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

      Showing posts with label city parks. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label city parks. Show all posts

      Thursday, April 26, 2012

      fresh from the park

      What's on the menu?
      violet flowers and foliage for your salads

      spruce tips for flavoring salt, vodka, and simple syrup

      lilac flowers for wine

      all hail the noble poke 
      chickweed: raw in salads, cooked in eggs

       garlic mustard (hurry, as it gets warmer, the taste gets stronger)

      dandelion flowers for wine or cookies (or wine AND cookies)

      Not that I'm suggesting you pick anywhere without permission...
      Let the feasting begin!

      Wednesday, May 4, 2011

      Swindler Cove, part two

      Let me be clear: I'm not suggesting you go harvest all the edible plants from Swindler Cove! Not only would that be against the law, it would make the park less enjoyable for the rest of the world. But when OE and I were there last week, I couldn't help but notice how many of the landscape plants also had edible parts.

      I'm working on a new book about ornamental plants (and common weeds) with edible parts, and thought I'd show you what a quick walk through a small park has to offer. Perhaps you can find these same plants in your own back yard.

      The garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is nearing the end of its delicious stage. When the weather gets warm, its leaves will be tough and bitter. But right now...mmm...garlicky.

      Ostrich fern (Matteucia struthiopteris) is just slightly past its prime, but a few weeks ago, when it looked like this:

      those fiddleheads were crunchy and sweet.

      Yes, that's right, Sedum. Raw leaves are succulent and fresh out of hand and in salads. Has anyone tried cooking them?

      I didn't really eat the buds off the trees...but I could have!

      (thanks to ESP for the above photo)

      Sprinkle a few on salads, eggs, or as a general garnish. They have a mild, fresh, pea-like taste.

      That's just a first, quick walk of what's out there, ready to grace your dinner plate. Periodic updates, including hostas, lilacs, and juneberries, will be forthcoming.

      Wednesday, November 10, 2010

      Contest: Now it's your turn.

      We spend a lot of time here at GardenBytes telling you about our favorite parks and gardens in and around NYC...now it's your turn.

      It's another contest, but this one's a little different: no photos...only words! We want to hear about your favorite gardens & parks in New York City...in 75 words or less. (We didn't say it was going to be easy.) All suggestions must be in the 5 boros and accessible by public transportation; you get extra points for little known spots. Or little known spots within well known spots, e.g. that corner of the Ramble where the masses of dogtooth violets grow. Tell us why it's special and why you love it; we want to share.

      And now for the moment you've all been waiting for: the prize! It's a $25 gift card to Macy's. (I know, right?) This is thanks to Lauren @ Everywhere Media in Atlanta, GA. Apparently you don't have to be from NYC to appreciate NYC.

      The judges for this contest are yours truly (the two Ellens) and the deadline is Saturday, 11/27. Please post your entries in our comments section. We'll announce the winner about a week later.

      We can't wait to see where you take us!

      Saturday, November 6, 2010

      Have you ever been to...

      Do you even know where it is?

      If you're from around here you can probably guess it's in Inwood, at the very tip of Manhattan. There are several entrances conveniently located near several subway stops, but if you get off at the 215 St. stop (1 train) you can have a tasty lunch at the nearby Indian Road Cafe. The pulled pork sandwich was delicious and a bottle of pear cider put me over the top. Clear, crisp, cold...cliched? Who cares; it was the perfect beverage for a chilly, sunny fall day.

      One of the things I love most about NYC is how many different parts there are that make up the whole. Does this look like Manhattan?

      The correct answer is no, except, of course, that it's also yes.

      Inwood Hill Park includes playing fields, wooded trails,

      scenic overlooks,

      tidal flats,

      and even a Nature Center with clean bathrooms! Seriously people, what more could you want? Oh, and a stone marker commemorating the spot where Peter Minuit made the infamous deal with the Lenape Indians. I'm not sure that's something to celebrate, but I guess it's history.

      New York City parks provide that priceless juxtaposition of industrial with natural that never ceases to delight me.

      My spider sense tells me there are still a few weeks of beautiful foliage ahead of us in NYC, unless the weather changes drastically. So get yourself outside, maybe to someplace you've been meaning to visit in all the XX years you've lived here but darn it you just never seem to find the time.

      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.

      Friday, September 4, 2009

      It's not about the plants.

      My father is not a gardener. (My mother is a very good one.) He's not the slightest bit interested in plants, gardens, or parks. But he loves everything about New York City, so I thought we might hazard a visit to The High Line.

      Dad can't walk as fast or as far as he used to. But he has a deep and abiding love for NYC dating from his time at NYU Law School. When I told him that The High Line was the newest "must-see", he was game. I mapped out an abbreviated tour, taking advantage of the 16th Street elevators, and planning a mere 4 block walk.

      As soon as we got up there, Dad wanted more. It had nothing to do with the plants...he loved the view of the city, the unique perspective on the skyline and street life that The High Line delivers. The open views of the Hudson River, the unobstructed panorama including cutting edge architecture and neighborhood details.

      And for a committed people-watcher, The High Line is a gift. We stopped to talk to park rangers, watched a dance team practice a new routine, and admired gardeners weeding and watering. Dad had questions for them all.

