Public events coming up over the next two months which I am hosting, leading, or otherwise involved.Continue reading
The annual New York Restoration Project Tree Giveaway starts in a month. This year, they’re offering the largest variety of native tree, and some shrub, species I’ve seen yet.
Consider the mature size of each species. The larger trees will grow too large for most urban yards. I highlighted shrubs and smaller tree species that max out at no more than around 50′ high and wide, without considering existing vegetation, outdoor structures, etc. Your conditions will vary!
Shrubs and Smaller Trees
- Allegheny Serviceberry
- American Hornbeam
- American Persimmon
- American Plum
- Eastern Redbud
- Flowering Dogwood
- Highbush Blueberry
- Swamp White Oak
- Sweetbay Magnolia
- Washington Hawthorn
- White Fringe Tree
- Winged Sumac
- American Beech
- Bald Cypress
- Black Cherry
- Black Gum
- Black Locust
- Eastern Red Cedar
- Honey Locust
- Northern Red Oak
- Pin Oak
- Red Maple
- Willow Oak
Advance registration is mandatory. You select your preferred species when you register. Note that each location will only have 6-8 species. Some locations, especially smaller sites, are already “sold out” of some species.
Here are this year’s Brooklyn sites and pick-up dates.
- April 15: Red Hook Farms(Red Hook, Brooklyn)
- April 15: Wyckoff House Museum and State Senator Kevin S. Parker (Canarsie, Brooklyn)
- April 29: I.S. 318 Project Roots Community Garden and Councilmember Lincoln Restler(Williamsburg, Brooklyn)
- May 6: BPL Marcy Library and Councilmember Chi Ossé(Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn)
- May 13: BPL Brownsville Library(Brownsville, Brooklyn)
- May 20: Citizens(Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn)
2022-05-13 UPDATE: A second session is now available for Sunday, May 22, 12 noon to 2pm! Registration links below now point to the new event.
2022-05-09 UPDATE: Due to the rainy, windy, cold weather yesterday, we will be scheduling another session of this workshop for later this week, most likely for the afternoon of Friday, May 13th. Will update here when confirmed!
Sunday, May 22nd 6th, I will be hosting and facilitating a workshop on gardening for habitat with native plants in my home garden. The workshop is from 12noon to 2pm. Space is limited, so please register at the Eventbrite link below.
Learn how to garden with native plants to create wildlife habitat, even in small urban gardens. In this interactive garden tour and workshop, Chris will use his garden to highlight the importance of native plants for sustaining urban wildlife, and how to create and maintain a garden for its ecological value. With nearly 200 NYC-native plant species, and over 400 documented insect visitors, you are sure to learn something new and find inspiration for improving habitat wherever you garden.
Presented by Chris Kreussling. Chris is an urban naturalist and advocate for urban habitat gardening with native plants. He has led numerous native plant and pollinator walks and workshops, for NYC Wildflower Week, Wave Hill, the High Line, and others. His garden is a registered habitat with the National Wildlife Federation, Xerces Pollinator Society, and other organizations. He’s documented this ongoing transformation on his gardening blog, Flatbush Gardener and on Twitter as @xrisfg.
Insect Year in Review 2021, 2022-01-03
Hot Sheets Habitat, 2021-11-19
Documenting Insect-Plant Interactions, 2021-10-29
Presentation: Creating Urban Habitat, 2021-02-04
Home of the Wild, 2020-05-13
Pollinator Safari: Urban Insect Gardening with Native Plants, 2019-06-08
Charismatic Mesofauna, 2019-02-12
Pollinator Gardens, for Schools and Others, 2015-02-20
NYCWW Pollinator Safari of my Gardens, 2014-06-14
The annual City Nature Challenge (CNC) is this weekend, from Friday April 29 through Monday May 2. I put together a presentation on Slideshare with a brief overview of New York City’s participation in CNC.
I’m one of the Brooklyn Borough Captains for the NYC Battle of the Boroughs, a friendly inter-borough competition among the boroughs to promote CNC participation across NYC. Following is a list of all the planned events and participating greenspaces in Brooklyn. You can also find this list on the Brooklyn CNC 2022 iNaturalist Project Journal.
Friday, April 29, 2022
Calvert Vaux Park
CNC BioBlitz: Birds, Plants, and Pollinators!
