Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Bud to Get Excited About

Apios americana Flower Buds

Something sweet and new for me in the garden this year. Witnessing the flower budding of the Apios americana vine that Uli gave me last year during my internship at Brooklyn Botanic. I have such sweet-smelling memories of that beautiful flower and gratitude for all my encounters in Brooklyn Botanic's Native Flora Garden. I haven't found the perfect permanent place for this vine in my garden plot yet, but I'm happy to see it growing in the pot it came in. For more on this fantastic native check out these posts at Garden Bytes from the Big Apple by one of the Ellens who writes and gardens.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

This Week's Experiment

Allium vineale, Wild Garlic flower (bulblets) experiment in the vase

In an effort to fill my vases with things I can grow myself or harvest nearby and also to find out which of those things will last the longest, this week's experiment is with some wild-harvested Allium vineale flower heads. I have a feeling they'll do a little better than last weekend's broccoli flowers, which gave up the ghost almost immediately. Still, I probably should have harvested the garlic-tasting bulbs as well, the way this year is turning out for my garlic. Whether it's the weather or disease, it isn't turning out to be a good year for garlic for me and a few others down at Floyd Bennett Field. I've lost more than a few to some kind of rot already. To lose your crop seven months into the game is kind of heartbreaking, but not every year can be a good year for everything. At least I got broccoli.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Flowers in the House (ahem studio)

Fennel, Lavender & Yarrow Bouquet

I'm on the chain gang, the Flowers in the House chain gang that is. I picked up the trail here in Brooklyn at 66squarefeet. The tiny bouquet pictured here is made from edible plants grown in the community garden at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, with the exception of the Fennel, which was wild picked. The lavender and yarrow are leftovers from one of last week's bouquet, but they are flowers that I think fade gracefully. It's a bouquet that perhaps Piet Oudolf would approve of, I think, a somewhat decaying bouquet for a summer day on a somewhat dusty window sill in Brooklyn.

Bouquet of edible plants

Lesson in Metamorphosis

If you're not careful, the craft of gardening will lead you off in other directions and you may find yourself capturing a moth pupa you find in the soil and bringing it home to see what it becomes. Not long ago, Joe found a pupa just beneath the soil surface that looked a lot like the one pictured here, wrapped it in soil and foil and started the experiment. Now that it has transformed, we think it is in the Noctuidae Family of Moths (Owlet Moths). We're willing to say we think it might be in the subfamily Noctuinae, Cutworm or Dart Moths and that the insect in its larval stage is a pest in the garden, but that's about all the research we're willing to do. The metamorphosis was something to experience though. (More pictures of similar moths here).

Saturday, June 25, 2011

First Saturday

of summer in Brooklyn. Some things that nobody planted, but are here nonetheless.

The first is a volunteer coneflower in my own garden plot at Floyd Bennett Field. The rest are pioneer weeds of disturbed places (Western Salsify, which looks like a giant dandelion to me and Old Field Clover, which I think is fabulous) passed along the way. I've been weeding like mad in the vegetable garden, but still it seems that I can't keep pace with the voracious growers, the weeds, so don't get me wrong. I don't take them likely. But I have to have some respect and some awe for the things that grow untended and that fill in the cracks all over.

If you own property or are planning a garden, you have to know that wherever you don't plant something or cover the ground with mulch, it's likely that something will grow and it isn't often that you luck out and end up with a fabulous plant that you wanted anyway, like Echinacea (Purple Coneflower). This is incredibly frustrating if you're trying to maintain a really manicured aesthetic for your property or raise vegetables or farm, but it's still a pretty aweseome display of the power of plants and seeds and rhizomes and life. I'm probably just like any other gardener in the fact that sometimes I just enjoy watching what comes up in the places that aren't wild exactly, the cracks that aren't tended or fall by the wayside, even if I spend a good portion of my time in my own garden destroying these survivors.

Western Salsify, Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn

Floral Design

by nine-year old Luna. Simple. Sublime.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Farm Dreams

Brooklyn grown bouquet.

