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

      Showing posts with label hydrangea. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label hydrangea. Show all posts

      Tuesday, August 19, 2014


      The front entrance to my new apartment building in Exeter NH was flanked by an arbor with 10 huge climbing hydrangea vines, about 20 years old. Gorgeous in full bloom, a home for nesting birds all year, it was welcoming even in winter when the strong trunks had a presence.
      Then management in its wisdom decided to redo the entrance to improve drainage, and some landscape architect decided the vines must go.
      What's a devastated artist to do except make a collage? Fortunately I had taken many photos of the arbor in both winter and spring, even pressed a few of the leaves and cut some seed heads when I knew it would disappear forever.
       I printed out my best images on  thin, matte, photo paper; then cut out elements from about 20 images and laid some out on a board the way I thought they should go. Notice stone wall on the bottom right.
      Then I changed things; one big image that was on the left is now on the right. I also reversed the stone wall...
      and glued small bits of real shale scavenged from the construction site to the image of the wall. Parts of the arbor appear in likely places, as do a few pressed leaves.
      The wall is almost complete and lo, a flock of birds have returned, singing near the top of the arbor, on bits of dried hydrangea umbels. (click on image to enlarge)
      Am I finished? Knowing when to stop is always an art in itself. Maybe I am, or....

      Friday, January 10, 2014


       Mid-November, flowers on my 18th floor roof garden are fading away, and I want to capture the scene in a New York City garden collage.
      When Other Ellen sees the finished piece she asks about the view of the twin towers in lavender on the left. Straight out of my unconscious mind, totally unplanned, but now I can see nothing else.
      To start, I pick a few last blooms before Thanksgiving and bury them in the same silica sand I've used as a desiccant for 25 years. Clusters of hydrangea 'Endless Summer', marigolds I raised from seed on my windowsill, blooms and buds of the rose 'Knock Out' will be covered by an inch of the silica for about a week.

       On a piece of black foam core, cut to fit an old frame painted black, I lay out some pressed flowers and leaves, photos of plants in the garden, and papers with a lavender design.
      I want the elements to burst out of the frame and not be constrained by it. I move stuff around and try another version, with the image of 'New Dawn' roses at the top of the frame and some cut hydrangea pics at the bottom left.
      I add photos crumpled with glue for a 3D effect, then start looking for berries in the garden.
      Clusters of dark blue Virginia creeper berries, rose hips, and red Choke cherries will dry in the arid air of my apartment.
      Below, a detail showing dried rose hips, choke cherries and marigold  petals.


      Friday, June 4, 2010


      (double click to enlarge any image)
      Regular readers of this blog know that I garden on the rooftop for my condo building in Manhattan. Last summer this roof was totally resurfaced: all vines and climbers cut down from fences, all containers moved to one end, all pavers stacked up, then everything moved to the other end of the space. There was no garden.
      In January with the re-roofing accomplished, I ordered all new fiberglass containers. By early April, with three men from the building, I had transplanted every plant into the new containers. (The bachelor buttons in the foreground volunteered for the new garden, coming in with some old soil).
      As usual, the rose 'Harison's Yellow' was the first to bloom, though I had to cut it to half it's size for the move.

      I'm not a big fan of ever-
      greens for this garden,
      because almost no one
      uses the space from
      December to March,
      and no one views the
      garden up close from
      behind a window.
      I want plants shouting
      COLOR with flower or
      foliage. Here, an Encore
      azalea though I'm not
      sure it will repeat bloom
      in NYC.

