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

      Showing posts with label evergreens. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label evergreens. Show all posts

      Tuesday, December 10, 2013


      Greens and lichen from the woods of New Hampshire, schlepped to New York City after a Thanksgiving visit to Jen & Mark Hopkins in Canterbury. Jen and I cut arbivitae, pine, spruce, fir and princess pine from her back forty. I wrap short cuttings onto a sturdy 12" frame with thin wire, aiming for a wild look.
      Back in my Manhattan living room, I invert a low green bowl on my glass coffee table
       and lay the wreath over the bowl. Don't tell me how uneven it is. I like it that way.
      After placement, I insert a few loose cones, lichen and pieces of thin birch bark among the greens.
      Sure you can add a big fat candle to the center, keeping it well away from the greens, but next week I'll show you my favorite design. 

      Friday, October 11, 2013


      Planting my four tree pits yesterday, I got lots of garden advice:

      Limo Driver with heavy accent to ESP: You're planting the cabbages too high. In my country where I had a big garden I had lots of fruit trees in my back yard. I know you should dig deeper.
      ESP to Limo Driver: Yes, I agree, but here on the streets of New York, the tree roots have taken over the whole plot and I can't dig down further without harming in roots. Where is your country?
      Limo Driver: Turkey... (continues description of his long-lost garden.)

      Young Man passing by: Those cabbages look good. Now is the time to plant them!
      ESP to self: That's why I'm planting them now.
      ESP to Young Man: Thanks
      Middle Aged Woman to ESP: Where did you buy those little evergreen shrubs?
      ESP to Middle-Aged Woman: I bought the kale in the flower district on 28th St. I pruned the juniper and cedar from the rooftop garden in this building, and just stuck the pieces in the ground to make them look like little shrubs. They'll look good for one to two months more if it's cooler and they get water regularly. I can replace them later if the ground isn't frozen too hard.
      M-AW: Great idea!
      ESP to Self: You can never resist an opportunity to teach, can you?
      Woman Rushing to Yoga Class: I use those cabbages in my Thanksgiving arrangements. If one is missing you'll know I took it.
      ESP smiles, says to Self: #@&*^#!

      See post just below, WHAT HAPPENED? for images of tree pits before replanting. I didn't disturb the big one that still looks good, just saved some kale to put in after the first frost wipes out the annuals. I expect to get a complaint within the next two days from someone in the building: The tree pits don't all match.
      ESP to Potential Complainer: You take care of the gardens for the next ten years, I'm done.

      Monday, November 14, 2011

      shedding evergreens

      It's that time of year again.

      Please don't panic.

      Instead, take a deep breath, put on a long sleeved shirt, a pair of gloves, and get ready to dive into your mugo pine, topiary chamaecyparis, or arborvitae.

      I'm going to let you in on a little secret: just because they're called evergreens doesn't mean ALL their leaves stay EVERgreen. It's normal for evergreens to lose about 1/3 of their leaves every year, and most of the browning and shedding happens in the fall. Clients who don't expect this tend to panic, and react with cries of "My _____ is dying!"

      But it isn't.

      It just needs a seasonal cleanup. Which requires no fancy tools and just the smallest amount of specialized knowledge. Ready? Once you've reached both hands inside the evergreen, move them around lightly and quickly in a rubbing/fluffing motion. Work from the top down and the inside out, moving around the entire shrub or tree. Occasionally you'll run into some stubborn brown needles, reluctant to give up their position on a branch. A quick snip of the pruners shows the recalcitrant evergreen who's in charge.

      A little trim and the restoration of youthful color...it's a hair appointment for your shrubbery.

      Saturday, November 20, 2010

      Encore! Encore!

      Umm, Ellen, something's wrong with our azaleas.

      Most people think of azaleas as spring bloomers, and traditional azaleas certainly are. So when my client saw the azaleas in bloom in her garden in November (!!!), naturally she thought something was wrong. What she didn't know was that I'd planted Encore Azaleas: the exception to the spring-blooming rule.

      Originally advertised as hardy to zone 7, Encore Azaleas weren't considered suitable for most parts of the greater NYC area. But three years ago, at a Garden Writers' symposium, I was offered a few free plants to try and asked to give feedback on their performance. Even though they weren't guaranteed to thrive in zone 6 I figured it was worth a try, and hey, they were free!

      The first year I got no autumn bloom, and the second I saw only a few fall flowers. But this year...the encore burst forth! General wisdom for this part of the country says perennials take three years to really get established; perhaps the same can be said for flowering shrubs. In containers and in the ground, the Encore Azaleas have hit their stride.

