamin, who has spent the last 11 months at Rikers, and whose full name is being withheld upon request. "As I was graduating I felt like my whole self value rose up, spiked, went to its peak."

[Read the full article at]

"City Farmers, Urban Agriculture"
By Keith Stewart, The Valley Table, Number 54
Friday, June 10, 2011

City Farmers, Urban AgricultureIn March of this year, I was invited to be a speaker and panelist at an Urban Agriculture Conference hosted by the Horticultural Society of New York. At first, I was hesitant to accept the invitation because I know very little about urban farming, and, to be honest, have never given it much thought. I've always thought of farming as something that goes on in the open fields and pastureland of the countryside, not in backyards behind Manhattan brownstones or on vacant lots in the Bronx.

At the same time, I'm not unaware that there is a very real urban farming movement in progress and that it has gained a fair amount of traction over the past several years. It would have been hard not to notice some of the substantial attention it has received in the media. I'd read articles on urban farms and food production in The New York Times, the New Yorker and the Atlantic. Some of these articles were written both by and about Annie Novak, who had worked on our farm in 2005 (ours was the first farm she worked on). I knew Annie as a strong, smart, high energy, delightful person and I was alwa---ys pleased and a little proud to see the attention and recognition she was receiving with her Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Brooklyn.

Still, I've had my doubts about the long-term viability and potential for “urban farms” to produce significant amounts of food. The conference organizer, George Pisegna, was highly persuasive and insisted that voices from beyond the urban farming community were also needed. And, of course, a day in New York City, if somewhat daunting to a country fellow, is always stimulating.

The first thing that struck me when I arrived at the New York Horticultural Society's offices on West 37th Street in Manhattan, was my minority status: Almost all the attendees and presenters were a lot younger than me and a majority of them were women—not something I would generally shy away from, but I expected a more staid and middle-aged crowd. What I discovered instead was a very large quotient of youthful energy, knowledge and enthusiasm. As the first presentation of the day got underway—it was given by Severine von Tscharner Fleming, director of the Greenhorns—I realized that I was in for an education.

The Greenhorns are a national, grassroots group of young farmer and gardener activists. Their members are well educated and largely, though not exclusively, female. Their goal is to recruit, promote and support young farmers, and work toward building sustainable, accountable, and local food systems.

The Greenhorns have a weekly radio show on the Heritage Radio Network, a wiki-based resource guide for beginning farmers, and their own popular blog. They've already produced a documentary film and have a guidebook for beginning farmers in the works. Severine noted that in 2010 alone, her group hosted 37 events in 20 states, focusing on education and empowerment and finding ways to overcome the barriers that young farmers face, such as learning the trade, and gaining access to land and capital. The Greenhorns don't shy away from the nitty gritty of smallscale, diversified farming—they've offered workshops on such subjects as knife sharpening and butchering.

We heard from Jane Hodge, who works for Just Food, a New York City-based organization that since 1995 has grappled with issues pertaining to hunger, nutrition, food justice and the survival of small, regional farms. Just Food works on several fronts developing and supporting community gardens and urban farming, promoting community supported agriculture ventures in underserved neighborhoods, and linking rural farmers to new urban marketing opportunities. They also work to bring fresh, locally grown food to soup kitchens and food pantries throughout the city.

As director of Just Food's new Farm School program, Hodge oversees an ambitious effort to teach young city residents of all economic, social and racial backgrounds how to produce at least some of their own food. The school offers several short courses, ranging from one to six weeks in length, and a full 2-year certificate program. The program seeks to foster greater self reliance and community values and encourage better eating habits.

Another speaker was Jeremy Smith, author of Growing a Garden City [Skyhorse, 2010; $24.95], who gave compelling accounts of how urban and local food initiatives can transform peoples' lives. While photographs from his book displayed on a screen behind him, Smith told about a drug-addicted teenage girl, a single mother and a homeless shelter chef who found community, meaning, and a kind of redemption when they rolled up their sleeves and started growing food. The smiles on the faces of these individuals, and others, told the story as well as Smith's words. Getting one's hands in the soil and helping things grow can offer a reprieve to those in need, and have highly therapeutic results.

