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

      Showing posts with label spring. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label spring. Show all posts

      Sunday, March 2, 2014


      Around NYC we're desperate for a sign of spring. Yes, there have been sightings of witch hazel blooms at the NY Botanical Garden and snowdrops on Abbie Zabar's terrace but I want my own signs, closer to home. On my 18th floor roof garden I seek and find.
      Above, real flower buds of  Hellebores, the lenten rose, tucked deep in a container, preparing for the start of Lent next week.
      Buds are starting to form on the pussy willow tree propagated from one stick, rooted in water six years ago and shoved in a container outdoors. The tree is ready for its spring pruning.
       In my apartment, the new prunings stand in a vase of warm water, giving me pleasure as the buds enlarge and mature. These  stems will root and be ready for transplanting anywhere I chose, the grandchildren of my first NYC grocery store bunch of pussy willow.
      Spring is on its way.

      Thursday, May 2, 2013


      No better way to spend a perfect spring day than in Central Park with a camera, a fine photo instructor and an enthusiastic class mate. We started at the Tavern-on-the-Green, now under total restoration but scheduled to reopen as a restaurant fall, '13, and meandered North and East from there, stopping at whatever trees caught our attention.
      When I shoot in NYC I love to incorporate urban and pastoral elements.
      This maple in flower sparkled, but the Leafsnap ap on my Iphone couldn't decide whether it was a Norway, silver or Japanese maple among other options. Some help!
       Early morning, sundown and overcast days may give you the best colors with fewers reflections, but sometimes life happens in midday sunshine.
      A close-up is one way to avoid glare. This bark image will surely emerge in one of my collages.
      We couldn't decide whether this specimen was late in leafing or dead. And yes, the sky was really that color.
      The duck cooperated by swimming right into the reflection of the small crabapple.
      Instructor Rich P. has Central Park birds well trained for his students to capture.
      Outdoors at the Boathouse Cafe, with a table to act as my tripod, these spring colors.
      Crabapples everywhere as I walk home schlepping camera gear. Forsythia is fading, magnolias have shed their petals, next up for bloom, crape myrtle.
      To learn more about the photo classes offered by Rich Pomerantz, visit...

      Friday, April 5, 2013


      Pieris japonica, a.k.a, Japanese andromeda, or lily-of-the-valley bush. I needed a pair of shrubs to flank the entrance to my condo building. Dead-set against the boredom of yet another upright conifer I decided on Pieris. My heart was set on P.j. 'Mountain Fire', but I have no car, and when I need big trees or shrubs it's a struggle to find the varieties I want.
             One call to my friend Linda Yang, former garden columnist of the NYTimes, led me to this beautiful Pieris 'Dorothy Wyckoff'. Linda works part time at the Chelsea Garden Center in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, there to answer customer questions and make informed suggestions. As she was extolling the virtues of this Dorothy, I was madly googling images on the web.
      I persuaded a condo board member and husband with car to drive out with me and view the plants.
               Chelsea manager Rose Di Costanzo couldn't have been more helpful in holding the plants in my name and answering all questions. As our committee of three were delighted with the shrubs she had them packed carefully for travel, branches wrapped up with tape to prevent breakage, then bagged to protect the car from dirt. Who cares if I'm crushed into the backseat along with the plants?
               While I was at Chelsea, of course I HAD to buy 4 flats of well-tended pansies for the treepits in front of the building, along with a roll of landscape cloth and Holly-tone acidic organic fertilizer for the shrubs.
      In it's new home, the Pieris sits happily in its cast stone container, in a lightly shaded area. Within 40 mniutes of planting, the doorman logged two complaints from residents, both about water leaking from the bottom of the pot, possibly staining the sidewalk.

      Was one of these the person who complained that I shouldn't plant roses on the roof because her child might get stuck by a thorn? Or maybe it was the one who told me that all of the flowers on the roof garden were attracting bees and her child might get stung. It's a good thing two small springs broke off during planting and I could console myself with a lovely miniature display in my living room.
      Chelsea Garden Center Brooklyn has a sister center in Manhattan as well. Visit http://chelseagardencenter.com

      Friday, March 29, 2013


      Dear friend Diana from Wales U.K. writes, "Has spring arrived in New York? We (and the plants) are still freezing and the wind is from Russia!! Certainly we normally have some green shoots by now but this year is horrendous and the temperatures are still around freezing. Not so good for the garden, everything is stuck waiting for the soil to warm up."
      Yes Diana, it's spring here, even if I have to use my close-up lens to find it. Above, some early Euphorbia, the only plant in full bloom on my roof garden.
      Tulips making an appearance, though the poppy seeds I planted in this container last week are still in hiding.
      Fat leaf buds on the hydrangea,
      Fat flower buds on the quince,
      If I lie down at set my camera 6" away, I can see the buds of grape hyacinth planted last fall in tree pits in front of my building.
      Upstairs on my south-facing office windowsill, seeds of 'Super Bush' tomato, basil 'Profumo di Genova' and Portulaca 'Pastel Sundial' give me real hope for warmer weather. The basil shoots already have a strong flavor, and as I thin them in the container, I'll use the sprouts for dinner recipes.
       Since I need some immediate bloom, my corner grocery store provides me with yellow tulips to mix with some rhea eggs I've saved for years.

