Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hydrangeas Still

It's the end of March and the bang for your buck that is the panicle hydrangea just keeps going and going. It was a doozy of a winter and these are up in the skyline of Manhattan. How fierce is that? These delicate flowers still remain.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Orange Ranunculus

Orange Ranunculus flower

Spent the afternoon planting annuals at work, pretty little violas, the annuals of spring, forced bulbs and even a few Hellebores, which aren't annual, but perennial. But the biggest splash of color came from some orange Ranunculus. It isn't hard to see why the ranunculus (a cultivar of Ranunculus asiaticus most likely) is such a popular flower for wedding bouquets. Its papery petals are something else. I know at least one orange-flower loving gal who would have loved seeing these today.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Under an Elm on Eastern Parkway

Under an elm on Eastern Parkway, the world's first parkway, according to New York City's Park Department. Apparently, the term parkway was coined by its designers, Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, in 1886 and defined as a landscaped road built expressly for "pleasure-riding and driving". I took some pleasure there on a walk home from the subway after work and checked out some flowering Elms. The road was originally planted with American Elms exclusively, but since the introduction of Dutch Elm Disease (which isn't from Holland by the way) to America in the late 1920's, other species have been planted in an effort to help curb the spread of this disease which has devestated the Elm population in this country.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Allium schubertii in late March

Lucky is the October birthday gal who receives allium bulbs as a gift from her good friend Susan. A few different decorative alliums were planted in the garden one evening last fall and the Schubertii now stands almost as tall as the garlic, another allium, that went in the same evening. I'm excited to see them all bloom. Last year was the first that I planted any alliums that weren't the eating kind in the vegetable garden.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Big Birds

Turkey vulture on rooftop at Floyd Bennett Field

Turkey vulture at Floyd Bennett Field

We thought the big soaring birds above the community garden might be a pair of hawks, but after following them and watching them land we discovered they were actually vultures. I didn't know that Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura)soared so gracefully in the sky, but apparently they ride the wind and thermals, barely flapping their wings. Still a hawk sighting would have been more exciting. We're hoping the hawks will help reduce the rat population at Floyd Bennett field, which was high and quite destructive in the garden last year.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Katsura Tree Buds & Magnolia Opening

This week was a good time to observe the Katsura tree buds at Brooklyn Botanic, which are unfurling and rosy-colored. The photos here are from a weeping form in the Japanese Garden.

Katsura Tree buds (Weeping Form)opening in spring, Brooklyn Botanic Japanese Garden

It was also a good time to see the earliest Magnolias starting to open. Soon Magnolia Plaza will be jammed with flowers in an almost overwhelming display, but right now those few flowers that are opening are precious.

Leonard Messel Magnolia opening. (Magnolia x loebneri 'Leonard Messel')

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Dream that is Spring

Beneath an everblooming cherry in the Japanese Garden, Brooklyn Botanic

At Brooklyn Botanic. Now.

Ants view of a Hellebore, Washington Ave garden, Brooklyn Botanic

Blooming Edgeworthia, Perennial Border, Brooklyn Botanic

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Early Spring at Brooklyn Botanic in the Snow, Rain & Sleet

Edgeworthia chrysantha (Paperbush) in the Perennial Border at Brooklyn Botanic

It may have snowed, rained and sleeted at differents points during the day, but it was still beautiful walking the grounds of Brooklyn Botanic with Susan, checking out the earliest spring bloomers. The paperbush in the perennial border was nearly glowing and in the Japanese garden Pieris japonicas were dripping in blooms near an ever-blooming cherry. There were pockets of awesomeness and color busting out all over the botanic garden and it's only the very beginning of spring. This year, I'll only have rainy weekdays if work is cancelled and weekend visits to check out the amazing spring show at BBG. It won't be the same as watching it all unfold while working as an intern on the grounds, but I hope to catch at least some of this beautiful place's spring blooms.

Pieris japonica flowers in the Japanese Garden at Brooklyn Botanic

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Under a Sweetgum in Early Spring

Sweetgum leaf and flower buds

Sweetgum buds opening early spring, Brooklyn

If I remember to take the same path on my way home from work, maybe I'll catch the buds of the Sweetgum (a New York City street tree) above in all their stages of opening. They're just starting out now in the last week of March. Snow is in the forecast for Brooklyn this week, but it still looks like spring outside and up in the trees.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dogwood Again

Because those buds were so beautiful today in the cold and the rain. Because this tree belongs here and survives the anthracnose that has felled so many others. But mostly just because it's a tree I knew as a child and love to look at. Counting down the days until the Dogwoods bloom again in Brooklyn.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Laps Among Early Bloomers of Prospect Park

Male flowers on a Red Maple, me thinks.

