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Bronxville Resident Renée Byers Wins NYC&G Design Award PDF Print Email

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By Staff, NYC&G Innovation in Design Awards


Nov. 1, 2017:  Longtime Bronxville resident landscape architect Renée Byers was the recipient of the 2017 Innovation in Design Award for Garden Design presented by New York Cottages and Gardens ("NYC&G") magazine at an awards gala at the Rainbow Room in New York City on October 16, 2017.

Her winning project, Hudson Valley Retreat, included a swimming pool and gardens set into a steep hillside for a country home overlooking the Catskills and was chosen from five finalists. She spoke briefly after accepting the award to thank her clients and team of craftsmen, as well as the NYC&G and its judges for recognizing her work and for organizing an event that showcases the creativity of the New York design community. Over the last twenty years, her firm, Renée Byers Landscape Architect, P.C., has designed dozens of gardens in Bronxville and works throughout New York, Connecticut, and the Hamptons.

The NYC&G Innovation in Design Awards honor top design in New York and are presented annually. The categories are architecture, interior design, kitchen and bath design, garden design, product design, and small spaces. Design submissions are judged by a panel of judges who are key influencers in the design industry of their respective fields. This year's panel included Matthew Patrick Smyth, interior designer; Roger Ferris, AIA, RIBA; Alison Spear, AIA; Caleb Anderson, interior designer; and Judy Ross.

Each year, NYC&G also presents an Innovator Award to an icon of the design industry--one individual who has achieved an overarching level of innovation and excellence. This year's Innovator was Donna Karan, who was honored at the event not only for her position as one of the world's most influential designers but also for her humanitarian and philanthropic efforts for relief work in Haiti. A recipient of the 2012 Clinton Global Citizen Award, Karan spoke of her firm belief that through creativity, connection, collaboration, and community, one can help change the world.

Pictured here:  Renée Byers accepting her NYC&G Innovation in Design Award.

Photo by Landino Photo for NYC&G

 
Autumn Leaves . . . Love 'Em and Leave 'Em PDF Print Email

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By Gretchen Pingel, Member, Bronxville Green Committee


Sep. 20, 2017: Autumn in Bronxville is beautiful . . . but what to do with all of the fallen leaves that litter our yards, accumulate in our streets, and clog our stormwater catch basins? There is a simple answer--don't rely on lumbering village leaf vacuum mobiles. Abandon the rake and the blower. Just love 'em and leave 'em! 

Since 2013, communities in Westchester have been encouraging homeowners to leave fallen leaves on their lawns and shred them in place with a mulching mower. The initiative, called Love 'Em and Leave 'Em, has a great website (leleny.org) with how-to videos and information explaining why returning leaves to the soil through mulching reduces costs for municipalities (less leaf collection, fewer clogged catch basins) and makes gardens thrive.

I am happy to say that all of the leaves on Bronxville Village property are mulched in place. Why don't you try it too?

So, how does it work? You need a mulching mower--most landscapers have them--make sure yours does. A mulching mower is simply a power mower that cuts and recuts grass, leaves, and small twigs (dry is best) as they lie on your lawn (no need to move them) into tiny bits that settle between blades of grass, enriching the soil with nutrients while improving soil structure and drainage. Mulching mowers can also quickly convert enormous leaf piles into handfuls of finely shredded leaves that can be spread around the roots of trees, shrubs, and garden beds to give protection from the harsh winter climate and to supplement soil erosion from excessive leaf-blowing.

Leaf mulching is great for the garden . . . but remember, your garden benefits from some leaves left unshredded, too. For example, don't worry about fallen leaves on your pachysandra bed. However, if you must, remove only the leaves on top (with gloved hands; a rake or blower will tear the plants), but leave the ones that have worked their way in between the plants to stay and protect the stems and roots from winter snow and frost. During spring clean-up, leave the embedded leaves in place to slowly decompose. Easy.

Also, bear in mind that little critters like chipmunks and certain bird species, as well as the pupae of beneficial insects like moths and butterflies, greatly appreciate a part of your yard that is left “wild,” with fallen twigs and leaves intact, where they can seek refuge in during the cold months. So find a place in your yard that you can bear to ignore and allow it to become a safe haven for tiny local wildlife.

If I haven't yet convinced you to love 'em and leave 'em this fall, I leave you with a quick list of persuasive reasons from leleny.org, which I hope will! 

Why Love 'Em and Leave 'Em? 