As the day unfolded, I began to get the message, loud and clear.

Karen Washington, of the New York City Community Garden Coalition, reminded us that community gardens existed in her neighborhood, the Bronx, long before the current urban agriculture phenomenon began to occur. She talked about how earlier generations of black residents gardened more out of necessity than out of any desire to reform the nation's agricultural system. (When you live in a part of town ill-served by grocery stores and supermarkets, tending your own garden is one of the few ways to get decent, fresh food—still the case for many people throughout America today.)

As manager of the Urban Food Systems Program for New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Christina Grace coordinates efforts among various agencies to promote community gardens and urban farms throughout New York City. The Farm to School Program, which works to bring fresh, locally grown food into schools, and the Garden to Cafeteria Program, which teaches students to grow food in school gardens for use in their own cafeterias, provide a great opportunity to involve and inform students about where food comes from and the role it plays in their health and wellbeing. For example, John Bowne High School in Flushing, Queens, operates a four-acre farm complete with field crops, an orchard, its own green house and an assortment of livestock, including chickens, goats, rabbits and even alpacas. Apparently, many students from this unique New York City school go on to pursue careers in agriculture.

Jack Algiere is the vegetable farm manager at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills. He traced the various agricultural paths he has journeyed down, from his parents' farm in Rhode Island, to his present position at Stone Barns, and how they have shaped his philosophy of farming. He emphasized the importance of diversity and an ecological approach to farming that seeks to balance the needs of land, plants, animals and humans.

When my turn to speak came, I told the audience that most of the members of my generation (that is, already collecting Social Security), at some point along the way bought into the myth that the industrial food system in America had reached such a state of excellence and efficiency that it was almost another wonder of the world, and that there was no valid reason to question it. At least that's what we were told by the big agribusinesses and their government underwriters. To question the myth seemed silly, almost unpatriotic, especially in a world with so many other pressing issues—wars, over-population, the communist menace, loss of species, nuclear weapons, TV sitcoms. After all, for most of our lives, the food we'd been consuming was plentiful and relatively inexpensive, and it looked good, especially in its glossy packaging. What more did we need to know? What more could we ask for?

Today, of course, many young people want to know more about how their food is produced, and, at the same time, want something better. They want food that is not only plentiful and looks good, but also tastes good and is good for our bodies and our planet.

I lamented that, despite Michelle Obama's healthy food initiative and her organic garden on the White House lawn, our government has failed to work in any significant way toward bringing us more healthful food. The forces that influence and largely control Washington, it would seem, are so persuasive that they are able to overcome the popular interest and the popular will. My arguments? First, one need only cite the USDA's recent approval of Monsanto's Roundup-Ready alfalfa, a techno-crop that no one really wants, except Monsanto. For them, it's a good thing—they'll sell more of their herbicide, Roundup, and tighten their control and owner ship of the nation's food supply. But it's not good for farm ers, consumers or the environment, and it will almost cer tainly lead to the (possibly irreversible) contamination of non-GMO and organic hay crops, no small thing if you want to continue eating the meat of animals that consume hay.

Second, recent federal budget-cutting proposals would drastically slash funding for sustainable agricul ture programs and research, as well as programs that reward farmers for environmental stewardship, while leaving intact $5 billion per year in subsidies to the growers of commodity crops like corn, soy and wheat—payments that go out year after year, regardless of need. The commodity crops are mostly used in processed foods and animal feed and, because they are subsidized, they are cheap. In the marketplace, this gives them (and the big companies that use them) an unfair advantage over growers of fresh fruits and vegetables.

As I walked away from the conference to have dinner with my wife and some friends in their apartment on the 57th floor of a high-rise building on Manhattan's West Side, it was clear to me that urban agriculture is alive and well. Despite doubts I might have had, this endeavor is not likely to go away soon. Yes, it produces nutritious food (more than I had thought) but, perhaps more importantly, urban gardens and agriculture provide an opportunity to engage people of all shades and stripes in the age-old, elemental process of tending plants and animals. Sustainable farming practices, the importance of community, connecting with nature, environmental steward ship, health, nutrition, and food justice, all can take root on a plot of land, whatever its size, when people come together to make things grow.