      So even if you're not a gardener or a nature person, get yourself down to The High Line. For anyone who loves the city, it's an important place, with a new perspective. It's not just about the plants.

      Wednesday, August 5, 2009


      One month after I took my first astonishing walk on The High Line, I returned with my family to view the miracle that has been wrought in the Old Meat Packing District of New York City.The Friends of the High Line and the design teams they selected have transformed an elevated section of dysfunctional railroad track built in 1930, into New York City’s newest park. I insisted that my visiting family see for themselves.

      Summer has brought a
      meadow-like effect with
      strips of native and
      non-native flowering
      perennials and grasses.
      Trees and shrubs provide
      some height. On that
      Sunday at 8:30 a.m.
      only a few runners, a
      man with his coffee and
      MacBook, and some
      quiet strollers joined us.
      As the morning pro-
      gressed, more people

      I saw the city in a new
      and secret way. As
      traffic honked below, I
      was eye level with sec-
      ond floors and roofs of
      other buildings. There
      was bird song.
      Some sumac was in fruit.
      I spied the only building
      that Architect Frank
      Gehry has designed and
      built in New York City. I
      glimpsed a large liner
      and tug on the Hudson
      River and walked around
      the top of the Chelsea
      Market. It’s all here.

      There are just enough
      glimpses of rusty track,
      wooden ties and details
      evoking memories of
      the old railroad,
      that I had the same
      frisson as I did when
      as a girl, I walked the
      forbidden Pennsy RR
      tracks two doors away
      from our home. I fantasized putting a copper penny on these tracks, and having a steam locomotive roll over it to produce a flat souvenir as I did years ago.

      On prominent display now, drifts of gay feather (Liatris spicata), not one of
      my favorite garden flowers but here buffeted by the winds, looking as if it
      belongs; three cultivars of coneflower (Echinacea purpurea); blackeyed
      Susans; a lovely variety
      of Joe Pye (Eupatorium
      dubium ‘Little Joe’) that
      I grow on my roof in a
      container; the silvery
      fragrant native herb,
      Mountain Mint
      muticum); Sedum
      telephium ‘Red Cauli’; and bright red sneezeweed (Helenium x ‘Rubinzweig’).

      My girls, both plant
      lovers and gardeners
      were suitably impressed.
      My son-in-law who has
      the critical eye of one
      who does historical
      restorations for a living
      has nothing but positive
      words for those who
      saved this structure.
      And my husband, an
      avid non-gardener is
      wowed by the beauty
      and serenity of this
      special city hide-out.

      Notes of warning. I'm
      told The High line gets
      crowded weekends and
      holidays midday and

      A second section from
      W. 20th St. to W. 30th
      St. opened in June '11and an additional spur line north of 30th St.is still is awaiting redevelopment.
      Turn up the sound on your computer and click bottom right tear-drops to view the BEFORE pictures on video full screen.

      BEFORE, NYC from ellen platt on Vimeo.

      Friday, June 26, 2009

      getting high in NYC

      I am proud to be a New Yorker.

      New Yorkers love to complain, and I admit, I do my share. But not this time. I am insanely grateful to the powers that be: the NYC Parks Department, the extremely talented designers, the many wealthy benefactors. What an insanely wonderful gift this park is! Do not pass go, do not collect $200, go directly to The High Line.

      A single post can't do it justice. I'd need one to extoll the landscape design (James Corner Field Operations together with Piet Oudolf), another to praise the architecture (Diller Scofidio + Renfro), several posts to cover individual plants, and I'd still want to rave about the synergistic combination of the Manhattan skyline with the planted landscape.

      As an entirely inadequate introduction to the park, here's a little history.

      The High Line is an elevated railroad structure built in the 1930s, running from Gansevoort Street in the meatpacking district to 34th Street, next to the Javits Center. It allowed for the movement of freight by rail without clogging street traffic, and spurs were built to enter directly into the second floors of warehouses. Abandoned since 1980, the tracks were quickly colonized by hardy volunteer plants, which inspired the naturalized planting style of The High Line park today.

      South of 30th Street, The High Line is owned by the City of New York. It was donated to the city by CSX Transportation, which still owns the northern portion (30th Street to 34th Street). Although neighborhood residents organized to save the High Line from destruction in 1999, construction on the first section didn't begin until 2006.

      The second section (20th to 30th Street) opened in 2011. Those of us who thought nothing could top the first installment were stunned and amazed to discover the delights of The High Line, part two. The future of the third section is tied to the development of The Hudson Rail Yards; construction should begin in 2012.

      The High Line opens at 7 am, a great time to have it almost to yourself. For more details about hours, directions, and access, visit www.thehighline.org.

      Everywhere you look, the juxtaposition of bricks, mortar, and steel with sweeps of prairie flowers and ornamental grasses tells you you're not in Kansas anymore.

      A grove of 3-flowered maple trees (Acer triflorum) softens a corner of the elevated railway.

      Drought tolerant stonecrop (Sedum telephium 'Red Cauli') and companion grasses naturalize between concrete planks, imitating the original volunteer plants that colonized the railroad tracks.

      Who could resist the wooden chaises, positioned for lazy gazing across the Hudson?

      I struggle to communicate the significance of this park. So do me a favor, don't take my word for it. Get down there and see it for yourself. You won't be sorry.

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