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

      Showing posts with label Brooklyn. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label Brooklyn. Show all posts

      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

      Tuesday, February 5, 2013


      Where are we on a frigid Superbowl Sunday?
      Need another clue?
      Gardening New Yorkers will immediately recognize the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
      We're at the Steinhardt Conservatory Gallery for the opening reception of the show "Visions of Nature". It's the annual showcase for adult students and instructors of the popular art classes at the BBG.
      After  years of teaching gardening classes there, I led my first art workshop this fall, in conjunction with the publication of my new book, Artful Collage from Found Objects. Two of my students entered works in the show, as did I, their Garden Memories in Collage.
      Above, Season Transition by Laura V. Osorio, collage with papers, bark, pressed plant materials.
       Above, Light in the Forest  and detail by Gail R. Levine, collage with papers, bark, cones, pressed plant materials.
      Above, Greening the Westside Rooftops by Ellen Spector Platt, photo collage with found papers and netting, mixed media. I'm always trying to add roofgardens to the city, one way or another.

      Also much admired was PD Packard's Wild Black Eyed Susan, ink and watercolor on Kozo Paper, from the Chinese brush painting class.

      These guys and I admire the photos from Karen Bell's classes in nature photography at the Garden. In fact I'm scheming how I could take one of her classes myself.
      For more information and a link to this show, see the article top left of this blog in the BYTE NOW
      And if you need another excuse to visit the garden now, the important bonsai collection in the same conservatory building offers this cherry in bloom among the specimens.
      Click on any image to enlarge.

      Thursday, November 15, 2012

      AUTUMN IN NY, B.S.

      That's, Before Sandy. On the Sunday that the trains and buses shut down all over New York City I was at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden teaching my collage workshop. The winds had started but the rains were still holding off; my car service was scheduled to pick me up in 30 minutes to whisk me back to Manhattan. I had time to grab a few shots in the perennial border before I escaped, unfortunately not enough time to search for variety names. My apologies.
      We're so eager for our spring gardens that we sometimes neglect to order for late fall, so I was curious to see what colors the BBG could provide on October 28. Purples predominated, both in these asters and in the monkshood seen below and in some foliage. I remembered that monkshood  (Aconitum) was always the last flower to bloom on my Meadow Lark Flower & Herb Farm, zone 5 in NE Pennsylvania. I had planted a row for drying; they keep their form and color spectacularly, but usually couldn't bear to pick those last blooms of the season.
      Just when I think all is purple in the BBG border, there is a surprise with the bright white fall Anemone. It looks like a favorite I used to have, Anemone x hybrida  'Honorine Jobert'. It was a delightful reminder that I must order it this winter for my roof garden.

      Saturday, February 4, 2012


      Back, back, back in the day, every florist sold dish gardens to give as gifts, a miniature garden in a bowl with three or more small house plants crammed together with a cheap ceramic figurine.
      The plant choices where never well thought out, each having different sun/shade and water requirements. Within a month one plant usually took over and the others died. I HATED dish gardens as a kid.
      But I was enchanted by the Terrarium Exhibit at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in the Steinhardt Conservatory Gallery through Feb. 26. Though they reminded me of dish gardens, they were both simpler and more sophisticated. Many are planted in lidded glass, but some in open containers, even fish tanks.Designed by Jennifer Williams, a staff designer for the BBG, each seemed like a private world to inhabit, and one made for city apartments.click on the sign above to enlarge for reading.
      We need all the help with survival we can get.On seeing this exhibit, I thought that any kid I know would beg to plant a terrarium for his own, and I yearned to have my granddaughters with me.

      Shall we dance? Just a little moss with branches and bracken.
      For more information visit the bbg blog.

      Monday, August 15, 2011

      two blocks in Brooklyn

      I wasn't looking for it. I got off the C train and walked up Washington Street en route to a Brooklyn play date. When what to my wondering eyes did appear...

      House after house, yard after yard, impressed me with plant choice and container combinations. And talk about making the most of a small space!

      It wasn't all good.

      You know how I feel about red mulch.

      I know they're doing good work (it's a soup kitchen) but really...plastic daffodils?

      But some of it was great!

      This sign explained some of the horticultural dedication. Perhaps the community garden vibe overflows out and onto the sidewalks of Washington Avenue. Whatever the reason, I was impressed and delighted. Go Brooklyn.

      Wednesday, October 6, 2010

      Garden Guide:New York City

      all photos © Joseph DeSciose

      If you live in New York City or visit New York City, you need this book. It will help you find engaging, interesting, beautiful, novel, important, or hidden gardens in the five boroughs. The authors Nancy Berner & Susan Lowry describe details of design and history with a dollop of NYC political wrangling, that will help you enjoy each space to the fullest. The writing is far more than the didactic prose of a typical tour guide. It's worth sitting down and reading this small book even if you have no immediate plans to visit a garden.

      I bought the first edition right after it was published in 2002, to help prepare me for living in New York. The first GardenGuide:New York City offered up the hidden gems and unknown garden riches of the city as well as describing the best features of the major botanic gardens. Since then, ten important new gardens have been added as well as smaller ones. There are also must-see features in existing gardens, like the new award-winning Visitor center in the Queens Botanic Garden, with its greenroof design.