It is not only sovereigns and dictators who can take away our freedoms—an agricultural autocracy can do the job just as well. And that, it seems to me, is the condition we find ourselves in. The dominant food system in America is corporatized, industrialized, and monopolized be yond recognition.

Perhaps even worse, the seeds it sows are increasingly patented and therefore beyond the public domain. This food system is abusive to both land and animals, and ultimately to the people it feeds, for it spews forth an endless stream of over-processed, oversweeten ed, over-hydrogenated products that leave our bodies under-nourished and our appetites barely satisfied. Every day this rapacious corporate machine sends legions more of us down the road to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and general ill health—all in the name of global capitalism, which seeks only to expand its market and amass greater wealth.

We need something better.

Something better is what many people are working to achieve. A quiet and distinctly non-violent revolution is underway, especially among our nation's youth: The resurgence of small farms, local food movements and community gardens all across this land of ours are grass-roots attempts to reclaim some measure of control over the most essential things in our lives—food, health and community. I am now con vinced that urban agriculture, in all its forms, is a vital player in this cause.

[Subscriptions to The Valley Table can be purchased online.]

Apple Seed at PS 166
Wednesday, May 18, 2011

This spring, The Hort has been planting tomatoes, squash, peppers, broccoli, lettuce, and fragrant herbs at PS 166 in Manhattan. The 3rd graders used new wooden box planters for the first time in PS 166's newly renovated Reading Garden which has been set up as an outdoor education space. The renovation was made possible by a generous grant from Council member Gale Brewer. Additional support is generously provided by the Lowenstein Foundation, the Greenacres Foundation, and the PS 166 Parents Association. 90 nine-year-olds will use active observation and hands-on skills, both indoors and outdoors, to explore flowers, examine red wiggler worms, study trees and investigate the ecology of the urban environment with a view towards improving their own school environment. In addition to transplanting edibles, they will also germinate plants from seed, investigate photosynthesis, fertilize with kelp meal, and maintain their vegetable plots. These experiences will be reinforced with a trip to Central Park's Conservatory Garden.

Click here to visit PS 166 online

Photographs by Ceci Carmichael

Mark Hill Honored by West Side Community Garden
Friday, May 13, 2011

The West Side Community Garden located between 89 and 90 Streets and Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues is honoring Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Mark Hill, GreenTeam Project Manager of the Horticultural Society, and Frederick Bay, The Bay and Paul Foundations, at its annual Benefit Party. The Garden Party will be held in the garden on Wednesday, June 15, 2011 at 6:00 o'clock. The Garden, serving the Upper West Side for the past thirty-six years is one of the prominent gardens in the United States. Winner of the Philip N. Winslow Award, this beautiful public space is host to world-class summer concerts, Shakespeare for Children and Adults, an Arts and Crafts Festival, a spectacular Tulip Festival that has gained encomiums world-wide, an integrative school program and much more. Run entirely by a group of tireless volunteers, the Garden has made it its mission to enhance the quality of life for West Side residents.

For more information, please visit the West Side Community Garden online.

The New York Flower Show
Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Public Event

On April 12th, The Horticultural Society of New York reprised The New York Flower Show. Members were admitted for free, and the general public could buy tickets to see amazing floral tablescape displays. Flower aficionados convened at 583 Park to meet some of New York City's top designers and be inspired by their creative and unique floral designs. Attendees watched the blank canvas of the room transform into this year's dramatic theme, Fire & Ice. Our world class authorities on design, led by R. Ellen Avellino, judged the magnificent tablescapes—awarding in a variety of categories such as "Best Contemporary Design", "Provocative Interpretation", and "Blazing Creativity".

Dinner Dance

Our tablescape viewing was followed by dinner and dancing inside the magical setting. During this time The Hort honored: David Easton, architect and world-renowned interior designer; Stephen Orr, Editorial Director of Gardening at Martha Stewart Living; Frances Tenenbaum, author and former garden editor for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; and Alex Timbers, writer/director and Artistic Director of Les Freres Corbusier company.


