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

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

      Monday, December 26, 2011


      Up on the rooftop Christmas day, in my container garden, not Santa but Rosa'Graham Thomas',
      the annual Calibrachoa 'Million Bells',new self-seeded calendula plants and California poppies, waiting to bloom.and at my bus stop, a few flowering pear blossoms.
      All is not right with the world.

      Wednesday, December 15, 2010

      Baby, it's cold outside.

      Yeah, yeah, it's cold. Everytime someone complains to me about the weather I remind them that I'm the one who works outdoors. That's a conversation stopper. Because I do this for a living, I know how to bundle up. Layers galore. And this year I have a secret weapon: a truffle.

      "What's that?" you ask. It's short for butt ruffle and it keeps one particular part of the body nice and toasty.

      Bending over, mulching someone's back yard garden, rear end pointed up in the air, unprotected by your jacket? Wear a truffle.

      Reaching above your head, attaching evergreen garlands to doorways and railings, creating an exposure gap between jackets and pants? You need a truffle.

      Maybe just walking around NYC where the wind has no mercy? A truffle is good for what ails you.

      Knitting is a popular sport these days, but it isn't one of mine. Fortunately, friend Sara (creator of the truffle and fellow gardener) knows me well enough to choose the perfect wool for yours truly: green, brown, and no itchy wool!

      Half shawl, half wrap-around skirt, the truffle is a gardener's dream. I expect to wear it daily between now and next April.

      There are still 10 days till Christmas. Get out your knitting needles and make your favorite gardener happy. Keep her butt warm!

      Friday, February 19, 2010


      The living butterfly exhibit at the Am. Museum of Natural History.

      Sometimes I need a place to go in winter, breathe some humid air and observe plants and wildlife, a place not more than one fare away on my Metrocard. Not the obvious destinations like botanic gardens and zoos, but the lesser known and maybe less visited finds.

      I've been to two recently, one at The Rusk Institute at NYU Hospital, and the other at the American Museum of Natural History on Central Park West and 81st. St.Above, an aquatic garden with fish and plants demonstrates the ecological interplay of both at Rusk.

      Right, Clerodendrom in bloom in the glass house at Rusk.

      Rusk is famous for it's
      physical rehab program,
      but they also have a hort
      therapy program for
      children and adults who
      are patients there. Since
      1958 the Enid A. Haupt
      Glass House provides a
      tranquil retreat for both
      patients and visitors.
      NYU started the first
      horticultural therapy
      dept. in the US in 1970 and as part of the program established an outdoor children's garden. Visitors are welcome 365 days at no charge, although to enter from the street you need to come into the hospital on the 34th St. side between First and York Aves. and pass the security guard who waves you on through to the Glass House and walled garden. Neighborhood mothers with strollers often sit on the benches to meet and greet their friends. Songs from caged finches bred in captivity and pairs of lovebirds add a charming note.
      At the Natural History Museum, the butterfly exhibit (with tropical plants) is on display through May 31, 2010. There's a fee in addition to the general museum admission. I was hoping to sit on a bench, watch kids watching the butterflies sipping nectar from flowers and fruits, but alas, no benches in this smallish space; keep moving through the exhibit, so not too much tranquility here. Butterflies alight seemingly at random on hair and clothing of visitors. There's great hilarity when one perches on the seat of some nicely worn jeans, giving new meaning to the word butt-erfly.

      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.

      Friday, January 8, 2010

      a winter garden

      I don't do much outdoor gardening this time of year, for obvious reasons. But one of my best clients is coming back this weekend (after a month in warmer climes) and I wanted to make sure the garden looked neat, if not exactly welcoming.

      I wasn't sure what to expect. We've had snow and wind and rain and more wind, and I prepared for several hours of clean-up in below-freezing temperatures.

      What a wonderful surprise to step out onto the terrace and find a perfect winter scene. Subdued colors, obvious texture, fluid movement, defining structure. And there was warmth. Not physical warmth...remember the temperature was 20-something. But visual warmth. Maybe because the sun was out, maybe because we've passed the solstice and are undeniably heading toward spring. Or maybe it was all in my imagination.

      What do you think?

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