Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Future Snack

Mulberry before ripening

I kind of feel that everyone should have access to at least one Mulberry tree and a friend or two to snack straight off the tree with when the time comes. Above is a picture from the Mulberry tree I'm waiting on.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Art of War

colorado potato beetle's yellow eggs on underside of leaf

Know your enemy.

In the garden that sometimes means knowing where insects will lay their eggs or what month or temperature to start looking for the signs that a pest is present. Every year in Brooklyn in mid to late May, I spot my first Colorado Potato Beetle in the garden and I crush it. But I know that if I really want to protect my plants from the damage this pest will cause, I will have to destroy the Colorado Potato Beetle's eggs before they hatch because it's the larvae that wreak all the havoc. Down at Floyd Bennett Field, the community garden has most of the crop pests and diseases you might expect to find on a small farm. (I spotted my first cucumber beetles of the season yesterday too.)

Clusters of eggs left on the underside of a leaf by the Colorado Potato Beetle.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Unmistakable, Tulip Tree of Prospect Park

Tulip Tree flowers, Prospect Park, Brooklyn

There are a lot of reasons to be excited about the Tulip Trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) of Prospect Park, not the least of which is that the species is a majestic towering native with spectacular blooms. What I particularly like is that this tree is unmistakable, identifiable with obvious characteristics in all seasons. Below, the flower reveals its lineage clearly and anyone who has ever looked closely at a Magnolia flower could at least guess that the trees are related. (In fact, they share a family, the Magnoliaceae.)

Tulip Tree flower, Prospect Park Brooklyn

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Outside the City

Plantago lanceolata bloom roadside New York

The weeds are familiar, although I can't say I've ever seen Wild Turkeys in an open lot in the city like we did on our way to Wappingers Falls. Above, the flower of the Narrow-leaved Plantain, (Plantago lanceolata). Like other plantains, one of its medicinal uses was to treat insect bites. I think the flowering heads are charming, weedy as the species is.

We did find a beautiful native plant in a nursery we passed on the way, Lupinus perennis, and brought it out to Joe's brother's. I'd recently seen this Lupine blooming in the Native Flora Garden at Brooklyn Botanic and was happy to find it at the nursery. Its bloom is lovely, like most blooms in the Pea Family, but I'm mad for its foliage too. I hope it thrives in Wappingers Falls.

Leaves of native Lupine

Fantastic foliage of Lupinus perennis, our native Lupine.

Lupinus perennis bloom Native Flora Garden, Brooklyn Botanic

Tip of Lupinus perennis' raceme of blooms at Brooklyn Botanic's Native Flora Garden, mid-May.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bob's Clematis

I don't grow Clematis, but I'm hoping that's a statement that doesn't hold true for long. For now, I'm happy to at least enjoy it in other people's gardens, like Bob's pictured here down at Floyd Bennett. And no matter where I see one blooming, and I've seen many this year already, the flower always seems so perfect. Not a speck or a mar to be found.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Allium Schubertii opening, Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn
Allium Schubertii opening

In those last moments before the bloom, there is magic. Lucky are we, the witnesses.

Lavender bud before blooming, Brooklyn
Lavender bud getting ready to bloom

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Killing Field

Colorado Potato Beetles, Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn

Down at the old field that was once Floyd Bennett Airfield, it's killing time for the Colorado Potato Beetle. It's also egghunting season.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tomato Transport

Tomato seedlings wrapped in newspaper for protection, Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn

You have to get creative if you want your tomato seedlings to survive a bike ride on Brooklyn's streets down to the community garden at Floyd Bennett. Luckily, Joe came up with the solution of wrapping them in newspaper like a florist so they wouldn't get too bashed around in my paniers. It worked this time. In a couple of months we'll see if we can get those Brandywines home intact too. I'll usually wrap them in a shirt or newspaper or whatever I have so they don't get too smashed up during the ride, but inevitably some become the victims of a new york city street pothole or crack. Of course on a larger scale, the challenges of transporting produce and the solutions that industrial agriculture have come up with have had enormous impacts on the vegetables we eat today, and what they look, feel and taste like. The difficulty of transportation is not the only reason those tasty Brandywines aren't the staple of every supermarket, but it's one of them. All the more reason to grow them close to home.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hitting Stride

