Barry Kogan manages Wave Hill’s Forest Project Summer Collaborative (FPSC), a six-week, paid summer internship for teens. The oldest urban woodland conservation program for youth in the United States, the FPSC  has been working to improve the ecology of the Bronx since 1980. 

It is that time of year again.  We are in the middle of crew leader training, the exciting first part of the summer. I’ve been really pleased to have former crew leader Greg Haber return to Wave Hill, this time as coordinator of the Forest Project Summer Project. Last week and this, Greg and I have been working with our four crew leaders, one of whom is returning for a second year in this capacity.  This is a time for crew leaders to learn about woodland restoration, discussing all the different aspects of the program, and the exciting challenges of working with teenagers. We also cleaned out the tool shed, and we’ve been working on a skit to perform for the interns about tool safety and appropriate work behavior. By the end of their orientation next week, crew leaders will be required to hand in a detailed site proposal for this summer’s field work. 

Besides the time that Greg and I have spent with the crew leaders, other Wave Hill staff have played a major role during training:  Wave Hill Environmental Educators Corinne Flax and Pauli Evanson provided a tour of the gardens; Director of Education Debra Epstein offered a Field Guide training. Horticultural Interpreter Charlie Day helped the crew leaders identify what grows in the gardens, and Director of Horticulture Scott Canning and Assistant Director of Horticulture Brian McGowan were available for consulting about the sites where crew leaders will be working.

Highlights so far: A field trip to Pelham Bay Park to work with Parks Department staff in the woodlands there—with lunch at legendary Louie & Ernie’s Pizza; an ice-breaker “mafia game” with our Education Department staff and a role-playing exercise we use to prepare crew leaders for handling challenging situations.

The 2012 interns start next week. They begin their orientation on June 28.Look for entries from crew leaders and interns once work gets underway.

Assistant Director of Public Programs Laurel Rimmer highlights what’s new in the gardens this week.

A few members of the Arum family (Araceae) are showing off their bold foliage and unusual flowers this week. Look for an inflorescence consisting of a leaf-like spathe and a fleshy spike of tiny flowers called a spadix. 

Thick, shiny foliage of Arisaema ringens (Japanese cobra lily), pictured on the right,  contrasts nicely with the finely textured leaves of Branford rambler fern (Athyrium ‘Branford Rambler’). Peer beneath the massive leaves, pictured on the left, to see where it gets its common name. This is an impressive and easy to grow Arisaema topping off at about 2 ½ feet tall. Several groupings of cobra lilies thrive in the Shade Border.

Also in the Shade Border and elsewhere on the grounds, Arum italicum subsp. italicum ‘Marmoratum’ (Italian arum) is in full bloom, showing off creamy white spathes. Flowers are followed by bright red berries that appear in midsummer as the foliage goes dormant. The leaves are overlaid with attractive white patterning, perfect for lightening up a shady spot.

Here it is pictured with Geum triflorum. When they are happy, they may become overly aggressive, often graduating to weedy status.

The foul-smelling voodoo lily summons flies to pollinate its flowers. Fortunately blooms are fleeting and collapse in a day or two, replaced by tropical-looking leaves on long, spotted stems. A prolific grower, it will provide plenty of little tubers to share with garden friends (or enemies).

Sandee Harris is a greeter at Wave Hill’s Glyndor Gallery.

We are excited about upcoming exhibitions in which three 2012 Wave Hill Winter Workspace artists are participating:  Nova Jiang, Nick Lamia, and Danielle Durchslag.  The Winter Workspace is a great opportunity to engage the public in a personal dialogue with the artists.  I have enjoyed chatting with them and asking questions, and they were very eager to talk about their work.  I have another level of appreciation after witnessing part of the process involved in creating the work for these exhibitions.

House, 2012, is one of the drawings that Nova Jiang created in this year’s Winter Workspace. Thanks to Nova for allowing us to reproduce it here.

These artists, who were inspired by their time at Wave Hill, are showing their work and reaching a wider audience.  Jiang’s drawings at Illuminated Metropolis were made during her residency at Wave Hill.  Lamia’s installation at Jason McCoy Gallery focuses on one of Wave Hill’s copper beech trees.  And at Christopher Henry Gallery, Durchslag is showing cut paper collages that are similar to the type of work she made during the Winter Workspace Program. Today’s Manhattan User’s Guide, by the way, includes a nice write-up about the opening of that last show, which  is tonight, May 10, from 6 to 9pm.