      The second rose to
      bloom was the David
      Austin English rose
      'Graham Thomas', a
      delightful choice with
      absolutely no black
      spot or mildew in this
      site. Note in front of the roses the fern-like foliage of California poppies. I sprinkled the seeds in situ in mid-March, just the way they like. My first poppy blooms were last week. The roses were all early, responding to April heat. As the first flush of blooms departed the poppies popped out.Next came the 'New Dawn' climber with perennial salvia and another sprinkle of poppy foliage in front. Poor 'New Dawn' only half the size of her '09 self.
      I love Hydrangea 'Endless Summer' because it flowers on new wood starting in May and going all summer, and doesn't have a problem with late spring frost. On the left, another variety of mop-head hydrangea 'Nikko Blue' forms buds the previous year, and frequently fails to bloom at all.
      By mid-May the annuals I've planted from seed have yet to bloom, so I buy three trays for immediate color. A new favorite is Calibrachoa, orange flowers, right front.
      By the end of May, the lavender joined the hydrangea in full bloom. This combo is actually a no-no: water loving plant in the same container with one that likes drier soil, but I force my will on them by varying the drip feeds.
      As you can see, I favor floriferous plants.

      Below, the foliage of sumac 'Tiger Eyes' is enhanced by the color of the Calibrachoa.
      Let those in the building who complained in March that the lead gray color of the containers was too dull, eat their words. It's the perfect foil for the plants.Most of the plants I started from seed have yet to bloom; the zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers cerinthe, and hollyhock will be out by the end of June. The basil, dill, and cilantro are still too small to pick. Since I have only limited windowsill space to start seeds indoors, I put some cosmos seeds in the outer row of my tomato container. Yesterday I transplanted the 6" high seedlings, scattering them around the garden.

      Tuesday, June 16, 2009


      On my rooftop garden I aim to have plantings of major interest from March through December: that means interest to ME, who designs, plants and tends the garden for my condo building. In winter only the desperate smokers face the gale-force winds and frigid cold of the 18thfloor. Here’s what’s making me happy today.

      One bush of blue hydrangea is coming to peak form, a Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Endless Summer’ that blooms on both new and old wood. The H.m.‘Nikko Blue’ that were planted before my tenure rarely flower but I hate to rip them out because the foliage is still nice. The hydrangea is backed up by some modest yellow potentilla, enhanced by the bright blue.Also starting to bloom is the lacecap hydrangea ‘Lady in Red’ whose new leaves and stems are a reddish color as advertised and whose foliage will turn deep maroon in fall.

      The lavender ‘Hidcote’
      is really showing off
      and I picked a few
      stems for pressing,
      but the ‘Provence’
      lavender (Lavandula x
      intermedia 'Provence')
      is just getting started.

      The brilliant chartreuse
      foliage of the Sumac
      ‘Tiger Eyes’ (Rhus
      typhina) makes it one
      of my favorite plants
      now and until late fall,
      especially in front of
      the deep mahogony
      of the cut leaf Japanese maple. In a container this sumac is beautifully controlled.

      Just going off stage is the climbing rose ‘New Dawn’ that blooms here but once a year, even when I deadhead assiduously. It earns its keep by the month-long show it flashes in late May. Other roses like 'Crown Princess Margareta', 'Oso Easy Paprika', and
      'Graham Thomas'
      have finished their
      first big bloom and
      are setting new buds
      for later display.
      (Below, the climber
      'New Dawn' trying
      to escape.)And in the herb garden,
      not much color but in
      teresting sweet flavor
      from my one specimen
      of Stevia rebaudiana
      that is making its debut
      this year. Stevia powder
      is all the rage as a
      natural sweetener, and
      I wanted to see what
      this semi-tropical herb
      would do here in NYC.
      In the fall I’ll bring it in
      to winter over on my

      Below, Wreath design Ellen
      Spector Platt , photo© Alan & Linda Detrick

      If you like to dry
      hydrangea for indoor
      decorations DON’T
      NOW. Wait until they’re
      very mature. That
      means that every stem
      you cut will have been
      on the bush for 1-2
      months, feel papery
      to the touch, and have
      started to change color
      slightly, i.e. the whites
      get tinges of pink
      or wine color, the blues
      get tinges of green or
      maroon. If you cut too
      early, the petals will
      shrivel as they dry. Cut
      when the flowers are
      mature, then you can
      arrange them immed-
      iately without even
      hanging to dry. And don't try to dry the flower heads that have but a few petals like the lacecap varieties. You'll thank me for this tip!
      (Design Ellen Spector Platt, photo© Alan & Linda Detrick)

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