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

      Showing posts with label crafts. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label crafts. Show all posts

      Monday, December 3, 2012


      When still living in Pennsylvania I hosted a holiday home tour to benefit the public library. The rose hips from the multiflora rose, considered a noxious weed by local farmers, were free for the picking in my tree line and by roadsides. When used by handfuls they're appropriately showy. I paired the rose hip wreath with peppers from the market, placed on an apple-stacker. (photo © Alan & Linda Detrick, all rights reserved)
      My holiday wreaths are traditional only in that they use local materials, and my definition of local involves my grown children, hundreds of miles away where I have picking privileges.  No ribbon on this one either; evergreens from daughter Jen's place in rural NH. Birch bark from son Mike's place also in rural NH.  Osage Orange slices from my favorite tree in Riverside Park, dried in my NYC oven.
      I adorned The Lost Mitten Wreath with stuffed mittens and gloves, toys, and clumps of saved yarn from another project, in the right color tones of course. Fresh greens from Jen's again.
      And when you have no greens, do as Angela Chandler did for the Central Park Arsenal Wreath Show. She found a great use for the ubiquitous hangers from the dry cleaners. Fantastic!
      Below, not a constructed wreath on wire but a simple placement of fresh greens, birch bark, cones and dried Osage orange slices enhance this corn/cranberry relish; it's mostly stuff left over from other wreaths.
      As always, I save pruning chores for when I need the branches. Here an overgrown boxwood provided my greens, and the market all of my fruits and veggies. Notice how sparse the Winterberry; that was my whole crop the year I made the wreath. (photo © Alan & Linda Detrick, all rights reserved)
      As author of The Ultimate Wreath Book, Rodale Press, 1995, I was well aware of my influences when I created this collage for my new book, Artful Collage from Found Objects, Stackpole Books, 2012. I called it The Crown Jewels because it seemed like an ancient royal necklace, although it was constructed with locust pods, acorns and cones found on city streets. A little gold and copper spray paint helps. So I guess this is the Ultimate Wreath Collage.

      Wednesday, November 7, 2012


      My American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) looks great both spring and fall, and though this species is nowhere near as rampant as the Chinese wisteria, it still needs some pruning. Despite blooming on new wood, NOW is when I want to prune, so now I shall because I want to make a small wreath for a Thanksgiving centerpiece. I'll have plenty of vine left to support bloom in spring.
      So I prune eight 3-4' long pieces after the leaves have dropped (or strip off leaves), and just start wrapping, using no wire or clips of any kind. Form the first strand in a rough circle or oval shape and twist the ends around the circle to hold it. Continue with all your other pieces of vine. My finished wreath is 10" in diameter, perfect for putting on a platter. Note the small seed pod, bottom left which I've left in place.
      I just pile up some fresh fruit for decoration and to be eaten but the vine wreath base will last for years. If you don't have wisteria use whatever woody vine you need/want to prune, like kiwi, honeysuckle, even clematis.
      If you form the wreath before a heavy freeze sets in, the vine will be perfectly pliable, but even if you've waited until winter, you can always soften the wood by soaking overnight in a bathtub of warm water.
       My wisteria spring 2012, and below in fall before dropping leaves.

      Friday, March 23, 2012


      (click on photo to enlarge)
      Two weeks ago I planted seeds in my rooftop containers for cool weather crops; sweet peas, love-in-a-mist, and wasabi arugula. I pruned and fed my roses, cut down my old perennial leaves and tidied up the garden.
      My next activity was to design this garden collage, using my own photos of butterflies, moths and insects; pressed mexican sage, hydrangea and sumac leaves from my garden; pressed ginko leaves from the tree at my cross-town bus stop, and handdrawn ginko leaves on clear acrylic, all on a background of handmade paper. (and no, wise guy, I didn't make my own paper).
      While most of the elements are completely glued down, some butterfly wings rise up a bit as if in flight.
      I hope someone loves it and wants to buy it and give it a good home but until that happens it has a good home right in my living room where I can see it every day.

      Thursday, March 31, 2011

      NOW IN NYC

      Prune the roses. Done.
      Cut the Montauk daisies (above) back to the fresh green leaves. Done.
      Enjoy the pansies that have wintered over. Done.
      Watch the buds forming on the dwarf quince planted last spring. Done
      Admire the daffodils planted on the roof last fall. Done.
      Greet the biennial hollyhocks, planted indoors from seed last year, now reappearing in healthy green clumps. Done. I expect BIG FLOWERS this year.