It wasn't so long ago that my farm dreams were of vegetables only. Now I can't picture that fantasy farm in my mind without some part of it dedicated to flower farming. It's too bad that it's a farm dream a century plus too late. There was a time when farms were the norm here in Brooklyn. The end of Brooklyn's agricultural era and the beginning of the development of Brooklyn as we know it today is captured in the book Of Cabbages and Kings County. It's a bit of a dry scholarly read, but interesting. Especially when you think of how some of that agricultural history is being echoed today with the current interest in urban farming, vegetable gardening and rooftop farms. Who knows, maybe farm dreams are universal and we're all just dreaming the same dream these days. And maybe it's not too late. Maybe it's just the right time for farm dreams.

Bouquet by Joe. Nasturtium and lavender from his garden, yarrow and sweet pea flowers from mine.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Cones of Siberlocke Korean Fir

Last week at the nursery, I fell a little in love with the Siberlocke Korean Fir (Abies koreana 'Silberlocke') because of its striking needles and magnificent cones. And my current favorite pick from the garden for home bouquets is the sometimes maligned common yarrow (Alchillea millefolium) pictured below. Each season seems to bring its own crushes. Looking forward to falling in love again this summer.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Oakleaf Hydrangea

It seems that everywhere I went today in New York City there was Oakleaf Hydrangea, and that's not a bad way to start the summer at all.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Sun Sets on Spring

so summer can begin tomorrow. I caught the last light of the season down at the community garden and rode my bike home in the dark with a bag full of peas. Bring on the summer, the beach and tomatoes. I'm ready. It was a pretty glorious spring.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Emma's Seedlings

You tend to believe in evolution when your eight-year-old nephew goes fishing on Tuesdays for Wednesday night's dinner and your six-year-old niece is cultivating her first garden. Above Emma's cucumber seedlings sown two weeks ago and below her first lettuce seedlings. Are these kids cool or what?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Name That Bloom

Arugula flowering

It's Arugula. Flowering in Brooklyn. Another benefit of letting some of your vegetables and herbs go to flower is that you can often observe a family resemblance. Arugula and Radishes are related and you can see that in their flowers. Below, a flowering Daikon Radish from the community garden pumpkin patch in early October of last year. Both the Arugula and the Radish are in the Brassicaceae family, which contains a lot of food crop plants that are producing this time of year, like Broccoli and Cabbage, to name just a few.

Daikon Radish flower, Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Sweetest Peas

are the ones you grow yourself.

Above, freshly harvested Sweet Pea Vine (Lathyrus odoratus) flowers. Per Joe's suggestion, they are making a sweet bathroom bouquet. This plant isn't called odoratus for nothing. The flowers smell like heaven. I'm just hoping this vine will hold out with the coming heat of a New York City summer. The Sweet Pea Vines just got started flowering (the first sowing didn't take) and I'm looking forward to more dainty old-fashioned bouquets.

And below, some harvested peas, which are super sweet this year. I'm not sure if we got the timing just right or if it has something to do with the cultivar we planted or the weather, but this year's peas are absolutely the sweetest I've harvested yet. Here's hoping they hold out a little longer too. I know Frank who gardens just over the bridge has pulled the plug on his peas already, but I'm not ready to call it quits just yet.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Chamomile flowers deadheaded

I came home from work to the vision of a desktop full of cut herbs and deadheaded Chamomile, Joe's harvest from the garden. Those sunny little blooms are going to make some sweet tea, and they smell even better than they look.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It's What You See That Matters

It ain't Provence, but it will do. Lavender on a rooftop in Manhattan this June.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

There's Always Two Kinds

There's the wildlife you're happy to see in the garden. And then there's the wildlife you're not so happy to see. Down at Floyd Bennett field, we've got them both.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Late Spring Morning

Miniature roses, yarrow and lavender bouquet.

For me, there are fresh, Brooklyn-grown bouquets on the window sill (with a foraged weedflower thrown in for good measure) when I wake and spring veggies in bags in the fridge. But I'm willing to bet that for most gardeners, with big space or small, the rewards have already been plenty on a late spring morning like today's. And the days are getting longer still.