•  Saves money: Helps keep your taxes down by reducing municipal leaf pickup and disposal. (Landscapers can also save operating costs by needing smaller crews and avoiding dumping fees.)
•  Saves effort: Many homeowners (and landscapers) find that mulching leaves in place actually is easier than raking, bagging, or blowing them to the curb.
•  Keeps your property healthy: Leaf mulch recycles nutrients into your soil to feed your plants, improves soil health, and helps retain moisture, reducing the need for watering in dry spells.
•  Helps the planet: Transporting and disposing of leaves from your curb wastes energy and contributes to pollution. In addition, LELE helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions in your local community.

Photo by N. Bower

 
Bronxville Village Giving Garden Helps Supply Local Food Pantries With Organic Produce PDF Print Email

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By Carol P. Bartold, Senior Reporter

Jul. 19, 2017:  The Bronxville Giving Garden, located at Bronxville Village Hall near the corner of Pondfield Road and Gramatan Avenue, has already donated its first harvest of arugula, radishes, and lettuce to the Community Services Associates (CSA) Soup Kitchen of Mount Vernon.

“The garden is popping,” said Mary Liz Mulligan, chair of the Bronxville Green Committee, operator of the 450-square-yard plot, established this spring. Mulligan added that string beans are almost ready to be harvested.

With one in five Westchester County residents fitting the definition of food insecurity, meaning they have no reliable access to a sufficient amount of affordable, nutritious food, the Bronxville Giving Garden’s mission is to help feed people in need in the lower county.

“Everything grown in the garden is for local food pantries,” Mulligan said. “We want to feed hungry people good food.” Nineteen planting beds will provide organically grown vegetables and herbs to three local agencies in neighboring communities that distribute food. In addition to CSA of Mount Vernon, Eastchester Community Partnership in Tuckahoe and Food Bank for Westchester will receive harvest donations.


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Beds, all built by the garden’s farmer, Dave Phillips, and his friends, are planted with cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, cabbage, squash, peppers, scallions, Swiss chard, potatoes, beets, kale, mustard greens, and several varieties of tomatoes. The garden also contains flowers such as nasturtiums to aid pollination and marigolds to deter insects. Mulligan said she hopes to add butterfly bushes to the mix. A drip irrigation system keeps the plantings watered.

Mulligan credits Phillips for bringing the vision of the garden into a physical reality. In 2016, the village resident, an avid gardener, approached Mayor Mary Marvin about establishing a community garden in Bronxville. Marvin put Phillips in contact with Mulligan and the Bronxville Green Committee.

Also in 2016, the Rotary Club of Bronxville honored Mulligan at its annual fundraiser and, with the money raised at that event, donated $10,000 toward establishing the community garden. Village trustees decided to donate the insurance proceeds from the 2006 Girl Scout cabin fire in Maltby Park to add to the “seed” money for the garden. 

Although plans drawn by the village included space for the garden in Maltby Park, neighbors were not receptive to the plan, nor did the plot have access to a water supply. Village officials learned that installing one would be cost-prohibitive. Three locations at village hall, each with an accessible water supply, were evaluated, and the location near Pondfield Road and Gramatan Avenue was chosen.

Mulligan noted that as the organization of the Bronxville Giving Garden and its programs develops, benches and a perimeter fence will be installed. Plans also call for gardening and nutritional tutorial sessions for students.

“This was unused space and now it’s a nice, welcoming place,” Mulligan said. “This is for our neighbors. We have many who are in need.”

Pictured here:  The Bronxville Giving Garden.

Photos by N. Bower




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Bronxville Green Committee: Butterflies Need Us--Now! PDF Print Email

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Lisey Good and Gretchen Good Pingel, Member, Bronxville Green Committee


May 31, 2017:  Did you know that since the movie Titanic debuted in 1997, worldwide populations of monarch butterflies have declined 90 percent? What is the connection between the two? Absolutely zero, but it shows how much can change in just 20 years! Things are very grave in 2017 for monarchs and all butterflies.

Aside from being lovely to look at, why are butterflies important? Butterflies are important pollinators--they help plants reproduce by spreading around the pollen that adheres to their bodies as they feed on nectar. After bees/wasps and flies, butterflies (and moths) are the third most prolific pollinators. In addition, butterflies play a major role in the food chain--they are a source of food for small animals like birds and bats, which in turn help control pests (like mosquitos) in our environment.

Butterflies are also considered by scientists to be an important "indicator species." They are so sensitive to chemicals and pollutants that their presence in an environment indicates that a wide range of invertebrates necessary for a healthy ecosystem is there too. In this way, butterflies let us know if our surroundings are healthy--not just for other insects, birds, and animals to inhabit, but healthy for humans to live in as well. 

What can we do to help boost the population of butterflies? Here are some easy steps you can take to help these important insects thrive in your own backyard!

