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

      Wednesday, September 28, 2011

      Martha Stewart's Harvest Show

      When Martha Stewart decided to do her first harvest show ever, she put out a call for audience members to bring baskets full of their home grown bounty. Colleague Kathy Jentz (Washington Gardener Magazine) requested three tickets, then invited us two Ellens to come along.

      (ESP & KJ)

      A line of eager gardeners reached halfway down the block in front of Martha's Chelsea studios. Some baskets were truly impressive, others just confusing. (Like the guy who brought leaves and seedpods of Ricinus communis. Really? Sure, they're pretty, but also deadly poisonous. He didn't seem to have a clue.)

      Kathy brought a bumper crop of okra, tomatillos, and ground cherries.

      O.E.'s basket overflowed with herbs and photogenic rose hips.

      Mine was fully foraged: mushrooms, sumac berries, crabapples, dandelion greens, silverberries, houttuynia, bayleaf, and a demi-bouteille of lilac wine.

      Alas, the subtleties of my wild edibles were lost on Martha's minions. They fell for the gardening equivalent of the blonde cheerleader with big boobs: overflowing baskets of corn, squash, tomatoes, and peppers. We smart girls with great personalities were relegated to the upper reaches of the studio audience.

      I was able to interest Emeril with my wine as he walked through the audience looking for ingredients to use. He took it, but didn't end up using it in his dish and never gave me an on camera nod. Yes, that bugged me, but it was my own fault. I shouldn't have brought something I wasn't willing to part with...I just expected an appropriate thank you in exchange.

      Once I recovered from the unanticipated agony of flashbacks to the cattle calls of my twenties, I was able to sit back and enjoy both the bounty and the message. Baskets overflowed with gorgeous edibles, Martha and Emeril whipped up two vegetarian dishes (sans wine!), and we watched a special remote segment on the recent National Heirloom Exhibition in Sonoma, CA.

      It was great to see heirloom vegetables, seed saving, and non-GMO crops get the press they deserve from someone with a platform as far-reaching as Martha's. I've admired her for years and was pleased to see that she is as strong, articulate, and quick on her feet as I hoped she would be. So kudos to Martha for celebrating the harvest with her television audience. And next time pick one of the smart girls. They're way more interesting.

      Saturday, September 24, 2011


      Two of my favorite pairings: a good book and lovely snack; a garden with art on display. On a rainy Friday I was treated to the latter, where artist Alexis Pace is showing her work in Le Petit Versailles Community garden, Houston Street between Ave B & Ave. C. The garden itself is tiny, but just big enough to provide a green and cultural oasis in Alphabet City. (double click on any image to enlarge)
      Pace has avoided the obvious (don't all gardens have sculpture?) by creating photographic images, which, though sleeved in plastic, are expected to degrade during the course of the show.In her artist's statement Pace says "Dis-Embodied/Re-Embodied is a site-specific garden installation of larger-than-life photographs. Five foot tall female body parts and limbs are abstracted and manipulated almost to the point of non-recognition, distilled back to their basic elements of lines and curves. Blown-up to a hyper-real size, they can no longer be compared to any “ideal” instead, they can once again be viewed and appreciated for their inherent beauty. As this is a month-long installation, the images are designed to naturally decay as the season progresses, further reflecting the impermanence of beauty."
      Someone has strewn mirrors around this small garden, reflecting and enlarging the plantings from all angles, a hot tip for any urban or small-space garden.
      Reduced to using my I-phone camera in the rain, these images can't possibly do justice to Pace's work, but you still have four more days to go see for yourself. If you're one of GardenBytes readers from Indonesia or Brazil, even So. Cal or NH, visit the artist at her website where she has some astounding images and her complete bio.
      This exhibit will run through the month of September, open to the public Thursday through Sunday 2-7pm, but like all community gardens run by volunteers, availability is somewhat flexible.

      Tuesday, September 13, 2011


      The second section of The High Line opened to great fanfare during the second week of June . One of the most eagerly awaited areas was a lawn, where visitors could picnic, people watch and loll. By the time I got to see it on 8/26 the sign above was posted.I'm told that visitors to the first section felt strongly that a lawn should be included in the design for the new sections. So now we design gardens according to poll data? Could there be no understanding of what 3,000,000 visitors a year would do walking on a small patch of grass? And why even try to achieve a trimmed, perfect lawn when the most delightful aspect of The High Line is it's feeling of escape into nature?

      I led a tour of the High Line for a bus group of out-of-staters this spring, and one woman's comment at the end of the tour was that the park was too narrow. It should have been widened. I explained yet again about the restoration of the original rail line going into the meat packing plants; she thought the park would be nicer wider. Perhaps more strips of lawn around the edges?

      My Idea of the Perfect LawnAt the home of Jen & Mark Hopkins the 'lawn' gets mowed once or twice a year, paths mowed more often to make it easy to walk across to a neighbor or a favorite view.The front 'lawn' at the home of Diane & Gary Hitzemann gets the same mowing treatment. Flower beds, thyme scented bluestone paths and terraces with tables and chairs are close to the house. The rest is meadow. It's perfect.

      Sunday, September 11, 2011


      I came off the E train at Port Authority en route to a midtown lunch. Let's face it, it's not one of the more scenic parts of our fair city, so you'll appreciate my surprise at finding this on 40th Street.

      Even though I was already late, I had to stop and take a few shots...to show my appreciation. When I looked to see which midtown business had injected a little bit of tropical beauty into this otherwise dingy block...


      I'm pretty much speechless.

      It's like being married for 23 years and finding out your husband can still surprise you. Fantastic.

      Thursday, September 1, 2011

      THE VIEW

      Double click on any image to see details.
      The view from the second section of The High Line is in many places as interesting as the park itself. Apartment buildings are as close as 6' from the railing of the elevated walk. It must be highly annoying to some residents; others have decided to make their own political and artistic statements. These pots seem to be resting in rope slings hung on the outside of the balcony. Safe?If you meant to get to church Sunday morning but didn't quite make it, you're only about 10' away from the Church of the Guardian Angel on 10th Ave and W. 23rd. St.And my favorite, a design of stripped branches to enclose a balcony, below. These are not telephoto images. Notice the railing of The High Line, bottom right. I'm leaning against the railing, about 6' from the balcony. Someone designed a fabulous privacy solution. Chairs and a table are just on the other side of the branches.

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