      Must Do in the Next Two Days:

      Order pansies and plant them in treewells.(Here I'm vying with Other Ellen for most glamorous gardening pose.)
      Plant out chive seedlings, growing on my windowsill since early Feb.
      Nip tips of zinnia seedlings on my windowsill, planted for a demo in early Feb. and now much too big to wait for May frost date.
      Pull out last year's annuals.
      Watch for self-sown California poppies from last year's crop.Clean around the day lilies.
      Thin bachelor buttons which have self-seeded from two years ago.Cut back the cinqfoil, lavenders, hydrangea and butterfly bush.Clean out tool shed.
      Distribute homemade compost.
      Work on a new collage.Write two pages of my new book.

      Monday, January 3, 2011


      The images in this post are of my own work. All include recycled or re-purposed objects, some found on the streets of NY; many include plant materials. Click on any image to enlarge.

      Above: "Water Towers NYC" by Ellen Spector Platt, digital images, painted and pasted paper, pressed Japanese maple and yarrow leaves, glue. The view from my living room window;in this collage I'm greening the rooftops.
      Above: "Westside in Autumn" by Ellen Spector Platt, cut digital images, torn paper, mesh bag, pressed leaves. Here I'm greening the rooftops of the west side in autumn.

      Above: "Building Bridges", cut digital images, torn paper, watercolor paints, gold pen.
      Above: "Design/Build"cut blueprints, torn paper, acrylic paints, wood coffee stir sticks, parts from a wine box. The landscape here is made of found,torn green papers.

      Above: "The Crown Jewels", from the streets of New York City, locust pods, acorn caps, and fir cones; also magnolia leaves, sorghum pieces, paper fasteners, legal seals, newspaper, gold and copper paint, glue. Above: "Grandma Roses", pressed roses and rose leaves, old fabric, old botanical and advertisement, on bamboo paper, paper, paint, glue. Above: "Temple of the Gods", found birch bark, Japanese maple twigs from my garden, cardboard wrapping from egg carton delivered by Fresh Direct, wooden yard-stick give-away, embroidered leaves, paper, paint, glue.Above: Night on the Town, cut digital images, paper, paint, glue, found metal and fabric.
      Above:"Grandma's Sewing Box", old buttons, thread, bobbins and other findings, ribbon, name tapes all from my mother's sewing box; papers from a late 19th C. fashion newspaper; cotton boll I grew on a NYC rooftop in a container. Above, "Waterlilies", handpainted paper, cut photos, gold foil, gold wire, brass tacks, piece of file folder.
      Above: "Black & White & Red All Over", cut and painted recycled papers, coffee filter, sanding disc, paper doily.
      Above: "Historic Deco District", cut digital images, cut recycled paper, Florida beach sand.
      Above: "Still Life in Black and White": cut and torn recycled papers, cancelled postage stamps, pressed home-grown elephant ear leaves and flowers of Montauk daisy.

      Thursday, September 30, 2010


      ESP with just a few of her purchases at River Garden Flower Farm stand, North end of the Union Sq. Greenmarket, New York City. Photo courtesy B.B. Platt.

      Not just drawn to the fruits and vegetables, I'm pulled as if by magnets to the flowers of the farmers market.
      Not so long ago I was the proud owner and chief weeder of working farm. In addition to the rows of flowers & herbs I raised for drying in my barn, I grew
      fresh cuts, partly so I could bring them by armloads into my home.
      © Alan & Lind Detrick, all rights reserved)

      Now living in New York City I go to any greenmarket for my lilacs, peonies, sunflowers et al. In fall when Other Ellen is busy preserving her fruit harvest, making wines and jams, I'm preserving flowers for the fall and winter seasons. At the River Garden stand on the last Sat. in August I had a choice of cockscomb in jewel box colors, globe amaranth, blue salvia, mixed grasses, ageratum, amaranthus, and double sunflowers. All I need is a place to hang them that is WARM DARK & DRY. For everything you've ever wanted to know about drying flowers see my first book Flower Crafts.

      Don't Tell
      My favorite is a secret spot in my building that is locked and dark most of the time, and about 110 degrees. Fleshy flowers like cockscomb will dry in four days in that setting, smaller flowers even faster.Flowers shrink somewhat and lose the vividness of color as they dry but I know this and account for it by purchasing enough flowers to make a full arrangement and flowers that have a strong color to start with.
      Here are a few of the arrangements I made: Grasses, feather celosia with tansy picked wild from the back of Dave & Linda's house in MA. Grasses in a Japanese bamboo container hanging on my living room wall. Cockscomb, tansy and grasses in the bathroom.
      Sorghum under a photo by Jen Platt Hopkins.
      At the Santa Fe Farmers Market I was enchanted by these chains of double marigolds. Double click on the image to read the lovely sign.

      Wednesday, September 15, 2010


      Part of Jen Platt Hopkins 2010 garlic crop drying in her shed.