      Saturday, March 16, 2013


      photograph by ©Alan& Linda Detrick, all rights reserved.
      Pussy willow, my favorite for spring arrangements. Wind stems inside a glass container, no water; this only works when stems are fresh-cut. Add mimosa at the base of the pitcher. It will dry in place. That's it; a no brain arrangement.
      When I had my farm, I had a shrub big enough to prune and fill every vase. Here in Manhattan, I bought a bunch 5 years ago and rooted them for a month in water.
      They were ready to plant when leaves started to push forth and roots looked like this...
      I stuck a few in the soil of various containers on my roof garden and promptly forgot about them.
      When I bought new containers and transplanted almost everything, these sticks got dumped, except one planted in an old teak container that I kept.
      This March, five years later my New York born and bred pussy willow shrub looks like this...

      and some new branches are ready to grace my living room.
      Whether you buy them at a flower show or the Boston wholesale flower market as did my friend, floral designer, writer, and herbalist Betsy Williams, you can make something wonderful.
      Here I made a table wreath of fresh pussy willow and  mimosa and filled the center with egg shells.
       photo © Alan & Linda Detrick, all rights reserved.

      Monday, May 21, 2012


      What could they be?
      Rings of pink puff balls 'round a neighborhood tree.
      Doorman says they grew after pruning.
      Could be from multiple trunk wounding?
      Never saw such a sight in my life.
      Moral: think twice before you go under the knife.

      Thursday, April 12, 2012


      Then. ( 2/25/08) Remember what snow looked like back in the day?
      Now, or at least last Sunday in the Conservatory Garden, Central Park.
      (Click on any photo to enlarge)

      The two allees of flowering crab apple trees at peak bloom.
      As a girl, this is what I thought Fairyland looked like.Tired of crabapples in bloom? Admire the bulb display. Next fall I must order 300 grape hyacinth to startle the larger bulbs in my tree wells .
      Head north to the Harlem Meer, and see who's sunning themselves...and

      Monday, April 18, 2011

      For forty weeks is just a pile of twigs or undistinguished green leaves. But if you look closely in mid-January tiny bud balls appear. They swell through early spring and in mid-April this quince bush bursts into full bloom. It's planted on my block, not in a garden, border or container, but by itself, surrounded by a protective industrial fence, next to the driveway of a parking garage. Just one shrub with big white stones at the base, maybe to keep down weeds, hold in moisture and set off the flowers.Who planted it and why a quince? (double click on images to enlarge)
      I've been highly tempted in early spring to do some surreptitious pruning myself, forcing the branches into early bloom in my living room, but so far my better self has prevailed.
      Below, forced apricot branches that I BOUGHT at the Greenmarket.

      Thursday, April 14, 2011

      Hurry up!

      Spring is late this year. I realize that sentence isn't technically correct because the first day of spring was still the first day of spring, just like always. But apparently the plants and temperatures in NYC haven't been looking at the calendar.

      I'd like to appear all patient and serene and say, "Dude, it is what it is," (Of course it is what it is, what the h#&% else could it be!?) but this is not my way. As a compulsive planner, planter, and forager, I need to know what's coming up when!

      Every year for the last several, Leda and I have made our annual Japanese knotweed harvest in Central Park this same week. We turn that knotweed into wine, soup, jam, pie, compote, or stir fry. It's a plentiful wild edible, so invasive, in fact, that we assume any park ranger we encounter will have the good sense to thank us rather than write us a ticket.

      This year Gary joined us and we headed into the park to find slim pickins indeed. We wandered for a while, deciding the plants were about a week behind normal. Yes, we could have picked, but it would have taken much longer to harvest the necessary amount. And this was clandestine activity, better accomplished swiftly and under cover. So instead, we postponed, as urban hunter-gatherers can afford to do.

      We sat on a sunny log in the middle of The Ramble and shared a liter of knotweed wine (it seemed appropriate) from a seltzer bottle, discussing the vagaries of Mother Nature's calendar. Gary observed that odd years seem to have later springs than even years; I'll have to go back and check my journals.



      One of the great joys of foraging is picking (and eating) what's immediately available at any given moment. It's no great hardship to adjust your schedule, especially if you can still feed yourself from a well stocked pantry. But when you're trying to schedule photo shoots for a foraging book, that's a little different.

      I'll chalk it up to experience and head back into the woods next week, always ready to give Mother Nature another chance. Patience, Grasshopper.

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