Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Reminder: David Kulick Lecture Wednesday, 2/27

Building Your Own NYC Garden Design Business; A lecture by David Kulick
Wednesday, February 27, 2008, 6:00 – 7:30pm
Free for members, $10 for nonmembers

David Kulick fell in love with gardens all over the world during his 15 year tenure as a member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Following expert horticultural training, David transitioned from dancer to designer and formed his own NYC based design studio, Zone 6 Inc. He will speak about his influences, the challenges of career transition and business ownership, and will include an overview of past, present and future projects.

Mirliton in Southern Colorado?

(A photo of mirliton, or chayote squash, which I found on the internet while researching)

I live in CO and have a wonderful organic veggie garden... some friends from Nepal have asked me to grown some mirliton for them... being unfamiliar with its cultivation, I did some on-line research and came across an article from 8/11/05 (Scott Appell was your Director of Education then and author of the article)... do you know if this plant can grow in SW CO? Do you know where I can get “starts”? Thank you in advance for your assistance... There’s so much snow here today it’s difficult to think about gardening... or maybe not...
Chayote squash or mirliton is botanically known as Sechium edule. The plant itself is a tuberous-rooted climber native to Central America. Supposedly you can tell the male and female flowers apart because the male flowers are pale yellow while the female flowers are more greenish. They do lead to an edible fruit, but I am sorry to say I do not think they would grow in southern Colorado. I must admit that I am not sure how long the plants take to flower and set fruit, but I know the plant would not be able to winter-over like other perennials you might have. If I am correct then southern Colorado is in Zone 4, 5, or 6 according to the USDA hardiness zone map and the plant you are hoping to grow is used to Zones 9-12. This means the plant naturally grows as far south as border country, and even into Mexico. Again, you might be able to treat it like an annual and have it last just one growing season outside, but in the winter you would have to bring plants inside or experiment with propagation by seed or cuttings.

As to where to find seeds or started plants, I’m going to have to ask HSNY Librarian, Katherine Powis, if she has any ideas. I can't think of any sources off the top of my head that offer this climbing plant.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Dracaena Propagation Continued

I read your blog and found the section on corn plants overtaking
apartments (posted August 3, 2007). I live in Seattle and my corn plant is about to bust a
hole in my 1910 apartment ceiling!

In any case, the one thing I'm not positive about is whether my plant
actually is a corn plant. I've attached some pictures, though they're
not so great.

If the plant is not a corn plant, will the stem cutting propogation
method still work? I would like to keep this plant, since I rescued
him from the dumpster about 3 years ago.

The plant that you saves is not a corn plant, but it is a close relative. The plant you have is still in the Dracaena genus, but a different species. Most people and retailers refer to your plant, with the long, entirely green leaves and green stems as a Janet Craig Dracaena, or Dracaena 'Janet Craig'. The plant looks slightly different than a corn plant, but their cultural requirements are very much the same. They thrive in bright light to part shade, can be kept moist during the summer and fertilized weakly with a foliage fertilizer (8-7-6 or equivelant), and allowed to go dry between watering in winter.

To answer your other question, you can still propagate it by stem cutting. The one factor, and thing I've been meaning to mention on the blog, is that this process can take a very long time. I admit that I can get just as impatient as the next guy and for a while I wasn't sure my cutting was going to take root. Yet I kept applying a small amount of water twice a week and didn't give up hope. I began the process in early August and just now I have found the Dracaena to have a fair amount of roots established (see pictures below). The plant first has to establish roots, and then it will put out new foliage so I have yet to see new leaves emerge from the center. If I look closely I see new growth, but I want to warn you that months later it is not looking all that different. I am confident the cutting has taken and will continue to do well, but just to warn you, it is a slow process. As I mentioned in the earlier post, air layering is an option also, and admittedly that too can take a little while and a good amount of patience.

(After sending the above information our email dialog continued...)


A final quick question for you - will it hurt the remaining plant and stalk underneath, if I lob the top off after I air layer it?


The hope for the remaining stalk you are left with is that dormant buds in the stem will break and push out new growth of foliage from the sides of the stem right under where you cut (and where the plant callused). Since the stem itself is green and may do a little photosynthesizing on its own, there is a possibility that the leftover stalk will produce a new flush of foliage, but again, this is more of a hope than a guarantee.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

When and How to Prune a Magnolia?

Magnolia x loebneri 'Leonard Messel' was one of my favorites while studying up at NYBG in 2005.

How would I prune a magnolia in our small backyard? It's a multi- stemmed type with white flowers. It really wants to be large, but the space just won't permit it. I'm considering pollarding it, as some of our neighbors have. When is the best time for pruning? Before flowering or after?

To be perfectly honest with you, I wouldn't prune a magnolia if I could help it. Magnolias are not the fastest growers nor are they considered fast or expedient when it comes to callusing fresh cuts. I can easily picture the type of magnolia you have in your backyard. That growth habit is simply how the magnolia wants to grow and if you try and make a number of cuts to provide it with a different shape I'm just too fearful that you are going to be opening too many wounds where pests and diseases will be able to attack. Now, if your magnolia has deadwood, crossed branches that seem to be harming the bark, or any diseased wood, then that wood you do want to prune out of the tree. You want to remove any wood that may be depleting the energy reserves of the tree, but remember that you only ever want to prune what you have to and no more. Especially as a tree matures, they should be pruned less and less because it takes more energy and time to callus those wounds. In that respect trees are like humans. A 5-year old that clocks himself on the edge of a table will be back playing in no time; clock an adult over the head and we have to sit down, take some advil, and are still feeling it hours later. In many ways the same holds true for trees and their ability to compartmentalize decay and redirect their energy to other stems and branches.

