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      Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

      Wednesday, December 29, 2010

      yes, yes, it's a lot of snow

      But really people, it's December, it's the northeast, it's not like it's a TOTAL surprise!

      I walked through the Park to get to work today. Outdoor gardens may be sleeping but indoor plants still need care.

      I saw kids sliding down hills, pedi-cabs slipping and sliding, and pedestrians refusing to relinquish the road. Some sidewalks weren't shoveled and many were treacherous; I, too, stuck to the streets. Still, I know Manhattan is lucky compared to our sister boroughs.

      I'm pretty sure there's a motorcycle under there.

      Eight months out of the year I curse the expense of the parking garage. Not today.

      I'd like to say this is a mouse or a vole, but let's face it, it's probably a young rat. A hungry young rat whose food is covered with snow.

      Pretty picture to take your mind off the rat.

      Here's wishing everyone speedy melting, easy digging out from under, and Happy New Year!

      Monday, December 20, 2010


      My first boyfriend, age 10, went with me to empty lots to help me cut 'free' flowers to bring home. I loved him.
      Last week when the SunflowerGuy.com offered me a free bouquet of my choice in exchange for a review, I jumped. I've grown about 20 varieties of sunflowers from seed; used them for seed snacks, for drying, for cut arrangements and in the garden. Can you tell I love them?

      SunflowerGuy says that through their parent company Dos Gringos, they are the largest grower of ornamental sunflowers in the world; I'm the smallest, so it's a match.
      The overnight flower delivery from SunflowerGuy came on the date requested, in an ingenious shipping box that included a simple, tasteful container and the stems wrapped in rubber bands to keep the bouquet intact. See above.I followed all of the instructions for removing and discarding the wet flower foam that kept flowers healthy during shipping, cutting the bottom of the stems, adding the cut flower food. I smiled even without the instructions at the cleverness of the packaging and the cheery sunflowers within. Then I spied the red-painted seeded eucalyptus. The online catalog had said nothing about painted flowers. ugh! It was probably because the red pepperberry was still green and some designer thought the red element was necessary. Not for me.
      One Makes Four
      While many people, if not most, love an arrangement that is complete, fun for me is doing my own. In fact most florist designed arrangements have enough flowers & foliage for 4-6 arrangements, so I always divide them up and scatter them around the apartment, even the bathroom.
      Having fresh flowers wherever I turn is a wondrous thing. When you scroll to the bottom of the post you'll see how I handled the dreaded painted eucalyptus.The five sunflowers went in a collection of glass vases made from recycled soda bottles, one or two stems to a vase. How easy is that? The good looking container that came with the arrangement will not languish but will become part of my varied collection of useful vases.The St. John's wart and a tiny bit of pepper berry went in two small bud vases on a bathroom shelf.These three stems lean gracefully in a contemporary vase in the living room. They look like they'll last well beyond the guaranteed 8 days.In the tree wells in front on my building (this one where the dead tree was chopped down) I lay fresh greens, with additional prunings from the roof garden, including some stems of aronia berries, dried sorghum seed heads and the red painted eucalyptus that even I have to admit doesn't look half bad there. I hope The Sunflowerguy approves.
      As I write this post I'm on my seventh day and all flowers are still in excellent condition. If you need an overnight flower delivery, especially for sunflowers I think you'll be well satisfied.

      Wednesday, December 15, 2010

      Baby, it's cold outside.

      Yeah, yeah, it's cold. Everytime someone complains to me about the weather I remind them that I'm the one who works outdoors. That's a conversation stopper. Because I do this for a living, I know how to bundle up. Layers galore. And this year I have a secret weapon: a truffle.

      "What's that?" you ask. It's short for butt ruffle and it keeps one particular part of the body nice and toasty.

      Bending over, mulching someone's back yard garden, rear end pointed up in the air, unprotected by your jacket? Wear a truffle.