Host: Torrey Botanical Society
Description: Calvert Vaux Park is an under-explored park in Brooklyn with several trails and a waterfront view of the Verrazano Bridge. The event will take place during low tide to take advantage of the exposed shoreline. Participants of all levels are welcome! Local naturalists with expertise in plants, birds, and insects will share their knowledge on the biodiversity of the park and how to make meaningful observations. The bioblitz will be led by Chris Kreussling, Jen Kepler, and other local urban naturalists.
Starting Location: [Pollinator Place Garden](https://goo.gl/maps/sZL2cotYE5vJ7cXt9), Calvert Vaux Park, near the pedestrian bridge over Shore Pkwy
Saturday, April 30, 2022
Ridgewood Reservoir (Highland Park)
Birds and Insects Walking Tour
Time: 10a – 12p
Host: NYC H2O
Description: Let’s put Highland Park and Ridgewood Reservoir on the map! Our first walk will be led by Ken Chaya – a consultant for the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), perhaps best know for mapping the location of all 19,933 trees in Central Park to produce the prolifically illustrated “Central Park Entire” map.
Plants and Herbals Walking Tour
Time: 12p – 2p
Host: NYC H2O
Description: Let’s put Highland Park and Ridgewood Reservoir on the map! Our second walk will be led by Jocelyn Perez-Blanco – a local educator, conservationist, and Herbalists Without Borders (HWB) NYC Queens Chapter Coordinator.
Registration: Via Eventbrite:
Sunday, May 1, 2022
City Nature Challenge: Green-Wood BioBlitz
Host: Green-Wood Historic Fund
Description: Join Sigrid Jakob and Potter Palmer, the project leads of Green-Wood’s Fungi Phenology Project, and Sara Evans, Green-Wood’s manager of horticulture operations, on a guided bioblitz.
Starting Location: inside the Main Entrance at Fifth Avenue and 25th Street
Fort Green Park
City Nature Challenge: Spring Blossoms
Host: Urban Park Rangers
Description: NYC Parks is participating in the City Nature Challenge and is recruiting you to help. Join the Rangers as we walk the park to observe and collect data for the City Nature Challenge, a friendly competition taking place April 29-May 1 between cities around the world to see which is most biodiverse. This program will focus on identifying spring blossoms. Participants are encouraged to download the iNaturalist app to collect data.
Registration: None needed. For more info, visit: https://www.nycgovparks.org/events/2022/05/01/city-nature-challenge-spring-blossoms
Starting Location: Fort Green Park Visitor Center
Monday, May 2, 2002
Prospect Park Nothing scheduled, but if you want to meet up for an informal CNC, let me know.
Parks and other Green Spaces
Other Brooklyn Parks and Green Spaces that are participating without any scheduled events:
City Nature Challenge
- 2018-04-9: City Nature Challenge 2018
- 2022-03-17: Torrey Lecture, Wednesday March 30
- 2022-01-13: Insect Year in Review
- 2021-11-19: Hot Sheets Habitat
- 2021-10-29: Documenting Insect-Plant Interactions
- 2021-09-13: iNaturalist Workshops, The High Line, Saturday September 25
- 2021-06-14: Native Pollinator Walks, Wave Hill, Sunday, June 27
- 2020-05-14: Home of the Wild
- 2019-06-08: Sunday 6/23: Pollinator Safari: Urban Insect Gardening with Native Plants
- 2018-08-19: Plant Blindness [Phytoagnosia] and Urban Ecology
NYC CNC iNaturalist Projects
- NYC CNC 2022
- NYC CNC 2022 – Battle of the Boroughs
- NYC CNC 2022 – Greenspace Race
- NYC CNC – All Years
NYC CNC iNaturalist Projects- Past Years
Battle of the Boroughs – Past Years
Parks and Green Spaces
As we all more closely inspect our immediate surroundings as of April 2020, it seemed like a good time to pull together some projects that capture biodiversity in homes around the world.
Growth of a Garden
I’ve been gardening in New York City for four decades, over four different gardens. I’ve incorporated native plants in each garden, though my knowledge, understanding, and focus, has shifted and grown over time.
Since I started this, my fourth garden, in 2005, native plants have been a significant focus. From the beginning, I envisioned the backyard as an entirely native plant garden.
