Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Recent Photos: HSNY Green Screen

Here at The Horticultural Society of New York (148 W. 37th Street - 13th Floor) our Green Screen is looking really good these days so I wanted to post and share some images for those of you that have not had the chance to visit recently. Designed by Marpillero Pollak Architects, installed by David Melrose, and maintained by yours truly, the HSNY Green Screen includes plants of all shapes and sizes situated in a series of shallow troughs covering most of our south-facing windows. A mixture of herbaceous tropicals, succulents, bromeliads, epiphytes, ferns and vines, the Screen has become a great living experiment right here in our public headquarters and I urge anyone and everyone to come and visit. Above is a Tillandsia concolor, commonly call an air plant, and with all the sun and humidity recently it has begun blooming profusely.

The staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum) in the background and the crocodile fern (Microsorium 'Crocodyllus') in the foreground require regular misting but have held up very well since I planted them a year ago. If you have ever tried to grow a staghorn fern in your home you know how challenging it can be so I love showing people how we have been able to keep it going here in an office environment.

One of our newest additions is this amazing plant with contrasting hairy, reddish stems and bright chartreuse terminal growth. It appears that the flowers are pure white, tiny and emerge from the chartreuse bracts of the plant, but we are still learning as it continues to come into flower. I have yet to identify it to genus and/or species.

In the center of this shot, in front of the thin, tubular Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire' and behind the Hedera 'Round Leaf' is Neoregelia 'Tiger Cub', a staff favorite which we have a number of throughout the Screen. With plenty of sun and enough moisture kept in their cups the Tiger Cub neoregelia continues to put out its pups (new growth in the form of side shoots) even when the office gets very dry.

You can see some things are containerized within the screen like the Peperomia maypurensis with its thick bronze leaves. You can't see it in this photo but the creeping fig (Ficus pumila) in the foreground has begun clinging and climbing up the nearby windowsill. Again, we enjoy the screen as a horticultural experiment and love to see how the plants grow and spread by their own accord.

With its cylindrical creeping leaves, the Sansevieria ballyi has been a Green Screen staple from its installation in 2006. Beyond it Sedum 'Angelina' has adapted well to the indoors here at HSNY even though most people know it as a reliable and winter-hardy green roof plant in New York City. Overall the succulents, such as the Sedum, love the Screen because they do most of their water and nutrient storage in their leaf tissue and therefore do not need tons of space for their roots. Beyond those the large leafed plants in the distance are a combination of Begonia conchifolia 'Bulls Eye' and Syngonium podophyllum 'Roxana', commonly called Bulls Eye begonia and Roxana arrowhead vine respectively.

Over the winter the rex begonia vine, Cissus discolor, died back and I wasn't sure if it would come back again. However, I pruned it back hard, continued to water minimally through winter, and did my best to be patient. To all of our surprise, not to mention the surprise of the amazing growers out at Landcraft Environmentals who raised most of these plants, spring came and the vine has bounced back tremendously. I do think they would prefer a home with greater humidity but a regular early morning misting is keeping them colorful and cascading all over.

The containerized plant in the foreground is Homalocladium platycladum, commonly called a ribbon plant. Some times you will also find it referred to by its other, less attractive name of tapeworm plant. It too prefers quite a bit of humidity given the thin "ribbon" leaves and stems but when happy they grow quite big. Beyond it the Echeveria 'Milk Chocolate' put up a large spire of flowers last year and I can't wait for it to bloom again. When you visit you will see how we have easily propagated broken-off succulent leaves and allowed them to grow into plants of their own.

Under two pieces of the Screen are large radiators so we improvised and filled those sections with moisture retentive gravel and containerized succulents and epiphytes. In the winter its just a matter of keep the gravel moist on a regular basis and the result is a nice dose of humidity that rises up and helps all of the other layers deal with the dry heat.

HSNY is open to the public Monday - Friday from 10am - 6pm. With a mission to improve the quality of life through horticulture, HSNY is a horticultural resource and community outreach provider intended for all, and we love to help foster growth and education every chance we get. Usually Katherine Powis, HSNY Librarian, and I are here, but if not there is signage and other staff to help you identify what you are looking at. There is also the living example of an extensive green roof (below) and plenty of sensational reference books to keep you enthralled so do come and visit us soon.

Reminder: All photographs taken by Alex Feleppa and should not be used or reproduced in any form without written consent. Thank you. -AEF

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