The Hort’s Community Programs Recognized by AHS

Left: AHS 2019 Awardees; Right: Nick Guntli, Director of GreenTeam, with the 2019 AHS Community Greening Award


The Hort is honored to be the recipient of The American Horticultural Society (AHS) Community Greening Award!


The award is given in recognition of individuals and organizations that demonstrate the diligence and value of horticulture to creating livable communities that are greener, healthier, and more equitable.
To learn more about the other 2019 Great American Gardeners National Award Winners, check out AHS’ newsletter.
Thank you again, AHS, for the award!

GreenHouse featured in the latest NYC DOC newsletter!

Hort staff members Sarah Schluep and Eva Joly
with three correction officers that work with GreenHouse.


Check out the March/April 2019 edition of the New York City Department of Correction newsletter and read about the work we’re doing on Rikers Island! Click here and scroll to page 13 for a closer look at our GreenHouse Horticultural Therapy Program, its life-changing benefits, and why this unique program works.

GreenHouse is a nationally recognized horticultural therapy and vocational training program, serving individuals who are detained or incarcerated on Rikers Island. Participants improve social and emotional well-being and gain concrete transferable skills that reduce the likelihood of recidivism. Our horticultural therapy programs also extend beyond Rikers, serving residents of supportive housing facilities throughout New York City.

Greenhouse Newsletter | April

Upcoming Events

There are a lot of exciting new classes being offered at the Greenhouse and Kitchen! Come participate in a workshop on seed starting to kick start your spring garden, learn about identifying edible foods in the wild and using them in the kitchen with Chef Noah Sheetz of Chef’s Consortium, or check out one of our upcoming fermentation series classes! Click here to see our full schedule

The Greenhouse & Kitchen is located at Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park, 679 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10031

Plant of the month: Jade

Jade, or Crassula ovata, are popular houseplants worldwide due to the low level of maintenance required. Jade plants are succulents – they require very little water to thrive, and can survive in most indoor conditions. Healthy plants will live for a very long time, and can survive long periods of drought due to its ability to store water in its leaves, stems, and roots. Jade is native to South Africa, and can grow up to six feet tall.

In some parts of the world, jade plants are associated with financial luck, earning the nicknames “money plant” and “luck plant.” The jade plant is also known for its ease of propagation – plants will readily propagate with high success rates from both clippings and fallen leaves. In the wild, propagation from fallen branches is the jade plant’s primary form of reproduction. Jade plants have small pink and white flowers that bloom in the springtime, but may not appear on plants kept indoors.

Missouri Botanical Garden

Spring Frittata with Feta and Ramps

Ramps are wild, and now well-known at most farmers’ markets. They look like very skinny scallions but have a stronger, garlic-like taste. They start showing up at markets in early spring. Without ramps, substitute about half the amount in scallions, plus a small garlic clove, well minced.

Yield: 4 to 6 as an appetizer; lunch for 2-4

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • About 10 ramps, or a bunch, cleaned and chopped, including some of the green leaves (substitute spring/green onions, a few tender scapes, or a couple of shallots, finely chopped)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6-7 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • Sprinkling of chopped parsley or chives

Preheat broiler. In a medium (8-9 inch) ovenproof skillet (preferably cast iron), heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium flame. Add the ramps and sauté until tender and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Remove to a bowl and set aside. In a small bowl, add the eggs and beat lightly to blend.

Set skillet over medium heat and add enough olive oil to coat the skillet well. After a few seconds, add the egg mixture, shaking the pan a bit to make sure, it spreads out evenly, and return the sautéed vegetables to the skillet. Let cook undisturbed until you see it is starting to brown lightly at the edges, about a minute. Shake the pan to see if the frittata mixture is loose. If not, let it cook a few seconds longer. Don’t stir, just let the bottom set and even brown a bit. When the top is just starting to set (that is, it doesn’t look totally runny anymore), take the pan off the burner and stick it in a hot oven (or under the broiler, but watch it closely so it doesn’t burn). Cook another 5 minutes or so until the top begins to brown. If you don’t have an oven, you can flip it and cook the top in the skillet. The easiest way is to slide the frittata onto a plate, put another plate upside down on top, flip it all over, then slide it back into the hot pan.

To serve as an antipasto, cut into thin pie-shaped wedges and arrange on a serving platter. For a lunch dish, slide each frittata slice onto a plate and serve with a green salad.

Maple Vinaigrette with Dandelion Greens

Note: Dandelion greens can be foraged, however make sure you clean well and rinse a few times before using. Many supermarkets also carry them in the produce section. You may also substitute other greens like spinach and arugula.


