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

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

      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.

      Sunday, March 16, 2014


      On E. 86th St in Manhattan, a new yoga studio Pure, with the first vertical garden I spied in the city. Astounding in 2008.
      But within a year, the dreaded scaffolding went up to allow workers to check the mortar of the brick building above, as required by law. Not surprisingly, within three months of all shade, most of the plants had died.
      Two years after planting, this sign still gave me hope of a resurrection.

      But yesterday...

      6 1/2 years after initial planting, same building, same Pure Yoga Studio, more scaffolding.  I was told by the guy at the desk that a permanent wood sign would be going up, it's too cold in NYC for outdoor plants. Ya think?

      Thursday, May 9, 2013


      If you live, work or drive on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, you already have a love/hate relationship with the 2nd Ave. Subway. Groundbreaking for the project started six years ago; the completion date keeps moving back, as residents and businesses contend with noise, dirt, dislocation and customers who stay away in droves.
      As we walked down Second last Sat. morning taking the torturous path around construction walls, I was charmed by this sight.
      Firenze, making the best of a bad situation, is growing a garden on the chain-link construction fence, just on the other side of the sidewalk in front of their restaurant. The entrance itself is flanked by larger, showy containers of annuals.
      The next evening found me at a table for two enjoying a delightful chicken with artichokes in saffron sauce with impeccably fresh vegetables while my BFF devoured a pasta special. Reasonable prices, attentive service, interesting menu choices, noise level that actually allows you to hold a conversation, charming atmosphere, all are worthy of a second visit. I went originally because of the flowers, but will return for the food. 1594 2nd Ave between 82nd & 83rd.
      All praise to Manuel Caisaguano, the owner of Firenze who designed and planted this urban garden.
      But note that between my first view on Sat. morning (three pictures avove this) and my visit the following eve, the top row of plants were changed from dwarf conifers to more annuals. I'll have to solve this mystery.

      Friday, June 1, 2012


      You've already admired the classic Italian Water Gardens, the playful dancing waters, and the stunning, ever-changing perennial beds. You've garnered ideas from the family gardens,  the veggie plots, the combinations of colorful annuals and the children's garden. It's time for a brief respite in the conservatory.
      You no longer have to schlep downstairs to use the rest rooms.
      Even if you have no pressing need, find the new east wing to view the living wall, no more comforting, accessible way to use the facilities. The wall is beautifully maintained, as you would expect of the Longwood  gardeners, but there are one or two places that you can peek at the structure. Unlike your living room, the wall has drainage grates beneath the plants to catch and recycle runoff. Two visitors were so enthralled with the views in the conservatory that they decided to spend their vacation there.
      Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square PA

      Sunday, April 8, 2012

      up up and away

      The theme of this year's Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden is vertical gardens. Vertical gardens are all the rage these days (in case you didn't know) and Patrick Blanc, designer of the show's vertical gardens, is the green-haired enfant terrible of the vertical garden movement.

      I think vertical gardens are cool, although they're often poorly maintained and can look pretty bad pretty quickly. (I'd still like to try one of my very own.) They don't have to worry about that at the orchid show, since plants are rotated in and out of the displays the moment they are no longer perfect.

      I was at the garden today to lecture on Enticing Epiphytes. Epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants) are my favorite orchids, and seeing them displayed in vertical gardens was terrific. They were paired with other epiphytes (staghorn ferns, rhipsalis, hoyas), creating great swaths of color and texture. Vertically displayed epiphytes are glorious, growing upright, just as they would in nature but with more consistent grooming.

      For those of you who haven't been to the NYBG Orchid Show, it's not too late! The show runs through 4/22.

      Sunday, October 31, 2010


      One of my first posts on this blog was about vertical gardens, highlighting the yoga studio I frequently passed on E. 86th St. When the scaffolding went up over the entire facade a few months later, I knew the garden would die, but never considered the aftermath.My walking pattern changed; I hadn't been near the site for over a year, then this is what I saw last week. In place of the vertical garden, a billboard of grass. Well, it is low maintenance.
      Concerned, I ran over to another vertical garden that I had photographed a year ago at the Atrium in Lincoln Center. A few big brown patches where plants had died and not been replaced, some ferns under stress, brown-tipped, areas where there was rapid growth, leaves trying to grab more light. Anybody who has ever wielded a trowel knows that there's no such thing as a maintenance free garden, unless you favor the look of plastic boxwood, glued in place, below. (double click on this or any image to see its full glory.) Is this some designers idea of a green building?