Hope you make time to visit their shows:

Nova Jiang, Recent Drawings , through June 1, 2012, at Illuminated Metropolis Gallery at 547 West 27th Street, Suite 529, New York, NY 10001. She’s blogged about the experience here, too.

Nick Lamia, Coppice, through June 29, 2012, at the Jason McCoy Gallery at 41 East 57th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY  10022.

Danielle Durchslag, A Cut  Above: 12 Paper Masters, through June 24, 2012, at the Christopher Henry Gallery at 127 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY  10013.

Assistant Director of Public Programs Laurel Rimmer highlights what’s new in the gardens this week.

It’s hard to keep up with what’s in bloom in the Palm House this time of year—by the time we draft a bloom list, the display has already changed. It’s enough for the harried garden interpreter to throw out pencil and clipboard in distress. Gardener Susannah Strazzera is in charge of the display in the Palm House, bringing out new plants from our growing areas in back and tweaking the arrangement of the plants currently on view. Each corner of the greenhouse has a theme, with colors and textures in both flowers and foliage carefully considered, and pots staged in levels to show them to their best advantage.

This week, our large (and deliciously fragrant) variegated lemon is dressed up with colorful pots of Moraea ochroleuca, one of the many South African natives featured in this greenhouse in late winter and early spring.



The northeast corner is vibrant with the fiery colors of Clivia miniata and Mimulus aurantiacus, shown to perfection against large-leaved Acanthus mollis ‘New Zealand Gold’.









While many of these blooms are fleeting, a graceful Cyrtanthus species on the window sill produces tubular flowers for months.

Out on the grounds, it’s easy to get distracted by the dizzying display of flowering trees and shrubs, but be sure to look down to see some fascinating flora at ground level.

Check out the pair of shots below.  On the left, an Asian ginger Asarum maximum ‘Green Panda’ flaunts its fascinating brownish-purple flowers in the Shade Border; the same species, shown below right, is in full bloom in the T. H. Everett Alpine House.









Our old shadbush (Amelanchier canadensis) is showing its delicate white flowers in the Wild Garden; look down at its feet to see the claw-like stems of Arisaema ringens emerging from the ground, show below in the last shot here. Check back in a month or so to see this robust jack-in-the-pulpit in bloom.

Assistant Director of Public Programs Laurel Rimmer highlights what’s new in the gardens this week.

It’s chartreuse week! In the spring, acid green seems to go with everything.  In the Wild Garden, shade-loving golden wood millet (Millium effusum ‘Aureum’) emerging beneath our old shadbush (Amelanchier canadensis).

Pulmonaria ‘Mrs. Moon’ adds a touch of pink and blue with her first flowers of the season.







A few feet away, well established colonies of Fritillaria verticillata attract attention with their pendulous green bells and unusual curled leaf tips, well portrayed in this pair of pictures.



Self-sown Helleborus foetidus, the bear’s foot hellebore, favors the edges of the gravel path.  Flowers are effective for many weeks in spring. They have also given the plant the unfortunate name of “stinking hellebore”,  not for the floral fragrance but for the malodorous scent produced when the stem is crushed.


Euphorbias are blooming early in the Dry Garden thanks to this unusually warm weather.  Euphorbia chariacus subsp. wulfenii  is putting on a splendid show this year.





Euphorbia myrsinities prefers dry, gritty soil; here it has happily seeded itself into the foundation walls of the old greenhouse that surround the Herb and Dry Gardens.







Iris pallida ‘Aureo-Variegata’ in the Flower Garden.

Wave Hill Horticultural Interpreters offer highlights of what’s blooming now in the gardens. Photo credit: Betsy Ginn.

More delicate in appearance than other members of the protea family, the lavender grevillea is native to southeast Australia. The foliage and habit is very similar to lavender, but the flowers are quite different. The cultivar ‘Penola’ has dark red blooms that have graced the Palm House for many weeks this winter. Look for it in the Palm House, the central space in Wave Hill’s Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory.


John Minieri is a Curatorial Fellow in Wave Hill’s Visual Arts Department.

Photo credit Joshua Bright

With just over a week left in the first session, I stopped in to the galleries to see what the artists have been up to.  My first visit was with Nick Lamia, who has been spending time drawing and painting both in his studio and on the grounds of Wave Hill. Nick’s work seeks to explore the interaction and relation between man and nature through multi-dimensional abstract pieces based on observations from the real world. Reflecting on the month of January, which included his public workshops, Nick has found that he is reconnecting with the natural environment in a method similar to his artistic approach from the early years of his career, when he spent significant time along the coast of Maine.

