Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Garden Meditation
By Rev. Max Coots

Let us give thanks for a bounty of people:

For children who are our second planting, and, though they grow like weeds and the wind too soon blows them away, may they forgive us our cultivation and fondly remember where their roots are.

Let us give thanks:

For generous friends…with hearts as big as hubbards and smiles as bright as their blossoms;

For feisty friends as tart as apples;

For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us we had them;

For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;

For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn — and the others — as plain as potatoes, and so good for you;

For funny friends, who are as silly as brussels sprouts and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes, and serious friends as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions;

For friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini, and who — like parsnips — can be counted on to see you through the long winter;

For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time, and young friends coming on as fast as radishes;

For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils, and hold us despite our blights, wilts, and witherings;

And finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past, that have been harvested — but who fed us in their times that we might have life thereafter;

For all these we give thanks.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Adam Purple and the Garden of Eden

Have you ever seen this short video about Adam Purple and his Garden of Eden?   From IMDb:

"In 1975, on the crime-ridden Lower East Side of New York City, Adam Purple started a garden behind his tenement home. By 1986, The Garden of Eden was world famous and had grown to 15,000 square feet. For Adam--a social activist, philosopher, artist, and revolutionary--The Garden was the medium of his political and artistic expression. It was razed by the city in 1986 after a protracted court battle."

It is amazing what one man was able to build out of rubble by just using the things around him.

You can read more about Adam Purple and his garden here.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Powerscourt Estate

At the end of September, I took a short vacation to Dublin, Ireland.  I was lucky because I had the most beautiful weather while I was there.  I think I only had to use my umbrella once and only briefly for some passing showers.  Honestly, I often forgot I was in Ireland.  It felt more like spring time in England rather then autumn in Ireland (or at least the Ireland in my head).

While in Dublin, I took a bus tour out into the countryside (so easy, no driving for me in Ireland).  One of the places we stopped was Powerscourt Estate in County Wicklow, which is only about 20 minutes outside of Dublin.  Unfortunately, the house suffered a serious fire many years ago and the inside was never completely rebuilt so there is not much to see inside the house other than little shops.  People really come here to see the gardens.

The first thing you see when you exit out the back of the house are the Italian gardens with Sugar Loaf Mountain in the background.

Designed in the 1840s and influenced by Villa Butera in Sicily, the series of terraces took over 12 years to build with over 100 laborers. 

If you exit the House and turn left, you can see all the gardens in a giant loop.  The first stop is Tower Valley and its Pepperpot Tower, which was modeled on a pepperpot from Lord Powerscourt's dining room table.

After Tower Valley is the Japanese Garden.  Laid out in 1908, this garden is full of azaleas and my favorite, maples, which were starting to turn.

Eventually I found myself in the walled garden, where a visitor had decided to dress to match the flowers there.

Just outside the walled gardens guessed it...more gardens.

After exploring the gardens, I had some time to buy a sandwich and enjoy it on the patio outside overlooking the Italian gardens in the beautiful sunshine before we off to our next stop:  Glendalough. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

November is Here

It may be November 9, but the trees are still going strong here in New York City.  The London Plane trees still haven't turned, but some of the other trees have taken on a brilliant orange color.

Other trees are working their way from green to orange.

The purple asters are still going strong.

And the white roses in the park nearby continue to bloom.

Today I brought in the caladium bulbs I had dug up from my garden and had been drying on my balcony.  I layered them in a large paper shopping bag with newspaper and placed them in a little used closet.  Fingers crossed they will store until next summer when I will be able to plant them again.

My potted prickly pear cactus has wilted and shriveled up in preparation for winter.  I moved it so it is against the balcony's brick wall and under the window air conditioner so it gets a little protection from snow and harsh winds and the benefit of the warm bricks.