The New York Times
Martha Stewart
The Boston Globe
Garden Design
New York Magazine

"One Bright Side of Rikers Island"
By Ralph Gardner Jr.

I wouldn't say it was good to be back on Rikers Island; I don't think it's ever good to be on Rikers Island—whether prisoner or staff. It was never the most attractive place, the demands of prison architecture dissuading the sort of flights of fancy Frank Gehry indulged at Bilbao or Santiago Calatrava plans for his gull-winged World Trade Center area transportation hub.

And it's even less inviting than when I worked there in the late '70s. Actually I worked in the New York City Department of Correction's equally brutalist headquarters, then at 100 Centre St., but as a public-affairs officer made frequent trips to the island to escort dignitaries, or to oversee the publication of the department's monthly newspaper, the Pen, printed on ancient letterpress machines in a low-slung building behind the jails.

Nonetheless, virtually every facility had an expansive front lawn. It wasn't impossible to spy the occasional pheasant—yes, pheasant—scampering across. And there was certainly enough open space that for those of us lucky enough to enjoy freedom of movement (even though you couldn't then and can't now walk from point A to point B; pedestrians would obviously complicate the task of keeping track of prisoners) the experience was one of nature, and even wilds, certainly more so than in the canyons of Manhattan.

But with the prison population boom of the '80s and '90s, seemingly every available space was filled with jails and trailers, all festooned with high fences topped with spools of razor ribbon. Whatever little charm the island once had is long gone, along with the pheasants.

There is one notable exception, however, even if I didn't visit on the most hospitable day—GreenHouse, a program run by the Horticultural Society of New York for sentenced prisoners on a two-and-a-half-acre plot of land that boasts a water feature, a gazebo (it's called the Peace Pagoda) and parading guinea fowl. Indeed, most of the color that morning was provided by the prisoners enrolled in the program. They wear eye-popping orange windbreakers and orange-and-white-striped uniforms, better to locate them should they get lost on the way back to their housing units.

But the risk of escape would seem rather low: They're short-term inmates, sentenced to a year or less (longer than that and they're sent to facilities upstate). And assignment to the GreenHouse program—where they grow plants from seed in its greenhouse and tend its butterfly and bird garden, its medieval-style herb garden and its vegetable patch, and take classroom instruction in horticulture—is considered something of a plum assignment.

"There's a waiting list for this job," explained Wayne Sisman, a 35-year-old former salesman incarcerated for being part of a mortgage-fraud scheme. Mr. Sisman's daily routine—males report to the garden five days a week first thing in the morning, sentenced females arriving soon after they depart—includes feeding ants to the venus flytrap ("We're going to get it to flower before I leave," the inmate vowed, "they've never had it flower.") and doling out bread to the guinea hens.

"It gives you a break from the monotony," Mr. Sisman said. "It's a glimmer of color in the drab world of being in the prison. I enjoy responsibility. Coming here gives me something to be responsible for."

Upon release, inmates can join the GreenTeam, a horticultural society paid-internship program that provides training and job-readiness skills. The society also runs horticultural vocational-training programs in a couple of Rikers's adult- and adolescent-detainee facilities. But the fact is that recidivism is high. Fifty to 60% of the population is back within a year, according to Stephen Morello, the department's deputy commissioner for public information.

"The question we're now asking when they're here with us," said Correction Commissioner Dora Schriro, who dropped by the program and is a gardener herself, "is how do we leverage that time, how do we make them more accountable for the choices they make and move them in a direction over time to make better and better decisions? Should they come back, we're resolved to take up where we left off."

Hilda Krus, who runs the program, is a horticultural therapist, the emphasis almost more on therapy than horticulture. "It's really about cultivating people," she said as several female prisoners, escorted by a female correction officer, arrived and got to work planting seeds and watering the plants in the greenhouse.