Prior to beginning the Winter Workspace, Nick’s artistic approach stemmed from the use of previous observations and experiences within the built and natural world. Nick’s time spent living in major metropolitan regions and the wilderness settings of the Sierra Nevada and Maine have had a significant impact on his artistic practice. Memories recalled from these contrasting settings have become the source material for his abstract paintings and installations, which often resemble fragmented maps. The time spent at Wave Hill has allowed Nick to refine his approach, and has provided him with the opportunity to create new visual abstractions from a direct source rather than previous observations. Below are some examples of Nick’s work, and the process he has been employing thus far. Beginning en plein air, a French expression meaning “in the open air”, Nick has been creating in-depth pencil drawings and studies around Wave Hill.

The first image here, drawn over a period of about five hours and one of Nick’s first drawings completed during the Workspace, has become a source image for many of his subsequent abstractions.







Starting small, Nick created a handful of initial abstractions based on his observation of the tree, as shown in this second image. Though the drawing of the tree seems to capture only a moment of the entire observation, the abstraction begins to draw on the changing light and environmental conditions Nick experienced while drawing.






The last image is of a  larger abstracted painting, and is a further derivation from the drawing and initial abstraction.







Though these paintings often form the basis of inspiration for larger site-specific installation pieces, Nick plans to continue working on similar paintings in various sizes for the remainder of his time at Wave Hill.


John Minieri is a Curatorial Fellow in Wave Hill’s Visual Arts Department.

The New Year is only two weeks old and things at Wave Hill are already off to a great start as we continue to prepare ourselves for the winter snow that is sure to come. As the Curatorial Fellow in the Visual Arts Department, I have had the opportunity to enjoy the gardens and gallery at Wave Hill during the changing seasons from summer to fall and now to winter (though of late it has felt much more like spring than the frigid temperatures we’re used to). Whether it’s due to the beautiful sunsets over the Hudson River and Palisades or the warmth inside the tropical house, winter at Wave Hill is proving to be a very special source of inspiration. With that in mind, what I’m especially excited about is our Winter Workspace program.

For the third consecutive year, artists are taking over Glyndor Gallery and converting it from exhibition space into their own studios. This year, 10 artists, working in a variety of media and formats, will be in residence during two, six-week sessions, from now until late March. The Winter Workspace provides artists not only with a space to create new work and continue ongoing projects, but also the opportunity for daily interaction with a natural environment not often encountered within the urban landscape of New York City. The first group of artists has quickly taken to their studios and begun to make regular appearances in the gardens and Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory, while continuing to explore and learn more about Wave Hill.

Danielle Durchslag at work in her Winter Workspace studio space. Photo credit Joshua Bright

The five artists in the first session, which began January 3 and lasts until February 12, are Carrie Beckmann, a watercolorist who paints directly from nature and can normally be found working in the Conservatory; Danielle Durchslag, who is using cut and layered paper to represent Wave Hill’s natural surroundings; Sabrina Gschwandtner, who has covered her studio floor with 16mm-film strips (some found stock and some she’s shot at Wave Hill) that will be sewn together to create illuminated quilts; Nick Lamia, who is experimenting with plein-air drawings as a source for multi-dimensional abstractions; and Adam Parker Smith, who has been busily painting colorful, wall-sized assemblages of plants and flowers based on observations at Wave Hill. Along with creating their own work, the  artists will also lead public workshops during their time at Wave Hill. More information about the workshops can be found here.

Throughout the course of the Workspace, I will be spending time with each artist individually in their studios and the gardens to see what they’ve been working on. Keep reading Wave Hill’s blog to learn more about each artist, their work, and how they’ve been spending their time at Wave Hill. Check in next week to meet the first artist I’ll spend time with, and our first workshop leader, Nick Lamia.

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rhea Howell Horticultural Interpreter.

Just to the right of the front steps to Glyndor Gallery is a rangy shrub that has straggly growth with rather nondescript foliage, and it suffers from the indignity of being completely ignored for most of the year. It is called fragrant wintersweet – and for a very good reason: it does indeed bloom in the winter, and with a wonderful, sweet scent.  In most years, the buds stay tightly closed through December, awaiting the odd mild spell in midwinter – not so unusual, since such periods occur most winters – when they pop open to reveal small, greenish-cream colored flowers that are touched with the slightest blush of deep crimson.  This year, it is blooming exceptionally early, and profusely, a result of a very mild November, following the brief cold snap that gave us the heavy snow fall in late October. 

