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

      Showing posts with label water towers. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label water towers. 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.

      Thursday, October 21, 2010

      THE END

      By late October the end is near for blooms in my garden. The last two perennials to peak are aster (Aster laevis 'Bluebird') above and Montauk daisies (Nipponanthemum nipponicum) below. When I bought the asters mail-order from Bluestone Perennials this spring, the size of the plants fooled me into thinking I'd have flowers when my 7 year-old granddaughter graduated from high school. Wrong once again. Plants grown and shipped in pots less than 2.5" turned into this by October, despite the root competition.
      (Double click on any image to enlarge.)
      Annual black-eyed Susan vines (Thunbergia alata) still wiggle their way among the asters, daisies and wisteria but soon will be blackened by frost.Even Some Roses
      The rose 'Home Run' sent to me by Proven Winners is proving to bloom more prolifically late in the season than it's parent 'Knock Out' but has no better aroma or taste.
      The Winter to Come
      Mine is a three season garden, as the 18th story roof in winter attracts only smokers out for a few quick puffs, no doubt discarding their butts on the pavers. I have zero interest in rewarding them with some special winter show-off. They'll have to content themselves with bare branches, a few evergreens and my favorite skyline view.

      Tell me what's starring in your garden right now?

      Monday, July 27, 2009


      Dear Other Ellen,
      I'll see you a New York City water tower and raise you one Empire State Building. esp
      (See O.E.'s post about water towers)

      View from The High Line in the Meat Packing District on a hazy day, 7/27/09
      (see O.E.'s post about The High line)

      Sunday, July 12, 2009

      Excuse me, could I please borrow your water tower?

      In college I majored in 19th century comparative history and literature of England and France. (Practical, you say? Just wait.) It was then I first heard the phrase "borrowed scenery", a concept vaguely relevant to grand estate gardens as described by George Eliot, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, etc. Turns out the idea of borrowed scenery is originally Japanese, but it's just as significant in a 21st century NYC garden as it was 1000 years ago in Kyoto, or 200 years ago in the English countryside.

      People usually think of borrowed scenery as pastoral and sweeping, incorporating a distant mountain, a classic ruin, or the Potomac River (below) into the view from your garden.

      In NYC, borrowed scenery takes on a whole new meaning.

      See, I have a thing for water towers. When I first moved to NYC (many MANY years ago) I used to go up to the roof of my building at night and lie there, looking at all the water towers. They are a New York City icon, yet most of us take them for granted.

      Now that I spend most of my days on rooftops, I have plenty of opportunity to admire the various shapes and sizes of surrounding water towers, and I find they sneak up on you. At first glance you don't see any, then you spot one, then another, until you realize there were 6 or 7 in your field of vision all along. I've found 12 in this one photo, can you? (Click on the image to enlarge.)

      It's not just the water towers themselves (gray, aged wood, simple, sturdy, functional, sculptural, tall & slim, squat & fat, adding their own special geometry to the NY skyline) but how they combine with the rooftop gardens that surround them. It's the same quality that fascinates me on The High Line: industrial and urban architecture juxtaposed with living, moving, growing plants.

      Of course a rooftop garden in NYC is mighty fine to begin with, but why not follow in the steps of Capability Brown & Tachibana Toshitsuna and borrow a little scenery to make it even better! Just as you might place a shrub or put up a fence to hide an ugly pipe or HVAC unit, so can you position a tree or erect a pergola to direct the gaze toward that wooden bastion of the NYC skyline: the water tower.

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