Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Winter is just around the corner and I'm told by those who would know such things that it's going to be a mild one.
And though Spring is five months away, (sigh), some of my favorite seed catalogs have arrived and they will hopefully make the cold months go by faster.
I hope you'll still visit me here. I've got lots of projects I'll be doing this winter and I'll also have some great catalog and internet recommendations and some interesting things to do and see around the city, all garden and flower related. So, until then, keep in touch.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

I was in the elevator of my building with my son-in-law Chris and a neighbor. We were talking flowers. My neighbor is an usher at a church uptown and is responsible for the flower arrangements. She told me what she was paying and I offered to help her find some less expensive plants. Suddenly the doors opened and another neighbor gets on. Overhearing our conversation the second neighbor decided to chirp in. "I don't know why people insist on fresh flowers when plastic ones are even more beautiful than the real ones could ever be. "Besides," she continues, "cutting flowers off a plant is cruel to the plant and shouldn't be done." When she left the elevator Chris and I did a double take. I was still in shock when he pointed out that she had a pin on the front of her shirt that had a picture of a raw steak circled in red with a horizontal slash going through it. Ok I get the no meat thing but no to fresh flowers?
I've decided that this is what can happen to you when you haven't left the city for a long period of time.
If you find that you are rationalizing plastic flowers over the real thing, and you are wearing pictures of beef on your lapel, know that this is a sure sign that you must leave the city immediately and find nature. If you can't leave, then go to one of our many parks or the botanical gardens or even the flower district on West 28th street. (see picture above.)
But you must go. And don't forget to take off the beef pin before you leave.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Buckwheat Goes To The Bronx

I didn't know what to expect when I went up to the Bronx to look at this garden. I've been a Manhattan girl all of my adult life. The only thing I knew about the Bronx was the Yankees and the stuff of bad movies. To be honest, when I entered the gate and saw it, the first thought that came to my head was, what have I gotten myself into?

First, I cleaned up the garbage and discovered lots of junk the contractors decided to leave under mounds of morning glories. Morning glories are lovely blue, white or purple flowering vines, usually grown on fences and gates, that bloom, you guessed it, in the morning. They're also very invasive. One seed will multiply and multiply until one day you will wish you never heard of a morning glory. Unfortunately I speak from experience. This contractor decided to use morning glories to cover up the mess he left behind -- damaged siding, roofing tar, rusted nails, foam insulation and petrified mice. Ok, maybe he didn't leave the mice.

The new owner wanted lots of flowers and a place to grow vegetables which is possible because this space gets sun from early morning to early evening. Once weeded, I discovered three sections of garden space surrounded by concrete. Luckily the soil, after sitting under morning glories for who knows how long, was moist, black and full of worms. There were a couple of problems, the tar spill in one section of the soil were the vegetable garden will go and a sink hole or two. A small fortune was spent on adding countless bags of soil and mulch to level out the ground.

Then the fun part began. The owner and I decided on a scented garden full of perennials that love the sun. I also planted flowers that would mature and spread, (not like morning glories) but in a good way. Bee Balm, lavender, catmint, echinacea, daylilies and roses. We discovered a Lincoln Rose bush back there that was being strangled by weeds and overgrown. I pruned it, gave it a nice dose of manure and mulch and now it flowers long stemmed blood red roses that smell divine! I also added two more rose bushes and some daisies and zinnas for flower cutting. A big pot of dahlias and my new favorite, verbena bonariensis. There are plans for bamboo fencing to hide the police parking lot next door though it was fun being cheered on by the cops as I weeded and planted. The bamboo fencing will make the flowers pop and give the owner some much needed privacy.

A garden is never finished and this one will take a few years to mature. I've already planted some buckwheat in the section behind the lavender, (for the vegetable garden) and hostas under the tree, a whiskey barrel full of herbs and a large container of dahlias.

There is so much I haven't shown you. I forgot my camera the last two visits. Of course! But I'll be back to check up on them. And I'll definitely show you how it's coming along in the Spring.

Friday, October 06, 2006


Rarely do I get an opportunity to see a back yard like this, let alone work in one. My only disappointment was that the summer was over and fall was breathing down my neck so I had to work fast. Still, in a space like this, how could you go wrong? I wish I had taken a picture of it before I weeded. There was nothing unusual in the beds, just native weeds and a few dead birds. Other than that, it's filled with brand new soil and best of all, it's full of worms.

First I found out what the owner liked and then I went on a search for late season plants. Check out the butterfly bushes, "black knight" in the corners. Next year they will be twice the size and full of dark purple blooms. The center is an herb and perennial garden in Fall hues. And the bird bath was added as well.

Look at these Japanese Maples! Sculpture! Art! I can't keep my eyes off of them. And in the beds are nestled hundreds of tulip and crocus bulbs waiting patiently for spring. I covered them in wire mesh and mulched. I cross my fingers that the city squirrels don't get through and find them. I used over ten bags of the mulch you see on the right. The buddha watches and protects it all.

This picture does not do the garden justice. Didn't I tell you I'm still learning my camera? Still, this was taken the day after a big storm. Can you see the hydrangeas in the side garden? I found six gorgeous "Unique" plants which in mid summer will bloom 10 inch conical flowers that turn pink as they age into the Fall. Right now they are dormant and healthy. I amended the soil so that it's "hydrangea heaven" in there. Two of them loved it so much that they perked up and flowered again.
There is still so much to be done. But this is more than a good start until the Spring.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

I don't know about you but art and gardening makes this New York life worth living. Which is why the Chihuly exhibit at the New York Botanical Gardens was a heart pounding experience for me. I just got back from "Chihuly Nights" were I saw all the glass sculptures perfectly lit under a full moon sky.
I was upset when I realized I didn't bring my digital camera with me and then I got over it. Haven't mastered it yet besides there was no way I could have captured the colors of the towering yellow and blue glass sculpture against the night sky or the leaf shadow of a giant banana tree behind a chandelier of golden tubular glass or large round multi-colored orbs floating in glassy water near cream colored waterlilies bursting from their pods. And all of it lit to perfection.
What was amazing is that there was no competition between the flora and the art. They were equally beautiful. The plants enveloped the Chihuly glass as if it were another plant nestled among them. While at the same time, the colorful sculptures illuminated nature's artistic hand in the shape and color of each leaf and flower in bloom.

It's going on until October 29th. It good for the soul. Don't miss it.
Check out the Chihuly photos at nybg.org