"Volunteer" coneflower and Spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa) bouquet

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday's Pollinators

Another Syrphid Fly that you might take for a bee. This one I think could be Eristalis arbustorum, but of course, I'm not an entomologist, just someone looking at pictures and descriptions on I think the genus is at least close. Taxonomy here.

And of course, if the fly is black and yellow, then the bee must be mostly black. I think the bee pictured above and below is a mining bee, possibly in the genus Andrena. And if you think ID'ing plants is hard, insects are that much more impossible. The lesson of the week for me really has just been to marvel at the diversity of the pollinators even here in the city and to watch more closely the world around me. I'm happy too to have the opportunity to tend some land and make it hospitable to these insects.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Of Cones and Color

The cones in our eyes are responsible for our perception of color. Ask any child the color of a pine cone and he or she will probably answer brown, like in the photo above of the Larix laricina (American Larch or Tamarack). But the young female cones of this native tree are a beautiful rosy color and as pretty as any flower.

Young female cones of Larix laricina

Just a thought on cones and color inspired by some beautiful sightings this week. Of course, now I wish I knew all there is know to about them.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Finally, A Bee

and of course, I had to wonder, is it a fly? Lately it seems everytime I look at something dipping into a flower, it turns out to be a fly. I'm trying to figure out what type of native pollinating bee is pictured above. Right now, I think it's a Leafcutter, possibly in the genus Megachile. I did see some very neatly chewed holes nearby. Perhaps a cozy nest has been built on a rooftop in Manhattan.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Yellow Blooms on a Blazing Hot Day


Sweet-smelling Linden

and a sweet little Thunbergia vine opening.

It didn't feel like it was spring today, but it's still the time to stop and smell the Linden blooms in Brooklyn.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Three Reasons to Dig the Potentilla by the Roadside

One: Allograpta obliqua above and below, its tail end.

Two: Toxomerus marginatus above and below. This one was the tiniest, I think.

And three: The Sphareophoria pictured below. (only genus on this one)

Three different species of Syrphid flies spotted on Potentilla by the roadside in Brooklyn one afternoon. Alternate title of this post? Three reasons to dig (and flies that look like bees). If not for this resource, I wouldn't be close to a genus or species ID on these flower-digging flies. This post is for my bug-loving nephew. I'm looking forward to bughunts when we meet up again, hopefully not too far in the future.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Planting at Lizzie's

My camera is on its last legs, but the annuals planted at Lizzie's are just beginning. The seeds that we sowed back in winter and Susan raised in her living room are beginning to turn into thriving plants in Lizzie's backyard. We were dreaming of a flower farm through the cold of winter, but we will settle for fresh flowers on Lizzie's table and then some. We're gonna have good times watching these bloom (if the aphids will let us) and we might not have to wait that much longer.

Monday, June 6, 2011

If You Can't Beat Them

If you can't beat them, enjoy them
The link goes to today's NYBGtumblr post, (that's the New York Botanical Garden in case you like me are often confused by abbreviations) which gave a little shoutout to my post about weeds in a vase on the window sill. Sweet. I don't know what to say. I'm flattered that this amazing institution (or rather someone working there) found their way to this little site of mine. And since I've never done a post without a picture, to celebrate, here's a picture of a flowering weed spotted today and a pollinator, who also seemed to enjoy it.

The weed is Potentilla recta, or at least that's the closest I could get to ID'ing it. The pollinator? A bee mimic. Some kind of hover fly, maybe a Sphaerophoria species. The fly is probably cooler than the plant because not only is it a pollinator disguised as another pollinator, its larvae also feeds on aphids. Or so I read on At least I can say with some confidence that I think it's a Syrphid Fly. I've said it before, but it's worth saying again. You never know what you're going to discover on bike rides down to the community garden at Floyd Bennett Field, but you know what? There's always something worth seeing.
Thanks NYBG Tumblr. You made my day.

One Small Thing

Above, a small bouquet from the weekend. Miniature roses and unopened yarrow. A bouquet doesn't have to be large and the carrots don't always have to be monsters. It's the small fact that you had a hand in their growing that matters.

The part I play in my garden is the tiniest of roles. All the glory lies with the plants and the soil and the sun, the things outside of myself. And maybe that's the best part of gardening, that it's not really about me at all.