1. Don't use pesticides anywhere on your property. Butterflies are insects. Common insecticides that gardeners use on lawns kill butterflies (and bees! In fact, the insecticide Roundup is so strong that it can also kill songbirds). Also, skip the herbicide and use non-toxic weed-control methods that won't harm wildlife--try using horticultural oils for the weeds and beneficial insects like ladybugs and nematodes to gobble up the insects you don't want. Eat organic whenever you can.

2. Plant milkweed (and other "host plants"). Milkweed is a "host plant" for monarch butterflies--in other words, it is the only plant that a monarch butterfly will lay its eggs on and the only plant that monarch caterpillars will eat. The World Wildlife Fund and other organizations blame much of the drastic decline in the monarch butterfly population on the disappearance of milkweed plants that has occurred with the expansion of genetically modified crops and the heavy use of pesticides and herbicides. 

You can help encourage the survival of monarch butterflies by planting milkweed in your garden and by planting native host plants that other butterflies depend on, such as birch, ash, oak, and tulip trees, false indigo, sunflowers, violets, switch grass, and sedge.

3. Plant butterfly "food." These are native shrubs and trees like rhododendron, viburnum, and spicebush and perennials like catmint, asters, phlox, purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, goldenrod, and Joe Pye weed that provide the nectar-filled flowers on which butterflies feed.

4.  Give them water. Although tree sap, nectar, and dew give butterflies most of the moisture they need, water in shallow dishes will help them to be even healthier. To create "puddling stations," fill a shallow plant saucer (or pie tin) with some sand or gravel. Bury the dish to its lip in the soil in your garden, preferably near some butterfly-loving plants. Fill the dish with water, and replenish it as needed (daily when the weather gets hot). You can place some overripe fruit and a pinch of natural sea salt in the dish weekly to give the butterflies additional minerals.

5. Leave some part of your yard "wild." Dead trees and branches, piles of leaves, tangled vines--all of these "messy" elements provide shelter from the wind and rain for butterflies. If you keep the edges of your property a bit wild and messy, perhaps hidden by shrubs, you will benefit butterflies, birds, and other wild creatures by providing the coverage they need to survive.

For more information on butterflies, see www.onegreenplanet.orgwww.nwf.orgwww.livemonarch.org, and www.NYBG.org.

 
Good Weeds . . . Or Why You Want Dandelions in Your Yard PDF Print Email

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By Gretchen Pingel, Member, Bronxville Green Committee, and Lisey Good


May 10, 2017:  Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered." We realize that trying to get hard-core grass lovers to embrace weeds is a hard sell, but before you yank that dandelion, please consider the following ways that "uninvited guests" can keep your garden beautiful and your environment healthy. (And even if we don't convince you, please consider attacking an offensive weed with boiling water poured from a narrow teapot spout instead of using Roundup, which has been linked to cancer and is very toxic to all wildlife from bees to birds.)

Clover:  It feeds bees! And you've heard that bees need all the help they can get right now, right? But you might not know that clover is so good at helping fertilize the soil that it used to be included in commercial grass mixes until a consumer preference for the "pure grass look" took hold in suburban communities.   

Clover is a nitrogen fixer, which means that it pulls nitrogen from the air and converts it to substances that feed the soil, thus reducing the need to apply artificial nitrogen to the lawn (a practice that has been blamed for contaminating local streams and rivers). Also, clover attracts earthworms, which provide beneficial little tunnels of air and moisture around your plants' roots. Clover retains more moisture than it uses, acting like green mulch. And finally, rabbits love clover, so they will often nibble on it instead of on your more prized plants.   

Dandelions:  Honeybees love them as much as many humans hate them! But dandelions can really help your lawn. First, their roots give off grass-enriching minerals and nitrogen, which enter the soil. Then, as these long roots break up hard soil deep in the ground, they allow easier access for those nutrients to get to all the other plants around them. Dandelions also repel armyworm caterpillars (found in the Northeast as far north as Quebec), a pest that will devour just about everything green in its path. And finally, dandelions are great detoxers for the body. If you don't use pesticides on your lawn, you can throw the tender young leaves in a salad!

To limit dandelions from completely taking over, mow often enough to keep them from going to seed (but keep the grass long enough to help retain moisture in the soil and provide shade for grass root systems).

Mugwort:  This plant is like an environmental cleanup crew, absorbing heavy metals that have found their way into your lawn via automobile exhaust, polluted air, road runoff, or pesticide use. Mugwort repels leaf-eating moths from your garden and replenishes soil that is lacking nutrients, and it is great to prevent erosion on steep slopes.

The benefits that these three plants provide for our soil prove that labeling a plant a "weed" is actually just a value judgment. Maybe we can start to the think of a beautiful lawn as more than just grass and enjoy the variety, color, and benefit that weeds such as clover, dandelion, and mugwort provide. As A.A. Milne wrote, "Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them."

 
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