      There are 24 different varieties of Encore Azaleas, but only 10 are rated hardy for zone 6. Still, there's a wide selection of colors to choose from. They're not demanding plants. Mine (well, my client's) get very little coddling: irrigation and perhaps one feeding per growing season. The plant by the sidewalk is subject to all kinds of abuse: both human and canine.

      I often hesitate to extol the virtues of a plant that's been given to me by a grower, lest someone think I have been bribed or unduly influenced. But I'm truly impressed by the performance of the Encore Azaleas and recommend them without hesitation. I'd even pay money for them.

      This azalea is not in jail. It's thriving in a sidewalk container garden on East 61st Street, despite being subject to all sorts of canine depredations.

      Sunday, December 14, 2008

      Wreaths at Home, New York City Style

      photo© Alan & Linda Detrick, Ellen Spector Platt design
      I never shear my boxwood but keep it shapely and in proportion by pruning when I need some stems for design work. Above I paired boxwood with fresh babies breath and fresh berried eucalyptus (from a florist) to make two delicate wreaths on wire bases. All three materials dry readily in place. For the wreath on the door I added dried lotus pods that I've had for years and keep repurposing. (double click on image to see more detail)
      Wire fresh stems of Southern magnolia leaves (every florist sells these) to a straw wreath base. Buy small pomegranates, poke a wire through and tie each wire tightly to the wreath. Or poke a florist wood pick through the bottom of the fruit and the other end securely into the wreath. Wipe up dripping juice before you hang on your nice white wall. Use only classy ribbon like silk or satin if you choose to add a bow.

      To the right a similar
      magnolia leaf base. Add
      pine cones, dried lotus
      pods, and small arti-
      chokes sprayed to com-
      pliment the underside
      of the leaves. I find food
      markets to be invaluable
      sources of decorative
      materials any time of
      year. In this season, I
      also favor bright orange
      kumquats, lady apples,
      small lemons, and turnips.

      The Arsenal Gallery of the New York City Parks Dept. 5thAve. and 64th St. sponsors a holiday wreath show every year with a display of imaginative work. Here designer Freddie Piscina presents 'HD Power Wreath 2008' made of Harley pistons, connecting rods, sprockets, and chains. The exhibit is on until 1/7/09. For more information go to www.nycparks.org

      Monday, December 8, 2008

      Time to Prune Your Evergreens

      wreath photos©Alan & Linda Detrick, design Ellen Spector Platt, cookies Judy Benson

      Advice is pretty unanimous among experts at University Extension Services in colder regions. “Prune in late March or early April before new growth begins. Light pruning may also be done in late June or early July. Avoid pruning evergreen shrubs in the fall. Fall pruned evergreens are more susceptible to winter injury.” (Iowa State Extension Service)

      I’m not trained as a horticulturalist but as a farmer who learned the hard way. I sold distinctive evergreen wreaths at my
      Meadow Lark Flower &
      Herb Farm, all greens
      coming from judicious
      pruning in mid to late
      November. We pruned
      more if we sold more.
      Even in zone 5 in NE
      Pennsylvania, I never
      had shrub damage.
      Here in New York City, I
      still prune as I need the
      materials. This year it’s
      for a few centerpieces
      and the tree pits in
      front of my building.

      1. Trim some ever-
      greens,and some ivy.
      Try for a variety of
      greens and golds,
      some needle and broad leaf branches and some ivy. Cut each stem from an inconspicuous spot, shaping the shrub as you harvest the materials you need. Buy to fill in where necessary.
      2. Stand materials in a bucket of tepid water overnight.
      3. Stand short branches in tree pits. They’ll look as if you planted dwarf evergreens.
      4. To make a long-lasting wreath for a centerpiece, buy a ring of flower foam like Oasis. It comes with a plastic bottom that protects your table. Soak in a sink filled with water for fifteen minutes, drain carefully and dry the bottom. Add greens around the exterior first, then the top, and don’t forget smaller pieces on the interior so no foam is visible.
      5. Here master
      baker Judy
      Benson con-
      tributes ginger-
      bread cookies
      baked on lolly-
      pop sticks to
      add extra in-
      terest to the
      6. Depending
      on the temperature of the room, the wreath will look great for a month or more if you take it to the sink, and carefully add water every three or four days, wiping the bottom each time. If you choose to hang the wreath, hold upright over the sink first, as more water will drain out.

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