Over the years, the native plant portion of the garden embraced more and more species, and covered more ground, escaping the confines of the backyard. As the garden matured, and its diversity increased, I saw a huge increase in the number and diversity of insects visiting the garden.
Since I had already established the conditions in my garden, I chose to register it with organizations promoting conservation at home. In 2011, I registered my garden with the National Wildlife Federation as Backyard Wildlife Habitat #141173. A year later, I registered with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation as a Pollinator Habitat. And in 2017, having established milkweeds in my garden, I registered with the North American Butterfly Association as a Butterfly and Monarch Garden.
Flatbush Gardener’s Garden
Two years ago, I created an iNaturalist Project for my home and garden: Flatbush Gardener’s Garden. My initial goal in creating a Place and Project on iNaturalist for my home garden was to make it stand out as a biodiversity hotspot. With over 320 Taxa recorded so far, I have succeeded in that goal. As of today, I’ve recorded 40 species of bees alone!
Mine was one of the first Projects to be added to “Home Projects” after its launch. As of today, there are 19 Projects from four continents.
Umbrella Projects come with some cool features, including automatic “Leaderboards” which rank constituent Projects by their numbers of Observations, Species, and Observers. At the moment, Flatbush Gardener’s Garden is in first place for number of Observers! Granted, there are only 19 Projects so far, but many of them are large. My garden is roughly 2200 square feet/200 square meters, of plantable area. So, I’m pleased with my garden’s showing, placing 4th in Observations, and 6th in Species!
Last year, I held a hands-on iNaturalist training in my garden. This was followed by one of my popular Pollinator Safaris so folks could practice right away, get real-time help and guidance, and ongoing feedback trough iNaturalist.
Each of those who attended, as well as past Observations from other friends and colleagues, automagically becomes an Observer on my home project. Which is how Flatbush Gardener’s Garden comes to rank high in number of Observers for a Home Project.
This time of year, I would be opening my garden for tours, hosting workshops, or talks on gardening for habitat. I’m missing that, and hope to find ways to do some of it online.
- 2019-06-08: Pollinator Safari: Urban Insect Gardening with Native Plants. This included an optional hands-on iNaturalist workshop for the first hour, where most of the Observers contributed to the Flatbush Gardener’s Garden Project on iNaturalist!
- 2018-08-19: Plant Blindness and Urban Ecology. After writing this, I coined the term “phytoagnosia” as an alternative to “plant blindness”.
- 2018-06-17: NPILC 2018 – Speaker Notes and Handout. My talk at the 2018 Native Plants in the Landscape Conference (NPILC)
- 2018-04-29: City Nature Challenge 2018
- 2011-06-11: Gardening with the Lepidoptera
- 2007-08-06: Growing a Native Plant Garden in a Flatbush Backyard
- 2006-05-16: NYC Garden #1, The East Village, the 1980s: The Shade Garden, the first post to this blog
- 2007-10-09: My first submission to BugGuide
- 2011-05: National Wildlife Federation: Backyard Wildlife Habitat #141173
- 2012-06: Xerces Society: Pollinator Habitat
- 2017-06-07: My first submitted iNaturalist Observation
- 2017-07: North American Butterfly Association: Butterfly and Monarch Garden and Habitat
All my iNaturalist Observations (not just from my garden)
2020-05-13: Added comparison of seedpods (easiest way to distinguish the two) and sap (not reliable).
I’ve been seeing a lot of misidentifications – or perhaps wishful ones – of the invasive Chelidonium majus, greater celandine as the Eastern U.S. native Stylophorum diphyllum, celandine poppy. Here is a visual guide for distinguishing them.
Both grow to similar height and width, holding their flowers just above the foliage when blooming.
All parts of both species exude a brightly colored sap when broken or crushed. However, I find the color is variable, ranging yellow to orange, and not distinct enough to be diagnostic.
Both have deeply pinnate leaves with lobed leaflets. The lobes on the native celandine poppy are more open, almost oak-like, than on the invasive greater celandine.
I find this the easiest way to distinguish the two species.
Normally, this time of year would be busy with garden tours, workshops, talks and lectures, plant swaps and sales. In past years, my garden has been on tour for NYC Wildflower Week. Two years ago I spoke at the Native Plants in the Landscape Conference in Millersville, Pennsylvania. Last June I hosted the most recent of my Pollinator Safaris in my garden.
