Randalls Island Park Alliance

Archive for the ‘Randall’s Island’ Category

Color-Coded Garden: Maria Loboda

In New Ideas and Expansions, Randall's Island on May 2, 2013 at 12:14 pm


May 10-13

profile-1110By Phyllis Odessey
I’ve worked on Randall’s Island for over 6 years.  Every year brings surprises.  2012 was the first year the Frieze Art Fair was held on Randall’s Island.  Freize transforms the event lawn with the largest tent erected in the Northeast.  Cecilia Alemani is the curator of Freize Projects, a program of artists’ commissions.  The participating artists in 2013 are;  Liz Blynn, Maria Loboda, Mateo Tannatt, Andra Ursuta, Marianne Vitale.  The program also includes a special tribute to legendary artist run restaurant Food, originally conceived by Gordon Matta-Clark and Carol Godden in 1971 and an original text by novelist Ben Marcus.

We have been helping Maria Loboda install her project:  Color-Coded Garden.  Two of our staff members, James C. and James N. have been working with Maria laying out plants that arrived from Otto Kiel Nursery yesterday.

Maria Loboda’s work analyzes systems of communications, underscoring the transformative power of languages and codes. Reflecting upon the relationship between nature and verbal communication, Loboda has realized a number of works in which the natural world is analyzed through the lens of language. Taking as inspiration the lush parkland of Randall’s Island, the artist will turn an area of the park into a color-coded garden, an exact replica of an illustration of a European interior design motif from the 19th century. Interested in the precision of color mapping, the artist will translate the two-dimensional image into a living landscape of plants, flowers and shrubs, highlighting not only the relationship between interior and exterior, but also between two and three-dimensional landscapes. from freizeprojectsny.org

Here are a few snapshots of the beginning stages of the plant layout.




Let’s Get Glam GLAM

In Meet The Crew, New Ideas and Expansions, Randall's Island on March 24, 2013 at 3:00 pm

dianne for blogBy Diane B.

Greetings! This is Diane, one of the 2013 Horticulture seasonal employees of Randall’s Island Park Alliance. To state a few facts about myself, I recently moved here from Delaware. Last year I graduated from the University of Delaware with a degree in Plant science, with a concentration in plant propagation.

As a new and upcoming horticulturist, I was looking for a place that would expand my knowledge of what is available and also provide a lot of hands on learning experience, and that’s when I found Randall’s Island. This area seemed like the perfect place for learning about new opportunities and challenges. We’ve only been here a week and already we’re starting our first challenge of the season, planning decorative flower arrangements for the Gala.

The Gala was a charity benefit for Randall’s Island Park Alliance.  It  was held on Tuesday, March 12 at the American Natural History Museum.  Being the horticulture crew, we were given the task to providing a tropical island atmosphere using  live tropical plants for the event rooms.

The first room that needed to be setup was the cocktail area room, which was held in the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda. The pictures above are the two flower arrangements that we made and placed throughout the cocktail room.



In the picture on the right, we have pincushion yellow gold (Leaucospermum) this flower is a native to the South African region where it is normally seen as an evergreen shrub and blooms between the months of November to April. The flower on the right is a King Protea (Protea cynaroides) mostly admired for its giant flower heads; it is also a South African native. These flowers are amazing  to use for flower arrangements, because of its long vase life. It is easily dried;  so you can keep it around for an even longer.

Finally, the last and final part of the project was the sixty two center pieces for the dinner tables. The centerpieces consisted of two to three inch tall wheat grass with eight poppy flowers scattered throughout the tray. The idea was to show the illusion of the flowers growing straight out of the wheat grass.

poppy centerpiece

These plants were found to be the most challenging of the entire project.  We arranged the poppies two days in advance. The poppy flower petals and stems are very fragile. Each flower had to be carefully placed and packaged within the transportation truck so they would not break during the trip to the dining tables. Luckily, we had plenty of left over poppies and any damaged stems we quickly replaced before dinner was served.

