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Show #20/4007. An Amazing Park In New York Harbor

Summary of Show

History Of Brooklyn Bridge Park
Eric first meets Regina Meyer the President of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Eric thanks Regina for the chance to tour this beautiful garden and Regina in turn tells Eric that it is a treat to show Eric and the GardenSMART audience BROOKLYN BRIDGE PARK. This Park was a tremendous undertaking, it is a very large space plus a challenging site. It is a mile and one half in length and runs along the front of the Brooklyn waterfront which is located in New York harbor. It has fantastic views of the lower Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty.
For More Information Click here

Woodland Eco System
In the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge is an interesting landscape. It looks like a pretty well established native thicket which makes it easy to forget that everything is recently planted. To make that happen they're utilized a lot of fast growing plants. This section is designed to mimic a WOODLAND ECO SYSTEM and is one of the 7 eco systems of the park. They call it a dense hedge grove because it is dense and because it functions as a habitat for migratory birds.
For More Information Click here

Leave The Leaves
Rebecca and Eric next talk about plant maintenance. Is there anything specific needed on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis? Absolutely. Of course they don't FERTILIZE. The thought process is that nobody fertilizes a forest so why fertilize here? A lot of people are under the impression that deciduous trees throw their leaves away but the reality is they are carefully placing them over their roots to store them during winter and when spring comes the leaves biodegrade and then get reincorporated into the soil.
For More Information Click here

Flowering Plants
There are many wonderful FLOWERING PLANTS included in this landscape and Eric asks Rebecca about some of her favorites. She likes the Viburnum Trilobum, it's a gorgeous shrub that has 4 seasons of interest. It's flower is a dead ringer for a lace cap hydrangea.
For More Information Click here

Wetlands
Eric feels that WETLANDS often times are one of the more underrated eco systems in a garden. In fact many gardeners say they are battling their wet spots, they're trying to get rid of them. But they really do serve an important function in nature. The low points of a garden are where water gathers after rain and the plants that then grow along the edge of those areas are so important from a remediation standpoint.
For More Information Click here

Spring Ephemerals
Some of Eric's favorite plants in a woodland setting are the SPRING EPHEMERALS and they have a great collection here. They have only been able to plant these recently as the park has developed. When everything was 1st planted it was full sun because the trees were quite small. But now that the trees are larger and they have shaded areas they have been able to expand their collection. One of her favorites is the dicentra aurora which is marvelous.
For More Information Click here

Salt Marsh
One of the messages of this garden is the thought and attention to detail that has gone into every separate environment. What is actually going to work in that specific environment? Eric notices one environment that he certainly doesn't have in his garden. Rebecca explains - This is a unique opportunity to have a SALT MARSH, certainly not everyone has a river or an ocean outside their home. And only one plant can possibly be planted in this environment that is native to the area and that is smooth cord grass.
For More Information Click here

Wildlife Habitat
And this eco system is important from a WILDLIFE HABITAT standpoint. A lot of animals rely on these type environments. After planting they almost immediately had a flush of wildlife - Mallards, herons, night herons, mussels and blue crabs. This type environment at one time almost completely covered the coast but they've become increasingly rare.
For More Information Click here

Organic Lawn
For many public parks one of the most maintenance intensive parts of the park often times is their LAWN. These are spaces that are used more recreationally than the trails. And that is certainly the case here, families will congregate, have picnic lunches, there are concerts on the lawn, etc. thus this area can get beaten up. Since they have made a commitment to this whole park being organic Eric wonders what challenges they've encountered trying to not only grow an organic lawn but additionally grow an organic lawn that takes a lot of abuse?
For More Information Click here

An Emerging Trend - Meadows
Rebecca and Eric next talk about plant groups that are an extension to the lawn. An emerging trend in gardening is MEADOWS and beyond that, even, prairies. Rebecca addresses meadows. She finds them an attractive alternative to the lawn. They like the same environment as lawns, they like full sun, clean soil, yet typically very little water. If planted and designed properly they are actually far lower maintenance than a proper lawn.
For More Information Click here

 

LINKS:

Brooklyn Bridge Park
Brooklyn Bridge Park

Storm Damage - Hurricane Sandy | by Rebecca McMackin

Plant List

 

Show #20/4007. An Amazing Park In New York Harbor

Complete Write Up

In the heart of one of the busiest cities in the world is a park that represents the dreams of a community and, importantly, explores the possibilities of brilliant design and plant choice. In this Episode GardenSMART visits Brooklyn Bridge Park and it is stunning.

