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

      Showing posts with label winter bloom. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label winter bloom. Show all posts

      Thursday, January 17, 2013


      One week ago today, on that warm Jan 10th, I toured my roof garden aching for signs of spring. There was one tattered white hellebore in bloom and FLOWER BUDS swelling on the quince. Don't tell a soul, but I couldn't resist. I 'pruned' two small branches. Of course the shrub is a dwarf variety and thus small by nature.
      For indoor forcing, I like to mist stems with warm water before placing in a vase with warm water, then place in a warm room with bright light. One week later the buds are swelling to the 'popcorn' stage and I can see a little color.
      Before too long, maybe another week, I expect some bloom, maybe like this.

       Cut any shrub or tree to force that blooms before leafing, like quince, forsythia, apple, cherry or crab. Do it now to help you last through the rest of the winter. And don't forget to change the water every few days.

      Wednesday, January 25, 2012


      (Click on any image to enlarge.)

      It was a small party Chez Moi following the artist reception for a group collage show "Pasted". I had entered three pieces and my friends who were eating my food and drinking my wine all loved my work. Any surprises here?

      It was also Other Ellen's birthday and I had promised to make her my best orange/sour cream bundt cake with orange/Grand Marnier glaze and a fresh strawberry sauce to spoon over ad lib. Too cheap to buy a pack of official birthday candles I raided my closet for three votive candles used in another photo shoot and three small clay flower pots. The center of the cake screamed for a fresh flower arrangement.
      Three floors up in the roof garden I tend for my building, I pruned rose hips from the climber 'New Dawn', a few stems of lavender foliage still in perfect shape, (unheard of for NYC in January) and three stems of an unknown Euphorbia. I placed the stems in water in a porcelain egg cup I keep for miniature arrangements.
      Five days later, the euphorbia BLOOMED, and no, I hadn't singed the bottom of the stems, just allowed them to seep milky sap into the water.In summer it's easy to decorate cakes like this from what I grow on the roof; though decidedly less showy, I was even more pleased with my winter bouquet.
      (photo ©Alan& Linda Detrick, Ellen Spector Platt design)

      Wednesday, March 2, 2011


      On Feb. 18th, 2011 in NYC, it's too early for the 'onion snow', but snow it does, AGAIN. On my rooftop, remnants of last fall's decorations are partially buried.

      Indoors, my zinnia seedlings started on 1/23 in their Burpee Greenhouse have sprouted 3 sets of leaves, just the stage to nip off the newest set to encourage branching.
      Chive seedlings also look and smell encouraging.

      By Feb. 23 the snow has mostly melted. In Central Park I spy hellebore buds.

      And on my roof garden, these thrilling signs:

      Self-sown seedlings of bachelor button 'Blue Boy' magically appear in my containers. (O.K., had some planted there last year). They'll be the first annual to bloom in my garden, distributed to many containers by the wind and by my deadheading and leaving the spent flowers in the pot.

      Some euphorbia whose name is long gone from my memory are in full bud.

      A new hellebore I was sent to try last fall is actually in full bloom, although a little ragged. It's 'Hellebore Gold Collection Cinnamon Snow' and a very welcome sight despite that ungainly name.

      Thursday, January 28, 2010


      Paper bush at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
      I often take children on treasure hunts through garden or woods. We search for what's in season, what's unusual, cool, or beautiful. We admire, photograph, sketch or gather, depending on where we are. We make fairy houses and other wondrous crafts with pods, cones, dropped leaves and petals.

      January 26th at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, I was on my own, no child in tow. In the 'dead' of winter I wanted to find what was most alive and most appealing outdoors. Here are some treasures I discovered in just a tiny part of the BBG, on the walk from the #2 train to a meeting in the auditorium.

      Of course, Snowdrops. Not so unusual in January but a very pleasing reminder that spring is coming. Also a big container of pansies at the entrance on Eastern Parkway. A stand of green stinking hellebores mixed with the copper of faded fern stems, and sprays of hardy Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) displaying their yellow flowers. (below)Buds
      I swear I've never seen Paper bush before (Edgeworthia chrysantha, top image) but this shrub gathered a crowd of admirers, all gardening professionals. The "American Hort. Society Encyclopedia of Plants" shows pictures of this species with yellow flowers. So these must be the buds.
      Fattening up too are the buds of the Star Magnolia, one of the first to bloom in spring. Their flowers are often blackened by late frost so never a favorite in my own gardens.
      Last Fall's fruit still looking attractive are yellow and red-berried hollies.
      A little wrinkled but still vibrant are the fruits of a flowering crab (Malus 'Sugar Time')

      What looked like an
      evergreen Magnolia
      was spark-
      ling in the sun. (I didn't
      dare hop over the fence
      to check the ID tag).

      The variegated leaves of
      the Kumazasa bamboo
      (Sasa veitchii) below,
      while not in peak con-
      dition, served their
      architectural function
      around the viewing
      platform of the Japan-
      ese Hill and Pond

      Without the distraction of flowers, I found lots of bark treasures, in particular two varieties of Crape-myrtle. The bark is so smooth it seems like a sanding machine has just completed its work.Whenever I'm in a special garden I'm looking for stuff that I can plant at home. One of the great treasures found on this hunt is a stand of Black Bamboo (Phyllostchys nigra), so called because of the shiny black stems of the mature plant. I actually do use it on my roof garden in a 30" pot. It's very successful for its conditions but will never compare to this magnificent specimen. Note how it's planted at the BBG isolated by a swath of driveway. Someone must have measured the longest possible root creep and decided it's safe.

