Friday, December 31, 2010

A toast

rabbit and possibly squirrel tracks in snow

To moments of wonder spent outside this year and to walks with good friends. My last walk of the year through Brooklyn Botanic was with Susan and Pat late yesterday afternoon.

Male and female catikins of Manchurian Alder, Brooklyn Botanic

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

On the Way to the Library

Red Crabapples in December at Brooklyn Botanic

Crabapples in the Osborne

Lucky for me that Brooklyn Botanic is less than a ten minute walk from home and is on my way to the library. Luckier still that the garden is free all winter when being in such a broad beautiful space does wonders to fight the winter blues even for just a quick walk. Seeing the red crabapples today in the Osborne brought back memories of pruning the trees with Dan earlier this year. And the Weeping Pagoda tree below is a pretty awesome sight with its gnarled trunk and form in the winter.

Weeping Pagoda tree bark in winter at Brooklyn Botanic

Gnarled branch and posture of the Weeping Pagoda tree

The only complaint is the scratch on this camera's lens, which makes it difficult to get a clear picture of the Lilac buds, like below. They are beautiful now in winter.

Buds of a lilac in winter at Brooklyn Botanic

Buds of the Syringa x hyacinthaflora 'Anabel'

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Decidious leaves remaining in winter on Sawtooth Oak

You've got your semi-evergreens and your semi-hardies, your tender perennials that everyone grows as annuals, but I've never heard the term semi-deciduous to describe a tree that hangs on to its leaves once fall has passed. It could fit some oaks quite well. I'm not sure what species the tree I passed on Eastern Parkway and pictured above is, but when I saw the tan leaves still hanging on the tree after our recent snowstorm, I thought it could be some kind of oak. The English Oak at Brooklyn Botanic remained one of the last green deciduous trees this fall and I can't imagine it's completely bare now. I know the leaves pictured above don't look much like many other oaks, but the species has a lot of variety. My guess is it's a Sawtooth Oak, but that's just a stab in the dark based on the spiky edges of the leaves and their persistance in winter. My mission in 2011: to see when these stubborn leaves finally give up the ghost and figure out what this tree I pass all the time is. One thing's for certain. I got further down the street faster before I started gardening.

Monday, December 27, 2010

After The Snow

snow swirling around planting outside of brooklyn botanic

Snow blowing near Eastern Parkway entrance of Brooklyn Botanic

Came the wind. Down Eastern Parkway and outside of Brooklyn Botanic, it was howling today.

outside of brooklyn botanic, snow blowing through plants

It hurt just a little blasting in your face and most of the roads in the neighborhood have yet to be plowed, but was it ever pretty. I imagine it's pretty spectacular within the gates at Brooklyn Botanic, but also a lot of work to do, clearing paths.

snow and plants outside of Brooklyn Botanic

Tree canopy with snow below, Mt. Prospect park, Brooklyn

Snow, shadows and the tree canopy at Mt. Prospect Park, Brooklyn

Sunday, December 26, 2010

First Hard Snow

Snow collecting on a birdhouse gourd on a fire escape

Birdhouse Gourd collecting snow on the fire escape

I don't think we'll be able to measure Brooklyn's first hard snow accumulation via Joe's birdhouse gourd on the fire escape, but it might be kind of cool if we could. Outside now in Brooklyn snow falls.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Goose

Christmas goose, a Canadian goose in city island
At Joe's mom's, City Island.

A christmas goose. Not for cooking, of course, just for looking.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


I'm not sure why the sight of this blue mulch in a tree pit in Park Slope was such a jarring sight to me. It can't possibly be because blue isn't a natural color in the plant world, as evidenced by some of the fantastic blue flowers I witnessed at Brooklyn Botanic this year.

Tweedia caerulea, just one of the fantastic plants chosen by Caleb for Brooklyn Botanic's centennial annual border

The magic of Anne's Centaurea and foxgloves in spring.

Salvia reptans in the Rose Arc, one of Sarah's late summer bloomers.

Blue: pretty amazing in nature, not so much in the tree pit.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Winter Silhouette

A Chinese Scholartree (Styphnolobium japonicum), methinks, near 5th Avenue, Park Slope, Brooklyn.