Apparently, one of the perks of the program is that, come summer, even though you're not allowed to bring the garden's bounty of lettuce, tomatoes, apricots, figs, etc., back to your cell or dormitory, you're allowed to indulge on the job. The program's pesto is supposedly excellent, as is the mozzarella and tomato salad (the mozzarella imported from the outside, of course). And the GreenHouse also makes an aromatic chest rub whose ingredients include olive oil, beeswax, lavender and thyme. With the proper marketing, the product could probably become something of a cash cow for the Horticultural Society.

However, Sara Hobel, the society's executive director, acknowledged that its Rikers Island programs are intended less to mint the next Michael Pollan than to help redirect people's lives. "The likelihood anybody is going to raise Angus beef is slim," she said.

Ms. Krus observed that the act of gardening lends itself to contemplation and reflection, the lack of which may have contributed to the prisoners finding themselves in their current predicament. "Often when discharge is coming around, we see so many thoughts come up—worrying about how things will go," the therapist said. "They use this garden for having a couple of minutes to themselves, or a conversation if it's needed. Working in the soil together it just happens naturally that we talk and our students tell us things."

Yolanda Hill, in on a DWI conviction, saw the program's benefits in more focused and immediate terms. "I think this is the best job in the jails," she proclaimed, comparing it to the prison tailor shop, where she worked previously and suffered from swelled feet. "You get to see more out here. I like the birds and stuff. You don't have to wait to go to rec. You already have rec."

[Source: The Wall Street Journal]

2011 NY ASLA Awards Ceremony and Exhibition Opening
Thursday, March 31 , 2011

On Thursday, March 31, The Hort hosted the 2011 Awards Ceremony and Exhibition Opening for the New York Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).  Merit and Honor awards were given in the following four project categories:   Landscape Architecture Design, Small Landscape Projects, Collaborative Design, and Planning, Analysis, Research, and Communications.  The Design Trust for Public Space and the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation received an Honor award in Planning for the parks manual, High Performance Landscape Guidelines: 21st Century Parks for NYC.

Introductory remarks were given by our Executive Director Sara Hobel and Denisha Williams, the incoming president of the New York Chapter.  The awards were presented by Greg Marett and Sam Lawrence, members of the NY ASLA Awards Committee.  The awards ceremony and the reception that followed were attended by over a hundred guests, including principals and representatives from each award-winning firm.  We were also honored to have NYC Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe in attendance. Click here to view additional pictures from the ceremony and reception.

On view through Friday, April 22nd, the exhibition features visuals from each award-winning project, including photographs, plans, drawings, publications and even one sculpture.  It is accompanied by an exhibition guide, which can be viewed here.

The gallery at The Hort is free and open to the public Monday through Friday, from 12pm to 6pm.

Opening Reception for Sprout 4: You Art What You Eat
Friday, March 11, 2011

On Tuesday, March 8th we opened our annual Sprout exhibition at The Hort with over 150 people in attendance, including our young artists, their families, and supporters. The program this year focused on edible plants. The still life paintings, fabric works created with natural fruit and vegetable dyes, assortment of botanical studies, and leaf and vegetable sculptures were selected from the participating Apple Seed schools. In all we have over 160 spectacular creations on display.

Amongst their work, the students and their families danced to the music of flamenco performer, Barbara Martinez, and munched on healthy snacks and drinks. The award for Best in Show went to Jonathan N., Best Painting went to Ciara R., Best Botanical Illustration went to John E., Best Group Painting went to Egypt M. and Veronica T., and Honorable Mentions went to Ashley G., Kaitlyn D., Kori J., and Pleaides. The winners received family passes to the Museum of Modern Art and the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Each student in attendance also received a complimentary pass to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Special congratulations to all our talented artists and thank you to our generous supporters.

The show will be on view at The Hort through Friday, March 18th. The gallery is open Monday through Friday, 12pm to 6pm.

Check out more photos of the show on Flickr.

Urban Assembly Academy of Civic Engagement at St. Vincent's
Friday, March 4, 2011

A group of eight 8th graders from Urban Assembly Academy of Civic Engagement and two chaperones volunteered at St. Vincent's Garden on Friday, March 4th. The day began with a tour of the garden, led by John Cannizzo, the Director of the GreenTeam internship Program. He explained the composting process, as well as the different plants. Under the supervision of volunteer Jenny Gill and Civic Corps member Sean Taylor, the group picked up trash, raked debris, and defined pathways. Everyone seemed to have fun and it was a great start to the spring season!