      Monday, January 4, 2010


      Viewed from across a frozen pond on an otherwise gray day, the torii (gateway) in the Japanese Garden is startling to behold. (Brooklyn Botanic Garden) Grass seed heads around the Central Park Reservoir provide refuge for birds and interest for runners.Also in Central Park at the Conservatory Garden life goes on.
      Kids in my building make snowmen on the roof garden using seedheads from blackeyed Susans for eyes and buttons, and grass stems for arms. At the Park Zoo I spy heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) which I vow to plant in my own garden this spring. In January 2008, the Japanese apricot ( Prunus mume 'Peggy Clarke') blossoms bloomed near the BBG Conservatory; I didn't know whether to rejoice at this early sign of spring or cry about climate change.

      Monday, March 16, 2009


      What’s your sign?

      Not your astrological sign, silly, but your real sign? The one that informs your gardener’s soul that spring is truly here regardless of weather or date. When I’m on my knees planting pansies in the front of my abode I remember doing the job as a young girl with my Mother, then with my firstborn son ‘helping’ at 10 ½ months, and an unbroken line of springs since then. Now when I’m kneeling on the cement in front of my building in New York City, cold, impersonal strangers invariably stop to chat. They thank me for making the block look beautiful, tell me that they choose 80th St not 81st to see what I’ve planted. They worry about what will happen with the next inevitable snow or hard frost. Another teaching opportunity; the plants will survive perfectly. Young kids are intrigued by pansies because of the anthropomorphic faces and each stops to ask their grownup ' What's she doing'. I explain.

      Planting will be a day this week, whenever I can grab the time and find the plants. Other Ellen often invites me to drive with her to the Long Island wholesalers to pick up some flats, but her excuses for the next two weeks include speaking at the flower show in San Francisco, and a commercial job in Florida. So what! Aren’t the pansies more important?

      If I can force myself to
      wait for this Saturday,
      I’ll go to the Green-
      market and buy four
      flats, grab some water-
      cress and other early greens for a fresh spring salad. If I can’t wait, I’ll go to the wholesale flower district around 28th St. or take two buses to The Plant Shed on 96th & Broadway where they carry a varied selection of annuals and herbs in season. But will they have purple and orange, my choice for this year?

      Pansies are cool weather plants, droop and get straggly in summer’s heat. By July 1 when caladium or coleus in my tree pits have started to take off, it’s easy to rip out the pansies and add them to the compost bin on the roof. They've done their job. Although commercial pansy growers have tried to develop a new market for their product in fall, and they grow perfectly well then, I keep my symbols orthodox: pansies for earliest spring, pumpkins and gourds for fall. Let me not confound my growing year.

      Pounding Flowers
      Pansies are a perfect flower for a craft dye project, for kids or grownups. The flowers, along with many others pictured here, contain a dye that can be pounded out with a hammer or wooden mallet onto thick un-coated, absorbent paper like drawing paper. It's exactly the opposite of pressing flowers where your trying to preserve the flower and preserve the color and keep the flower. Here you're trying to force the color outward to make an imprint of the flower and discarding the flower. An advantage is that the results are instantaneous.
      1.Practice with a single flower, no leaf or stem, on a piece of paper towel. Place on a hard surface like a work table.
      2.Cover with another piece of paper towel, then hammer all over the flower, as gently and as evenly as possible. If you don't see color emerging, bang a little harder, keeping fingers out of the way.
      3.When it seems as if you have
      color all over, carefully open the
      paper and inspect. Scrape off
      any pieces of flower residue and
      you should have a nice pansy
      imprint. When you're satisfied
      with the test you can make a
      greeting card or a picture for
      4.Cut your good paper to size. Put
      paper towel below your good
      paper to prevent any dye from
      going through onto the table.
      Then place a flower carefully,
      face down. Add a sheet of
      paper towel on top. Hammer
      away. (Right), Early summer
      harvest for pounding. Intense
      colors work best. Double click
      to enlarge photo.

      Sunday, February 1, 2009


      She taught me in springtime, she taught me late fall
      Cram bulbs in containers, smallest ones, top of all.

      Plant in layers, in strata, biggest bulbs down beneath,
      “Some soil between species, sun and water”, says Ms. Heath.

      I forced in a basket, amaryllis in the middle,
      Five perfumed narcissus, ten oxalis, sort of little.
      Will they bloom by Jan.? (remember, I’m no techie),
      Timing ….. problematic, but I trust bulb Queen Becky.

      Five layers for summer, large pot out of doors,
      With lilies and glads, and dahlias and more.Liatris is in there and oxalis encore,
      Tiny rain lilies come last, crowded in to be sure.

      When e’er you can’t tell which end to plant up,
      Shall you plant on their sides? Ms. Becky says, “Yup”.www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com
      photo above with glads ©Alan & Linda Detrick, Ellen Spector Platt design.

      Tuesday, January 20, 2009

      Is this winter?

      Everyone in NYC knows it's been cold lately. Pipe-shattering, side-walk icing, nose-hair freezing cold.

      So imagine my delight when after trudging uphill, through snow that quickly overwhelmed my woefully inadequate suede shoes, I opened the door to my client's greenhouse and found:

      The misters were spraying, the air was humid and moist, and just for a moment I was transported to a kinder, gentler place. I call that place Riverdale.

      Sadly I didn't have my camera with me...only a cell phone, but I did what I could to convey the lush tropical beauty I found in the middle of the Bronx. The Phalanopsis orchids are blooming like crazy, along with a fragrant Dendrobium 'Aussie Chip' and a highly scented Zygopetalum.

      I stripped down to my undershirt (hey, no one else was there!) and got to work pruning, deadheading, and watering. It was well below freezing outside, but warm enough in the greenhouse to work up a sweat.

      No tropical vacation for me this year, but an hour or so in the greenhouse, peeking out from underneath the Australian tree fern, goes a long way toward relieving that New York City stress.

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