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

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

      Tuesday, May 8, 2012

      terrific tree pits!

      Tree pits are the quintessential NYC garden. Small, public, subject to regular abuse, and possessing the potential to delight or disgust. (We are, after all, a city of extremes.)

      Next Tuesday (from 10 am - 1 pm) I'll be teaching a class called Terrific Tree Pits at the Manhattan campus of the NYBG at 20 W 44th Street. If you're interested in learning the do-s

      (Ellen Spector Platt, both gardener & photographer)

      and don't-s

      of how to plant a tree pit, why don't you join me?

      Sunday, September 11, 2011


      I came off the E train at Port Authority en route to a midtown lunch. Let's face it, it's not one of the more scenic parts of our fair city, so you'll appreciate my surprise at finding this on 40th Street.

      Even though I was already late, I had to stop and take a few shots...to show my appreciation. When I looked to see which midtown business had injected a little bit of tropical beauty into this otherwise dingy block...


      I'm pretty much speechless.

      It's like being married for 23 years and finding out your husband can still surprise you. Fantastic.

      Monday, August 15, 2011

      two blocks in Brooklyn

      I wasn't looking for it. I got off the C train and walked up Washington Street en route to a Brooklyn play date. When what to my wondering eyes did appear...

      House after house, yard after yard, impressed me with plant choice and container combinations. And talk about making the most of a small space!

      It wasn't all good.

      You know how I feel about red mulch.

      I know they're doing good work (it's a soup kitchen) but really...plastic daffodils?

      But some of it was great!

      This sign explained some of the horticultural dedication. Perhaps the community garden vibe overflows out and onto the sidewalks of Washington Avenue. Whatever the reason, I was impressed and delighted. Go Brooklyn.

      Wednesday, August 3, 2011

      Where am I?

      Some of you may know that I'm just back from Alaska. Thanks to O.E. for carrying both her weight and mine while I was away.

      After a week of playing catch up on the terraces and in the greenhouses, I found myself walking in midtown this morning, when all of a sudden I was magically transported to a tropical paradise.

      Where was I?

      a walled Moroccan garden?

      a Moorish palace in Spain?

      a Victorian glasshouse?

      I could tell you, but it's more fun (for me) if you guess.
      A few hints:

      I wasn't the only one enchanted by this not-so-secret garden.

      Where was I?

      Saturday, July 31, 2010


      Double click to enlarge the image above.
      6:30 a.m. Thursday I strolled down my block, garden gloves in my pocket, looking for coleus flowers to nip. My local block association wanted to plant coleus and petunias in every treewell this year, and I volunteered for the nipping job during the growing season. At the end of the block, a nice pair of men's shoes rested among the coleus. This tree was in front of the laundry/dry cleaners. No one walking their dog or leaving for work seemed concerned.The shoes were gone by the next day.
      Writers Needed
      What's the New York story?
      I beg you to comment, three sentences or less, and tell our eagerly awaiting blog readers the backstory. For those who have trouble adding comments (you know who you are), email them to me and I'll add them to the post.

      Additional Facts1.At the other end of the block, one of the treewells that I planted (now sans tree) is growing well without a pair of black shoes.2. Directly across the street from the black-shoe -treewell, next to a RightAide, the rats have taken over the territory.3.Where someone has cared enough to water the plants in front of their building the coleus looks as it was meant to.
      4. Where no one has watered during one of the hottest, driest July's on record, the plants look like this.
      5. Of course I HATE to brag, but.....mine.

      Friday, May 28, 2010

      Clinton Community Gardens

      I was a few minutes early for my hair cut last week. Lucky for me, The Colour Box is across the street from the Clinton Community Gardens, which could not have been more beautiful. Sadly, no one was working in the garden at the time, so I had to take all my photos from outside the fence. So full of bloom...it felt like an impossibly perfect garden moment.

      The juxtaposition of soft rose petal and
      hard metal fence gets me every time.