Eric first meets Regina Meyer the President of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Eric thanks Regina for the chance to tour this beautiful garden and Regina in turn tells Eric that it is a treat to show Eric and the GardenSMART audience BROOKLYN BRIDGE PARK. This Park was a tremendous undertaking, it is a very large space plus a challenging site. It is a mile and one half in length and runs along the front of the Brooklyn waterfront which is located in New York harbor. It has fantastic views of the lower Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty. This garden has a phenomenal design, the community fought for this Park for over 20 years. This space at one time was an active shipping terminal but once shipping changed throughout the global landscape the site became abandoned. At that point the community felt it would make a great landscape for a park. Eric wonders what went into the process of claiming this space and then what was the design intent for this space? Reclaiming this space was really about how to get people to the waterfront. The community said they wanted to come down here. The area was, as mentioned, previously a shipping terminal, and near a famous expressway called the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, often referred to as BQE. When a highway cuts a community off one must then find ingenious ways to get people to the area. They have done that by focusing on really beautiful entrances at the southern section and the northern section which is right by the Brooklyn Bridge. A primary design focus was attracting nature to the site and that has been rewarding, because today visitors can experience a former industrial site that is now a great place to enjoy nature. And, it is a fantastic setting made all the more beautiful by the fact it is surrounded by concrete and skyscrapers. What they have built here is an oasis in the middle of a sea of concrete. And people are responding, they have over a million visitors each year and they have just been open 3 years. On a typical summer weekend 90,000 people will visit this Park. They have incredible programs, a lot of free programs, movies, talks, lectures, book readings, concerts, all of those things are intended to entice more and more people to visit. So, it has been a gratifying experience. Regina is thrilled that GardenSMART is visiting and showing this garden to the country.

Eric next meets Rebecca McMackin the Brooklyn Bridge Park horticulturist. Rebecca has a wonderful role here. She has been very involved in the establishment of this Park and now, the day to day operation. Rebecca tells us about her gardening background. She grew up on a hobby farm in Connecticut thus has been gardening her whole life. She ended up getting a degree in fresh water ecology. But as with a lot of people who are drawn to the natural sciences, she felt she wasn't spending enough time outside, instead she was spending a lot of time in front of a computer. So, at that time she started gardening just for the fun and realized that gardening really was an applied science. As all gardeners know it's experiment after experiment but at the end one doesn't need to defend or run statistics, one just gets flowers. Rebecca feels a job in public gardening provides a fantastic opportunity to move into a city, get all of the cultural experiences of the city while still being able to enjoy horticulture. It's very rewarding to be working in public horticulture because as you're out there working, people will thank you at least 10 times a day for your work. This is still a very young garden and a lot of what she does each day involves overseeing construction but additionally she has a large role with plant choice and design. She spends a lot of time caring for the plants, making sure they are healthy, keeping the grass green but additionally practices integrated pest management and observing wildlife in the park and making sure that it is functioning in that regard. Rebecca has a number of eco systems that she is going to show us today, Eric is anxious to get started, so off they go.

In the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge is an interesting landscape. It looks like a pretty well established native thicket which makes it easy to forget that everything is recently planted. To make that happen they're utilized a lot of fast growing plants. This section is designed to mimic a WOODLAND ECO SYSTEM and is one of the 7 eco systems of the park. They call it a dense hedge grove because it is dense and because it functions as a habitat for migratory birds. Migratory birds look at habitat structure before they look for food. They want to know whether of not they can nest, whether they can hide from hawks, etc. This kind of thicket aesthetic is really important for these animals and as a result they attract warblers, thrushes and other really rare birds.

Rebecca and Eric next talk about plant maintenance. Is there anything specific needed on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis? Absolutely. Of course they don't FERTILIZE. The thought process is that nobody fertilizes a forest so why fertilize here? A lot of people are under the impression that deciduous trees throw their leaves away but the reality is they are carefully placing them over their roots to store them during winter and when spring comes the leaves biodegrade and then get reincorporated into the soil. The tree can then take up those nutrients once again. So here - they leave the leaves. And, that really reduces the requirement for maintenance.

It is worth mentioning they are just a few feet from salt water and recently Hurricane Sandy came through. Much of the garden was flooded. What did they learn about the plants, what plants were surprising or what plants did well? They were surprised by the fact that some of the plants didn't make it. Trees like London Planes and Sweetgum, are common street trees but apparently have no salt tolerance. But there were also some wonderful survivors, things like Honey Locust and native Inkberry were barely touched. That was particularly rewarding because it's difficult to find an evergreen that is salt tolerant.

