NYU Garden Shop Plant of the Week
By Head Gardener, George Reis
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Red Ruby Swiss Chard (Beta vulgaris 'Ruby Chard') sidewalk planters on Greene Street between W 4th Street and Washington Place.
One of the hottest trends these days in sustainable horticulture is the inclusion of edible plants into our gardens. The idea is that ornamental gardens can do more for us than just look appealing, they can also be a source of fresh food. While we don't aim to prepare any meals with these Red Ruby Swiss Chard in our planters on Greene Street (no grazing please), we do want to make the point that if you can grow edibles on the tough streets on New York City, you can do it anywhere. We first tried this in our planters in 2009 and got a great response from people passing by. People still ask me--when are you planning more veggies in the planters?? Everybody got a kick out of this, so we're doing more. The ruby red stalks and veins of this chard set against the green shiny foliage are so striking, you almost forget it's edible!
Of course, there's a serious point to be made here about how good it can be for all of us to take more control of the food we choose to eat, and the best way to do that is to grow and cook your own! It's no accident that these planters are near NYU's Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health. Professor Marion Nestle gave me the inspiration (and friendly prodding) for these planters a couple years back when she asked "Hey, where are your food plants??"
If you choose appropriate plants, edibles work great even in public areas. Darrin Nordahl is a planner for the City of Davenport, Iowa and he's written a wonderful book titled Public Produce: The New Urban Agriculture. He's a big proponent of planting edibles in public green spaces and he's ironed out all the potential maintenance problems. The key is proper plant selection, which of course, is the key to all good horticultural practice.
While everyone seems to be planting their own vegetables these days, the ornamental vegetable garden is nothing new. According to Elizabeth Barlow Rogers's essential reference Landscape Design: A Cultural and Architectural History, the English started using a term borrowed from the French, ferme ornee, as far back as 1715 to "promote the arrangement of agricultural estates as aesthetically pleasing compositions."
Previous Plants of the Week:
May 3, 2011
Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) at Founders Hall, 120 East 12th St.
April 25, 2011
Japanese Flowering Cherry (Prunus serrulata), or 'Kwanzan,' on the Bleecker Street side of Cole Sports Center, 181 Mercer Street.
April 19, 2011
Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana) in the Vanderbilt Hall Courtyard, at 40 Washington Square South.
April 12, 2011
Daffodil (Narcissus spp.) in the sidewalk median at 100 Bleecker Street.
April 5, 2011
Lenten Rose (Helleborus x hybridus) in the sidewalk median at 100 Bleecker Street.
March 29, 2011
Camellia 'April Remembered' (Camellia japonica 'April Remembered') at Coles Sports Center, 181 Mercer Street.
Mar 22, 2011
Coral Bark Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku') at Glucksman Ireland House
Mar 18, 2011
NYU Garden Shop Plant of the Week---Witch-hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia) at #2 Washington Square Village Lobby Garden. (interior of Washington Square Village, W 3rd Street jst west of Mercer)
Mar 8, 2011
Crocus species mix on Bleecker Street side of NYU Coles Sports Center