My potted Chicago Hardy fig tree also will get pushed up against the brick wall and underneath the air conditioner eventually.  Since it has been such a mild autumn, the leaves are still green and only beginning to turn yellow.  I debated whether I should wrap the tree and ultimately decided to take my chances.  I am hoping that if I can protect it from the snow and ice, it will be alright.  Looking at the ten day forecast, we might get our first frost here in NYC on Thursday or Friday night so the fig tree will need to be pushed against the brick wall soon.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Identifying Plants in the Rose Garden

A couple of months ago I signed up for a six-week class at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (a.k.a. BBG).  Identifying herbaceous perennials it's called.  Now, many if not most people take this class because they are working toward a certificate in horticulture.  I had considered working toward the certificate but when I found out that we would be tested each week on the Latin names of each plant we had learned the week before, my thoughts of working toward a certificate in horticulture went out the window.  I couldn't even pronounce the Latin names much less remember them and then spell them correctly.  Plus, I spent far to many years in school and have zero interest in learning something that doesn't really interest me (like Latin names).  So I told my instructor I was just doing the class for fun and gave up any hopes of learning the Latin names.

The first class was a little rocky.  I wasn't dressed all that comfortably for standing outside for hours (I don't do casual well) and I was put off by my instructor only caring that we know the Latin names (wouldn't it be more useful if we knew where to plant them, how to take care of them, etc.?).  I thought about dropping out of the class but I learned it was too late to get any kind of refund so I soldiered on.  And I am glad I did.

The second class was spent identifying plants in the rose garden, which was wonderful.  While all the other students were carefully photographing and studying all the plants they would need to know for the exam the following week, I was taking photos of the roses.

It was the second week in June and the roses were at their peak.

                                                                    "City of York" Rose

In 2009, rose rosette disease ("RRD") (a virus that is typically spread by mites) devastated the BBG's rose garden and as a result, it underwent a major renovation, restoration, and remediation.  This time around, the BBG decided to incorporate companion plants in the garden in order to reduce pests and protect the roses from RRD and other diseases.

The rose garden had many companion plants, including clematis, sweet alyssum, German chamomile, red campion, and dame's rocket (the last one being illegal in Connecticut and prohibited in Massachusetts because it is an exotic invasive).  But my favorite is catmint (or Nepeta x faassenii for those who like Latin).

The catmint is the plant with the purple flowers in the photo above.  It is one of the best plants to use to edge or underplant a rose bed.  Catmint likes sun and dry conditions and does not like especially fertile soil, making it very easy to grow.  Plus all the bees love it.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Trip to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Last weekend, I took a trip to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  I had been meaning to go there for a while because I wanted to see their bonsai collection again but things came up or the weather was bad so it didn't happen.  It was a beautiful day last Saturday, though, and I didn't have anything I needed to do so after lunch, I took the 4/5 train to the Franklin Avenue stop and made my way to the garden.

Given that it was the first nice weekend, it was VERY crowded.  I prefer the garden when there aren't a lot of people there because it is a lot more relaxing.  It is hard to contemplate the gardens when you have to navigate people who are all trying to take pictures of everything they see.

The magnolia trees were in bloom and they were gorgeous. 

My absolute favorite was a variety called Yulan from China.

I read on the San Francisco Botanical Garden's website that this magnolia is:

"one of the most beloved of all magnolias. Called "Yulan" or "Jade Lily" by the Chinese, the exquisite lily shape of the white blossoms (some with a tinge of pink at the base of the tepals), has the longest history of magnolia cultivation going back to the Tang Dynasty – 618 AD. Its beauty was celebrated on ancient Chinese embroideries, scrolls and porcelains in scenes of the countryside. Its elegant flowers made it "a gift worthy of an emperor." The tepals (petals and sepals that aren't differentiated) are also known as a delicacy, dipped in flour and lightly fried. Today, very old gnarled specimens can be found in Chinese temples and other public places throughout China."

Given the fact that everyone was taking pictures in front of this tree, I can confirm that this magnolia is one of the most beloved.

However, my absolute favorite part of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is their Japanese garden.  Winter, spring, summer, or fall it is beautiful and relaxing.