There are many wonderful FLOWERING PLANTS included in this landscape and Eric asks Rebecca about some of her favorites. She likes the Viburnum Trilobum, it's a gorgeous shrub that has 4 seasons of interest. It's flower is a dead ringer for a lace cap hydrangea. In the summer it has very beautiful dark lustrous green foliage, then in the fall it has a deep burgundy fall color, the entire plant lights on fire, then in the winter it has beautiful red berries that are edible for humans, one can make jams, but the birds also love them, but only after they have been fermented by the freezing temperatures. So late in winter your can see Cedar Waxwings fluttering around, perhaps a little tipsy and that's great.

Eric likes the way this is designed, it feels like they are exploring in nature. It's not a super groomed landscape, it's very comfortable, very pretty and really nice. And that was the intent, the designers tried to give New Yorkers the sense of exploration, which is rare in the city, the feeling of being able to walk through a woodland path where you don't know what is going to be in front of you, what you might find, or what beautiful little flowers might be ahead.

Eric feels that WETLANDS often times are one of the more underrated eco systems in a garden. In fact many gardeners say they are battling their wet spots, they're trying to get rid of them. But they really do serve an important function in nature. The low points of a garden are where water gathers after rain and the plants that then grow along the edge of those areas are so important from a remediation standpoint. Anything that leaches from the soil or planting beds with water is then taken into these low areas, those nutrients or any kind of contaminants or pollutants are then taken up by the plants. Thus these areas are a very important part of a garden. Yes, they are ecologically important but as well can be incredibly beautiful. These type areas provide a real opportunity to work with plants that one normally wouldn't be able to work with. And, they do have some amazing ornamental plants in this area. Swamp azalea, sedges, rushes, swamp milkweed, marsh marigold are all great plants that just wouldn't be planted in drier areas. And these plants are very important from a habitat standpoint. Swamp milkweed, is an example, it is inextricably linked to the monarch butterfly. Monarch butterfly populations are down by more than a half this year, it's not doing well and that's typically due to habitat loss. So the more we can plant milkweed which is the only plant that their caterpillars can eat, the better for them in the long term.

Eric wants to know about the role of the wetland in this garden. It's of course an aesthetic but also serves an important irrigation function. The entire park has rolling topography and all of the water drains ultimately into one pond. They view one pond, it is the 1st of 5 ponds. The water is filtered through each pond, it then goes into a tank and is reused in their irrigation system. So it's actually a bio-machine, Rebecca thinks that is what people call it these days, it filters the water and they reuse it, so it's a closed loop system. And that's important. This park is 100% organic. They need to be careful about what they put down in the park because it can end up in the wetlands. And that is true no matter where you garden, what you put into your garden will ultimately end up in a wetland. The effects are just more immediate here. Eric wants to know what challenges are involved in establishing a wetland or is it as simple as just designing a low spot? Well, if you already have a low spot you are in a much better situation but designing an artificial wetland can be quite challenging. Dealing with nutrification, having too many nutrients, especially if fertilizing, is an issue, those nutrients end up in the water, then you get algae growth and invasive plants will pop up. This entirely constructed wetland has cattails and other plants that people struggle with in a natural setting.

Some of Eric's favorite plants in a woodland setting are the SPRING EPHEMERALS and they have a great collection here. They have only been able to plant these recently as the park has developed. When everything was 1st planted it was full sun because the trees were quite small. But now that the trees are larger and they have shaded areas they have been able to expand their collection. One of her favorites is the dicentra aurora which is marvelous. Native dicentra is not ephemeral so it keeps its beautiful silver foliage all year, it has a nice clean, white flower which shows up well against the glossy blue foliage. She also likes columbine. It's gorgeous to see red in the spring. And bees see red, so a favorite of theirs. It's pollinated by hummingbirds and one can look at the structure of the columbine and it is clear how hummingbirds would enter and pollinate the flower. They don't have hummingbirds in the park quite yet but Rebecca is planting as many hummingbird plants as she can. Eric notices a Monarda. It too could be a great hummingbird plant. They have native phlox and geranium macrophyllum that's coming up with a really deep purple foliage and dainty flowers. Additionally Eric notices Solomon's Seal as well as a wide variety of asters. This area should be spectacular in the fall.

One of the over arching principles of sustainable garden design is finding the plants that belong in that environment. And, this can be a difficult way to design. Often times in garden design we will deeply amend the soil, thereby creating a scenario where the plants we want will then work in that scenario. One of the messages of this garden is the thought and attention to detail that has gone into every separate environment. What is actually going to work in that specific environment? Eric notices one environment that he certainly doesn't have in his garden. Rebecca explains - This is a unique opportunity to have a SALT MARSH, certainly not everyone has a river or an ocean outside their home. And only one plant can possibly be planted in this environment that is native to the area and that is smooth cord grass. And there is a mono culture of that in this area. It is an important plant ecologically because it really serves to build the land because it is the only plant that can live in this water. And it builds debris so other plants, like mangrove, can then come in and then survive. And it is a soft edge to the park and acts as a buffer for aggressive waves. Even in hurricanes it is effective. There have been proposals to build gigantic salt marshes all around the coasts in vulnerable cities like New York City so it could well be an eco system we will be seeing more of in the future.