I had multiple engagements planned for this Spring, and into the Summer. I was going to speak on a panel about pollinators in NYC. This past weekend would have been the 10th Anniversary of the Great Flatbush Plant Swap, of which I was one of the founders. I would have been doing hands-on workshops on gardening with native plants in community gardens.
This year there is none of that. The reason, of course, is the global pandemic, COVID-19, caused by the coronavirus known as SARS-CoV2.
As I write this, I have been working from home for 8 weeks. The same week I started working from home, the first death from COVID-19 was recorded in New York City. Now, less than 2 months later, nearly 20,000 are dead.
We still have 200 dying every day. This is not anywhere near “over”.
Unavoidably, for me, have been the parallels with the AIDS epidemic. Unparalleled disparities in wealth built over decades, and systemic racism sustained over centuries, ensure that the epidemic does not affect all equally. A corrupt administration targets those it considers its enemies, cynically allowing who oppose it to die, a deliberate genocide.
In March of 1996, I had just started reading Walt Odets’ “In the Shadow of the Epidemic: Being HIV-Negative in the Age of AIDS”, the first book I read which gave voice to feelings shared by many of my cohort, gay men of a certain age: survivor guilt, and a spiritual crisis which has ravaged many of us. I wrote:
so far surviving
what will it mean to be alive
having outlived generation after generation
decades of death
the explosion widening until, finally
and yes, with some grim, righteous satisfaction
finally noone can truthfully say
they are not also affected
imagine how it will be
when your closest friends are strangers
when long ago you gave up hope
of growing old together
as everyone you’ve loved, and despised
has died, seven times over
when you’ve learned, and loved, and lost
and learned, loved, lost
When each new friend is met with the knowledge
that they too will leave soon
but it no longer matters
because, you think, you’ve already grieved their deaths too
the corpses pile up
against the walls you’ve built around yourself
walking along familiar streets
past the bars, your old haunts
you see tombstones, crosses, ashes
and you’re not safe, even in your own mind
especially at night
when the walls must come down
and you must remember the dead
you want to believe you’ve come so far
but it hasn’t even begun
This is where we are – where we all are – now. Our bodies cannot physically sustain for months on end our initial response to the sudden changes we experienced with the epidemic. When we must survive, even against a low-level persistent threat, our brains rewire themselves. We are collectively immersed in what is aptly called endurance trauma.
But I feel no satisfaction from it.
I am grateful that both my husband and I are able to work from home. We continue to adapt, in both large and subtle ways, to being forced to be around each other nearly constantly.
For my part, I take advantage of every good weekend day, and long daylight hours, to garden as much and as long as I can. I have been removing non-native plants – mostly the Iris and daylilies – to make room for planting more native plants. And, for the first time in years, to grow some food crops.
Since there would be no Great Flatbush Plant Swap this year, I decided to give away the plants as I removed them. I have been giving away plants from my own garden for weeks, now. While my initial intent was to solve a problem I had in my garden, it’s turned into much more.
I’m having conversations with neighbors and passersby, checking in with each other about how we are handling the situation. These visits often turn into mini garden tours and educational talks about how to garden for habitat, inviting even more life to co-reside with us, healing the urban ecology as we nourish our own connections to the natural world.
Whatever green people can grow sustains them psychologically. These new “victory gardens” are a form of defiant gardening, which Kenneth Helphand so beautifully wrote about in his book of the same title. It is a way of coping with, and defying, endurance trauma.
The following comes from an open latter I wrote on October 15, 2001, barely a month after the September 11 attacks, to Joanna Tipple, then pastor of the Craryville and Copake Churches in New York State.
As I tend my garden, I recall how it was a minute, a day, a year ago. That flower was, or was not, blooming yesterday. This plant has grown over the years and now crowds its neighbors. A label in the ground shows where another plant has vanished. Should I replace it, or try something new? I weed. I plant. I water. I sit. The garden asks me to see it as it really is, not just how I remember it, or how I wish it to be. Gardening continues to teach me many lessons. Gardening is my prayer.
So I must be in the world. Remembering what was. Observing what is. Hoping for what can be. Acting to bring it into being. When we struggle to understand, we question what is. Science can ask, and eventually answer, “What?” and “How?” It cannot answer the one question that matters, the question for which Man created God: “Why?” Now, as with each new loss, I ask again: Why am I here? Why am I alive?