Among the yellow haze of the blooming Cornelian Dogwoods and the bright Red Maples flowering in Prosect Park, there were some salmon blooms. I first thought perhaps it was a different early-flowering maple, but now I think it might be a Red Maple with all male flowers. Apparently, the Red Maple is polygamo-dioecious (say that three times fast), with some trees bearing only male or female flowers (dioecious) and some trees bearing flowers of both sexes (monoecious). I see only anthers on the flowers on the tree pictured above and below, so I'm pretty sure it's a tree with only male flowers, but I'm not sure that it's a Red Maple. Maybe there's a Pink Maple (nah) or perhaps it's a Silver Maple, which also blooms early and flowers like the Red Maple.

Cornelian Dogwood bloom, Prospect Park, Brooklyn

The other sightings on a crisp-weathered bike ride were the yellow blooms of the Cornelian Dogwood in closeup above and one of the first Magnolias in the park to bloom below. (There was one flower completely open at the top of the Magnolia and if you look closely at the picture below, you can see the hint of white in another just beginning to open.) I seem to remember seeing a Magnolia on the east side of the park blooming just a bit earlier than some of the others last year.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Late Winter Blooms at Floyd Bennett Field

Looking up at a Red Maple, Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, NYC

A fierce wind was whipping as usual for this time of year and it was probably 5 to 10 degrees cooler than inland, but a fine day for weeding, fertilizing and planting some Lathyrus odoratus, (Sweet Pea Vine) I hope. It was certainly a good day to check out the bloomers in the last days of winter. Up in the sky the Red Maple was blooming and down at the ground some crocuses from Joe's garden. All over there were bulbs in bloom and familiar faces to greet again after a long winter. It's good to be back.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Red Ivy on a Manhattan Rooftop

Otherwordly, in more ways than one. Too many ways to count for this tired gal. It was like autumn color in the woods, but in a minimal landscape with the Manhattan skyline as the forest on an unseasonably warm late winter morning.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Flowering of an Elm, Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn

It's official. No matter what the calendar says, spring really began in 2011 on St.Pat's day, at least in New York City. Everywhere the bulbs are popping and the weather is ridiculously balmy, and just glancing up in the trees, you know it's here for sure.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pelargonium, Two Ways

Pelargonium cordifolium blooming above in the Warm Temperate Pavilion at Brooklyn Botanic and below dried leaves of another Pelargonium, the scented geranium, a favorite of Joe's. Both native to South Africa or thereabouts, I think.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Almost Spring Cleaning

Went searching today with Susan for one of last year's fellow Brooklyn Botanic interns, Jean, who's spending this season interning at the Battery Park Conservancy. She was off, but we checked out the evidence of almost spring work, neat mounds of cutback grass and nearby the bulbs that might cheer you up while working out in the cold and the wind.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tiny & True

First true leaf on columbine

It's like the old saying for the bride goes: You need something borrowed and something blue, something tiny and something true. Or maybe that's not quite right? The columbine seeds were harvested from a white flowering plant while working with Mike in the plant family collection at Brooklyn Botanic and I hadn't checked whether they came from a hybrid or not, so I didn't know if they'd come true from seed. The directions for Columbine sowing we found recommended stratifying for new seeds, but not for old and we weren't sure if we should just sow them straight into the garden for the best results. (The plant usually self sows, but we might end up weeding them out in the spring.) So we just experimented. No stratifying, although the seeds had already been stored in the fridge. Just the seeds soaked for a few days. When a few looked like they were germinating into the potting medium they went. I'm not sure it's worth starting perennials from seed in a small studio apartment and garden plot, but we'll see what happens.

