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

      Showing posts with label tough plants. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label tough plants. Show all posts

      Monday, May 14, 2012


      Stephen Scanniello, Pres. Heritage Rose Foundation with Rosa 'Harison's Yellow'

      Just when I think I'm getting to know the gardens and plantings in New York City, I stumble upon surprises. A visit to the Historic Rose District last week introduced me to a massive undertaking by the Heritage Rose Foundation in Upper Manhattan where Harlem meets Washington Heights. Here in Trinity Church (Wall Street) Cemetery, Audubon Terrace, community gardens, and median strips, dedicated members of the Foundation from all over the U.S. are coming to plant and preserve old roses, all on a shoestring budget of donations and volunteers.
      Rosa 'Parson's Pink China'
      The Foundation defines heritage roses as Pre-1930 hybrids, varieties and species; members have scoured old homesteads, cemeteries and roadsides to make cuttings of roses which might disappear forever if not preserved. By their very nature, having existed for decades without spraying, fertilizing, or watering, heritage roses are highly suited for gardeners who care about sustainability.
      When I visited it was planting day and dozens of rooted rose cuttings were scheduled to be dug in at the Church of the Intercession and other select spots. Within three years they'll be showing off fragrance and blooms, spilling over old stones and fences.
      Not only roses, but donated bulbs, shrubs and perennials are added to compliment the roses
      Why here in this spot in Upper Manhattan? It happens that rose breeder George Folliott Harison, he of 'Harison's Yellow' fame is buried in the Trinity Church Cemetery which surrounds the Church of the Intercession, and when these modern-day rose missionaries went to plant one of his namesake roses by his grave, it seems as if they just couldn't stop. Many well-know names appear on other headstones here, like family of John Jacob Astor, Clement Clarke Moore, Charles Dicken's son, J.J. Audubon, and Ralph Elison.
      Just across Broadway from the Church is the massive Audubon Terrace, former site of Audubon estate, now housing the American Academy of Arts and Letters, The Hispanic Society of American with its free museum and library, and Boricua College.
      Entrance to Audubon Terrace
      This complex of eight Beaux Arts buildings is on the National Register of Historic sites. Volunteers from the Heritage rose Foundation have placed large containers around the massive brick courtyard and are of course, planting roses.
      Coming soon, a historic walking tour app for your smart phone, created by a H.S. student, Jacob Graff from Dallas TX .
      GO! to learn more visit...

      Thursday, January 22, 2009


      Lavender grows in containers or in the garden (above, my Manhattan rooftop).

      It’s a tasty
      culinary herb,
      has a delight-
      ful aroma
      which some say
      reduces stress.
      One plant pro-
      duces enough
      buds for a full
      year of home baking.

      It’s excellent as a cut flower,
      both fresh and dried.(Right,
      lavender spiral topiary
      with dried larkspur, globe
      thistle, et al). Select hardy or
      tender species with flower
      power from deepest
      purple, lilac, pink and white.
      I'll be starting two new
      varieties from Garden Seeds on my
      windowsill in early March.
      Plants will probably bloom
      the first season from seed.

      Doesn’t that sound like the
      perfect plant for New York?
      Granted it needs full sun,
      but to balance that one re-
      striction, it repels deer
      should you have any on your
      balcony, fire escape, roof-
      top, or Brooklyn backyard,
      and it’s a perfect perennial
      for an organic gardener
      because it needs no spray
      and little fertilizer.

      Learn all about it in the
      NEW edition of my lavender
      book, hot off the presses,
      'Lavender:How to Grow &
      Use the Fragrant Herb', 2nd
      ed. Stackpole Books 2009.
      Purchase signed copy at my
      website or unsigned from
      your favorite bookseller.

      Visit one of the lavender fairs and festivals described in the book, a treat for both gardeners and non-gardeners who will appreciate the tastes, music and aromas of an agricultural party. No need to go to Provence to see the real thing, try the US and Canada and you’ll be amazed.

      ( above, Purple Haze Lavender Farm, Sequim WA, below, two of my favorite gardeners in a lavender patch)

      Monday, January 5, 2009

      Top five houseplants for...

      The most frequent question I get as a houseplant expert is "What's the best plant for a room with no light?" Ok, if your room really has NO light, your best bet is plastic. But if what you actually have is LOW light, then here are my Top Five:

      6) Fittonia verschaffeltii (snakeskin plant)
      (Yes, I know I said five...you're complaining about a bonus?!)
      This plant grows to be about 6-8" tall. It keeps its color in indirect light or under fluorescents. Variegation can be white or pink. Don't let it dry out; it's a dramatic flopper.

      5) Philodendron selloum (cut leaf philodendron)
      This plant is a living sculpture and deserves a better photograph. It flourishes in a bright northern window and if your northern window isn't bright, it will still put on a decent show. P. selloum gets big: 2' tall x 2' wide.

      4) Ficus pumila (creeping fig)
      This petite beauty grows well in dim light and under fluorescents. It climbs freely and can be trained onto a topiary form if you're into that. (Guess how I feel about it.)

      3) Sansevieria trifasciata (snake plant)
      I won't listen to a bad word about this plant! If you don't like it, it's because you haven't seen it used properly and grown well. This plant is a trouper: it's sturdy, architectural, 2-3' tall, and if you keep it on the dry side it grows well in very low light.

      2) Rhoicissus capensis (oak leaf ivy)
      This vine makes a superb living curtain. It's drought tolerant, grows in low light, and new leaves have a swell reddish variegation.

      1) Aspidistra elatior (cast iron plant)
      Look at the common name.
      This plant survives dark, cold, dry places. Don't overwater it and A. elatior will be your pal for years.

      What should the next Top Five be? Flowering houseplants? Vines? Drought tolerant houseplants? The choice is yours.

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