GreenTeam Professional Development Series: Part V
Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tuesday March 1st was the last installment of the GreenTeam Professional Development Series. The workshop series concluded with a presentation on what to expect after the interview phase. In addition, the interns were able to hear the motivational guest speaker, LaVerna Fountain. Ms. Fountain's talk inspired the interns to reach their goals, in job searching and beyond.

     -Sierra Bush, NYC Civic Corp

GreenTeam Professional Development Series: Part III & IV
Tuesday, February 1 & 15, 2011


The third session of the GreenTeam Professional Development Series focused on interviewing strategies. Seven GreenTeam interns were in attendance, and they learned about appropriate attire as well as several tips for having a great job interview. In addition, the interns were able to participate in mock interviews and receive feedback. Keep checking the Hort website for more updates.


On February 15th the GreenTeam interns learned about budgeting money and finance options such as checking/savings accounts, pre-paid debit cards, and the NYC Safe Start Account. After a discussion on financial basics, the interns looked through several job opportunities from

     -Sierra Bush, NYC Civic Corp

2011 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service
At PS 57 James Weldon Johnson Leadership Academy

Monday, January 17, 2011

We attended the 2011 MLK Day of Service event at PS 57 James Weldon Johnson Leadership Academy. It was a hands-on youth and Family volunteer event. The Hort had a table set up in the cafeteria where we gave out information about water conservation and where New York City gets its water from. In addition to learning about water conservation, young volunteers were able to make herbal tea bags: 1 for themselves and 1 for a senior center located in the neighborhood. Students gave their herbal teas personalized names and wrote a notes to the recipients at the senior center. At this event we helped to educate the youth of East Harlem in important environmental concerns while stressing the importance of serving other people in their neighborhood on this special day of service. This project was made possible with funds from the Catskill Watershed Corporation in partnership with New York City Department of Environmental Protection.

GreenTeam Professional Development Series: Part II
Tuesday, January 18, 2011

After its second installment the GreenTeam Professional Development Series is heating up! Tuesday's attendance doubled as the word spread about the value of the Hort's series.

This week's seminar topics included where to find the hottest jobs and how to give a polished presentation at interview time.

More good news! A search is now underway to find people who can mentor our Green Team in finding jobs in the green sector. We commend HSNY's Green Team for their commitment to rebuilding their lives. Stay tuned for more updates.

     -Sean Taylor, NYC Civic Corp

GreenTeam Professional Development Series
Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Today was the start of the GreenTeam Professional Development Series hosted by NYC Civic Corps members Sean Taylor, Sierra Bush and Lauren Vorhees, Hort intern Jennifer Loftin, and volunteer Makeda Richardson. The series aims to give GreenTeamers the knowledge and inspiration to begin a successful career after their time with the GreenTeam. The first session focused on resume building and cover letter fundamentals. Stay tuned for updates as the series progresses.

Rikers Christmas Cheer
Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Part I (Tuesday, December 7)

Together with the women at the GreenHouse, we decorated our outdoor blue spruce into a beautiful Christmas tree. We had plenty of ornaments in hot pink, green, golden and purple, colors picked especially for the women. In icy wind and amazingly cold temperature we transformed the spiky tree into a sparkling, colorful seasons greeting. Our 15 Guinea fowls joined us. They are nosy birds who were hoping for food, now that the ground is frozen. While decorating, they were fed with their favorite, cracked corn, right next to us and cackled happily. Laurie had brought us lovely Christmas Carol booklets, so when the tree was shining in all its colors, we gathered around it and managed to sing “O Christmas Tree” and “Deck the Halls”, before our toes and fingers reminded us to go back inside for a hot chocolate. We will definitely need to practice the Carols, but all of us had tons of fun.

