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

      Wednesday, July 31, 2013


      My beautiful 'Super Bush' tomatoes, perfect for container growing on my 18th story roof garden, are under attack. Find the culprit in the image above.
      Started from seed (at left) on my windowsill in late March
      I planted out 10 healthy and happy seedlings in May. By the middle of July they looked perfect:sturdy, bushy, full dark green foliage. But the day before I left for a trip to NH, I was stunned to see this...
      leaves stripped on many plants, big chunks bitten out of green tomatoes. The culprits were busy at work. Look carefully upper left quadrant of image to see the four-inch long caterpillar. I felt like crying, but instead, hand picked these green giants from plants, capturing four. I discarded them, making sure that they didn't host the white eggs of the parasitic wasp that can be a boon to the garden.
      Above, two of the critters with noticeable red horns on the back.
      Does this mean that they're really tobacco horned worms eating my tomatoes, rather than tomato horned worms that have black 'horns'?
      Although initially devastated to loose my crop, I soon became enthralled by the notion that a moth found the garden and knew to lay eggs on the 18th floor of a building on 80th St. in NYC. Tomatoes aren't a common crop in this garden. How and why did she ever find her way here?
      My entire crop wasn't hit because I had spread out the plants to containers in different areas.
      Garden writer and photographer extraordinaire Julie McIntosh from the Arnold Arboretum Seed Herbarium Image Project was visiting for breakfast and taking the roof tour.
      Julie, why are you laughing at the first of my crop?

      Monday, July 15, 2013


      Above, 'Summer Splash Marigolds' with lantana on my 18th story roof garden.
      It's not yet mid-July but the Marigolds I started on my condo windowsill at the end of March are in full bloom. The color in the garden against the cold grey pavers and steely containers makes me happy. I was even happier when I saw a bee buzzing around them, and I'm trying to remain patient until my first butterfly sighting.
      One pack of seeds, only $2.79 from Renee's garden seeds* has given me 20 plants to spread around in multiple containers, and I have about 3/4 of the seed pack left. They'll probably still be viable next year if I store them in a cool, dry spot. The lantana cost me about $18 for a tray of 12 small plants at wholesale. Compare for cost, but that's only one reason to plant seed. You get a vast array of varieties and color choices and the genuine thrill of starting new life.

      I start seeds in commercial kits made for the job,
      In juice or milk cartons,
      cardboard egg cartons, and yes, even recycled plastic flower pots, that I've cleaned impeccably before reusing.
      Regular GardenBytes reader BFF Nana sent me an email with this news:
      "There was an article in today’s Boston Globe West section about the Concord (Mass.) Library that 'lends' packets of vegetable seeds and patrons give back from their harvest.  Cute idea! You 'borrow' seeds at the beginning of the season and bring back more at the end."
      Yet another great way of to share your garden, (see blog post below this.)
      My 'Summer Splash' marigolds are a cross between African and French types, (Tagetes patula x erecta) very bushy without pruning. Renee has kindly offered to send a complimentary pack of these marigolds to the first four Gardenbytes readers who email me with your name and address.

      *As a garden writer, I get free seeds from most seed companies upon request. I particularly love Renee's because of the varieties offered and the huge about of information on the seed pack . 

      Monday, July 8, 2013


      Gardeners are generous people. We're delighted to share divisions of favorite perennials or seedlings we've grown too many of. Eudora Welty honored the custom of pass-along plants in her famous novel, Delta Wedding
      I used to host a day on my farm every spring called 'Plant Swap in the Barn', where customers where invited to bring five divisions in pots, (no mints please) and a covered dish for lunch. Everyone went home happy with precious new choices.
      Now gardening in NYC I'm thrilled to be on the receiving end but I'm finding it harder to find the space to cram in the gifts I get.
      Above, irises from Ellen Zachos, about five years old, planted with a rose 'Harison's Yellow'.
      This rose was itself a gift from rose expert Stephen Scanniello, President of the Heritage Rose Society. When I got this, it was but a cutting in a four inch pot.
      When Anne Kugel heard that I was looking for Montauk daisies, she promptly dug and divided some from her own NYC terrace containers, and gave me three clumps. Their bright white flowers are one of the last to burst into bloom in my fall garden.
      Last summer Linda Yang schlepped a huge mound of northern sea oats to my door. I managed to
      stuff it in an already full container. It's preparing to bloom right now and by fall should look like this...
      What gifts!!!

      Monday, July 1, 2013


      When the Impatiens Necrotic Spot Virus hit nurseries last year, most stopped offering the ubiquitous common impatiens (Impatiens walleriana), which would only shrivel and die soon after planting. The virus, spread by thrips, has caused a huge financial loss to plant industry.
      I was curious to see what NYC gardeners would substitute given the shady sites and color and budget considerations. No better way to investigate than in NYC treepits. Above, a common replacement choice, begonias, green and white caladium, and New Guinea impatiens, not affected by the virus.
      Caladium again, fewer begonias, perennial ivy at the edges and a small strappy-leaved brake fern (Pteris) as a contrast to the huge elephant ears.
      Above, mostly coleus with a few caladium,  New Guinea impatiens and small boxwood shrubs.
      Mostly green and white with splotches of pink, the white shines in the shade.

      The Bromeliad flowers are just beginning to shoot up, and even these few should be a dramatic presence with the mundane begonias.
      Maidenhair fern, boxwood, coleus and the variegated tropical plant Stromanthe sanguinea.
      Above, my favorite so far this season. The purple Persian shield (Strobilanthes) a perfect foil for the smaller verbena.
      Thanks to Other Ellen for the tropical I.D.s

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