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

      Showing posts with label roof garden. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label roof garden. Show all posts

      Sunday, July 27, 2014


      The High Line in Chelsea is a victim of it's own success. What once was a quiet oasis above the traffic where Ellen Z. and Ellen S. P. could hear birds singing in the birches, is now a hub of frenzied construction. Buildings on both sides of the garden walkway are springing up, only a few feet on each side of the plantings. (above)
      But on a rooftop of a co-op on W. 26th,  two women are making the most of their rooftop space.
      They've planted a few veggies and herbs, some ornamentals and vines to soften the industrial look of the walls.
       On the 13th floor, residents can go to relax and view OPG (that's text talk for Other People's Gardens).
      What used to be strictly 'tar beach' now has a mix of greenery scattered throughout.

      Monday, May 19, 2014


       Taking Amtrak from my new home in Exeter NH to NYC allows me to read the intriguing mystery, "City of Veils" and play dozens of games of Words With Friends.When I emerge from Penn Station I'm greeted by a huge dumpster filled with evergreen shrubs and ivy. Is this a sinister omen?
      No, the vertical garden at the Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, that I first photographed in 2010...

      now has more variegated plants and some with colored foliage.
      The view from my host's window is of an iconic NYC roofgarden: next to a landmarked historic building, a wooden watertower, a few shrubs, a few pots, a view of the Hudson River, and voila, a garden.

      All is well.

      Wednesday, February 5, 2014


      On the 18th floor of my building, the garden I've tended for 10 years is dressed in snow. A bird perches atop the center of the iron fence.  Plenty of fruits and seeds are begging to be eaten: rose hips, Aronia and Virginia creeper berries, grasses and annuals seeds still clinging.
      City kids make forts just as well as country kids; the materials may differ slightly.
      Any signs of spring where you live?

      Thursday, November 14, 2013


      The gift wrap, a recycled plastic bag, dead leaves and brown paper bags inside.
      But since the gift was from noted author/artist/storied NYC gardener Abbie Zabar, maybe something else of more interest.
      Inside the plastic, nine individually wrapped strawberry plants, roots carefully shielded, each plant with a rubberband to secure it until planting. Ever thoughtful, Abbie choose one plant (top left) with a berry still attached so I could see what I had to look forward to.
      The reverse side of the label had the variety name, 'Mara des Bois' which I could further investigate. Full sun, plant with crown at soil level, excellent drainage, like all other strawberries; info courtesy of Mr. Google.
      Abbie explained that the plants were divisions of her own and the leaves from her roof garden to use as mulch. I thought back over all of the divisions I've given over the years and I blush with shame at my carelessness.
      Nine plants, happily ensconced in a self-watering container await next spring.
      But I have one MAJOR problem. How can I let them fully ripen and still get a taste before the hordes of kids who live in the building scarf them. They have as much right to pick from the communal garden as I, but me, me, me I quietly scream.

      Thursday, May 16, 2013


      This weeping cut-leaf Japanese maple has resided happily on my roof garden for five years. For the first time it's leafing only in some spots.
      It used to look like this...
      Now many spots are bare, some grey, dead-looking branches, some tantalizingly reddish.
       I'm sure it's because someone turned off the master water supply to the drip irrigation system last summer and I noticed it only when this tree started to shed leaves. I know I'll get grief from some building residents who think a tree is the same as a sofa; if it looks messy, throw it out.
      Any ideas on what to do for the tree ????? HELP!!!!

      Thursday, April 25, 2013


      I  bought and planted tulip bulbs Oct.'12 then promptly forgot what I had ordered. Rather than paw through my files I waited to see what would emerge. Turns out they were a rather dull, pale yellow;  I found it hard to believe that I had chosen such an insipid color.
      But wait, after a week, the color started to turn, 'Daydreamer' Giant Darwin Hybrids in their full glory. The original color was paler than the stem on the left below; the color deepens as the flower matures giving each container a riotous look.
      I have 7 containers on my roof garden, splashy enough to attract attention.
      Purple and orange seems to be my theme this year, as the Muscari bloom in the tree pits along with pansies, daffs, and more tulips.
      And around the neighborhood in my favorite window boxes, another designer chose Ranunculus and pansies...
      and another gardener with hyacinths to enhance the front door color.
      I hope none of these get ripped out, like four plants at my bus stop, below. This building opted to plant full pots of spring bulbs already in flower, not fall bulbs whose roots might grip the soil making it harder for thieves.
      Back to my 'Daydreamer' on the roof with sumac 'Tiger Eye' waiting to leaf out.