All in all I would say this project was a great success. We tackled everything with a Macgyver-esque ability and achieved our goal of providing fresh looking exotic plants for the enjoyment of the Gala patrons.

Come On Down to New GREEN City

In Learning Garden, Randall's Island on September 27, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Join the Randall’s Island Horticulture Department at
New Green City
on October 10 at Union Square. 
We will have information about The Learning Garden and all our  programs, opportunities for volunteers and staffing as well as two surprise plants.
We look forward to meeting you at Union Square.

A Garden Alive

In General Plants, Randall's Island on September 25, 2012 at 4:31 pm

By Dianne Crary

A garden is a wonderful place to see and discover bugs, insects and birds.  On Randall’s Island there is an impressive variety to find.  It is always fun to hear the screams of horror/delight and astonishment as children in The Learning Garden encounter their first grub, worm or beetle.  It is an important gardening experience for them to find out that soil is a living medium and that the insects help to loosen up the soil by their tunneling which then allows air and water to reach the plants roots. Their droppings and dead bodies also provide nutrients for the plants.

During the springtime it was wonderful to listen to a mockingbird singing for hours at the Waterfront Garden against the backdrop of waves lapping the shoreline.  The diversity of a mockingbird’s song is very impressive. One duck laid her eggs among the Alchemilla  mollis (lady’s mantle) leaves and she was hard to see among them.  If you got close to her nest, she would fly up which was always startling.

Bees, bumblebees and other insects are constantly busy gathering nectar and pollen from the flowers, and a large diversity of pollinators is always found on Pycanthemum (bee balm). While the gardeners deadhead various blooms, the insects just move off to another flower intent on their job.

Butterflies are beautiful and the diversity of their colors and markings are amazing.  Whether it is the Monarch butterfly, which is attracted to the Buddleja davidii (butterfly bush), or another species they are all graceful in their movements.

Sometimes, though, one is surprised to come upon an insect due to its ability to camouflage itself.  The praying mantis is hard to detect among the green stems of bushes because it just looks like another stem.  The female is such a delicate insect, which belies its carnivorous behavior.

These various creatures, and many more, make a garden alive and vibrant.  A good garden provides areas of sun and shade, different types of foliage and flower heads, different heights of plantings, and a variety of blooms from early spring to late fall. This type of garden will attract beneficial insects that keep a garden healthy by maintaining the level of unwanted pests in check. Come and discover your favorite insect.

Opening Night at the Rice Paddy

In Learning Garden, Randall's Island on August 28, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Just Passing Through

In Randall's Island on May 25, 2012 at 8:23 pm

By Phyllis Odessey

We were sipping coffee and tea during morning break, when Jean Hurkin-Torres asked about Kissing Cousins, our blog outlining  the original garden plan for the children’s garden.

She wanted to know if Travis Wolf, former arborist for Randall’s Island, was the same Travis Wolf currently an arborist at Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

I answered YES!
Jean said “This place is just like Ellis Island.  Everyone passes through.”

We have been extremely lucky in having wonderful people work for us.  Many have gone to other institutions and  some have pursued other careers.  Here are a few Randall’s Island “alumni” pursuing horticulture careers:

John Gunderson, High Line
Andy  Pettis,  High Line
Kaspar Wittlinger, High Line
Sean Kiley, Battery Conservancy
Wayken Shaw, New York Botanical Garden
Sean Ealey, Town and Gardens
Colby Feller, Town and Gardens
Travis Wolf , Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Sarah Ward, Brooklyn Bridge Park
Enrique Mendez – Prospect Park Alliance

We’ve laughed and exchanged ideas, but most of all every member of the crew (in any year)  have made a difference on Randall’s Island.

Friends Indeed

In Randall's Island, Rock Garden on May 23, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Eunyoung with Bob deciding on the correct size gravel

By Phyllis Odessey

When you garden on an island, you need to make the most of the resources available, even when you are technically on an island in the middle of East River, which is classified as Manhattan by zip code.

