Public Gardens and Arboretum after Sandy

Hurricane, tropical storm, super storm or as some dubbed her Frankenstorm Sandy took her toll on the northeast last week.  Now that people have had a chance to evaluate the damage reports are coming in on how public gardens and arboretum fared the weather.

Most damage was caused by water logged soil and high winds that blew over large, in many cases ancient, trees.  As these trees broke and were uprooted they causes secondary damage to the plants and buildings below them.

Here is a look at gardens in the hardest hit areas and how their plant collects came through the storm. Click on the links to see images and further reporting.

Planting Fields Arboretum – North Shore Long Island, New York

Director Vinnie Simeone reports a significant loss.  A state champion Weeping Silver Linden (Tilia petiolaris) and a 90 foot Nordman fir and blue Spanish fir were lost; as well as 100-150 very large Norway spruce, white pine, red, pin, scarlet, white and black oaks.  The falling trees severely damaged the camellia glass house and rhododendron collection.  With the fuel shortage they are struggling to run the generators keeping tender plant collections safe.  They remain closed until further notice. To see a photo of the damage visit the American Public Garden Association’s Facebook page.

Green-Wood CemeteryBrooklyn, New York

This historic cemetery founded in 1838 has 8,000 trees and hundreds of beautifully sculpted memorials.  An estimated 150 trees were blown down damaging over 100 monuments.  The roadways have been cleared and they were opened to the public by the weekend, November 3rd. For more information and photos read Sandy Hammer Green-Wood web article.

Brooklyn Botanic GardenBrooklyn, New York

Twenty trees were damaged at the gardens.  Fortunately the Japanese cherry trees that are the focal point of the Cherry Blossom Festival each spring were unharmed. Their website states, “Areas of the garden remain cordoned off for visitor safety. Though the garden was lucky to be spared more extensive damage, the storm’s impact was substantial. In the Osborne Garden, a line of 80-year-old little-leaf lindens (Tilia cordata) lie on their sides, roots exposed. In other parts of the Garden, several large pin oaks (Quercus palustris), fruit trees (Prunusspecies), and a historically significant Chinese parasol tree (Firmiana simplex) were destroyed.”  The gardens reopened to the public Wednesday, October 31st. For  pictures of the damage vist BBG’s Flickr photo stream.

New York Botanical Garden Bronx, New York

In a statement on their website they say, “Our preliminary assessment shows that over one-hundred native trees, including some of our ancient and most magnificent oaks, were destroyed by the storm. In addition, hundreds of other trees have sustained serious damage and will need to be assessed and conserved.”  NYBG had reopened but has closed again for the winter storm that arrived yesterday. For more images of the fallen trees visit their web article: Storm Damage Assessment from The New York Botanical Garden.

Sister Mary Grace Burns Arboretum – Lakewood, New Jersey

Director Mike Gross talks about their Sandy experience, “We are going to have between 50 and 60 trees removed.  Most of the casualties were conifers; one third were Norway spruces. While we are devastated by the loss, it is only about 2% of the trees in our database, so I am focusing on the 98% still standing.” The American Public Garden FaceBook page reported. The campus is a national historic landmark, the former George Jay Gould estate, designed by Bruce Price. The historic monumental fence, dating from the late 1800s, sustained major damage in multiple locations. More images can  be found on Michael Gross’s Picasa page.

Other gardens took less damage.  Longwood Gardens and Winterthur in Pennsylvania and Delaware reported some downed trees but lost no important specimens and only minor structural damage.

Dumbarton Oaks and Hillwood in Washington, DC were closed for a couple days, but came through relatively unscathed.

Many of the New Jersey gardens are closed until further notice and information on their condition was not immediately available.

What can you do to help?  Many of these gardens have online donation links.  Many are also looking for volunteers to help lighten the load if you live in the area contact the garden’s volunteer coordinator to see what you can do.

Do you know how other public gardens and arboretum came through the storm?  Please share in the comments below.


by Foy Spicer
Purdue Master Gardener
Wabash County, Indiana

One Response to “Public Gardens and Arboretum after Sandy”

  1. Connie Schultz says:

    What a great post, Foy! I love the links to the garden sites. I’ll have to go look up one of my favorites, Longwood Gardens, to see how it fared. So sad to see how many of the oldest and largest trees were lost.