  • 3 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 3 Tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 6 Tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons minced shallots (optional)
  • dash salt and pepper


  • 5-6 cups dandelion greens (or substitute other greens, like arugula and baby spinach)
  • Approximately 1 cup (or 1 bunch) spring radishes, thinly sliced
    2-3 scallions or green onions, sliced

Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid; shake well. Dress salad in a large bowl and serve.

Jessica Tcherepnine (1938-2018)

Jessica Tcherepnine (left) with Elizabeth Scholtz, current Advisory Board member


The Board of Directors and Staff of the Horticultural Society of New York mourn the death of our dear friend and supporter Jessica Tcherepnine. Jessica was a Trustee of the Society for more than 20 years. She developed the Society’s relationship with the American Society of Botanical Artists, leading to the Annual International Exhibition with works selected from the genre’s most established artists. Under Jessica’s guidance, the Society hosted the botanical exhibition for 20 years. Jessica also shared her time and extraordinary talents compassionately with the Society’s horticultural therapy program participants incarcerated on Rikers Island, visiting several times each year even when travel became difficult for her. Jessica received the Society’s Award of Excellence in 2013. We are forever grateful to Jessica and send our condolences to her husband Peter, her family, and her friends. We miss her already.


Jared Goss, Chairman of the Board of Directors
Sara Hobel, Executive Director
The Horticultural Society of New York

Plants of the Winter Solstice

In celebration of the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, we’re highlighting winter plants that have become staples in modern holiday traditions. This interesting fact sheet was compiled by Margaret Riche, an instructor in our GreenHouse Horticultural Therapy Program on Rikers Island.

The winter solstice initiates the beginning of the coldest season, and dating back to the neolithic era, cultures have held celebrations at this time. After the solstice, the days get increasingly frigid, but the sun rises earlier and stays longer, a symbol of hope in a time of relative scarcity. The imagery of bright light has been a feature of wintertime holidays across the world, as has the hardy greenery that thrives through the frost.

In fact, many of the plants people identify with Christmas were used for winter celebrations far before the advent of Christianity. Every year we see decorated evergreen trees, mistletoe, and poinsettias, but oftentimes we never learn the origin of these plant traditions or their meanings. By exploring these beautiful plants, we take a trip through history and mythology that adds a new depth to our appreciation of winter decor!



Evergreens have been sprucing up homes during wintertime for thousands of years, pre-dating the tradition of the Christmas tree. They are ancient symbols of nature’s hardiness due to their ability to retain their leaves through the cold winter. Boughs of evergreens, especially pine, spruce, and fir, were hung in homes and were thought to bring about protection, fertility, and good luck.

Saturnalia Celebration

Early Romans decorated their temples with evergreen boughs during the celebration of Saturnalia. This holiday, which takes place from December 17th to the 23rd, honors Saturn, the god of agriculture. It is a tradition of great merry-making and gift exchanging and is a predecessor to many Christmas traditions.

The Christmas tree’s exact origins are somewhat disputed, but many aspects of the tradition can trace their beginnings to Celtic, Germanic, and Viking traditions. Celtic druids decorated evergreen trees with fruits, nuts, and coins during the onset of winter to ensure a fruitful coming year. In these ancient cultures (as in many cultures worldwide), trees (especially evergreen) were venerated as symbols of nature’s cycle of rebirth.

Queen Victoria & Prince Albert, 1840

The first evidence of decorating Christmas trees indoors belongs to Renaissance-Era artisan guilds in Northern Germany. Workers would bring in evergreen trees and decorate them with sweets to be enjoyed by apprentices and children. On the last night of holiday celebrations, revelers brought the tree into the town square to be danced around. The Christmas tree tradition then spread throughout Germany. Some homes would decorate a pyramidal pile of wood logs with evergreen boughs and lights in place of a full tree. These traditions came to America by German immigrants, but were originally seen as foreign or pagan and were condemned by American puritans. In the early 19th century, Christmas trees spread to European nobility. An image of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert has been widely credited with creating the Christmas tree craze among the more general population.




Mistletoe is a diverse order of evergreen parasitic vines that grows on several different trees throughout Europe, North America, North Africa, and Asia. Due to its ability to thrive in the winter months, mistletoe has been revered for thousands of years and has a variety of myths and traditions built up around it.