I then walked over to see their bonsai collection.  It always blows my mind that some of these plants/trees are so old.  Like this tree, which is almost 100 years old!

Can you imagine carefully caring for and pruning a tree for almost 100 years?

I also loved seeing all their giant bromliads and their ferns, which are some of my favorite houseplants. 

After visiting the gardens, I wandered over to the garden shop to see what kind of plants they have for sale.  I have become slightly addicted to collecting houseplants so I was looking for something unique.  Unfortunately, most of the plants in the garden shop were ones you could buy at any big box store so I didn't end up purchasing anything.  I toyed around with the idea of getting a venus flytrap, but I don't know if I could give it the right conditions to keep it alive.  Given that I am trying to deal with some fungus gnats in my ferns right now, I am trying to stay away from anything that requires a moist environment.

All in all, it was a great day and given that I am now a member of the garden, I will be back soon.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Planning for Spring

Last year, I didn't grow anything on my balcony.  My heart wasn't into it.  I needed a break.  The twice daily waterings, picking up tomato plants that blew over in their pots while I was at work (and cleaning up all the dirt that came spilling out), and then cleaning out all the containers at the end of the season in my bathtub was tiring.  However, the older I get the more I accept that life is a marathon and not a sprint.  It is a OK to take time away from something.

This year I am ready for balcony gardening again albeit something a little different.  While in years past I have stuck to annual flowers, vegetables, and herbs, this year I want to start incorporating some perennials.  But not just any perennials.  Perennials that will bloom all summer long and provide flowers I can plop into vases at home or at work.

I am what you would call a plant collector.  If I see a plant I want, then I often will get it even if that means I have no where to really put it.  So my purchases this spring will speak to my cut-flower loving, collector heart.

This Josee reblooming lilac


This Julia Child floribunda rose

And this hardy everbearing fig.  Oh how I have wanted a fig tree for so long.

Hardy Everbearing Fig

All these plants (and photos) are from Gurney's Seed & Nursery Co.  And the best part is that they are having sales, which means that my dreamy spring planting can become a reality.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Gardening on the Upper East Side

Last weekend, I took a trip to the upper east side to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I love looking at all the houses close to the museum because they are always so beautifully landscaped and decorated.  Here are pictures of some of my favorites.

Love this red door.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Growing a Greener World

While I was lounging on the couch killing time before I had to catch the train back to the city during the holidays, I happened to come across "Growing a Greener World" on public television.  Growing a Greener World describes itself as a t.v. show that "features organic gardening, green living and farm-to-table cooking."  The show really caught my attention.  While the show airs during prime errand-running time, all the old episodes are posted to their website so luckily I can view them whenever I want.

I am a little late to the game, since the show is now in its fourth season.  But the other day, when I was looking at old episodes, I came across two from season three that are very relevant for us urban gardeners:  small space gardening and NYC rooftop farms.  You can watch them here and here.  I hope you enjoy Growing a Greener World as much as I do.  Its nice to dream about gardening during these very cold days.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Plant for the New Year

Over the holidays, I fled the city for the country to visit my family.  Tea was drunk, crosswords were solved, and a whole lot of gardening sites were read.  The entire time, a very large Thanksgiving cactus sat sentinel.    With the gardening sites in front of me and the cactus next to me, I got to thinking that maybe I would like my own Thanksgiving cactus.  While I have always had much better luck with outdoor plants than indoor plants, the adoption of an orphan spider plant last spring (which is doing remarkably well in my office) had me feeling confident and I decided to try my luck again.

I carried two cuttings back with me to the city on the train wrapped in a white paper towel in my bag.  Two days later, I pulled out some left over potting soil (I like Miracle-Gro Moisture Control the best) and a little white pot.  In went a coffee filter (to let water drain but not soil), followed by the potting soil and the two cuttings, which I planted about one inch deep.  A little water and voila!  I new plant for the new year.