      If you live in the neighborhood, between 34th and 59th Streets, 8th Avenue and the Hudson, you're eligible for a key to the front garden. Bring proof of address (driver's license, Con Ed bill, library card) and $10 (for the key) on Tuesdays between 6 & 7 pm or Saturdays between 11 am & noon.

      There's a waiting list for rear garden plots, where members grow edibles and ornamentals. Visitors are allowed into the front garden when a key holder is present...and if they abide by the rules!

      Next time you're strolling down 48th Street (between 9th & 10th), peek through the fence. If you see someone hard at work ask them to let you in. If I saw this much from the sidewalk, just imagine what treasures await within.

      Sunday, March 21, 2010

      a roving reporter visits Austin, TX

      If I say Austin, do you think blue bonnets? Chances are if you're a garden fanatic, you know Austin, TX as the home of the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. This time of year is when the blue bonnets (aka Lupinus texensis) bloom, and despite the fact that the last few days in Austin have been colder than NYC, the flowers are starting to pop. It's a few weeks away from peak, but I still enjoyed the show.

      Also at the Wildflower Center was a spectacular yellow jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens) climbing up a galvanized water tank; what a great juxtaposition of color and texture. But they should really do something about the fire ant problem. Cayce's screams were heard for miles as she was dragged back to the colony.

      Downtown the streets are full of music lovers enjoying SXSW. (For more about the weekend in general, click here.) Street horticulture in Austin is predictably different from NYC; the plant palette tends toward the succulent, and galvanized is definitely in.

      Flying home tomorrow, and this preview of spring has got me psyched to start planting! I wonder if bottle trees are hardy in New York City.

      Thursday, August 27, 2009

      When is a container not a container?

      Two weeks ago I taught a terrace gardening intensive at the NYBG. (I should be grading the final projects right now!)

      One student asked, "When is a container not a container?" He was curious about green roofs, and whether he should think of a green roof as a container or as an in-ground garden. An interesting question...I think of them as super large containers: light weight potting mix, limited root space, and an impermeable boundary at the bottom. Not everyone agreed, and that led to an interesting discussion.

      Which got me thinking about how creative NYC gardeners can be when confronted by unusual planting opportunities. Someone on W 91st Street (between Amsterdam & Columbus) saw opportunity where most people would find only wasted space.

      It made me stop and smile as I rushed from one sweaty job to the next. Thanks, mystery gardener.

      P.S. I say these are both containers...what do YOU say?

      Sunday, May 31, 2009

      street hort...it tastes good

      I give props to anyone who tries to brighten up our city streets with a little horticulture. But seriously folks, no hort is better than bad hort:

      What does it take to keep a few evergreens alive? A little water, 6 hours of sunlight/day, and decent drainage in the container, that's what. If that's more than you can manage, be a mensch and admit it. In horticulture (as in everything else) it's wise to know your limitations. I'm not saying you shouldn't try to learn and grow as a gardener, but when you abdicate responsibility for the plants in your care, we ALL suffer. On the other hand, a single tree underplanted with a few shade loving begonias make a lovely, simple corner planting.

      Street plants put up with a lot more abuse than plants on rooftops and in window boxes. Not all New Yorkers appreciate horticulture and those that don't can be brutal. I wear gloves when working with street plants, and not just because of the dog pee. You find all sorts of things in tree pits and curbside gardens: used kleenex, half eaten food, prophylactics (that's right, you heard me). Believe it or not, people actually steal plants from street plantings; it's not unusual to find a gaping hole in your tree pit, where once there was a glorious Caladium. (Ask Other Ellen, she knows what I'm talking about.)

      This time of year, lots of restaurants add outdoor cafes, often surrounded by planter boxes. Do you suppose there's a correlation between the care given to a planter on the sidewalk and the care given to the food in the kitchen? Where would you rather eat?

      Perhaps I'll experiment. Except I'm NOT eating at the last place...that Hibiscus looks pathetic with no flowers and all its bare branch ends. It doesn't bode well for the food inside.

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