      Reaching above your head, attaching evergreen garlands to doorways and railings, creating an exposure gap between jackets and pants? You need a truffle.

      Maybe just walking around NYC where the wind has no mercy? A truffle is good for what ails you.

      Knitting is a popular sport these days, but it isn't one of mine. Fortunately, friend Sara (creator of the truffle and fellow gardener) knows me well enough to choose the perfect wool for yours truly: green, brown, and no itchy wool!

      Half shawl, half wrap-around skirt, the truffle is a gardener's dream. I expect to wear it daily between now and next April.

      There are still 10 days till Christmas. Get out your knitting needles and make your favorite gardener happy. Keep her butt warm!

      Thursday, December 9, 2010


      In spring my view looks like this. Fall 2010 it looked like this, with a firethorn in berry, and small trees and vines sporting their autumn colors.It's my borrowed scenery, the view from my office, living room and bedroom windows. I love to see how the across-the-street gardeners are progressing. I know not their names, but their smoking and coffee drinking habits as they emerge onto their terraces in early morning.
      An avid reader of Garden Bytes, BBP, alerted me. Although I was well aware when the scaffolding went up, when the cranes and ladders arrived on the 18th floor terraces across the street, I didn't connect all that to losing my borrowed scenery. But as BBP pointed out, all the plants were gone.I go away for one day and all the plants and containers on the 16th floor are missing; the crew is now working to clear the terrace on #17.Down, down, down in a cart on a flimsy pulley ......... to the dumpster below. So you fans of dumpster diving, who knows what garden treasures you'll find if you can just wiggle under the tarp that covers the dumpster at night. (double click on image above to see some of the treasures you're missing)SO YOU THINK YOU HAVE GARDEN PROBLEMS?
      Today four men in hoodies are ripping out decking and repairing leaks on the terrace, then will re-surface. Come spring will I have new borrowed scenery to enjoy? Is the co-op owner responsible for totally redoing the garden on the terrace?

      Sunday, December 5, 2010


      What does this look like to you?

      I call it a win-win-win situation!

      For those of you who are wondering why I'm so excited about a pile of dirty tubers, I refer you to an earlier post in which I waxed rhapsodic about Apios americana (aka hopniss). I promised I'd write about the harvest when the time was right, and that time is now.

      So why is harvesting the tubers a win-win-win situation?

      1) The plant/client wins because harvesting a percentage of the tubers makes room for vigorous new growth next year. (Remember, this plant is a fast grower and its tubers can fill a container in no time.)

      2) I win because I get to eat them.

      3) You win, because I've got extras and I want to give them away!

      The vines grew like crazy this summer, so I wasn't surprised to find the container (48" x 12" x 18") chock full of tubers when I did my clean up last week. Hopniss tubers grow in underground chains, radiating out from the bottom of the plant. Harvesting approximately 30% of the tubers in fall leaves plenty to support next year's plant growth and at the same time provides you with some excellent and unusual eating.

      Apios americana is a favorite wild edible among foragers, but it's only recently crossed over into the ornamental market. In the wild it can be hard to dig, since it often favors rocky soils and river banks. In a cultivated garden, Apios fairly explodes with gratitude, climbing 20-30 feet in a single season and producing a bumper crop of deliciousness.

      The tubers look a little more appetizing after a good bath, don't you think? I'll peel the larger ones, but most of the year-old hopniss can be eaten with the skins on. This year they're destined for goose fat, S&P and that's it. The taste of hopniss is so superb, like a nutty potato, I don't mask it with sauces or heavy spicing. Goose fat compliments their fluffy texture wonderfully.

      But enough about me...what about you? Well, some of the tubers I harvested are too small to eat, but plenty big enough to plant.

      Bury each tuber three times as deep as it is tall and you're in business. (If you can keep the squirrels away, that is.) If anyone's interested, please let me know and I'll make arrangements to get you a few. First come, first serve. And don't worry, you don't HAVE to eat them. Feel free to just revel in their heady scent come next August.

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