Something I had really hoped to do in New York was work on my plant knowledge. I wanted to study plants and to work with plants or flowers in some capacity, and I’m happy to say I’ve been doing both those things since only a couple of weeks after we arrived here! I did a short but intensive course at the New York Botanical Garden in plant science, and I’ve been working at a flower and garden shop for almost 2 months now. While I’ve had my frustrations with both experiences, they have definitely opened my eyes to a whole new world of plant and flower knowledge.
What was most exciting about the plant science course was the basic understanding it gave me of botany – basically how seeds, plants and flowers work, and the science behind it – and the knowledge I gained on how to identify plants and flowers. I can name so many new species now, and if I don’t recognise something I know what to look for in order to help me identify it. What’s been most exciting about the flower shop has been all the interesting and beautiful new flowers I’ve come into contact with, and the fact that I’ve been taught how to work with them in various ways (though I still have a lot to learn!).
I knew a little about plants before coming here, through growing up with my green-thumb mum, through my own experimentation, and through working all too briefly at an amazing nursery in Canberra earlier this year. What I quickly discovered though, through living here, through studying at NYBG and through working at Zuzu’s, is that there are so many thousands of plants and flowers I knew nothing about – whole families I’d never discovered and certainly hundreds of genera and species.
I hope you don’t mind if I nerd out for a little bit about all the summer flowering plants in this area that have me excited!
New York in the summer is hydrangea central – they grow in all the parks and gardens and every flower shop is filled with them. I’ve always loved hydrangea but I never had any idea just how many incredibly beautiful species there were. My new favourite is probably the oakleaf hydrangea, and I also love the more unusual lacecap species like the silverleaf.
Another plant native to this area is the flowering dogwood. I knew absolutely nothing about dogwood before arriving in New York, and still don’t know much except that the beautiful white ‘flowers’ are actually bracts, with many tiny flowers clustered in the middle. I’ve seen a few growing in people’s front gardens and they’re quite striking. Dogwood is also the ‘D’ in the MADcapHORSE acronym, useful for identifying plants around these parts!
I first came across clematis while working at the nursery in Canberra and I instantly fell in love with its striking flowers with their spiky centres and its pretty climbing structure. I’ve since seen some beautiful ones here in New York and I’d love to get my hands on one of my own at some point! Clematis are also a member of what I’ve recently discovered to be my favourite family of flowering plants, the Ranunculaceae, or buttercup family. This amazing plant family includes anemones, delphiniums, hellebores, nigella and of course ranunculus, all of which are among my absolute favourite flowers. Nigella is a flower we’ve used a fair bit for arranging at the flower shop and I love it. It has really pretty bluish-white flowers, amazing inflated seed pods and sweet little spiky leaves. I had never come across it until a couple of months ago, but now it’s one of my favourites.
Another flower that is a new favourite is scabiosa. It was love at first sight when I encountered this beauty! The flowers are pretty, unkempt-looking clusters on slender twisting stalks, which gives them a lovely wild look. I particularly love the deep purple scabiosa atropurpurea and the amazing seed pods of scabiosa stellata.
We get new and really unusual flowers into the flower shop every week, plus I’m always stumbling across beautiful plants and flowers in my New York ramblings, so I’m sure I’ll have new favourites soon, but for now these are a few that have me excited!