The ancient Celtic people would collect mistletoe growing on oak trees during their winter solstice ritual, with the Chief Druid climbing the oak and cutting down vines for people to hang up in their homes. They believed that mistletoe was so sacred it could not touch the ground, so it was caught in blankets as it was cut down from the tree tops. Mistletoe was believed to offer protection from evil, and was revered for its use as a medicine for epilepsy, ulcers, menstrual cramps, to increase fertility and as an antidote for poison (Native Americans also have a long tradition of using mistletoe as medicine.) In Norse mythology, mistletoe is the herb that killed and restored Baldur, son of the Goddess of love, Freya. To honor mistletoe, Freya bestows good luck and love on anyone who should walk under the plant.

The tradition of kissing beneath the mistletoe can be traced back to this Celtic association with fertility and Norse mythology. Modern tradition holds that refusing anyone a kiss beneath the mistletoe incurs bad luck, and for each kiss, a berry from the bundle must be plucked. Once all the berries are gone, the mistletoe no longer has the power to demand kisses.



Holly is a genus of evergreen trees, shrubs, and climbers. Common holly (Illex aquifolium) is the species that has become synonymous with winter, with its characteristic bright red berries and glossy leaves. Similar to a lot of the aforementioned plants, before holly was associated with Christmas, it was honored by the Celtic Druids and the ancient Romans. During the winter months, when deciduous trees lose their leaves, holly brings a splash of vibrant green and red, becoming a symbol of eternal life.

Like mistletoe, Holly was also hung as a ward of protection. It was believed by Celtic people that the undersides of their leaves were a place for faeries to find shelter and that the faeries would be kind to any homeowner who hung holly branches. To the Romans, Holly was an emblem of the agricultural god Saturn and was used as decoration during Saturnalia. Christians then continued the tradition of holly as a winter holiday decoration. Christian symbolism holds the red berries to represent Christ’s blood and the thorns to represent his crown during the crucifixion.


First Fruits

Kwanzaa, which takes place from December 21 to January 1, is a cultural holiday that celebrates African heritage. The word Kwanzaa is Swahili for “first fruits,” as this holiday takes inspiration from the many harvest celebrations of Africa.

Symbols of Kwanzaa, including a chalice and candle holder, are displayed prominently in households that honor the holiday. The first of the seven symbols of Kwanzaa is “Mazou” which means “crops.” A collection of fruits, vegetables, and nuts are placed on a traditional mat to represent the fruits of collective planning and work. Another symbol of Kwanzaa is “muhindi” which means corn, and is symbolic of the world’s children who will grow into the future. One kernel of corn is placed on the mat for each of the children in the household.



Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are indigenous to Mexico, especially Taxco del Alarcon where they flower during the winter. In Mexico, they are called Flor de Nochebuena (“Christmas Eve flower”) or Catarina.

These plants became associated with Christmas in the 16th century. Legend tells of the story of a young girl named Pepita, who was sad she could not afford to give a gift to Jesus for the Christmas celebration. She was then inspired to pick a bouquet of weeds from the side of the road. When she laid them on the altar in front of the church, they transformed into the bright red flower.

They take their English name from Joel Roberts Poinsett, first US Minister to Mexico, who sent the plants to the US in 1822. The characteristic bright red bracts are often mistaken for petals, but are in fact, technically leaves. The obtain their color through a process called photoperiodism, which requires that the plant experience a period of darkness (a minimum of 12 hours for at least 5 days in a row) in order to change color. Additionally, they require bright light during the day to have a vivid color.



Amaryllis are flowering bulbs native to south and Central America and the Caribbean. They are often given as holiday gifts because they bloom around the holiday season when kept indoors. Red and white are popular colors for Christmas, but they also come in pink, purple, yellow, and orange.

The amaryllis plant gets its name from Greek Mythology, where the maiden Amaryllis was in love with the handsome young shepherd with a passion for flowers named Alteo. Unsure how to win Alteo’s heart, Amaryllis consulted the Oracle at Delphi. On the Oracle’s order, Amaryllis stood in front of Alteo’s house for 30 days piercing her heart with a golden arrow. On the last day, a flower grew from her spilled blood that helped her win the heart of her love. This story, as well as the plant’s strong upright stems have made it a symbol of determination, strength, beauty, and love.




Paperwhites are flowers in the narcissus genus that are native to the Mediterranean region and are frequently forced to bloom indoors in the winter. Unlike other species of the Narcissus family, they don’t require a chilling period to bloom, and are therefore considered easy plants to grow indoors for winter interest. They are also the most fragrant of the flowers in the narcissus genus. Their white color is evocative of winter’s snow, which is another reason for this plant’s association with winter holidays.