      May I brag?
      Daughter Jen has won a blue ribbon for the second year at the New Hampshire State Fair for her "Plate of Garlic". Each entrant must offer five (and only five) bulbs on a paper plate for the judging. Jen's garlic is both sweet an pungent, though the judges work only from appearance, not taste! Jen harvesting garlic in her garden surrounded by deer fence.

      Jen grows vegetables, herbs and cut flowers in her Zone 4, Canterbury NH garden. It's a place where I weed for hours on end, surrounded by her lovelies and their delicious scents, away from my daily air of Manhattan. She grows stiff-neck garlic ( Allium sativum ophioscorodon, short name ophio, or top-set garlic) This species sends up a hard flower stalk that makes a tight loop at the top of the stem in some varieties, then forms a capsule at the tip holding tiny bulbils. The bulbils, about the size of a grain of wheat can be saved and planted. They take three years in the ground before they are big enough to dig for home use.

      Stiff or soft?
      Stiff-neck garlic is thought to be tastier than soft-neck varieties (Allium sativum), though it doesn't store as well, only 3-6 months so doesn't appear in your supermarket. The stiff-necked is also thought to be medicinally much more potent. The soft-neck garlic doesn't tolerate cold well and is usually restricted to southern gardens; but a few varieties have been adapted to colder regions. Its used for garlic braids because the stems are soft.

      Just wait til next year
      A superb characteristic of garlic is that the grower can set aside a small portion of the crop each year (called 'seed garlic') for next year's planting. Jen keeps big blemish-free bulbs for her 'seeds', harvesting in July, then planting in mid to late October after a light frost. After pulling from the ground bulbs are cleaned, then hung in an airy, dark place to dry. Before planting, cloves are carefully separated from the stem, but NOT peeled. Each bulb will produce 6-8 large cloves. Tiny cloves are used in cooking and not replanted.
      Jen's first garlic came from a nearby farm, now defunct, and she's been saving her own seed garden for seven years. Friends Mary & Paul down the dirt road in Canterbury grow fruits and vegetables for their daily use. Mary stores her seed garlic by threading it through the slats of a wooden crate. (below)
      To Eat or Admire?
      Not only did Jen win first prize for her 'Plate of Garlic' but in 2008 she also won a blue ribbon in the category: "Dried Herbs, decorative", with a swag of stiff-neck garlic, calendula, sumac seed heads and chive flowers.It's the-same-but-different from the stiff-neck garlic swag that I created for my book 'Garlic, Onions & Other Alliums', by Ellen Spector Platt, Stackpole Books, 2003. Mine included three varieties of hot peppers, bay leaf, and sage, the idea being to use whatever herbs you have at hand with the stiff stems of the garlic providing the structure, and everything else being wrapped in bunches with wire to the garlic. What's the garlic equivalent of 'the apple doesn't fall far from the tree'?
      To learn all about garlic and other alliums, see my book, above.

      Friday, November 27, 2009


      Our family tradition when I was little was to take a Sunday drive in the country, leaving West Philadelphia for the rural atmosphere of Rosemont Pa, hunting for 'The Bittersweet Man'. He stood by the big curve on Montgomery Avenue, arriving in late September, selling bunches of bittersweet and Japanese lanterns. He'd remain for a few week's then disappear until the following year.
      My Mother had a pottery pitcher with a shiny brown glaze that was the only container she'd ever use for the orange berries. Now I insist on cutting my own bittersweet every fall, from the roadsides in PA, NJ, NY or my favorite place, a certain backyard in Ipswich MA. Yes I know it's an invasive scourge to many people, but I'm actually doing a community service when I cut stems when the shells are bright yellow, just before the berries, open to bring indoors.
      These days I often make
      a simple wreath with the
      stems. Here's how.
      1.Cut stems in full berry,
      three to four feet long.
      2.Take one stem and
      wrap it around itself,
      tucking in the end. Now
      you have the base of
      the wreath. Even a six
      year-old can do it with-
      out help.
      3.Take another stem and
      weave it in and out
      around the circle. Tuck
      in any small branches
      that jut out.
      4.The trick is to harvest
      the stems just before
      the berries open, mid
      September around New
      York City, second week in October around Ipswich, and make the wreath the same day you pick the stems. That way you'll have almost no droppage of berries. Hang the wreath indoors in a spot that doesn't get brushed against, or on a door that doesn't get slammed. Prop on a shelf, or lay flat on a coffee table out of reach of the dog's tail. Lucy is very proud of her wreath, and I'm proud of mine.

      I'll keep it until just after Thanksgiving on my coffee table (top of the post) then replace it with something else; but my little yellow pitcher with extra stems, sitting on a shelf in the bathroom, will stay until spring.

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