Oakleaf lettuce, Floyd Bennett Garden Association

With only a month to go until the next season and just as the warm weather crops are moving in, the spring vegetable garden hits its stride. The harvests will be getting bigger. This year, I'm happy that I may finally get some decent sized broccoli. Previous attempts at fall-grown broccoli were less successful for me down at Floyd Bennett. One year, Adriann gave me seedlings in late summer and the snails and slugs were the only benefiters. But those leggy seedlings that sat on the windowsill this winter and went in the garden under plexiglass are producing florets.

Broccoli floret, Brooklyn

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Peltate, on the Window Sill

Nasturtium's peltate leaves on windowsill, Brooklyn

Joe's nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) seedlings on the windowsill. Peltate leaves with a peppery taste. Sometimes a botanical term is easy to remember when you have a clear picture in your mind of a plant.

Nasturtium seedling, Brooklyn

Nasturtium. Trap crop for aphids, garden flower or salad garnish? All three in Joe's garden at Floyd Bennett Field.

Friday, May 20, 2011

I Sit Around With My Head Hanging Down...

Nectaroscordum siculum ssp. bulgaricum (Honey Garlic) flower at Brooklyn Botanic

You have to love those flowers that hold their heads low and demure, as if they weren't as fabulous as they are. (Photographs taken at Brooklyn Botanic this week.)

In a Bowl

and in a vase on the windowsill...

I love that things that have brought me joy (and dinner courses) in the last few days are close to my home. Two of those things are pictured above: a spinach (and arugula and kale) salad grown by Joe and some Crimson Clover from the herb garden at Brooklyn Botanic that Caleb tends.

It's no secret that I have an affinity for BBG's new herb garden (slash orchard and vegetable patch), but one of my favorite things about this garden is seeing how Caleb has incorporated cover crops there amongst the apple trees and herbs. Crimson Clover is also a favorite and a bloom we are currently waiting on in the pumpkin patch that Joe tends at Floyd Bennett Field. And now, courtesy of Caleb, these pretty Crimson Clover blooms sit in a vase on my windowsill. Later in the week I'll try my hand at drying them if not they're not already spent. This is a cool plant. It fixes nitrogen in the soil and it looks good in a vase.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pretty on the Way In

Peony before opening, Brooklyn Botanic

and on the way out...

Winter Aconite after flowering, Brooklyn Botanic

Even in spring, it isn't all about the blooms. The remains of the ephemeral Winter Aconite in the Shakespeare Garden at Brooklyn Botanic stopped me dead in my tracks yesterday afternoon. It's one thing to be pretty on the way in, all fresh and young and new like the peony in the first picture above, and another thing entirely to be just as compelling after the bloom has faded. I'm not sure that Winter Aconite always fades so gracefully, but just the chance that it might makes me want to plant some and see.

Winter Aconite fading, Brooklyn Botanic

Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), a fading beauty in the Shakespeare Garden, Brooklyn Botanic

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Busting Out

Allium buds opening in May, Brooklyn

Ornamental Allium opening in foreground, with a close relative of the eating kind (garlic) in the background.

Last week was one of those big weeks in the garden where everything finally busted out or tripled in size, and on Sunday I wondered if I sat still long enough would I actually hear the garlic stretching toward the sun or catch an allium flower in its opening. It was the week in May where the spring vegetable garden hit its stride and also the week that my decorative alliums from Susan started their show.