Tomorrow we will decorate a pine with the men, in silver, blue and turquoise. They firmly announced that they will NOT sing carols, but it was obvious how much they look forward to the decorating, followed by hot apple cider.

Part II (Wednesday, December 8)

When we arrived today, the men were sitting in our classroom, busy with making Christmas presents (marigold seed packages…), and had the heating up on full blast. It was much colder today, so they were very reluctant to go out into the cold and made clear to us that the decorating idea was totally “corny”. Well, we managed to coax everyone out into the garden, holding cups of steaming hot apple cider and joined by our hungry Guinea fowls just like the day before. We had a beautiful pine in mind for the men to decorate. They flat refused and insisted on decorating our second blue spruce, right next to the women's tree. Within moments their reluctance was replaced by sheer excitement. Every single ornament was used, and now the tree sparkles in silver, turquoise and blue, which also lets it look like Hanukkah as well as diverse sports teams… The decorating even melted their resolution not to sing: Laurie's Carol books were brought out. We staff had to start the caroling, but at the “Fa la la la la” in “Deck the halls”, one of our students could not hold back any longer and sang his heart out. From the others we were able to hear cheerful humming…

Later in the day, we had a good bye ceremony as one of our women got ready for release. Her wish was – to sing! She asked to take one of the Carol booklets home with her, so she can sing with her three children as they finally get reunited after almost 12 months.

     -Hilda Krus, Director of GreenHouse

Rooftop Gardening at WHEDco
Saturday, October 30, 2010

On Saturday, October 30 John Canizzo, Director of the GreenTeam, and a group of resident children harvested in the rooftop farm at Intervale Green. Intervale Green is a sustainable "green" building in the Bronx built by the Women's Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco). This rental building, comprised of 128 units of affordable housing for low-income and formerly homeless families, uses energy-efficient technology and environmentally friendly materials. This year, The Hort's GreenTeam planted the rooftop farm at Intervale Green. Kids are officially allowed on the roof now, just in time to harvest the lettuce and radishes that were planted a few weeks ago. Each Saturday morning, our GreenTeam provides hands-on workshops, cooking classes and exciting art projects.

Celebration at Hope Steven Garden
Friday, October 29, 2010

On October 29, Robert Jackson, Member of the City Council of New York, and Colleen Bonnicklewis, CEO/ Executive Director of Heritage Health and Housing, Inc. came to Hope Steven Garden in West Harlem to celebrate the completion of two energy efficiency projects. These projects were the rain water harvesting system at the Hope Steven Garden at Amsterdam and West 142nd Street, and the solar exterior LED path lighting at the courtyard of PS 153 on Amsterdam Avenue at West 146th Street.

The surrounding community and local school administration came out to support the garden and celebrate the new addition of a rain water harvest system and green roof. In addition to installing the rain water system, The Hort's GreenTeam has helped improve the Hope Steven Garden by building a handicapped approved brick pathway, raised beds for growing vegetables, and a gazebo. At PS 153, the GreenTeam installed the solar lighting system.

Five GreenTeam members as well as John Cannizzo, Director of the GreenTeam, and Sara Hobel, Executive Director of The Hort, received awards from Robert Jackson for their hard work and dedication to the greening of Bronx and improving energy efficiency in the city through their work.

Pumpkin Harvest at Rikers
Monday, October 18, 2010

We harvested 14 pumpkins in the school garden with the detainees, and they were taken out of our hands as if they were the last pumpkins in the state... Their name is "Cinderella's carriage", and they are huge and beautifully dark orange-red. Four of them are displayed at the entrance of the facility, the rest will have found their way into fall decorations and kitchens of teachers and officers within the facility who support our program. We have 2 left for us, and have to watch them with care... This was the biggest pumpkin crop since we started the garden. -Hilda Krus, Director of GreenHouse

