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

      Showing posts with label book. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label book. Show all posts

      Monday, October 22, 2012


      Other Ellen and I went to Tucson AZ last week to a national Garden Writers Symposium, tours of public and private gardens, lectures about the newest plants and newest media, networking.

      I showed my new book, "Artful Collage from Found Objects", in the Trade Show and found  columnists, bloggers, radio and TV hosts who promised to spread my fame, if not fortune. As luck would have it my book has a desert-inspired cover, albeit with dried green foxtail weeds, not cacti.
      Three Tucson garden hosts fed us lemonade made with prickly pear cactus fruit, all made much too sweet for my taste.
      We were too late for bloom in the Sonoran Desert but saw remnants of other fruits like that of the fishhook barrel cactus.

       and the teddybear cholla. (below)
      And as the sun set in the West, Other Ellen and I cut our afternoon lectures and drove with two other writer/photographers to the fabulous Saguaro National Park where we learned that cactus spines not only protect a plant from animals but offer some shade and shield it from drying winds.  The  saguaro cactus, icon of  old Westerns, may be 75 years old before it sprouts an 'arm' and lives 175-200 years.
      When it dies, the woody ribs inside were used by the local Tohono O'odham tribe for building shelters and fences.

      Friday, November 26, 2010


      There's no trick to buying a great gift if you have a hefty budget: a meaningful, practical and original book like "Edible Landscaping" by Rosalind Creasy; the perfect tool for your favorite gardener, like Fiskars long handle tree pruner; one of the composters from Gardener's Supply Co. But let's think long and hard about a great garden gift that costs nothing but ingenuity.

      A favorite gift on the receiving end came some years ago when Ben & I first moved to our farm. Our family had decided that for our holiday gifts that year, it would have to be something you made, had in your possession already, or an IOU for a future service. I was about to start my new garden. Son Mike & daughter-in-law Em gave me a treasure map with clues. The whole party accompanied me to track down the gift secreted in the bottom of the barn: 5 big bags of well rotted horse manure.

      If you have no horse manure some other ideas.
      1.Do you have any compost you can share with a New Yorker who has treasured houseplants? Wrap and label it prettily, give it your brand name/logo, and you've given a treasure.
      2. Take a cutting from a favorite houseplant, root it, plant it in one of those many extra pots you have, washed to be impeccably clean. Add a plant name, a little story about the plant, care instructions, and voila!3. Make a holiday wreath from greens that you prune from the garden. Add some natural decorations like cones, pods or bark, natural or sprayed gold or copper. Give in early December so your recipient can enjoy it for a long time.
      4. A nicely printed gift certificate for several hours of weeding/and or pruning to a person who hates those chores. Or if you live close by, a visit or two of plant or garden care while the giftee goes on vacation.5. A favorite gift to give was a session of garden coaching, presented to a young couple, non-gardeners who had just moved into their first home. I gave them a gift certificate listing my services: two hours of on-site garden design, plant suggestions and gardening instruction.
      6.What's your best idea for a no-cost garden gift? Betsy, are you reading? I hope you've been saving those tasty dried petals for me from your apothecary rose. I need them for a dessert I want to try.

      Tuesday, October 12, 2010

      Grow, Cook, Eat

      If there's one thing I like more than gardening, it's eating. And if you can eat what you grow, well, that's extra special double plus good. That's why the Edible Garden extravaganza at the NYBG floats my boat.

      All summer long, celebrity chefs have been serving up fresh recipes, focused on home grown produce. This Sunday at 1pm, chef Todd English makes a special appearance; he'll give a demonstration and share suggestions for cooking with local, seasonal produce. Admission is $20 for Adults, $18 for 
Students/Seniors, and $8 for Children 2–12. NYBG members and 
Children under 2 can attend for free. For more details, click here.

      And while we're on the subject of edible gardening...let's think outside the cold frame. Most people consider their kitchen gardens and their ornamental gardens to be two different things, but it ain't necessarily so. As someone who often has to make magic (both edible and ornamental) in small spaces, I aim for a Blended Garden.

      What is a Blended Garden, you ask? It's a garden where plants do double duty: everything must be both beautiful AND delicious. Yes, it's a lot to ask, but I have no patience for slackers. Maybe you've grown wild ginger for its beautiful leaves or Juneberry for its early spring flowers and didn't realize these plants could feed your body as well as the gardener's soul. They can, and they do.

      Interested? A new book by Nan Chase shows you how to get started. And just your luck, Nan will be doing a reading and signing at the NYBG this Saturday from 3-4 pm.

      In Eat Your Yard! Nan suggests plants and herbs to beautify and satisfy; she also provides recipes to help you make the most of her recommendations. Blueberries, prickly pear, quince, citrus, and chestnuts are just a few of the edible plants pretty enough for anyone's garden.

      If all this makes you hungry, head to the NYBG this weekend. You can visit with Nan or get recipe tips from Todd English. Either way, you're in for a tasty treat.

