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

      Showing posts with label Manhattan. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label Manhattan. Show all posts

      Thursday, February 21, 2013


      Walking on E. 81st after the last snow, I stop in my tracks. Can it be? There's a stick-like thing in the compacted soil of a treewell across from Antonucci's Cafe. A close look confirms my diagnosis.
      There are the thorns, the greenish colored stems and the sharp cuts that indicate careful pruning. It's a rose bush, under a tree, roots weighted down by stone pavers. Ugh!

      Pat Shanley, Founding President of the Manhattan Rose Society, and now V.P. of the American Rose Society goes around the country lecturing about rose growing. She says that her most frequently asked question is where on earth roses grow in Manhattan. I've lent her a few of my images for her talks. Now I have a new one for her.

      I go inside Antonucci's and even though it's early, the lone guy setting up responds to my rap on the window. Yes, it's a pink rose that drew lots of attention last spring, planted by the landlord or the restaurant owner, he doesn't know which. I'll be checking out it's progress this year.
      Other Places in Manhattan to See Roses
      Climbing up a typical brownstone facade...
      In a community garden in Chelsea...
       at the Central Park Zoo...
        in the Historic Rose District of Upper Manhattan, a Rosa 'Harison's Yellow'...
       on Park Avenue, with Will Ryman's sculptures in 2011...
      up on The High Line, Rosa 'Mutabilis' blooming in summer, later with hips...
      on Ann Kugel's 12th floor terrace...
      Hanging in the basement of my building where the super Super allows me to dry perfectly in the heat...
      and on the rooftop garden which I plant for my building, and where Annabelle and Lucy Platt thought the deliciously scented 'Graham Thomas'  rose was named for their Grammy...
      and where 'All the Rage' blooms freely all summer.

      Monday, May 14, 2012


      Stephen Scanniello, Pres. Heritage Rose Foundation with Rosa 'Harison's Yellow'

      Just when I think I'm getting to know the gardens and plantings in New York City, I stumble upon surprises. A visit to the Historic Rose District last week introduced me to a massive undertaking by the Heritage Rose Foundation in Upper Manhattan where Harlem meets Washington Heights. Here in Trinity Church (Wall Street) Cemetery, Audubon Terrace, community gardens, and median strips, dedicated members of the Foundation from all over the U.S. are coming to plant and preserve old roses, all on a shoestring budget of donations and volunteers.
      Rosa 'Parson's Pink China'
      The Foundation defines heritage roses as Pre-1930 hybrids, varieties and species; members have scoured old homesteads, cemeteries and roadsides to make cuttings of roses which might disappear forever if not preserved. By their very nature, having existed for decades without spraying, fertilizing, or watering, heritage roses are highly suited for gardeners who care about sustainability.
      When I visited it was planting day and dozens of rooted rose cuttings were scheduled to be dug in at the Church of the Intercession and other select spots. Within three years they'll be showing off fragrance and blooms, spilling over old stones and fences.
      Not only roses, but donated bulbs, shrubs and perennials are added to compliment the roses
      Why here in this spot in Upper Manhattan? It happens that rose breeder George Folliott Harison, he of 'Harison's Yellow' fame is buried in the Trinity Church Cemetery which surrounds the Church of the Intercession, and when these modern-day rose missionaries went to plant one of his namesake roses by his grave, it seems as if they just couldn't stop. Many well-know names appear on other headstones here, like family of John Jacob Astor, Clement Clarke Moore, Charles Dicken's son, J.J. Audubon, and Ralph Elison.
      Just across Broadway from the Church is the massive Audubon Terrace, former site of Audubon estate, now housing the American Academy of Arts and Letters, The Hispanic Society of American with its free museum and library, and Boricua College.
      Entrance to Audubon Terrace
      This complex of eight Beaux Arts buildings is on the National Register of Historic sites. Volunteers from the Heritage rose Foundation have placed large containers around the massive brick courtyard and are of course, planting roses.
      Coming soon, a historic walking tour app for your smart phone, created by a H.S. student, Jacob Graff from Dallas TX .
      GO! to learn more visit...

      Friday, June 10, 2011


      (above, one pack of bachelor button 'Blue Boy' sown in 2006)
      Here in NYC of course we recycle paper, plastic, metal, the usual stuff: garbage to the compost, good clothing to one of the many worthy thrift shops, books to the library for their sale. But the ultimate form of recycling happens on my roof top with little help from me.
      Annuals that I've started from seed, resow themselves for the following year: Among the herbs, new dill, cilantro, calendula, viola and bronze fennel will sometimes emerge even in the same growing season. The flowers are well represented by bachelor buttons from the mother plants at top that show up here, and here
      and here.as do portulaca, California poppies, spider plant (Cleome), and cosmos. I got a particular thrill this year when, in the space occupied by the only hydrangea that died over the winter, emerged a plethora of cosmos seedlings, enough to dig a few and plant in other in other bare spots around the garden. I've had second and third generations of larkspur and love-in a mist (Nigella damascene) as well.
      Perennials also blow their seeds around the garden. Clematis found a home in the pot of black bamboo and in spring climb so rampantly that they cover the bamboo. Goldenrod, and blackeyed Susans are not weeds to me as they move from pot to pot on the wings of a slight breeze. I'm actually thrilled when I spy something in a new location and try to plot the path of the wind. I love to see seedlings pop up between pavers though I suspect it may not be the best for the roof membrane.This year I'm coddling two tiny seedlings that might be scions of my coral bark Japanese maple. (above) If they prove to be so, I'll buy new big containers and settle them in for a lifetime above 3rd. Avenue.
      The Dilemma
      Deadheading usually spurs the growth of both annuals and perennials. It's a task I thoroughly enjoy, the kind of mindless garden activity that's both productive and relaxing. My new spectacular lupines come with the instructions to cut off spent flower stems before the seedpods form. But if I do, they won't be able to seed themselves, as lupine are prone to do. Bigger, stronger mother plant, or potential babies? That is the question.

      Thursday, April 28, 2011


      Virginia bluebells, native dogwood, redbud in bloom, a river running in the background,
      a stand of fern: wouldn't you just know that you're standing at Dykeman St. and Harlem River Drive, in that serene oasis of plants and wildlife, Swindler Cove Park?
      Wander by the spread of Solomon seal, then sit yourself down to contemplate the white bleeding hearts or walk a few hundred feet to the edge of the Harlem River and watch the activity surrounding the boat house. It was completed in 2004 and floated into place. What looks serene and bucolic now was until recently an illegal dumping site, dark and dangerous until rescued by the heroic New York Restoration project founded by Bette Midler. P.S.5 adjoins this site, and part of the park plan was to incorporate a children's garden into Swindler Cove Park. Enter through arches of grape vines, admire raised beds with vegetables, an herb garden and strawberry patch and a cold frame where seedlings are being hardened off before planting.
      Students from the school and from classes all over the city come to learn whence cometh their food, and to taste produce grown here.
      Visit a fresh water pond, a restored wetlands, ornamental gardens. I admired containers ready for a planting of annuals, an idea ripe for home gardeners. This place not only restores the woodlands, shoreline and and wetlands, but the soul as well.
      To learn more: directions, programs and visiting click here.

      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.

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