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

      Friday, March 29, 2013


      Dear friend Diana from Wales U.K. writes, "Has spring arrived in New York? We (and the plants) are still freezing and the wind is from Russia!! Certainly we normally have some green shoots by now but this year is horrendous and the temperatures are still around freezing. Not so good for the garden, everything is stuck waiting for the soil to warm up."
      Yes Diana, it's spring here, even if I have to use my close-up lens to find it. Above, some early Euphorbia, the only plant in full bloom on my roof garden.
      Tulips making an appearance, though the poppy seeds I planted in this container last week are still in hiding.
      Fat leaf buds on the hydrangea,
      Fat flower buds on the quince,
      If I lie down at set my camera 6" away, I can see the buds of grape hyacinth planted last fall in tree pits in front of my building.
      Upstairs on my south-facing office windowsill, seeds of 'Super Bush' tomato, basil 'Profumo di Genova' and Portulaca 'Pastel Sundial' give me real hope for warmer weather. The basil shoots already have a strong flavor, and as I thin them in the container, I'll use the sprouts for dinner recipes.
       Since I need some immediate bloom, my corner grocery store provides me with yellow tulips to mix with some rhea eggs I've saved for years.

      Friday, March 22, 2013


      Author/Photog Debra Prinzing invites us to slow down and use the flowers, foliage and branches we have on hand to create fabulous indoor arrangements. In her charming new book Slow Flowers  she creates 52 arrangements in season, using her own flowers and those she begs, borrows and.... buys from local growers.

      Debra is a dear friend, so when she came to NYC with her son for a few days to enjoy all the city has to offer, I invited her to try her slow hand on my roof garden. Long ago she was a student here at FIT so she understands what New York is about, knows that garden space is scarce and we have to make do with what we have.
      I have nothing of my own but since I tend the 18th story roof garden for my building, I need to cut back rampant herbs when they threaten to take over a mixed container, prune a barberry branch when it reaches out to grab a passing child, remove stems of caladium foliage that are drowning the coleus in the treewell.
       Debra was game to try anything I could throw at her. She selected the celadon glass vase from my container collection. Note that the only flowers I could justify picking were some black-eyed Susans which popped up as volunteers in my garden one year and which bloom happily in over-abundance all summer, threatening to become invasive. Other materials are stems of bi-colored sage, coleus, caladeum,  sumac 'Tiger Eye', basil going to seed. Deb writes that the "rosy barberry sprigs repeated the green and dark pink caladium colors."
       We are kindred spirits in floral design. Grab what you have in every season; love what's around you; spend little money; use branches and foliage; edit carefully; throw it all in the perfect vase; enjoy your garden indoors every time you walk by your arrangement. Groom your arrangement so it will last longest. Here the black-eyed Susans were the first to be discarded.
      All photos © Debra Prinzing except the two just below in my living room.
       Eventually you'll pare it down to it's most long-lasting element, the caladium leaves. Since at the end you'll have relatively few stems looking good, select a new, smaller container like a bud vase or as here, a pair of green glass candle sticks.
      See the other fabulous 51 arrangements in Slow Flowers by Debra Prinzing, (St. Lynn's Press, 2013).
      Here Debra uses just three elements, hydrangeas, dusty miller, and sea oats to great effect. Lucky for me another garden writer friend and two-blocks-away-neighbor  Linda Yang had to dig and divide hers at the end of last summer and I was the proud recipient. I'll surely be copying Debra's arrangement this autumn.

      Saturday, March 16, 2013


      photograph by ©Alan& Linda Detrick, all rights reserved.
      Pussy willow, my favorite for spring arrangements. Wind stems inside a glass container, no water; this only works when stems are fresh-cut. Add mimosa at the base of the pitcher. It will dry in place. That's it; a no brain arrangement.
      When I had my farm, I had a shrub big enough to prune and fill every vase. Here in Manhattan, I bought a bunch 5 years ago and rooted them for a month in water.
      They were ready to plant when leaves started to push forth and roots looked like this...
      I stuck a few in the soil of various containers on my roof garden and promptly forgot about them.
      When I bought new containers and transplanted almost everything, these sticks got dumped, except one planted in an old teak container that I kept.
      This March, five years later my New York born and bred pussy willow shrub looks like this...

      and some new branches are ready to grace my living room.
      Whether you buy them at a flower show or the Boston wholesale flower market as did my friend, floral designer, writer, and herbalist Betsy Williams, you can make something wonderful.
      Here I made a table wreath of fresh pussy willow and  mimosa and filled the center with egg shells.
       photo © Alan & Linda Detrick, all rights reserved.

      Thursday, March 7, 2013


       "Brilliant" is the theme, and brilliant is the execution at the Philadelphia Flower Show on until Sunday 3/10 til 6:pm. All things British are celebrated, particularly the gardens.

      Lots of glitz and glamour,
      not exactly my style, but for simpler folk there's always the Philly Water Department who brings visitors back to earth with their not-so-British all-sunflower exhibit, The Power of Poop, extolling the virtues of recovering waste water for alternative energy.
      My favorite garden entry (above) is by Raymond Evison Clematis, a well-known breeder from the UK, showing selections for multi-blooming vines which flower throughout the summer. The display is medium sized, modest in scope, calming yet amazing. Evison forced me to add  clematis to my mental list for purchase this spring, and I'll certainly go to his site to see where I can buy them here.
      Before I leave the show I must pay homage to Roberston's Flowers of Chestnut Hill, designers near and dear to my heart for sending me brilliant flower bouquets (as pre-ordered by Ben) every two months during that awful year when he served in Vietnam.(Robertson's display, below)
      After wandering the floor, when you're ready to sit, check out one of the free lectures at the show. As luck would have it, on the day I went Ellen Zachos fit right in with the Flower Show theme by giving a brilliant lecture on the topic of her new book,"Backyard Foraging". She signed many books after her talk, but were people really after the book or those yummy cookies with foraged ingredients that she offered with each purchase?
      To learn more about what's on at the show for the last few days visit the Pennsylvania Hort. site.

      Saturday, March 2, 2013


      Writers, photographers and videographers vied for position at the annual Press Day at the New York Botanical Garden Orchid Show, opening March 2 through April 22, 2013 in the Bronx.
      I was in danger of being pushed into the reflecting pool at the entrance but managed to keep my footing.
      Designed by Francisca Coelho, V.P. for Glasshouses and exhibitions who has opted for a naturalistic approach, this year's show is particularly pleasing as it meanders through most of the conservatory, combining orchids with other lush tropical flowers and foliage.
      The jade vine in the pool room cooperates by bursting into bloom in time for The Orchid Show. And yes, it really is this aqua color, highly unusual in the plant world.
      As we walk through the show, finishing touches are still being added by staff on ladders and on their knees.
      I'm impressed with the way Ms. Coelho incorporated rare and unusual orchid specimens into the show by binding them to trees downed at the Garden by Hurricane Sandy. Equally impressive are the large, readable signs with commentary about the plants, with extra material available by smart phone. If you want to know how orchids can grow on rocks,
      or on trees,
       the answers are right there.
      Our guide points out the extremely rare Darwin star orchid, placed well back from the path where itchy fingers might damage it. The relevant sign explains....

      At the end of the show, plants that are not part of the permanent collection but were brought in specifically for this display, are donated to about 40 community groups who request them.
      For information about tickets, special events, hours, tours, visit the NYBG website.

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