Christmas Cactus

Shlumbergera are a genus of 6 species of cactus native to the coastal mountains of Brazil. They are epiphytic, which means they grow on the surface of other plants, in this case trees. In the North, they are known for their ability to thrive as houseplants and for blooming around the holiday season. There are varieties that bloom in fall and winter, “Thanksgiving Cactus” and “Christmas Cactus” respectively, which often get confused and are mislabeled by sellers.




The use of mint flavoring at Christmas time is due to the ever popular candy cane, whose origins can be traced back to soothing sugar sticks used in 17th century German churches. Before pacifiers, parents would give their fussy children sugar sticks and in the 1670s, one pastor gave out these treats during Christmas services, bending them into the shape of the shepherd’s staff. These canes became popular in Christmas services all over Europe, evolving into different tastes, and eventually becoming the red and white striped mint candy canes that we know today. The colors are common Christmas colors and the peppermint flavor leaves a tingling sensation evocative of the winter’s cold.

Santa’s Second Job by George Ball 

George Ball, Chairman and CEO of the W. Atlee Burpee Co., Trustee of The Horticultural Society of New York, and past president of the American Horticultural Society in Washington D.C., wrote this ever-so-horticultural short story.  We share it with you here to spread holiday cheer and wish you a Happy New Year.

Call him Santa. Some moments ago, after measuring the behavior of the world’s children, managing construction of several hundred million toys by elves, raising and tending magic reindeer, and mapping this year’s delivery routes, he found himself wanting to knock an elf’s hat off, or set the sleigh ablaze. Even Santa gets the blues.


So many more kids these past few years, he muses. The winters getting colder, chimneys tighter than they used to be. He can adapt to just so much change. Magic goes only so far, even for Santa.


“What to do this off-season?” he ponders. As much as Santa wants the extra cash, he needs a break—and a makeover. The Southern Hemisphere’s “Christmas in July” shows have been fading away. In Australia, New Zealand, Polynesia, South Africa, demographics have changed. Besides, they stole his thunder, if not comfort and joy. Brutal trip, too.


Being omniscient, Santa sees that a seed company is hiring. Seasonal work from January to May. Hmm, seeds … interesting! He trims his hair and beard, dons work apparel, summons Blitzen, flies down and presents himself. The factory is so busy, the Human Resources clerk whisks “Mr. S. Claus” through. I’m hired!


When Santa sees the colorful packets lined up for packing and shipping, his mind lights up like a Christmas tree. “So exotic, yet so oddly familiar.” He takes the mail order catalog back to his rented abode and reads it cover to cover.


Later Santa notices several familiar seeds and plants. Being a deer maven, he knows their leaves are too rough or spiny for deer’s throats. He suggests developing a new collection of deer-resistant varieties to his manager, who promotes him to oversee the Vegetable Department. Santa might not want to turn away deer, but gardeners sure do.


Santa is surprised by the “Large Carrots” section. His deer wisdom returns. “This carrot is so huge and sweet, it’s perfect for deer”, he tells the manager. “It looks orange to us but to deer, it’s gold. Plant a small plot to both satiate their carrot-lust and keep them away from your garden”. Mr. S. Claus becomes the toast of the marketing team, which incorporates his lore into the upcoming catalog.


One late April morning, after a week of shipping tomato transplants, Santa bolts awake with an aha! moment. “All these seeds and plants are gifts that, in turn, produce gifts that, in turn, keep giving even more gifts.” The gift of all gifts.


Rubbing his eyes, Santa realizes that Christmas, with its lights, colors and the abundance of the gifts he brings, is a spirited representation of spring and summer, with their dazzling sunshine, myriad hues—and abounding harvest. Christmas by other means.


In late May, at the end of the “busy season”, Santa receives a bonus for being so “good” (amusing him no end) and whistles Blitzen back down. Returning to the North Pole, they fly over flowering spring gardens where he sees pea-vine rows and green-bean fences; peonies, daisies and snapdragons in bloom. Everything comes together in an epiphany: Gardening is the source of all that is good or “nice”, and of nothing that is bad or “naughty”.


Back home, to the joy of Mrs. Claus, the elves and the reindeer, Santa begins construction on his new workshop—a greenhouse.


The Hort Records Archived by New-York Historical Society

Chrysanthemums at the Fall 1909 exhibition

The New-York Historical Society has digitally archived The Hort’s gift of a collection documenting over a century of our organization’s history. The archive’s contents, which fill 110 boxes, are a veritable treasure trove of information and memorabilia chronicling The Hort, dating back to it’s founding in 1900.

This comprehensive archive covers a number of areas, including early documentation of our extensive library, in addition to a large amount of audiovisual material. One can find recordings of programs and lectures given at the Hort, along with film reels of Flower Shows dating back to 1964. Early photos of our Green Team at work and community gardens across the five boroughs are also present.

