1 Dr. Charles Yurgalevitch, Director of School of Professional Horticulture at the NYBG and his group of students visited my farm for a tour of my gardens. My head gardener, Ryan McCallister, led the tour, while my executive administrator, Susan Carmichael, made sure everyone stayed together and enjoyed the visit.
2 Unfortunately, I had lots of meetings to attend in our New York office and couldn't lead the tour myself; however, I was able to greet the students and tell them about the farm, where everything was located, and how it has evolved since I purchased the property 14-years ago.
3 I pointed out various sites on the farm including the boxwood allee separating the north and south paddocks, and the castle in the distance - the only other house I can really see from my porch.
4 The group was very diverse - some traveled from other countries, such as Nigeria and Korea, to attend NYBG's horticultural program. Many of them were interested in garden design, while others focused on environmental conservation and organic farming.
5 Before Francesca Holinko began pursuing a career in horticulture, she worked in health care management. Now, she focuses on plant curation and arboriculture, which is the cultivation and study of trees, shrubs and vines.
6 Emmanuel Tolulope Akintayo graduated from Nigeria's University of Agriculture. His goal is to become a horticulturist and focus on environmental restoration and improved food production.
7 John Aloian has a BA in Biology with a focus on botany. He is interested in pursuing a career in public horticulture and hopes to one day work in a large conservatory.
8 Cassandra Inserillo has worked summers at the Wethersfield Estate and Garden in Amenia, New York, and at various other private estates in the region. She hopes to one day develop a career that combines her interest in horticulture with her other love, art.
9 I shared stories about my passion for gardening, and told the group how much I would love to go back to school, and study horticulture and landscape design.
10 The tour went on its way - first to the main greenhouse and my cutting garden.
11 In the cutting garden, Ryan explained how it was once my vegetable garden until mole crickets forced us to move the vegetables down next to my chicken coops. Now, both the flowers in this garden, and the vegetables in their new space, are thriving.
12 The group walked down my allee of pin oaks. I love pin oaks because they are so easy to maintain and grow relatively fast. Its canopy is very distinctive because the upper branches point upwards, the middle branches are perpendicular and the lower branches drop downward.
13 Ryan walked the students into my vegetable greenhouse I had constructed back in 2008. Its design was inspired by Eliot Coleman, an expert of four-season farming. Ryan and Wilmer just started preparing the soil for the fall planting.
14 The group loved my pinetum, an arboretum of pine trees and other conifers I developed behind my equipment shed near my weeping willow grove. This area includes pines, spruces and firs, and other related evergreens.
15 I started planting the pinetum about 10-years ago. And, this summer, I added a few more specimens to the collection - they are all doing very well.
16 The group saw my long allee of boxwood. Earlier, I explained to them the care that goes into keeping the boxwood so lush and green, especially during winter, when they are wrapped in burlap to protect them from the harsh elements.
17 In the vegetable garden, Ryan pointed out what crops we had grown this season, and which ones had done especially well.
18 The tomato plants were still very productive - showing lots of Sun Gold tomatoes, some of the garden's sweetest. These small tomatoes ripen in long clusters of 10-15 fruits. Their sweet flavor is ready about one week before full coloring. I think they're just about ready.
19 The students were curious about this Nepalese plant. Many of my outdoor grounds crew are from Nepal, so this season, along one side of the vegetable garden, we grew some Nepalese cucumbers.
20 The students walked through the allee of linden trees. Linden trees (genus Tilia) are sometimes called Basswood or Lime trees. They are large deciduous trees with distinctive heart-shaped leaves. I love the canopy it creates, and wish this allee was twice as long.
21 The group steered away from the gardens for a brief visit to my stable, where they met Betsy, Sarah, Dolma and all 10 of my stable residents - five Friesians, two ponies and three donkeys.
22 Christopher Freimuth, who is focusing his studies on environmental horticulture, tropical ecology and garden design, enjoyed meeting my Fell pony, Ban Chunch. I think the feeling was mutual.
23 Over the years, Dr. Charles Yurgalevitch, seen above on the far left, has brought several student groups to see my gardens. Every visit, he likes to take a group photo in this exact location along the boxwood allee with my home in the background.
24 The group walked up the carriage road past the Paulownia trees. Native to China, this tree, which is sometimes called empress tree or princess tree, is a fast growing deciduous tree, often noted for its profuse spring blooms and large, green leaves.
25 The ornamental weeping cherry, Prunus subhirtella, attracted attention just outside the stable, with its bold, dark green, serated leaves.
26 Aesculus hippocastanum is a large deciduous tree commonly known as the horse chestnut or conker tree. The flowers provide a rich source of nectar and pollen to insects, particularly the bees. Right now, it is bearing fruit, but don't eat them - they're poisonous.
27 Since I moved to my farm, I've planted thousands of trees. This collection of horse chestnuts, Paulownias, and the catalpas further down, look so beautiful together.
28 The tour proceeded into my boxwood and ginkgo garden behind the Summer House. This is the giant ginkgo tree that stands at the back. Younger, smaller ginkgo trees are also planted here.
29 Along with the ginkgo biloba trees, this garden includes rows of lilies, boxwood, heuchera and hostas. I am so pleased with how this garden has turned out.
30 Here are two giant agaves I planted in these handsome containers. Agaves are exotic, deer-resistant, drought-tolerant plants. Do you know tequila is distilled from the sap of the blue agave?
31 It was nice to see many of the students taking copious notes.
32 The group passed the herbaceous peony garden. Although the peonies are not in bloom, the foliage looked very pretty surrounded by the boxwood, and with the breathtaking farm vistas beyond.
33 My beautiful dominant calico Persian, Princess Peony, watched the tour pass by from the door to my large front porch.
34 And, in front of my kitchen door, was my handsome G.K., waiting to greet the guests when they stopped for a brief snack on the terrace parterre.
35 Susan brought out a tray of delicious homemade cookies.
36 Eugenia Alcorta and Juyoung Bae are both very interested in landscape design and architecture.
37 Matthew Fastuca has a strong interest in sustainable land and garden design and is hoping to gain more experience in greenhouse production and arboriculture. Emmanuel has worked in a greenhouse on a vegetable farm, and is very passionate about plant production.
38 My longtime housekeeper, Laura, always makes the most beautiful table decorations. Here, she combined one dahlia bloom with some elderflowers.
39 A delicious pomegranate punch made with POM Wonderful concentrate, lemon and slices of fresh orange. It is always a big hit - all the guests loved it. http://www.pomwonderful.com/
40 And, a bowl of fresh apples from my dwarf apple orchard. I have hundreds of apple trees on my farm, and all of them are laden with beautiful, delicious apples.
41 I can't wait to make cider and apple pies.
42 I love these bald cypress trees. Bald cypress, or Taxodium distichum, are deciduous conifers that shed their needle-like leaves in the fall. In fact, they got their name "bald" cypress because they lose their leaves so early in the cold season.
43 Near one end of my bald cypress grove, I have several pear trees - they have also been very productive this season.
44 Ryan showed the group the climbing hydrangea on four trunks of tall white pine ruined by Hurricane Sandy. I am very fond of climbing hydrangeas growing on trees, so we left the trunks there - three years later, they're still looking quite pretty.
45 Emmanuel wore this t-shirt promoting the NYBG. I encourage you to visit the garden - it is truly a magical place, and an excellent source for learning about gardening and horticulture. http://www.nybg.org
46 A lovely photo of all of us on my front porch - I wish all these students the best of luck in their horticultural endeavors.