Since Eunyoung and I arrived on Randall’s, we have interacted with the other city agencies on the island.  One of our  closest neighbors,  are the firemen who are instructors at the Fire Academy on Randall’s Island.  These group of guys have been giving  us their time and expertise for almost six years.  Their generosity has been overwhelming.

Working for a nonprofit is incredibly rewarding and often challenging.  We are expanding the Rock Garden, located near the ferry dock, and we needed gravel for the surface under the soil line. We received quotes from potential vendors, but they were all out of our financial grasp.  As we often do when we have a problem of this nature, we thought about who could help us.  The firemen immediately came to mind.

On Monday the firemen took us an amazing place for our gravel.  A kind of recycling center for gravel, sand and small rocks.  Towers of gravel, every shape, size and color.  We found exactly what we were looking for at a reasonable price.

Friendship is so important in life and at work.  We could not accomplish what we do without the assistance of our friends on Randall’s Island.

Special Thanks to:
Wally, Danny, Skip, Paddy, Bob and all the other firemen  at the Fire Academy for helping us make gardens on Randall’s Island.

Great Expectations

In Randall's Island on May 19, 2012 at 9:10 pm

By Phyllis Odessey

I do have a moment or two of anxiety during volunteer season.   About halfway through a volunteer event  I think to myself: ” they aren’t going to finish”.  And  I am ALWAYS wrong.

Thursday was no exception.  The Goldman Sachs team led by Richard P. and Brian M. brought the A Team and their A Game.

We expected a lot.  The game plan included lugging  wheelbarrows of compost to the site, planting over 1,000 plants,  10 shrubs, 4 trees, removing  rocks, bricks and any other obstacle in the way of planting, mulching the entire site, taking time to eat lunch and a little trip around The Learning Garden.

We shouldn’t be surprised. I shouldn’t be surprised.  Brian’s and Richard’s team have been coming to Randall’s Island for many years; changing the landscape; making gardens; beautifying views; creating a park for visitors to enjoy.

Community TeamWorks volunteers always bring energy; what is unique is that nobody wants to leave until they have finished the task at hand.  There are no “this is as far as we can get in the amount of time given”; it’s always let’s get it done and done well.

With a small staff and great ambitions for what the Horticulture crew can accomplish on its own,  our achievements rest on the shoulders of our great volunteers.  We cannot execute these projects without the dedication of groups like Goldman Sachs Community TeamWorks.

And along with fantastic volunteers, you need great captains.  Richard and Brian motivate their teammates to go the extra distance. Thanks to every one of the 12 incredible volunteers, who worked on the garden at the old comfort station.

Thank you  for creating another great garden on Randall’s Island and turning a rather desolate spot into a place people want to visit and enjoy.

Pigs, Foxes, Cats, Toads, Lambs and Bears

In Learning Garden, Randall's Island on May 16, 2012 at 3:55 pm

By Phyllis Odessey

Some people might think an old comfort station from the 1940’s is not a place to make garden.  At Randall’s Island, we think every place is a good place to make a garden.

In a previous blog, “A Brillant Plan”  I talked about Eunyoung Sebazco’s design for the old comfort station.  We’ve made a great deal of progress.  Kaity Cheng and Aaron Moritz have put their design and carpentry skills to the test.  The garden will be enclosed by a wood border and will include ground cover, perennials, and vegetables.

Aaron Moritz drills two corner boards together
Kaity Cheng uses the skill saw skillfully.

This garden is across from The Learning Garden, our Edible Education Program for public school children.  Most of the garden is devoted to growing vegetables, but a small portion is the sensory and botanical zoo garden.

The two gardens are linked in their intention.  The Animal Zoo is a part of the garden that teaches children about botanical Latin using the common names of plants as way to develop an understanding of plant names and identification.  The comfort station Animal Zoo will feature the following plants:

Bergenia cordifolia = PIGSsqueak
Digitalis purpurea “Foxy’ = FOXglove
Nepeta x fassenii = CATmint
Tricythris x Sinonome = TOAD lilly
Stachys = LAMBS ear
Acanthus = BEARS breeches

 Come by and take a look at our Botanical Zoo.  The animals won’t “bite.”