The collection also boasts a wide variety of printed material, such as The Hort’s periodical publications and bulletins dating back to our organization’s inception, as well as oversize prints donated by esteemed botanical artist Niki Goulandris in 1983. Also included is an album of original photographs from 1917, which expansively detail the effects of World War I on trees and greenery in France.

We are thrilled to contribute our organization’s historical records to the N-YHS’ collection. The Hort thanks the N-YHS team and especially Ted O’Reilly, Curator of Manuscripts, for their careful and thorough preservation of our history. 

Click here to view the contents of the archive. 

Greenhouse Plant of the Month: Bloody Mary | Nepenthes ampullaria x (spectabilis x ventricosa)

The Bloody Mary is a grandiose, hybrid perennial pitcher plant with an attractive red hue. The pitcher works as a trapping mechanism for the plant as it is carnivorous and eats insects such as stink bugs, wasps, and yellow jackets. The parent species are native to tropical Malaysia, making this hybrid species well-suited for warm weather. This plant does well outdoors in full to partial sun or on brightly lit window sills. This tropical plant is also quite easy to care for since it is a fast grower and can reach a height of 18 feet!


About the Bloody Mary Plant

This plant is created from a female parent from the Nepenthes Ampullaria species and a male parent from the Nepenthes spectabilis x ventricosa species, which is also a cross breed between Nepenthes ventricosa and Nepenthes spectabilis. Nepenthes ampullaria is native to Zones 8 to 11, while the Nepenthes spectabilis x ventricosa is native to Zones 6 to 12, which allows the Bloody Mary plant to have such a wide temperature tolerance.


Stop by the Greenhouse at Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park to view this thriving pitcher plant!

Greenhouse Plant of the Month: Papyrus | Cyperus Papyrus

Papyrus is a perennial sedge and aquatic flowering plant from the Cyperaceae family. The papyrus plant is native to Africa, known for its tall stature, and forms in clumps due to its rhizomorphous nature. It can grow up to an incredible 15 feet and spread up to 4 feet within standing water, boggy soils, or containers at the side of water gardens, pools, or ponds. Since these are tender plants, there needs to be careful watch of Papyrus plants in the winter as they prefer cool 60-65 degree Fahrenheit temperatures. This plant species thrives in Zones 9 to 10 and blooms from July to September. Papyrus plants need full sun to part shade while submerged in wet soil, making them relatively easy to grow if the right temperature is met. Papyrus plants make a great addition to any indoor garden or home with a warm environment!

History of Papyrus

Papyrus has a profound history of importance in ancient Egypt. Papyrus was a multifunctional plant for Egyptians as they found Papyrus could be used to make woven materials, food, and fragrances in addition to its primary use as a writing surface. Egyptians would use the stems of this plant to make paper-like writing material. The plant was cultivated and harvested heavily until it was severely depleted, but there are still small traces of Papyrus found in Egypt today. Papyrus is now cultivated as an ornamental plant.


Stop by the Greenhouse at Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park to view the thriving Papyrus plant!

Greenhouse Open House Recap

Photos: Daniel Schwartz //

The Hort’s NYdigs Greenhouse & Kitchen Program and The Burpee Foundation celebrated our new greenhouse in Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park in mid-June. This free event was open for the community to explore the wonderful world of plants—both indoors and out.

Children and families hopped on the smoothie bike and blended their own organic green drinks made from The Hort’s secret farm fresh recipes (see below). Sofrito—also located in the Park—transformed mustards, chard and kale picked from our kitchen garden to make savory salads. Their famous Herbal Vinaigrette, a flavorful yet healthy salad dressing, was the perfect complement to our greens. Meanwhile, the Chefs Consortium prepared decadent berry treats like flaky scones and crepes topped with fresh, local strawberries. All recipes can be found below.

Kids of all ages enjoyed our DIY flower pendant, where chamomile and miniature roses were transformed into a living necklace—the real flowers garnished a small bottle of water and swayed on a rustic jute twine. To complement our horticultural therapy activities, health screenings were provided by the New York Presbyterian Hospital and a quiet meditation was led by the Shinnyo Center.

One of our generous sponsors, Mr. George Ball, Chairman & CEO of W. Atlee Burpee & Co., announced the winners of our seed and garden raffle. Both adults and kids alike were happy to win gardening kits, seed kits, curiosity kits, and more! If you missed the fun, please visit the greenhouse any Saturday from 10am-2pm at the Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park.

Open House Recipes

Click to view the full recipe card.

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