If you find that you do have to do some pruning of your magnolia, wait until late spring or summer, definitely after the flower. If you prune now you will sacrifice some of the flower buds that have already formed, and I'm sure you want to enjoy as much bloom as you can. Also, if you make cuts that the tree has to callus, then it has to pull from a finite amount of stored energy that the tree has already allocated to spring flowering. You never want to prune a tree when it is actively leafing out because its energy levels are most depleted at that time and you don't want to stress the tree out any more. After the tree has leafed out then it is rebuilding those energy reserves and has a better chance of callusing cuts quickly and efficiently. In the case of your magnolia, it will then also have ample time to set the flower buds for the following spring.

Lastly, pollarding is a labor intensive commitment and even though the outcome can be fabulous looking it is not suitable for every kind of tree. Usually you want to pick a fast growing tree that is pretty tough to begin with. I have seen and/or I have pollarded planetrees, certain maples, Paulownia, Cotinus, and a number of others that presently escape me. To establish a good pollard you have to repeatedly remove new shoots of growth every winter during dormancy. Already I've mentioned that magnolias are not the fastest at callusing cuts and compartmentalizing decay. Not to mention that cutting off the previous-years shoots in winter means that you would never see those beautiful white flowers again. So, sorry to burst your bubble, but pollarding a magnolia? Maybe not.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Reminder: Art Show Opening at HSNY Tuesday 2/12/2008

Image: David Goldberg, Botanical Study, 2007, Cray-pas and Sharpie marker on muslin. Courtesy of The Allen Stevenson School 3rd Grade Class

SPROUT: An Exhibition of New York City Children's Art
FEBRUARY 13 - MARCH 7, 2008

The Horticultural Society of New York

148 West 37th Street 13th Floor

New York, NY 10018

Opening reception for the artists:Tuesday, February 12, 2008 from 5 to 7pm

Join us for food, fun and live music!

Gallery hours: Monday - Friday from 11am to 6pm

Art Educators:

Julia Kunin and Alessandra Exposito, The Allen-Stevenson School

Pamela Ito, Lisa Krcma, Sarah Ward, Apple Seed Program, HSNY

Patrice Lorenz, The Earth School

Curated by Jodie Vicenta Jacobson

Where to Buy a Meyer Lemon?

I was wondering if you had advice about where to get citrus trees in NY, either in Brooklyn or Manhattan. I'm looking to get a meyer lemon tree. If you don't know a particular business, but have advice about resources to plant businesses in NY, I would appreciate your help.

Especially this time of year Meyer lemons can be pretty hard to find here in the city. In the winter, even kept indoors, citrus trees require a lot of sun and humidity so I'm not sure of who would risk carrying them this time of year. If you ask around you might find that some vendors that typically carry them will not have them again until April or May. That being said, here are my recommendations. Just because I love to walk around there and see what people have I might try a search in the Flower District, 28th Street west of Broadway to 7th Avenue. Many will probably have an ornamental citrus called x Citrofortunella microcarpus, also called a calamondin, but perhaps you can ask if anyone could order a Meyer for you. Then I would try calling Chelsea Garden Center, with locations in Manhattan and Red Hook, and Dimitri's Garden Center, now up in the Bronx. They are the larger garden centers in the city and as a bonus if you are an HSNY member you get a discount on purchases (10% at Chelsea, 15% at Dimitri's). I don't know if you have a car, but a coworker from Jersey swears that Metropolitan Plant and Flower Exchange in Fort Lee, NJ, have most everything. In fact he just called and they told him that they will not carry citrus until April, which in part led to my earlier comment. Good luck and let me know if we can help you further.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Reminder: Movie Screening at HSNY February 6th

Movie Screening: The Healing Gardens of New York
Wednesday, February 6, 2008, 6:15 – 7:30pm
Free for members, $5 suggested donation for nonmembers

Join us for the viewing of a captivating and inspiring film and the opportunity to meet the filmmaker. The Healing Gardens of New York, an award winning documentary by Alexandra Isles, illustrates the significance of gardens and green spaces in the face of ever growing urbanization and development here in our city.

Reminder: HSNY Consultation Service

The Horticultural Society of New York enhances our City's environmental and cultural life by providing unique educational, vocational, and therapeutic outreach programs, library resources, and art exhibitions.

Every week I field quite a spread of horticultural emails and phone calls that come in to HSNY. Just this day alone I have received questions about citrus and where to find them, some houseplant concerns from the Upper West Side, not to mention I'm still talking turf grass with my newfound friend in Brooklyn. Most of the time I have an answer, or can come up with one by the end of our conversation, but sometimes it's simply not that easy.
That is why, as part of our being a horticultural resource city-wide, I wanted to remind the general public that HSNY does offer private consultation services. As a trained horticulturist, and aided by our unique and vast horticultural HSNY Library, I can come to your home or place of work and we can discuss any number of horticultural questions you might be seeking answers to. I have consulted on everything from small interiors in Manhattan to large backyards in Brooklyn. Equipped with a clipboard, bag of basic tools, and perhaps even a reference book or two, we can discuss your wants and needs, your fears and desires, and how to best move forward. There was a wonderful article in the Times some months ago about "Garden Coaches" and I suppose that's exactly what I am. My love and mission is to make this a greener and healthier city. By educating, empowering, and motivating people throughout this entire city to beautify their worlds, we as a cooperative whole make this city and our lives better. It's that simple, and time is of the essence.
If you have the need for a trained horticulturist to educate or empower you on a specific project or area you would like to renovate, remember that you can always call on HSNY. Consultations are available throughout the five boroughs. I can speak with you about rates, HSNY Member discounts, as well as availability. Don't hesitate to call or email today. Contact Alex Feleppa, Director of Horticulture, The Horticultural Society of New York, (212) 757-0915 ext.115 or afeleppa@hsny.org