The only answer I’ve come across which satisfies me at all comes from Zen: The purpose of life is to relieve suffering. Not to relieve pain, or grief, or loss. These cannot be avoided. But to relieve suffering, which we ourselves bring into the world. Because death is senseless, the only sense to be found is that which we manifest in our own lives. The only meaning there can be in life is what we impart.
Victor Frankl, a survivor of the Nazi holocaust, wrote “What is to give light must endure burning.” Light doesn’t justify burning. Light transcends burning.
We are enduring, now. Whether we know it or not. Whether we acknowledge what we feel, or not. We must also do more than endure. How we celebrate ourselves transcends what we must endure and survive. It serves only our enemies – and serves us least of all – to be polite, nice, and “normal,” to be unassuming and inoffensive, to be silent and invisible.
Illustration by Enkhbayar Munkh-Erdene for YES! Magazine, from a self-portrait I took of myself in my backyard.
2020-04-13: Correspondence, April 2020
I adapted some of what I wrote on the blog, and several of my tweets on this subject, for a short post on McSweeney’s: “Do Not Deny What You Feel“. The McSweeney’s piece was later picked up by YES! Magazine. Search for “Flatbush”. or “AIDS”.
- 2006-09-04: Grief & Gardening #1: 1, 5 and 25
- 2006-10-08: Grief & Gardening #3: Nihilism and Squirrels
and the most recent additions:
2022-10-20: Please refer to the new, updated list.
I started to reply to a Facebook post and quickly realized I had enough content for a blog post.
Hello from Long Island NY..looking for suggestion for ground cover that won’t eat my plants. I would like somthing a bit tamer the vinca . The area is slightly damp..part sun/part shade. Any suggestions. See posted pics! Thanks!!
The accompanying photos show a mix of young trees, shrubs, and perennials in a nice non-lawn streetside garden. The photos show a lot of sun, with some shade. The shade will increase over time as the trees and shrubs fill in.
Another commenter suggested Lamium and Galium, neither of which I would describe as “tame.” Either can take over an area in the right conditions.
These are some of the Eastern North American species I’ve grown and can recommend as groundcover. Some of these prefer shade, some prefer sun. Most of these will spread by runners, stolons, and the like, as “true” groundcovers. Others are effective as groundcovers because of their habit and crown expansion over time.
- Asarum canadense, wild ginger
- Athyrium filix-femina, lady fern
- Carex pensylvanica, Pennsylvania sedge
- Chrysogonum virginianum, green-and-gold
- Geranium maculatum, wild geranium
- Onoclea sensibilis, sensitive fern
- Pachysandra procumbens, Allegheny spurge
- Packera aurea, golden ragwort
- Phlox subulata, mosspink
- Phlox stolonifera, creeping phlox
- Sedum ternatum
- Thelypteris noveboracensis, New York fern
- Thelypteris palustris, marsh fern
- Tiarella cordifolia, hearttleaf foamflower
- Zizia aurea, golden alexanders
10 years ago today, I wrote the first post of Flatbush Gardener, a reflection on my first garden in NYC, started in 1981 in the East Village. I don’t think I can summarize all the changes I, and the gardens, have gone through over the past decade. Blogging itself is nearly a lost art, monetized and franchised, aggregated and amplified
Still, the gardens endure, transformed and transforming, embodying and expressing my evolution as a gardener.
The Gardener’s Nook this weekend
10 years ago, on May 16, 2006, I wrote the first post for this blog. To celebrate my 10th Blogiversary, on Sunday, May 15, I’m opening my garden for a tour with NYC Wildflower Week. The event is free, but registration is requested, as space is limited.
Date & Time: Sunday, May 15 from 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Location: Stratford Road at Matthews Court in Flatbush, Brooklyn
Since 2005, Chris Kreussling has transformed a dusty, weedy backyard and conventional lawn and gardens into a garden oasis. In his gardens you can find over
80130 species of plants native to NYC, and many more native to New York state and the Northeast. He’s documented scores of native insects that make use of these plants throughout the year, and some that make their homes there, as well. His gardens are registered as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation, and Pollinator Habitat with the Xerces Foundation. He’s documented the process for the past 10 years on his gardening blog, Flatbush Gardener.