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

      Thursday, April 25, 2013


      I  bought and planted tulip bulbs Oct.'12 then promptly forgot what I had ordered. Rather than paw through my files I waited to see what would emerge. Turns out they were a rather dull, pale yellow;  I found it hard to believe that I had chosen such an insipid color.
      But wait, after a week, the color started to turn, 'Daydreamer' Giant Darwin Hybrids in their full glory. The original color was paler than the stem on the left below; the color deepens as the flower matures giving each container a riotous look.
      I have 7 containers on my roof garden, splashy enough to attract attention.
      Purple and orange seems to be my theme this year, as the Muscari bloom in the tree pits along with pansies, daffs, and more tulips.
      And around the neighborhood in my favorite window boxes, another designer chose Ranunculus and pansies...
      and another gardener with hyacinths to enhance the front door color.
      I hope none of these get ripped out, like four plants at my bus stop, below. This building opted to plant full pots of spring bulbs already in flower, not fall bulbs whose roots might grip the soil making it harder for thieves.
      Back to my 'Daydreamer' on the roof with sumac 'Tiger Eye' waiting to leaf out.

      Wednesday, April 17, 2013

      Backyard Foraging!

      This week Other Ellen asked me to tell you about my new book,
      Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn't Know You Could Eat.

      So what makes this book different from all the other foraging books out there?  Well, I approach foraging from a slightly different point of view, perhaps because I'm a gardener by profession, but also perhaps because I'm a little sneaky.  See, I know some people aren't comfortable roaming the fields and mountains searching for wild plants to bring home to feed their families.  So I encourage you to start in your own backyard, where you (hopefully!) already know what's growing.

      Lots of our traditional ornamental plants are also delicious, but somewhere along the way, we've forgotten.  Have you eaten roasted hosta shoots, pickled daylily buds, or baked dahlia tuber bread?  Ever tasted wild ginger snaps or rose hip soup?
      Lest you fear you'll have to sacrifice aesthetics for deliciousness...don't worry.  As a gardener, I understand it's important to have your hosta and eat it, too.  To that end, I've included tips on how and when to harvest both for optimum taste and to maintain the beauty of your garden.

      This is a book I've wanted to write for years, and I had so much fun putting it together, it really didn't feel like work.  Rob Cardillo's photographs are gorgeous and illuminating and the design by Storey Publishing is everything I wished for.  I hope you like it.

      photo by Rob Cardillo

      Thursday, April 11, 2013


      No, not like this luscious pile curtained by morning glory vines at the home of Nova & Kenneth Minnick in Oklahoma City, or this one in the Stonewall Public School garden in East Dallas TX.
      It's always a struggle to compost in Manhattan with our limited space.
      We can buy packs of real NYC composted garbage at the Union Square Greenmarket every Sat., produced by the lower East Side Ecology Project...
       or make our own, as I struggle to do in one of three ways:
      Devoting precious closet space to a plastic bin housing red wiggler worms that eat my vegetarian kitchen waste and produce a lovely product euphemistically called 'worm castings'.
      Co-opting 2 precious  EarthBoxes to produce compost outdoors,
      or the overkill method, a huge composting bin which when loaded is always too heavy for me to turn by myself. This is my crop for the season, about 15 big trowels full, which I add to select containers, especially my roses. Yesterday was my first compost distribution day of the year.
      Above, Rosa 'Harison's Yellow' on my roof garden, grown from a cutting, a gift from Stephen Scanniello. My roses obviously like my haphazard  system of nourishment; a little organic Rose-Tone when I think of it, a little compost when I have it, lots of water from the drip irrigation system which doesn't depend on me at all.

      Friday, April 5, 2013


      Pieris japonica, a.k.a, Japanese andromeda, or lily-of-the-valley bush. I needed a pair of shrubs to flank the entrance to my condo building. Dead-set against the boredom of yet another upright conifer I decided on Pieris. My heart was set on P.j. 'Mountain Fire', but I have no car, and when I need big trees or shrubs it's a struggle to find the varieties I want.
             One call to my friend Linda Yang, former garden columnist of the NYTimes, led me to this beautiful Pieris 'Dorothy Wyckoff'. Linda works part time at the Chelsea Garden Center in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, there to answer customer questions and make informed suggestions. As she was extolling the virtues of this Dorothy, I was madly googling images on the web.
      I persuaded a condo board member and husband with car to drive out with me and view the plants.
               Chelsea manager Rose Di Costanzo couldn't have been more helpful in holding the plants in my name and answering all questions. As our committee of three were delighted with the shrubs she had them packed carefully for travel, branches wrapped up with tape to prevent breakage, then bagged to protect the car from dirt. Who cares if I'm crushed into the backseat along with the plants?
               While I was at Chelsea, of course I HAD to buy 4 flats of well-tended pansies for the treepits in front of the building, along with a roll of landscape cloth and Holly-tone acidic organic fertilizer for the shrubs.
      In it's new home, the Pieris sits happily in its cast stone container, in a lightly shaded area. Within 40 mniutes of planting, the doorman logged two complaints from residents, both about water leaking from the bottom of the pot, possibly staining the sidewalk.

      Was one of these the person who complained that I shouldn't plant roses on the roof because her child might get stuck by a thorn? Or maybe it was the one who told me that all of the flowers on the roof garden were attracting bees and her child might get stung. It's a good thing two small springs broke off during planting and I could console myself with a lovely miniature display in my living room.
      Chelsea Garden Center Brooklyn has a sister center in Manhattan as well. Visit http://chelseagardencenter.com

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