White Columbine, Plant Family Collection, Brooklyn Botanic

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Leaves on a Japanese Maple in June, Brooklyn Botanic Japanese Garden

Thinking about the east right now as everyone is and Japan, a place I've never been but feel connected to because of years lived in Hawai'i, where its influence is heavy, and family. I've just been thinking about the amazing plants that come from this land and this culture and their influence in horticulture all over the world. Over at Brooklyn Botanic, they are currently celebrating Graceful Perseverance in the Bonsai Museum, the trees that survive in extreme environments and very soon in the spring, Hanami, the viewing of the cherry blossoms. I like that title, Graceful Perseverance, and the idea contained in it: celebrating people and plants that come through the years of hardship by adapting to a challenging environment with incredible grace, strength,art and beauty.

Bonsai Museum, Brooklyn Botanic

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Scenes From A Vegetable Garden in October

The topic came up in conversation today: Edibles or vegetables and herbs in the purely decorative garden. I grow them to eat primarily, but like many plants they simply are beautiful to watch grow and I experienced firsthand just how eagerly the public embraced their beauty last year at Brooklyn Botanic's new herb garden, which features vegetables extensively. The garlic chive going to seed above and the leek below certainly strike me as easy on the eye.

It's March now, so it's still a long way until we can admire and reap the reward of the simple leek grown to put in a soup like in the picture above or watch the seeds brown after harvesting basil like in the picture below, but right now we vegetable gardeners are sowing our seeds and dreaming of our future harvests.

Herbs and vegetables are not only useful but some of the prettiest plants I know and love to watch grow. (Of course I could be partial because they were my first love in the garden and I don't think I will ever quite get over them, but I can't think of a reason not to incorporate them into gardens where people are growing plants mostly for aesthetics.) Vegetable gardening is often a quite practical pursuit, but late last year I still couldn't get over the beauty of it all, even after most of the harvesting.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Some Early Bloomers

A Winter Heath blooming on Prospect Park West

It's not the size of the bloom that matters this time of year. It's the fact that it's blooming outside in late winter that makes all the difference. It's a good time to bend your rusty winter knees and get close to the ground to celebrate these earliest bloomers.

Crocus, Shakespeare Garden, Brooklyn Botanic

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mullein, Two Stages

Browned remains of last years blooms and seedheads.

I don't see a lot of Mullein growing down or around Floyd Bennett, usually only one or two specimens here or there, off the side of the road or near the Gil Hodges bridge. These two are down near the edges of the community garden. Above, the remains of last year's flower spikes and below the dusty rosette of another that should bloom this year.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Rainy Sunday Recipe for Good Times

New propagation light stand at Susan's

Brunch and a project, the perfect recipe for a rainy Sunday afternoon. The ingredients needed: one gal with matching blue rainboots and toolkit, and another with an apartment large enough to build in and the knack for cooking up awesome waffles and bread pudding with bacon. Mix in Anne's internet instructions for building, some wood, nuts, bolts and string, and a few hours and mimosas later a new propagation light stand is built at Susan's. There's a reason why 4H and scout troops spend a lot of time building things and working on group projects. It's awfully fun. The icing on the rainy Sunday goodtimes cake? Sowing flower seeds.

Flower seeds sown

Every garden needs someone to watch over it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Bulb and A Bloom

At Brooklyn Botanic on Friday, Susan, Anne and I checked for signs of life in the boxes near the children's garden. The boxes are planted with daffodils, crocus, hyacinth and tulips and designed by 2010's horticulture interns. Beneath the netting to keep out critters we found a bulb making its way to the sunlight. And then we were wowed by the display in the Warm Temperate Pavilion where the South African beauties like the Moraea below are blooming.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Catkins, Revisited

Pink female catkins on the Manchurian Alder

All winter I've been visiting this Manchurian Alder across from the Children's Garden at Brooklyn Botanic since spotting its fabulous catkin show on a walk in late December with Susan and Pat. Yet, this Friday was the first time I really noticed the new pink female catkins on this tree. You can see from an earlier picture (below) that they were indeed there, but they seemed so small even just a little over a week ago and you really have to look for them to even see them. They were overshadowed by last years darker female catkins, which hang around through the winter, and the longer male catkins. Surely those little pink catkins had gotten bigger since I saw them last because they were the first thing I noticed when I looked at the tree this Friday afternoon.

That's the really fun thing about watching plants. You might think that there's not a lot happening with the trees around you, but when you really take a look, you find they are changing all the time. These pretty catkins on the alder are a reminder to pay more attention to what's happening with the birches I pass this year. (The alders and birches share a family.)