Saturday, April 30, 2011

Brief Encounters of the Sweetest Kind

With early evening light on the High Line

Rhododendron bud late April in Brooklyn

With some kind of Rhododendron species that reminds me of the Florida Flame Azalea planted curbside on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn

And with a wild beach plum (a native) just starting its bloom down by the shore.

Beach plum flower buds, Brooklyn NY

And just like that again, April is gone.

Wild Beach plum starting to flower

Ghost of Prunings Past

A year ago, I spent the day with Bill, a handsaw and loppers in the south end of the Plant Family collection at Brooklyn Botanic pruning the Forsythia above. A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to catch it blooming on a partly rainy day. Taking care of your own garden and growing your own food is a pretty rewarding activity, but being able to lay hands and tools on a place that so many people have tended over the years and a public space that has brought joy to many people over a century is a pretty awesome thing. We had an intern reunion of sorts last night to distribute the yearbook we made and I'm feeling nostalgic and grateful for my year at Brooklyn Botanic.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Full Circle

A year ago today the tulips pictured above, pulled from the tulip display at Brooklyn Botanic, sat on my windowsill. This year, those tulips bloom in my garden, reminding me of the magical year I had as a horticultural intern working and learning on Brooklyn Botanic's grounds. I like that gardening can keep you rooted to a place, and that flowers that bloom briefly in their season can be so much more to a person than just pretty petals.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Watching the Season Unfold Outside

walking down the city street..

at work on a penthouse terrace in Manhattan

or down at the community garden...just a few moments from some dreamy rainy days in April 2011.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Still Waiting

on a bloom or to find a good tree identification book in order to make the call on my mystery berry-making tree in Prospect Park. When I first saw the tree growing in Prospect Park, I thought perhaps it might be an Amelanchier. But it hasn't flowered yet like the others around town and the leaves, which have grown, don't quite fit the bill either. My latest guess is the Chokeberry, (Aronia arbutifolia), an East Coast native. I know it's going to make berries like the ones pictured below and I think the fuzzy underside of the leaves in the bottom picture might be the best clue. But I'm still not sure yet. Pretty sure I should see a bunch of white flowers on the tree though soon. I just have to remember to look for it when biking through the park.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Riding into the Wind

down to my own garden down at Floyd Bennett after work tonight to check out the latest happenings was kind of necessary. I've been spending so much time in other people's gardens at work that I felt a little like I'd abandoned my own and was missing out on the the joy that comes from observing the small changes in a garden that you know well. Tonight was the first time I got to see the tulips blooming that survived the transplant from Brooklyn Botanic's tulip display last spring and was happy to see two of my favorites above. The one pictured below is a surprise to me. I may have gotten it from propagation class. Or perhaps it came home with me when planting the tulip display at Brooklyn Botanic in the fall. Either way it was fall planted in the evening after work and one of the pleasures of the garden this year has been discovering where exactly I threw all the bulbs in. Never mind that the first year I gardened, I drew a map of every pea planted.

There are some lilies pushing up too. And the chives are getting themselves ready to do their purple-flowering thing. You know when you ride into the wind on your way out, you get pushed all the way home, which is always nice.

Sharing The Love & The Loot

So I think I found the thing that tops sharing the loot that is your vegetable garden harvest and it's digging up some herbs out of the garden for your 6-year old niece who's recently decided she wants a green thumb and a garden of her own. Lucky for my niece, her dad is just the kind to make this new dream a reality, and so I found myself on a train this Easter Sunday with some oregano, a strawberry and thyme, freshly dug out of my garden, and a chamomile seedling as my traveling companions. My niece is not a kid who eats a lot of things, let alone vegetables, which she now wants to grow, and her favorite colors are pink and purple so this ought to be interesting to watch. I'm looking forward to playing in the dirt with this beautiful girl and already have a list of way too many plants I want to give her.

Monday, April 25, 2011

What's Blooming

Wisteria, dreamy, on a Manhattan rooftop. My view while cutting out some dead ivy leaves and weeding in the cracks of the pavement. Not a bad vision to start the work week with.

Wisteria bloom

And that pink dogwood a few blocks from home. Last year this tree bloomed about two weeks earlier in April. It's Dogwood time again in Brooklyn.

Pink Dogwood flowers in Brooklyn

Sunday, April 24, 2011

New Home

The Trilliums and Bloodroot I received at Brooklyn Botanic's Native Ephemeral class this week will hopefully settle into their new home and thrive. My garden plot gets full sun and wouldn't provide them a habitat at all like the one they would thrive in, so they have been placed somewhere else special and where more people (and ants) can enjoy them. (I learned from Uli's post about Trilliums and this class that ants disperse the seeds of Trilliums.)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Troutlily Fishing in Brooklyn Botanic

Wednesday night's Native Ephemerals class at Brooklyn Botanic deserves two posts, because I love any walk through this garden and a guided tour with Uli, its caretaker, is a real treat. From the delicate and tiny Troutlily, (Erythronium americanum) to the native Wild Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia) to up in the canopy with new Red Maple leaves waving, it's as awesome a time as any to take a slow walk through the Native Flora Garden, stopping and observing whatever catches the eye. There's always something to see and something to learn or just fall in love with.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Native Ephemerals Class and Schwag

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

I've said before that any day is a good day to check out what's happening in the Native Flora Garden at Brooklyn Botanic and I still believe that's true, but it isn't everyday that you get to check out what's happening there and go home with some schwag. Last night's Spring Ephemeral class was special because of the opportunity to see the Native Flora Garden blooming full with large drifts of Wild Oats and Dutchman's Breeches and the latest of the Bloodroot to bloom (among other spring goodies), but also because you got to get your hands a little dirty dividing and potting up some Trilliums and Bloodroot to take home. Hopefully everyone went home with a goodie bag that will give and give and give in springs to come.

Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucillaria)

Wild Oats (Uvularia sessilifolia) with Troutlilies

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Amelanchier and the City Street

Amelanchier blossoms on a New York City street tree

It wasn't so long ago that I saw the pretty striped silvery grey bark below while walking down the street in Brooklyn, looked up, saw some buds that were about to open and wondered if I was looking at an Amelanchier planted as a New York City street tree. The flowers pictured above are the confirmation. The city decidedly does plant the serviceberry as a street tree. It is on their list of recommended small street trees listed here. That's kind of cool for a lot of reasons, only one of them being that I'm a sucker for some pretty bark. I haven't passed by any others in recent trips around town, but maybe I'm not looking hard enough.

Amelanchier bark

Monday, April 18, 2011

Everything You Wanted to Know About Trilliums..

or WakeRobins and then some can be found at Uli's informative post on Trilliums at Brooklyn Botanic's website today. Uli is the curator of the Native Flora Garden at Brooklyn Botanic, as well as a keen photographer of plants, so if you're interested in these spring ephemerals and curious about their native habitats, it's a post you don't want to miss. There has been some backlash recently in the news and the gardening world about the growing interest in native plants, but the truth is most of us don't really know too much about or recognize the plants that grow (or in some cases used to grow) naturally in our area and rarely have the opportunity to see some of these plants growing wild or in cultivation. They may be native, but they are not necessarily common, particularly in a city as densely populated and developed as New York. And in this town full of people from all over, there's nothing wrong or weird about rooting for the home team.

(The Trillium pictured above was taken at Brooklyn Botanic's Native Flora Garden last April by Joe.)

What's Leafing Out

New Sweetgum leaves unfurling in Spring Brooklyn

The Sweetgum around the corner. I did manage to catch it with the leaves just opening. I wonder how many springs in the rest of my life I can manage to do that. It happens every year, but I bet I'll probably miss it more times than not, so I'm happy I remembered to take the alternate route home from work and look for it this evening. And below what I thought was the Red Maple from the community garden down at Floyd Bennett, although at this point, the leaves seem finely dissected and look more like a Silver Maple. Hhhm.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What's in a Name

Anemonella thalictroides at the foot of a Crepe Myrtle in the Perennial Border at Brooklyn Botanic.

Anenomella because it resembles a small anemone or windflower. Thalictroides because its leaves resemble meadow rue. Since it's native to the area, I guess there's always the chance of seeing it growing wild, but to be honest, the bulk of the plants I see on a daily basis are cultivated. There are some fragments of the wild left in New York City, but not too many.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bulbs revisited

There's something similar in the joy of digging up potatoes and watching your fall planted bulbs grow and bloom. I think it's a combination made up partly of suspense and partly surprise. The tulips (and crocuses and hyacinths) pictured here were planted by students in the boxes outside of the children's garden at Brooklyn Botanic Garden using a design made by last year's horticulture interns, including me. So it's been fun to visit the boxes at Brooklyn Botanic periodically this year and see how they are developing. This week, they are finally full of color, but there's more yet to come.

Tulips blooming in the boxes outside the children's garden at Brooklyn Botanic

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Buckeye Fever

New Buckeye leaves emerging, Prospect Park, Brooklyn

There's something magical about the Buckeyes (Aesculus sps.) and their relative, the Horsechestnut in early spring. Above is a picture of some fresh leaves on a young Buckeye in Prospect Park, only a few days since the leaf buds opened. Below a bud just a little behind in development, with the leaves not quite unfolded. (And for an amazing shot from last spring of a bud from this genus, which gets quite big right before opening, rivaling even the beauty of the magnolia's buds, check out Rebecca Bullene's photo from Brooklyn Botanic. Wow.)

Opening leaf buds of a Buckeye in spring, Prospect Park,Brooklyn

Every season you might as well go and fall in love with a tree or a flower, some bark or a bud. Right now I'm crazy about what I think is a million-dollar branch on my windowsill. That Buckeye branch is the prettiest thing. Surely the leaves right now rival even the aristocratic Japanese Maple? I'm pretty sure my ID is right on this one.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bright Red Catkins by the Roadside

I still can't get over how much of the world I failed to see before I started gardening. The catkins pictured above and below are so red, you'd think they'd be unmissable. Yet, this is the first year I've noticed them. What kind of tree? Some kind of poplar is my guess, From the catkin, perhaps a male Cottonwood? Maybe after it leafs out, I'll find a fallen leaf to help ID it. Those catkins and branches were pretty high above my head, definitely not reachable for closer examination.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Some Weeks

it seems like a lot happens. Others not so much. This week was one of those weeks that you could blink and when you opened your eyes the world around you looked different. Above, one of the blooming cherries near the Grand Army entrance to Prospect Park and below, the flower buds on the same tree last weekend.

Of all the weeks to get outside and pay attention to spring, the upcoming few are ones I don't want to miss for the opportunity to be both dazzled by the beauty, but also to learn more about the trees and plants around me. There are a few trees I am hoping to identify by their flowers and leaves. I realize that this spring explosion happens every year but it seems pretty spectacular this time round, like all the buds on the trees are supersized. Even the side of the road near the Belt Parkway and Plumb Beach bike lane looks dreamy and pastoral right now and it's filled with mostly weedy species like henbit and deadnettle, wild garlic and dandelions. (I love this bike lane and have loved biking in this spot for the past 9 years or so. I wish the city or the state or whoever is in charge would fix it properly.)