      Thursday, April 11, 2013


      No, not like this luscious pile curtained by morning glory vines at the home of Nova & Kenneth Minnick in Oklahoma City, or this one in the Stonewall Public School garden in East Dallas TX.
      It's always a struggle to compost in Manhattan with our limited space.
      We can buy packs of real NYC composted garbage at the Union Square Greenmarket every Sat., produced by the lower East Side Ecology Project...
       or make our own, as I struggle to do in one of three ways:
      Devoting precious closet space to a plastic bin housing red wiggler worms that eat my vegetarian kitchen waste and produce a lovely product euphemistically called 'worm castings'.
      Co-opting 2 precious  EarthBoxes to produce compost outdoors,
      or the overkill method, a huge composting bin which when loaded is always too heavy for me to turn by myself. This is my crop for the season, about 15 big trowels full, which I add to select containers, especially my roses. Yesterday was my first compost distribution day of the year.
      Above, Rosa 'Harison's Yellow' on my roof garden, grown from a cutting, a gift from Stephen Scanniello. My roses obviously like my haphazard  system of nourishment; a little organic Rose-Tone when I think of it, a little compost when I have it, lots of water from the drip irrigation system which doesn't depend on me at all.

      Saturday, October 13, 2012


      What's wrong with this tree?   Nine years ago I planted two in 30" pots, both flowering purple plums, with regular drip irrigation.  Buffeted by winds on the 18th floor roof garden, one lists badly, the tips on both have many bare branches, bloom is now about 80% less than four years ago, and they are generally unattractive.
      Replace or replant? I chose the latter for now, a potential savings of about $500.
      First I drastically pruned the tops with my Fiskars long-handled pruner, my all-time fav gardening tool. Then, a better idea, since the trees were coming out of their pots anyway, I waited a bit to complete the top pruning job. Two strong men from the building staff provided the muscle and a crucial tool, an electric Sawzall. Because these containers have an interior lip the tree can't just be loosened and pulled out. One man loosened some soil with a spade,
      the other ran the saw blade down in the dirt about three inches from the lip,
      then with the muscle in four strong arms and two strong backs laid the tree on
      an old canvas.  I could complete my pruning job easily, cutting both the top of the tree and some of the roots, trying to release other of the roots from the compacted ball.
      A little new soil, less than half a bag and the tree is comfortably back in place, about1/3 smaller than it was before. As a woman of a certain age, notice that I saved the easy jobs for myself.
      And yes I do realize that there are uneven spaces and some unattractive cut off sticks, but always an optimist, I'm thinking that the new spring leaves will hide all that. Time will tell.

      Thursday, June 7, 2012


      I've been picking a crop of lettuce that self-seeded when I failed to rip out the tired plants July 2011. The lettuce went to seed, germinated and produced small leaves by Sept., then wintered over. It's a special treat to have free salads now.
      A River Birch has just turned its fall color, beautiful in October, but in June. One of my hydrangeas was also crying out "LN, LN". Investigation showed that the tap to the automatic drip system had been shut off by person or persons unknown. The tap now has full body armor and the birch has started to drop all of it's leaves. I'm hoping it will re-leaf to get it through the rest of the summer.
      One of my three Montauk daisies, usually the last perennial to bloom in my garden each October, is bursting into full bloom. It probably thinks that the pathetic season we went through in January and February was spring. After it finishes blooming I'll cut it back and hope for re-bloom in fall. Something strange is also happening in my boxes of annuals. Yes I knew my Calabrachoa had over-wintered for the first time in history, but now strange leaves are appearing both here and in the base of the flowering plum trees. My best guess is that a stealth gardener has planted pumpkin seeds. I'll leave them alone to see what happens.

      Saturday, February 11, 2012


      On May 30, 2011, I had the pleasure of cutting some small leaves for a salad. I enjoyed the irony of 'Wine Country Mesclun' advertised as "straight from the Napa Valley" growing in a container on my roof in Manhattan. I once lived in California 30 miles from the Napa Valley and I know that Third Ave. it ain't.
      That same spring I planted 'Monet's Garden Mesclun' from seeds I'd also been given to try by Renee's Garden Seeds.I don't use any dressing on my salads so I taste the flavor of the pure ingredients. Both of these mescluns were DELICIOUS and ridiculously easy to grow by just broadcasting seeds in containers and covering with 1/4 in. of soil.
      By mid-summer, the lettuces had gone to seed, as they do in full sun and high heat.
      Partly because I'm the laziest gardener extant, partly because I'm thrilled with nature's ability to replant without needing a gardener, I left the old stalks where they were. Ugly, right?By Sept. 30 new seedlings had emerged from the soil and I had visions of a second crop before winter. But these guys didn't seem to grow, just muddled along though the holiday season and our extraordinarily warm winter. Today in a light dusting of snow they're slightly bigger, and I hope to have a harvest in March.I keep watching; better than a Broadway show. Of course not so beautiful as lettuces in the Louise Loeb Vegetable Garden at the NYBG, laid out in neat rows, but MINE, ALL MINE. (O.K., not all mine, I must share with others in the building, but you know what I mean.)
      This season I'll be trying Renee's Wasabi Arugula for it's spicy leaves and edible white blossoms. Visit: Reneesgarden.com for their selection of 20 lettuce varieties with planting instructions for each.

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