      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, February 13, 2010

      Buy this book! (please)

      I met Sam Thayer at the 2007 NC Wild Foods Weekend. I was considering the trip, and when I saw that Sam was the featured speaker, that clinched it. I'd read his first book, The Forager's Harvest, and was impressed by the depth of his information and the sense of humor and personality that came through on every page. Sam offers a rare combination of vast experience and solid research. He's not afraid to use Latin names or correct terminology for plant parts and he also has deep personal knowledge of every plant he suggests.

      Nature's Garden is Sam's second book and it's an even better read than the first. Once again, he has chosen a relatively small group of plants (42), then provides numerous, excellent photographs of every stage of every plant. He writes in detail about each edible, explaining where to find it, when to harvest, and how to prepare it. Sam's voice comes through loud and clear and his enthusiasm is contagious. And he isn't afraid to take a controversial stand, which he backs up with convincing data and details.

      Nature's Garden begins with a section titled "Claimer" and reading it made me want to raise my fist in the air and say "Right on." So many books begin with a disclaimer intended to shield both author and publisher from litigation. Unfortunately this results in DIScouraging the reader from experimentation. Sam wrote his book to ENcourage people to forage, and he takes full responsibility for the information therein. He claims the contents rather than disclaims them, and then encourages us to read intelligently and be careful with our explorations.

      Sam makes it clear that this is not a field guide; at 500+ pages, Nature's Garden would add weight to your backpack, plus it's so beautiful you might not want to risk schmearing it with mud or dropping it in a stream. I plan to use it for pre-foraging inspiration, then for instruction when I get my harvest home to the kitchen.

      I could go on and on about the plants Sam includes (acorns, elderberry, Jerusalem artichoke, Mayapple), about his philosophy of nature as a garden, but I'd rather you read it for yourself. (N.B. Most of the plants in the book can be found in the Five Boroughs.) If you're a forager, this book should be in your library. If you're thinking about starting to forage, Nature's Garden will give you the jump start you need.

      Wednesday, September 9, 2009


      Lavender path in Bath, England

      In winter ’09 I was a judge in the Garden Writers Association competition for best garden book of the year. The judges assessed dozens of books; the grand prize will be announced in three weeks.

      I just finished reading my favorite garden book of the decade, maybe even of all time. It was written in 1932 so doesn’t qualify for this year's Garden Writer's award. The book is “Down the Garden Path” by Beverley Nichols.

      I suppose every American and British gardener has enjoyed this book for years, but I came to it only last week, ultimately seduced by the exalted praise in the Timber Press catalog. I know never to believe a person trying to sell me something, and yet when I was desperate for a summer read, my library came up with an old edition, one of 32 editions that have been in print since first publication. No colored pictures, no “how-to’s”, just delicious adventures in gardening.
      Dyffrn Garden, Wales

      Nichols is not an expert, but a reporter/playwright/novelist who is in the full flush of garden discovery. He is peevish, his humor acerbic, his prejudices on full display. He’s a misogynist, and yet I can ignore this trait that would enrage me in a contemporary writer. "Down the Garden Path" is a book by a writer with a man-servant and a gardener, so it relates to another time and class, yet the author's discoveries are eternal.
      His chapter on gardening in London speaks to the problems and joys of all Big City gardeners.
      Treat yourself.
      Magnolia in home garden below street level , Bath England

      Monday, December 1, 2008

      A Creative Gift

      Macro Photography for Gardeners and Nature Lovers by Alan Detrick, (Timber Press, 2008, 24.95 paperbound)

      This can’t be an unbiased book review when the author, Alan Detrick is a good friend, a colleague and my collaborator on one book, two magazines and many other projects. Instead it’s an appreciation from a grateful student for a teacher, who with words and many stunning pictures can make me stop, observe, think, notice and change how I perceive the world. This is no mean feat and Detrick accomplishes his goals in this book partly by giving the reader the rationale behind the photos. Many times he offers side-by-side images of the same subject taken two or more different ways, pointing not only technical differences, but his visualization of the outcome.©Alan & Linda Detrick

      Detrick defines macro photography as “capturing an image that’s at least the same size on film or digital sensor as the actual subject and up to 10X the size of the actual subject”. There’s absolutely no need to be either a gardener or a nature lover to enjoy ‘Macro Photography’. It will tell any photographer how to capture fantastic light and patterns, and the flowers, leaves or insects can be almost incidental. His discussions of backgrounds struck a chord, because while I’m very aware of junk in a picture, I’m much less aware of how adding (or subtracting) splashes of background color can make or break the image.
      ©Alan & Linda Detrick

      But maybe because I am a dedicated gardener, I found the bug images particularly enchanting, a change from my usual concentration on flowers and foliage. I’m left with the feeling that even I could capture a pollen covered bee just crawling out of an early morning flower if I follow the master’s tips.

      There’s a big downside to this book however. It’s hard to simply read and admire. It may cause you to run out to buy a macro lens, the low tripod, cable release and other necessities to try macro yourself. Detrick is a one-man economic stimulus package.

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