      Saturday, February 6, 2010


      photo © Larry Hodgson, used with permission
      For Thomas, Shady, Sorsha, Urban Gardens and other who commented on my post of Jan 2010, Baby It's Warm Inside:

      Some of you were pondering the possibilities of a vertical garden at home; as promised, an image provided by garden writer and houseplant expert Larry Hodgson of his bathroom. Other Ellen and and I have been invited to see Larry's creative work in his home in Quebec Province, Canada, but so far haven't been able to take him up on his offer. Now that I see the picture, I'm holding out for an invitation to bathe. Double click on the image (and any other images on Garden Bytes) to see an enlargement and hunt for the two small flamingos that Larry added this year. Note the array of grow-lights that make a permanent installation possible.

      Larry Hodgson, a talented garden lecturer, author, trip leader and raconteur is the author of many books, including "Houseplants for Dummies", "Decorating with Houseplants", and "Your Guide to Healthy Houseplants". My favorite of his books is "Making the Most of Shade", Rodale Press, 2005 to which I refer time and again for inspiration, information and his strong opinions.

      Tuesday, January 12, 2010


      Enough of the cold. Let's talk about warm gardens in NYC.
      When the outside temperature was in the teens, I had the pleasure of exploring the vertical gardens at the new David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center. While classical music provided the sound track, I could snack at 'wichcraft cafe, use the WiFi service, admire a huge wall tapestry, or buy same-day discount tickets for LC performances including South Pacific. Currently, the Atrium is offering free live concerts on Thursday evenings. (Be careful; the box office is closed on Mondays though the Atrium stays open).

      I could also watch the floor to ceiling fountain, and even better, discover the patterns in the two vertical walls of plants, each 21' high by 34' wide planted with over two thousand tropicals.
      These grow under natural
      light from above, and
      warm artificial lights
      that bathe the gardens.
      Plants grow in felt
      pouches with no soil,
      just water and fertilizer
      provided by drip at
      intervals throughout
      the day.

      One of my first posts to this blog was about an outdoor vertical garden on E. 86th St. It looked great until building scaffolding went up blocking the light. It's been over a year now. The construction is still there; those plants are DEAD.

      There are a few bare patches on the Atrium walls at Lincoln Center, a great way to see the mechanics of planting, but I hope someone's paying attention to the constant needs of the plants and will keep the garden in
      the great shape it deserves.

      Saturday, January 10, 2009


      Living wall, green wall, vertical garden, Le Mur Vegetal: they’re all names for a new type of garden design rapidly gaining respect. Pioneered by Patrick Blanc in Paris in 1994 vertical gardens are popping up on fa?ades when there's no other room to plant. Green walls are akin to greenroofs, but run vertically, often in a place where passers by can admire them, sometimes on an interior wall.

      The structure requires plastic sheeting, a metal frame, and fibrous materials
      to hold the roots in place. There is no soil. Plants are watered from the top
      with a carefully metered solution of water and nutrients. This mix trickles
      down; excess is captured in a trough at the bottom, then returned to the top
      to reuse. Interior green walls need special lighting as well.

      Eager to see an example and
      not ready to spring for a trip
      to Paris where I could see at
      least six gardens designed by
      Blanc, I hoofed it to E. 86th St.,
      between 3rd and 2nd Ave. in
      Manhattan. My eye was
      temporarily distracted by a
      fruit stand at curbside. I walk-
      ed right by the garden, which
      reaches from the second to
      third floors above the Pure
      Yoga Studio. If you look only
      in the storefronts, or at the
      strawberries on the cart,
      you’ll miss it.

      On this heavily commercial block, the garden makes an aesthetic statement, and a small contribution to reducing air pollution spewed out by trucks and the crosstown bus. I took some pictures but decided to wait until spring to write about it, tracking the stability of the garden through two more seasons.

      Alas, on my visit last week
      'scaffolding scourge' had over-
      taken the garden. By law,
      facades of New York City build-
      ings over six stories must be inspected “periodically”. Once a company comes to inspect and make repairs, the scaffolding remains FOREVER. The plants were totally shielded from sunlight except for a small band above the construction. They looked ratty,if not dead.

      So beware if you hope to install
      a vertical garden: check out your
      building’s plans before you start,
      or try this small scale version of
      a green wall in any limited space.
      (As seen at the New York Botanic
      Garden Home Gardening section).

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