Allium flower buds, Brooklyn

For the first time this season, I looked around and felt that I had dominion over a garden and not just a straw-strewn field of weeds. Now, I'm looking forward to harvesting lettuce, seeing blooms of yarrow and lavender, and discovering what's next for the Lily below. On the pest front, in the next few weeks I'll start scouting for Colorado Potato Beetles. Usually I start seeing them before the end of May.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Buttes, In the Beginning

Potato plant emerging in Spring, Floyd Bennett Garden, Brooklyn

I've been watching 'volunteers' spring up in last year's potato bed for the last two weeks, which means I wasn't so thorough harvesting last year's batch in the dusk. But it was a lesson learned (don't harvest potatoes after dark). The Buttes I planted two weeks ago are pushing up just a hair later than the ones leftover in the soil, which makes me think it's a fine time for them to be getting started. If I didn't have onions and leeks already planted in the bed of volunteer potatoes and wasn't worried about rotating the crops in my vegetable beds, I would have liked to watch those volunteers grow and see which plants produced better, this year's new seed or last year's.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

In Joe's Garden Plot Mid-May

Bumblebee on Hairy Vetch, May, Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn

Bumble Bee (native pollinator) on Hairy Vetch

Joe loves his cover crops in the garden and so it seems do the local bumblebees. Above, one on the hairy vetch we got from our friend Martha in the next row over. He also loves his herbs and his sage below is getting ready to bloom big real soon.

Sage flower buds, Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn

The chives are ahead of the sage and almost fully open. You have to love those chive flowers. They're so beautiful in bloom and those flowers are really sharp and tasty in a salad. What more could you possibly ask of a plant in the vegetable garden?

Chive flower opening, Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Foliage, Flower & Bud

Coleus 'Kiwi Fern'

I missed the fun of a nursery run and planting at Osa's today, but it isn't everyday that I get to see my nephew sport a suit and a first communion obligation trumps gardening. Lucky me, on the way home from the celebration in Manhattan I did get to spend a few minutes admiring the amazing foliage of a Coleus 'Kiwi Fern' and the tremendous flower and bud of a Clematis, so I got a little plant fix in for the day anyway.

Clematis flower, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

Clematis flower above and bud below.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Big Blooms and Small

Allium bloom Central Park West, New York

On this Friday the 13th, Central Park West. The gigantic Allium above, which everyone wants to know if they can eat (no), and below the diminutive bloom of a Cotoneaster. No bad luck today, though my back aches from digging out tulip bulbs with a mini-spade and the day is not yet over.

Cotoneaster bloom, Central Park West, New York

A Magnolia

The tree in the corner box on the street is just a tree in a corner box on the street until you've spent part of the day planting it and then it becomes something else entirely. Planting something, be it seedling or shrub, is always kind of satisfying, so today was a good day at work. I got my gloves a little dirty.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Some Natives at the Nursery

Bee on redbud flower

This one Redbud in particular seemed to be hosting a lunch party for the bees, while down the aisle a Red Maple was dangling its samaras.

Red Maple Samaras in Spring

And a Dogwood pictured below, just leafing out. Spring in New York. Today's show mostly featuring pink.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Blue Toadflax?

Just in time for NYC Wildflower week, I found myself looking at waves of this delicate purple flower beneath the flowering beach plumbs and the closest I can get to an ID right now is Blue Toad Flax (Nuttallanthus canadensis). It would be sweet if I'm right because the plant is a native, but I'm not sure that it isn't a common lookalike weed. One thing I do know; it doesn't mind sand.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Lichens in the Sand

Cladonia lichen Floyd Bennett Field

You never know what you're going to stumble across on bike rides to the garden at Floyd Bennett. Today it was British Soldier lichens (Cladonia species) everywhere in the sand. I'll file it under native plants even though lichens are composite organisms, because I think it grows here naturally. For more on this little red beauty check out Botany Photo of the Day.

Cladonia lichen in sand, Brooklyn

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Waiting on Strawberries

I hope my niece enjoys watching her garden unfold as much as I do. I had some little helpers clearing out the grass in her new bed this afternoon. Now all she needs is her dad to add some good soil and she can plant tomorrow.