      Photographer Joseph De Sciose has captured images of the gardens that opened my eyes to what's happening, and allowed me to view gardens I thought I knew in a whole different way. How could I have missed this water canal when I went to the QBG? I'll have to go back and look.

      Joe's Eye View
      I especially love the many images shot from on high, like this of The High Line, that fabulous new(ish) restoration project in Chelsea.

      I knew the tracks of the old railroad bed were still there but the pattern of the ties stands out in a way that doesn't happen when they're right at my feet. Now when I visit, I'll have a mental picture of both views.
      Who Knew
      that in Red Hook you can visit two waterfront gardens and a Community Farm and picnic in this industrial area while viewing New York Harbor.
      My only quibble with this valuable book is the cut- size. The original publishers decided to serve up a 4" X 6" book, that could be slipped into pocket or purse and carried along. The second edition maintains that size. I want the font bigger and the photos MUCH bigger so I can fully enjoy this book at home as the delightful record of the NYC gardens that it is, then plan my outing for the day without increasing the weight of my backpack.

      Garden Guide: New York City, revised ed. by Nancy Berner & Susan Lowry, photos by Joseph De Sciose, W.W. Norton & C0 2010.

      Saturday, July 10, 2010


      So it wasn't an ocean voyage; it was one free ferry ride from the tip of Manhattan across New York Harbor to Governors Island. Embarking from the historic Battery Maritime Building (above), we sailed under the helicopters, next to the mammoth Staten Island Ferry and within sight of both the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. (Free ferries also from Pier 6, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and by Water Taxi for a fee.) A federal military installation since the Revolutionary War, in 2001 half of Governors Island was designated a National Historic Site and in 2003 the other half turned over to NYC for parkland, recreation, and the arts.

      Below, newly restored Commanding Officers Quarters built in 1843, open to the public, now used for exhibits and events. My ostensible reason for going was to visit the organic farm established by Added Value, a Brooklyn non-profit supporting urban agriculture, but we first stopped to admire the view of steamy lower Manhattan from the shade of the Island.At Picnic Point, a lone farmer works 40 hours a week to tend both flower and vegetable crops in raised beds with drip irrigation. Island-made compost for the farm is supplied by the Earth Matter Compost Learning Center directly across the road. The farmer hopes to have produce available for sale at a farm stand later in the summer, but some plants like the squash and celery here were still waiting to go in on July 2. Behind the crops, overlooking the harbor are half units of shipping containers, each open on two sides, housing a picnic table and benches for family groups. When you double click to enlarge the image below, note that some clever designer has added large wheels to one end of each bench, to enable visitors to move and park them in the best positions.Ride a rental bike (one hour free on Fridays), play free miniature golf with each hole designed by a different artist, hear a free concert on some summer weekends, walk around the island and capture your favorite view of a favorite lady (also free), take a free tram ride for a guided tour with unlimited on-off privileges, fly a kite, enter one of the historic buildings and see the work of artists in residence, learn about the military history and visit a fort, walk out on a pier into the East River, and if you get too exhausted from all of this playing, refresh yourself with some of the best homemade cart food you'll find in the city. Carts are scattered all over the 110 acres of public open space. Here's what Fauzia had to offer the day we were there.
      You may not find any mango-pineapple lemonade left because Gary H. drank three. I saw him.

      Learn more.

      Saturday, April 10, 2010


      Washington DC seems to own the US brand on cherry blossom festivals but I'm enamored of the cherry trees that grow in Brooklyn. Having gone to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden last year about this time, I wasn't planning to go again so soon, yet daughter Jen was in town, escaping from the still-winter of New Hampshire. We agreed BBG was a must-see. There's always something new, or a different way of viewing a favorite scene. Alan Rokach, noted garden photographer and my first photo teacher, says that when you think you've shot a subject in the best way possible, there's always another way. (double click on the photo above to enlarge).
      Ben, Jen & I arrived early last Saturday morning joining a small group waiting to take advantage of the relative serenity. By the time we left at 1pm the crowd of viewers had intensified. This group of young people were gazing at the koi in the pond below. Another favorite stopping off place was the log crammed with basking turtles across the pond, near the bridge.At Magnolia Plaza in
      front of the main
      building, the deep
      magenta Magnolia
      'Vulcan' drew all
      eyes. Every group
      of family or
      friends had at
      least one camera:
      our group of three
      had three, and we
      all took shots of
      'Vulcan' This one
      is courtesy of Ben.

      The cherry blos-
      som story will
      continue to unfold
      for the next few
      weeks, as differ-
      ent varieties
      come into bloom.
      It's worth a trip to see the spectacular Cherry Esplanade of Prunus 'Kazan' first planted in 1921. The yellow Magnolias 'Elizabeth' is also on its way to full bloom. If you're like me, beware the crowds on the official festival, May 1&2. If you love to people watch, by all means go then.

      The Paper Bush that attracted attention on my post of 1/28/2010 was in full bloom this trip. When I first laid eyes on it in January the big buds looked like popcorn puffs. Now the flowers are more like powder puffs. Looking great from January through April is a hard trick in any New York City garden. Though my hort encyclopedia lists this Edgeworthia as hardy in Zones 8-10, it sure looks like a NYC winner to me.

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