Randalls Island Park Alliance

Posts Tagged ‘Jean Hurkin-Torres’

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.

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The Easy Way is Hard Enough

In Waterfront on April 27, 2012 at 4:50 pm

By Phyllis Odessey

An old-time Vermonter and neighbor of mine, Albert McAuslan used to say “Phyllis let’s do it the easy way.  The easy way is hard enough.”  It took me sometime to come around to his point of view.

Jean Hurkin-Torres, member of the Horticulture Crew brings diverse experiences to the world of gardening.  There are all kinds of gardeners.  Some love to do everything by hand and some embrace change.  Jean is a tool freak and her obsession just saved us a lot of time.

The ornamental grasses at the Waterfront Garden need dividing.  In the  past couple of years, we’ve tried to get around to it, but haven’t found the time.

A couple of weeks ago,  we had a little window of opportunity and we decided to grab it.  “Let’s go up to the waterfront and take a look at the grasses that need to be divided” I said to the crew.

I could see frowns on the faces of the crew. Jean was the exception.  She had  a smile on her face.  “We used a reciprocating saw with a pruning blade at the Battery last year and it cut through the grasses like wood.  Using a hand  saw is like cutting through rock”
I was doubtful, but decided it was worth a try.

A week later, the reciprocating saw and pruning blade arrived.  Now we were ready. It worked like a charm and no one broke into a sweat.

Meet Our Horticulture Crew Member: Jean Hurkin-Torres

In What's in Bloom on April 23, 2012 at 5:06 pm


By Jean Hurkin-Torres

Each day I come to work at Randall’s Island I am keenly aware of the boulders that line the roads here. Rocks have always been essential to my image of the perfect garden. Traditional Japanese culture viewed rocks in a very different way from the West.  Kami, or spirits, can inhabit them. And although it takes a very long time, rocks grow larger as spirits stay longer in them—so boulders are particularly auspicious. Ancient Japanese gardening manuals reveal all the rules of how to place rocks, and badly positioned rocks can result in bad luck for the house.

 I visited the rock garden at Randall’s in early March and was mesmerized by the dwarf irises—faded blue like old silk kimonos past their prime. The fact that things fade and decay, doesn’t mean they are less beautiful. Perhaps that is what I like most about gardens, throughout the seasons they reflect all of what goes on in life. The most beautiful and interesting gardens are like metaphors of the world.  Perhaps that is why Piet Oudolf is my favorite garden designer. His interest in plants—their shape, texture, leaves, seed pods, feel, sound in the wind—how they appear, in all seasons, is actually also a very Japanese way of viewing the garden. In each season they have their own special beauty. And they are no less beautiful when they are going dormant in winter.

 Years ago I visited the Moss Garden of Saiho-ji Temple in Kyoto, Japan. It is sublime perfection.  It was the first time I realized a garden can be a work of art. And sometimes a garden…is not just a garden. The temporal garden we pass through and work on is a glorious moment. A really beautiful garden reveals the divine in the natural world. To be in it is to feel the mood and vibrations of nature. A Tibetan recently told me that if you are a gardener in this life, in your next life you will come back very beautiful. Not bad for a job perk.

In Japanese gardens, the idea of borrowed landscape (what is near the garden) is very important. As I travel between the gardens on Randall’s I can’t help but notice how beautiful the rivers are as they sweep around the island and frame all the lovely gardens here. They seem to act as sound insulation in the middle of New York City, creating a deep white noise cushion. Randall’s Island…rocks, water, gardens. Perfect.

Up Close and Personal

In What's in Bloom on April 14, 2012 at 1:56 pm

By Phyllis Odessey

We asked the members of the Horticulture staff to go to the gardens and find a plant we could use for up close and personal.  Jean Hurkin-Torres brought back this plant.  Here is a hint to help you identify this plant.  It has pungent leaves.  It’s been known since antiquity.  Some people would say the leaves have a distinct spicy-pungent flavor.  In Mediterranean countries it is used as a salad green.  This is the flower of the perennial form of this plant.  When I was in the UK, friends said “Go out and pick some rocket from the garden.”  When I discovered what they were talking about, the name made sense.  Please use the comments section, to identify this plant.