I can't be on positive, but I think the tree shadow photographed above is from a Chinese Scholartree (Styphnolobium japonicum) in late afternoon light. I walked past the building on my way shopping and only stopped for a few seconds to snap the picture. I did see some characteristic seedpods dangling from the tree, which are slightly visible in the shadow.

The silhouette looks very similar to the one depicted in the New York City Trees book, which was my first introduction to tree identification. One of the book's identification features is a tiny tree silhouette, which pictures each species in winter as it would be growing in the open without competition. Edward Sibley Barnard's description of the Chinese Scholartree silhouette is as follows; "the trunk divides into several large ascending branches, creating a rounded open canopy". That sounds about right to me for the image above. Learning to recognize a tree's silhouette in winter is just another way to get to know and appreciate a plant. I can always go back to 5th Avenue in the spring to see the leaves or in mid to late summer when this tree flowers to see if I'm right.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Next Spring's Pink Dogwood

Next year's flower on a pink Dogwood in Prospect Heights.

This year, Joe and I saw this tree blooming on April 11. Joe took the picture below with my less than spectacular cellphone camera to mark the occasion. Next spring I hope to catch this tree blooming again and mark the date. So many things bloomed early because of the heat. We even had one day hit 90 (or close enough) in early April before this dogwood bloomed.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Magnolia Monarch

The Tulip tree, which Edward Sibley Barnard calls the "monarch of the magnolia family" in his New York City Trees field book, I suppose reigns from lofty heights in Eastern North America simply because it is one of our tallest native hardwoods. Susan and I were admiring the remnants of this royal tree's spring flowers way up in the canopy late this afternoon in Prospect Park. The Tulip (Liriodendron tulipifera) is easy to identify in winter, especially when its large seedheads are present, which is just one of the reasons why I love this tree. Not so long ago, when I first began trying to name the plants I saw every day, (mostly unsuccessfully) the Tulip tree was an early easy success, even in winter, even on a bicycle. From far below at eye level, these seedheads are clearly visible in the tree canopy. They aren't too sturdy though, as the one found on the ground pictured below broke apart in Susan's hand really easily. My camera doesn't have enough of a zoom lens to really capture them though, especially in the low light of almost the shortest day of the year, but I'm going to try and see if I can find some closer to the ground this winter to capture.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Oxalis versicolor

The pictures will hardly do these tiny unfurling flower justice. This Oxalis versicolor just opening up in the Warm Temperate Pavilion at Brooklyn Botanic is daintiness personified, as my mom might say. Candy cane oxalis. Just in time for the season. I'm glad I wandered into this pavilion when picking up my last paycheck yesterday.

Friday, December 17, 2010

How Cool is the Paperbush?

Edgworthia chrysantha, Paperbush, winter buds

Well, the Lily Pool at Brooklyn Botanic is frozen and this shrub is just starting to get ready to bloom. I'd say that makes it supercool.

You have to give it up for a plant that thrives in extreme temperatures and I consider freezing temperatures to be extreme. If you really think about it, you'd wonder if humans are even Zone 7 hardy. Without our layers of clothing and the heat in our buildings, we'd be hardpressed to get through a winter, never mind trying to do it outside, even in a temperate climate like we have here in New York City. And yet here's this plant, not only surviving, but getting ready to flower. The flowers aren't even open yet and already it looks spectacular. I hope I get to see it in full flower later this winter, but I'm pretty glad I got to witness it as it was today with its winter buds. Is there anything cooler really than a winter bloomer?

Edgeworthia chrysantha, Paperbush, in the Perennial Border at Brooklyn Botanic.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

One Tree, Two Gardens, Three Ways

Carpinus betulus (European Hornbeam), as a specimen in late fall, Queens Botanical

Same tree, used both to line a roadway and as a hedge at Brooklyn Botanic, Osborne Garden

I will never forget the lesson I got from Dan one superhot afternoon at Brooklyn Botanic on the Carpinus betulus and the making of the tall hedge at the Osborne's lawn south end. Until that moment, I hadn't thought about hedges really at all and I never would have thought that the trees and the hedge that faced each other across the road were in fact the same species.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cold Turkey, Really Only Good for Sandwiches

The Osborne in the last days of fall 2010.