The flowering time of many plants relies upon “vernalization”, a period of cold, the intensity and duration of which varies according to each species.  Other factors, such as length of daylight time and increasing temperatures, are important, too.  Wintersweet clearly requires only a short spell of cold weather to induce flowering once warmer temperatures return.

Forest Project Summer Collaborative intern bloggers Lidia, a high school 11th grader, and John, a high school senior, provide a primer on trail work.

This week the crews focused on trail work. What is trail work, you might ask? Mainly it consists of log hunting, making water bars and trail bars and creating woodchips. Mulching and planting are also important to trail work. To give you a taste of what these tasks entail, here are some stories we’d like to share with you. Consider yourself lucky you’re only reading about them!

Once upon a Tuesday, John and Lidia, members of the Canopy Climbers crew, set off on an adventure to gather mulch. Mulch consists of decomposing plants and bark and such. In order to gather it and take it back to our site, we had to use a wheelbarrow.  The mulch pile is located at the bottom of Wave Hill’s Herbert & Hyonja Abrons Woodlands. The Woodlands are on a hill and our site happens to be on top of it. We had to push the wheelbarrow, and our two shovels, down a really rocky path to reach the mulch pile, where we shoveled mulch into the wheelbarrow until we thought it was full, and then pushed it uphill all the way around the Woodlands area and along that really rocky path again. Our crew leader’s reaction when we finally reached her:  “We need more.”

Off we went again down the really rocky path back to the mulch pile. The shoveling recommenced.

 “I think that’s enough,” says Lidia.

“No, we can fit in some more,” John answers. John spoke too soon. Once the wheelbarrow was filled to the brim, he struggled to push it up the path. Feeling guilty, Lidia asked if he needed some help.

“You can push it downhill once I get to the top.”

Satisfied, Lidia continued walking and John continued panting. We reached the summit and John put the wheelbarrow down at the start of the downhill slope, gesturing to Lidia to take over.  It was so heavy! Before we knew it, the wheelbarrow was pulling Lidia down. Whoa, Lidia loses her balance! She had stepped on her pant cuffs and soon the wheelbarrow was on its side and the mulch was spread all over the road. John sighed, but being the gentleman he is, went off to find some hand shovels to fill the barrow back up. Radiating embarrassment, Lidia began filling it up by hand. We reached the crew once more. Our crew leader’s reaction to the new barrow full: “We need more.”  The moral of the story: you will never have enough mulch.

It’s hard to summarize the ins and outs of trail work in just a few paragraphs. It is not necessarily something that can be taught. Most of it is trial and error and improvisation. All the tasks seem trivial, but when it’s all done and you take a step back, you can really see how the fruits of your labor result in a wonderful trail. 

Log hunting is where trail work begins, because you need to find decent-sized, solid logs to lay along the sides of the trail. These are called trail bars and they mark the length and width of the trail, as well as helping to keep soil and leaf litter from washing onto the path. Logs are also used for what we call water bars, which are laid across the trail, angled strategically to divert water from running down the trail, or down whatever slope where the water bars are installed. By helping direct and slow the flow of water we are helping to prevent soil erosion. To put in the trail bars and water bars, we would dig log-sized trenches, place the logs in the trenches and then pack soil around them to hold the logs in place. In some cases, especially where logs were placed on a slope or steep edge, stakes would also be put in to keep the log from rolling out of place. These stakes we fashioned from the branches and limbs of fallen trees, or parts sawn off from our logs.

As we noted previously, mulch is used in large quantities. Along either side of the trail we planted native species to help beautify the trail and to replace all the invasive weeds and such that we pulled. These newly planted native species will help protect the trail because their roots take firm hold in the soil and prevent it from eroding as easily. The large amounts of mulch we used were placed around the trunks of the new trees we planted so that they could provide nutrients for the soil. This will help our plants adapt to their new conditions, as they were previously planted in pots and would need to get used to the change in soil. We had many plants which needed to be mulched, although we were careful to keep the mulch from being too close to the base of the plants, in order to prevent rot.

Most of the native species of trees and shrubs we planted and mulched were planted through jute mesh, a form of netting made of natural, biodegradable materials. We spread it over the soil and staked it in before making a hole in the mesh for planting. The mesh helps hold the soil in place. As it decomposes over time, it leaves a terrain that looks like it had never been worked on.

All in all, that is the tale of trail work. We hope you enjoyed learning about that aspect of the hard, but rewarding work we take part in daily!

May 2023