GrowingGreen at Island Academy
Thursday, September 16, 2010

During the summers of 2009 and 2010, the Horticultural Society of New York was invited to expand GrowingGreen from Horizon Academy to Island Academy, which serves adolescent inmates educational needs during their incarceration at the Rikers Island within the Robert N. Davoren Complex (RNDC) detention center. Each summer, close to 100 adolescents participated in the program. With direction and support from our horticultural therapists, the students designed and created a magnificent garden, complete with irrigation, in 1,000 square feet of land that was overgrown with weeds. Participants learned basic landscaping skills such as weeding, digging drainage ditches, and planting seeds, which are key skills for entry level jobs in the green sector. At the same time, they had an opportunity to relieve tension through outdoor physical work and to develop a sense of pride in what they accomplished. We received very successful exit interview results from participants; for example, when asked if they would be interested in participating in the program in the future, 100% answered yes and 93% said they would be interested in either joining our GreenTeam program upon release from prison or continuing in horticulture in some other way.

GrowingGreen at Phoenix House Academy
Thursday, September 16, 2010

GrowingGreen expanded services this summer to include a new program at Phoenix House, which operates adolescent programs that give teens a chance to break with the past and take control of their lives.

In Westchester County, Phoenix House offers a residential high school (Phoenix House Academy) in partnership with the NYC Department of Education that provides comprehensive substance abuse treatment to adolescents while helping them catch up academically. Students can earn high school diplomas at the Academy or return to their home high school after completing the residential phase of treatment. Together with teachers, counselors and Phoenix House chefs, the Horticultural Society staff worked with students to create a 22,000 square foot "kitchen" garden. In this nurturing environment, students learned not only plant science, but also the value of hard work. Students also share the outcomes (corn, tomatoes, lettuces, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, melons and more) at mealtime.

Phoenix House Updates
Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Hort has partnered with Tricia Martin from WE Design and for the past few months she has been working with five students from the Yorktown Heights Phoenix House on the design of their outdoor courtyard. Using a pedagogical method, Ms. Martin and one student from each unit has composed a design for the courtyard that is not only beautiful, but allows for group meetings, solitary reading and studying, and other forms of passive recreation.
The following is a list of activities performed over the last one and a half months:

1. Creative collage exercise
2. Spatial scale exercise and site surveying
3. Site Analysis and site drawing
4. Design Charrette
5. Testing the design in three dimensions

The design ideas will be reviewed Tuesday, August 3rd by all involved in the project and are meant to solicit a preliminary conversation about the potential of the courtyard and its program. The students were guided through the design process and helped with the realization of their own ideas. Included are samples of garden designs.

GrowingGreen Academy
Monday, September 13, 2010

GrowingGreen Academy is a school-based career and technical education program that combines academic study with workforce skills in horticultural science and landscape/garden design, construction and maintenance. Students spend time in the classroom and in the garden, learning skills to meet industry-specific competencies. Students receive certificates of completion in horticultural methods and techniques, and go on to receive GED's or high school diplomas, to further their green training, and/or to enter the workforce. Some graduates of the program join the transitional employment program run by the Horticultural Society, the GreenTeam, for additional field experience, career counseling and job placement assistance. Currently, the Horticultural Society of New York offers GrowingGreen at Department of Education District 79 High Schools located at the Rikers Island Correctional Facility and at Phoenix House Academy in Westchester County. The majority of participants in GrowingGreen are minorities, low-income, and in recovery from substance abuse. Fewer than 20 percent are high school graduates or possess a GED. Many have emotional disorders with a history of fractured families and overwhelming poverty. Our constituents are greatly under-represented in horticultural, forestry and environmental fields. From our experience, most young people from urban, underserved communities are largely unaware of the potential opportunities available in these areas and are also often unaware of the impact of the natural world on their immediate environment and day-to-day lives. GrowingGreen Academy prepares participants for careers in New York City's growing greening movement - helping the city to design, plant and care for its increasing parklands, greenstreets, street trees, green plazas, greenways, greenroofs and urban farms. Initiated in 2007, GrowingGreen Academy provides participants with education and skills in botany, horticultural techniques, basic landscape design, soil remediation, tree management, plant identification, integrated pest management, and plant maintenance focused on the special needs of the urban greenscape. Students are also exposed to career options and potential employers in New York City. GrowingGreen is funded through a combination of earned revenue through contracts with the Department of Education for Student Services, and through foundation grants and individual gifts.