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

      Showing posts with label bamboo. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label bamboo. Show all posts

      Wednesday, May 5, 2010


      Sunday at 9:30 a.m. I ran through the amazing hallways of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and up the last flight of stairs to savor in solitude the new exhibit created by twin brothers Doug and Mike Starn. Of course there were three guards, one guide and the security chief, but I was almost alone for about ten minutes. The construction is made of some 5000 bamboo poles secured by miles of nylon rock climbing ropes in varying colors and thicknesses. Three different species of bamboo grown in Georgia and South Carolina are part of the form. A team of rock climbers installed the first section rising 30 feet off the roof, overlooking the greenery of Central Park and the skyline of Central Park South. They lashed the culms together in a seemingly haphazard way, though I'm told that there is a grand plan with drawings and everything. Visitors will witness the evolving incarnations of Big Bambú as it is augmented throughout the spring, summer, ultimately reaching 50 feet high and wide. (above, more poles for the next phase)
      After agreeing to a long
      list of conditions and
      registering in advance,
      visitors can stride with
      a guide up through the
      heights of the structure.
      The guide's talk drifted
      down to the terrace
      below as I admired one
      of my favorite parts of
      the roof garden, the
      old wisteria vines,
      now in full bloom amidst
      the bamboo stanchions.

      The Met web site says that the exhibition shows the "cresting wave that bridges realms of sculpture, architecture, and performance. Set against Central Park and its urban backdrop, Big Bambú will suggest the complexity and energy of an ever-changing living organism".

      My fascination stems from the plant itself, this quickly renewable resource now used in flooring, table ware, and even fabrics. In China, scaffolding is made of bamboo because it's strong, cheap and readily available.
      Bamboo is also colorful and beautiful and excellent as a living screen. I'm growing black bamboo in containers on my rooftop. Some clematis dropped in (apparently from seed blown from a neighboring container, and are now climbing up the culms. But more about that another day.

      Thursday, January 28, 2010


      Paper bush at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
      I often take children on treasure hunts through garden or woods. We search for what's in season, what's unusual, cool, or beautiful. We admire, photograph, sketch or gather, depending on where we are. We make fairy houses and other wondrous crafts with pods, cones, dropped leaves and petals.

      January 26th at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, I was on my own, no child in tow. In the 'dead' of winter I wanted to find what was most alive and most appealing outdoors. Here are some treasures I discovered in just a tiny part of the BBG, on the walk from the #2 train to a meeting in the auditorium.

      Of course, Snowdrops. Not so unusual in January but a very pleasing reminder that spring is coming. Also a big container of pansies at the entrance on Eastern Parkway. A stand of green stinking hellebores mixed with the copper of faded fern stems, and sprays of hardy Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) displaying their yellow flowers. (below)Buds
      I swear I've never seen Paper bush before (Edgeworthia chrysantha, top image) but this shrub gathered a crowd of admirers, all gardening professionals. The "American Hort. Society Encyclopedia of Plants" shows pictures of this species with yellow flowers. So these must be the buds.
      Fattening up too are the buds of the Star Magnolia, one of the first to bloom in spring. Their flowers are often blackened by late frost so never a favorite in my own gardens.
      Last Fall's fruit still looking attractive are yellow and red-berried hollies.
      A little wrinkled but still vibrant are the fruits of a flowering crab (Malus 'Sugar Time')

      What looked like an
      evergreen Magnolia
      was spark-
      ling in the sun. (I didn't
      dare hop over the fence
      to check the ID tag).

      The variegated leaves of
      the Kumazasa bamboo
      (Sasa veitchii) below,
      while not in peak con-
      dition, served their
      architectural function
      around the viewing
      platform of the Japan-
      ese Hill and Pond

      Without the distraction of flowers, I found lots of bark treasures, in particular two varieties of Crape-myrtle. The bark is so smooth it seems like a sanding machine has just completed its work.Whenever I'm in a special garden I'm looking for stuff that I can plant at home. One of the great treasures found on this hunt is a stand of Black Bamboo (Phyllostchys nigra), so called because of the shiny black stems of the mature plant. I actually do use it on my roof garden in a 30" pot. It's very successful for its conditions but will never compare to this magnificent specimen. Note how it's planted at the BBG isolated by a swath of driveway. Someone must have measured the longest possible root creep and decided it's safe.

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