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

      Showing posts with label butterflies. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label butterflies. Show all posts

      Friday, September 3, 2010


      The dwarf Joe Pye weed (above, left) seemed perfect for my garden. Especially after I brought home a trial pot of it from a Garden Writers Symposium in '06. This new variety 'Little Joe' (Eupatorium dubium) was supposed to grow only 3-4' tall, unlike it's cousin the native Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum) that grows up to 10' high. I plunked it in the only empty pot I had and in spring surrounded it with lettuce seeds. It did what it was supposed to do, starting in late summer and blooming into fall and looked great for three years, fast becoming one of my favorite container plants.
      When I transplanted everything into new pots early March '10 , the 'Little Joe' wasn't yet showing leaves and I forgot to look for it. After all the pots were replanted, it was among the missing. It must have gone out with the other old roots and dried stems. Onward and upward, and I'll buy a new one some other time.
      In the Garden
      Sure, if you have pond and a few acres, the native Joe Pye is ideal for the back of the border.I used to gather armfuls of flower stems for drying just as they were coming into bloom. The delicate mauve blossoms were a perfect filler for any dried arrangement. Double click on the image above to view another favorite, Angelica gigas in front of the Joe Pye.
      Around Town
      I see 'Little Joe' in many of the NYC parks. My favorite sighting is on The High Line where it's one of the late summer points of flower interest.Back on my Roof
      By late July this summer,
      I noticed some familiar
      looking, heavily veined
      and textured leaves.
      There, by a juniper,
      crowding my new dwarf
      nandina and quince, is
      the old 'Little Joe'. Still
      don't know if the roots
      got thrown in this pot
      or seeds had distributed
      themselves and
      naturalized here, but
      I'm grateful to see a
      favorite, and still with
      its following, a crowd
      of butterflies, somehow
      realizing that there
      was tempting nectar
      on the 18th floor of
      my building.

      Joe Pye weed is famous for attracting swallowtails and monarchs, but here on the Upper East Side, Manhattan, New York City, painted ladies are flitting all over my 'Little Joe'.Herbal Use
      Eupatoriums have a long history of medicinal use by the Chinese and American Indians, with the Joe Pye weed especially useful for its rhizomes. In the "New Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses", Deni Brown ed. cites uses "internally for kidney and urinary disorders, including stones, cystitis...prostate problems...painful menstruation, or history of miscarriage and difficult labor", Eupatoriums also have immune-stimulant and anti-cancer properties but can be toxic. Definitely not just a pretty face.

      Friday, February 19, 2010


      The living butterfly exhibit at the Am. Museum of Natural History.

      Sometimes I need a place to go in winter, breathe some humid air and observe plants and wildlife, a place not more than one fare away on my Metrocard. Not the obvious destinations like botanic gardens and zoos, but the lesser known and maybe less visited finds.

      I've been to two recently, one at The Rusk Institute at NYU Hospital, and the other at the American Museum of Natural History on Central Park West and 81st. St.Above, an aquatic garden with fish and plants demonstrates the ecological interplay of both at Rusk.

      Right, Clerodendrom in bloom in the glass house at Rusk.

      Rusk is famous for it's
      physical rehab program,
      but they also have a hort
      therapy program for
      children and adults who
      are patients there. Since
      1958 the Enid A. Haupt
      Glass House provides a
      tranquil retreat for both
      patients and visitors.
      NYU started the first
      horticultural therapy
      dept. in the US in 1970 and as part of the program established an outdoor children's garden. Visitors are welcome 365 days at no charge, although to enter from the street you need to come into the hospital on the 34th St. side between First and York Aves. and pass the security guard who waves you on through to the Glass House and walled garden. Neighborhood mothers with strollers often sit on the benches to meet and greet their friends. Songs from caged finches bred in captivity and pairs of lovebirds add a charming note.
      At the Natural History Museum, the butterfly exhibit (with tropical plants) is on display through May 31, 2010. There's a fee in addition to the general museum admission. I was hoping to sit on a bench, watch kids watching the butterflies sipping nectar from flowers and fruits, but alas, no benches in this smallish space; keep moving through the exhibit, so not too much tranquility here. Butterflies alight seemingly at random on hair and clothing of visitors. There's great hilarity when one perches on the seat of some nicely worn jeans, giving new meaning to the word butt-erfly.

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