And this eco system is important from a WILDLIFE HABITAT standpoint. A lot of animals rely on these type environments. After planting they almost immediately had a flush of wildlife - Mallards, herons, night herons, mussels and blue crabs. This type environment at one time almost completely covered the coast but they've become increasingly rare. Thus these animals were almost like hiding out waiting for an opportunity to find and use an eco system like this. It's amazing that Rebecca has been able to recreate an eco system like this.

They next discuss the plants on the other side of the salt marsh, they must be durable plants as well. And Rebecca says they are great plants to use if you live on the ocean. Many people that live on the ocean utilize inland type plants and they will occasionally die when there are things like floods, as they have learned in New York City. Rebecca instead prefers plants like Gray Dogwood, sumac and beach plum, they are all gorgeous plants that have incredible fall color and ornamental qualities and can deal with occasional flood and salt spray without any detrimental effects. Eric noticed service berry which is not a plant that he would have expected to have been tremendously salt tolerant but here it is in full fruit. It is a wonderful wildlife plant. This is an experiment that is ongoing. Eric feels they have done a great job of showing off some super tough plants.

For many public parks one of the most maintenance intensive parts of the park often times is their LAWN. These are spaces that are used more recreationally than the trails. And that is certainly the case here, families will congregate, have picnic lunches, there are concerts on the lawn, etc. thus this area can get beaten up. Since they have made a commitment to this whole park being organic Eric wonders what challenges they've encountered trying to not only grow an organic lawn but additionally grow an organic lawn that takes a lot of abuse? Well, they are still figuring everything out and like the rest of the park there is a lot of experimentation that goes on but they are committed because it is important to them to be able to maintain an organic park. And the lawn does look pretty good. Of course they have a few weeds but have made their peace with them. Clover is a nitrogen fixer and actually adds quite a bit of nitrogen to the grass. If they wanted to maintain the grass to golf course standards it would be far more difficult, if not impossible, but because they're just maintaining it to the point where people can just hang out and have a good time, go to a show, etc., it's really not that difficult. Proper aeration, proper irrigation, proper mowing constitute 90% of the work. They also use compost tea, organic fertilizers, any of the things that they have at their fingertips that they're allowed to use, they make use of.

Rebecca and Eric next talk about plant groups that are an extension to the lawn. An emerging trend in gardening is MEADOWS and beyond that, even, prairies. Rebecca addresses meadows. She finds them an attractive alternative to the lawn. They like the same environment as lawns, they like full sun, clean soil, yet typically very little water. If planted and designed properly they are actually far lower maintenance than a proper lawn. And, that is why they are gaining in popularity. They can be incredibly beautiful, especially in a large area. When looking out on a huge field of grass it's not nearly as exciting as a prairie filled with wild flowers. That is gorgeous. So you can understand why they are becoming so popular and why they have 7 of them in this park and they keep building more. They're all very different. One on Pier 5 mimics the Hempstead Plains on Long Island, thus has similar plants one would find in the middle of Long Island. One is closer to a tundra, it has a lot of trees and some shrubs. They have wet meadows and dry meadows because they utilize different type of plants, both are gorgeous. Another reason Rebecca thinks meadows are so popular is because they utilize American plants in a design that really is an American design aesthetic. For a very long time we've been using European plants to try to make European gardens and now there is this movement that uses our plants. And, by the way, it is becoming very popular in Europe. We're creating designs that really define who we are as a country and as a continent.

Eric congratulates Rebecca, she has done a wonderful job with this garden. The Brooklyn Bridge Park is a great place for people to come see their native plants being grown organically in a pretty tough environment. Rebecca thinks that the fascinating part is that this entire Park, all of this lush greenery and all the eco systems are essentially growing on a concrete slab. It's all artificial. So, the reality is - As they say "if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere." And that is certainly the case with native, organic plants. For many the commitment to garden organically with native plants can be a bit daunting but today we have learned that by carefully selecting plants that are perfectly adapted for their environment it not only makes the job of gardening easier but can deliver outstanding results. Thank you Rebecca.

LINKS:

Brooklyn Bridge Park
Brooklyn Bridge Park

Storm Damage - Hurricane Sandy | by Rebecca McMackin

Plant List




   
   
 
   
   
   
   
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