Turns out it's harder to give up a daily dose of the Brooklyn Botanic than I'd thought. I didn't even last two weeks out of the internship program before finding myself back on the grounds for a late afternoon walk. Even though it's not quite winter, it's felt that way for the last two weeks, so it seemed like a fine enough time to check out what's interesting now at Brooklyn Botanic in the coldest season.

It's probably not accurate to say the seedhead of this Cardoon, Artichoke Thistle (Cynara cardunculus) is only interesting in the winter since it's been hanging around the Rose Arc looking lovely like this for quite a while now, at least since September. I wonder how long it will remain. To my eye, it's lovely from any view.

And as always, it's never a disappointment to spend any amount of time in the Native Flora Garden, no matter how small. Right now there's a lot to see down at ground level, like the beautiful white strips of this Birch bark among the fallen leaves.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Remains of the Day

Humulus lupulus, hops vine, in autumn, seedheads at Queens Botanical garden
Humulus lupulus in December

A subfreezing trip to Queens Botanical Garden to check out Shari Romar's photos, the Birds, Bugs and Blooms exhibit, provided not only gorgeous photos of wildlife and blooms shot on Queens Botanical grounds (they have their own fantastic hawk), but a chance to admire the winter interest purposefully left behind by the hort staff. It was a quick walk around the tiniest portion of the grounds in biting winds, but the beautiful remains of the hops vine, flowering basil and the seedhead of Magnolia grandiflora were well worth the stiff fingers and toes.

Humulus lupulus in another season

What's left of the Basil, a real bargain beauty.

The fabulous seedhead of Magnolia grandiflora in winter.

I'm pretty wimpy when it comes to the cold, but as it turns out, if you don't get outside in winter you'll never really get to know plants. I'm looking forward to more winter field trips with Anne and Susan, at least until one or all of us finds a job in the field, and definitely a return trip to Queens Botanical.

Monday, December 13, 2010

ID'ing With Lou

The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grownups

What kind of an aunt gives a kid a book with the dubious intent of pleasing herself in future outings together? A less than selfless one no doubt. Luckily my nephew Lou is a good sport and indulged me today by taking out said book and gamely learning to identify some of his neighborhood trees. We left the streets of Fort Greene with the stink of the gingko (female) on our gloves, but not before Lou figured out the names of a few trees in his neighborhood. Below Lou figuring out the London Plane Tree, a familiar site as it's the tree he can see out his bedroom window.

The latest growth and leaf buds on Lou's London Plane.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


another year in the life of Joe, the Columbine grower...

the eggshell crusher, and Calendula collector,

Pumpkin producer,

Chamomile grower and dryer of teas,

and sometimes Bumblebee photographer. (photo by Joe in Brooklyn Botanic Japanese Garden)

Friday, December 10, 2010


Dried Weeping Beech cutting at Susan's.

Horticulture and the art of collecting often go hand in hand. The collected can be anything from a new variety of Salvia or Basil grown in the garden bed, a new species of wildflower witnessed or identified added to a life list, or a salvaged seedhead or branch for drying. My friend Susan is a collector of many things, plates and paintings included. Above, a branch cutting from Brooklyn Botanic's Weeping Beech that Susan collected right before the leaves opened when the bud was swelling and pink. It's still beautiful in its decay two seasons later. Below, the remains of a collection of botanical beauties from a year spent on the grounds at Brooklyn Botanic. You have to admire each good collection that you come upon in life and the passion of each collector, whether the collector is a person, a gardener or a group of people functioning as an institution, like a museum or botanic garden. I'd never thought about it before now, but I guess this blog and my photographs are my collection of the botanical things I've been captured by this year.

Some remnants of Susan's locker collection; "finds" on the grounds at Brooklyn Botanic.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lettuce vs. Frost

Susan's lettuce at the 615 Green Community Garden in Park Slope withstanding the recent freezing temperatures, thus far winning the battle against the frost. It looks nice too nestled among the decidious leaves/needles of the Dawn Redwood. It was great to see Susan's plot in another season yesterday and 615 Green is always a pleasant garden to visit, no matter the season.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Three Seasons in One Day

Winter temperatures, fall color and spring blooms on this Dogwood I passed today in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The variegated Kousa Dogwood at Brooklyn Botanic which bloomed in late summer this year isn't the only one confused about the seasons. Last week I thought I saw Viburnums blooming in Prospect Park too.