Friday, July 29, 2011

What was blooming near the railroad

Bouquet by Joe from before they mowed near the railroad track in Hudson.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Something cultivated



And some things not from travels today. (Hudson to Saratoga) There's slow food. This is slow travel. Two wheels and what's roadside for entertainment. There's enough to see to fill the day and then some.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Where the Wild Things Are

Sometimes, by the side of the road or in this case, by the side of a bike path that used to be an old train and horse path. We hit the road on two wheels and are watching out for the wildness all around us. Happily there are some natives hanging tough in these disturbed areas and even snack.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Flowers in the Hot House

Bouquet by Susan, photo by Susan

My friend Susan, the artist and gardener and a collector of things, only one of them being pitchers, is obviously inspired by color and beauty and this week, zinnias, celosia, cornflowers and sweet peas. Most of these flowers can be and were grown from seed in a small community garden plot in Brooklyn.

This week I've been most inspired by one fantastic native plant that as it happily turns out also happens to have some legs in the vase. Below is Monarda punctata and its fine bracts which remain vibrant as the flowers fade. I used it in a bouquet last Sunday night and this is how it looks after one incredibly hot week in Brooklyn. I don't know if it's a plant that's used in the trade at all, but I'm sold on it both in the vase and in the garden. (The coneflower and yarrow don't look too shabby either.)

For more inspiration visit Jane and company at SmallButCharming. There will be links and of course, flowers in houses cause that's the theme.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Three Cool Things in Brooklyn Botanic's Native Flora Garden Now

what looks like Native Columbine seedheads slowly fading, nearly translucent and illuminated by sunlight

I'd be lying if I said there were only three cool things about visiting Brooklyn Botanic's Native Flora Garden right now. Even in this sweltering heat, the best place to be outside in New York City, besides near the shore catching a breeze, is under some big old trees in the shade. Anyday is a good day to take a stroll in the Native Flora, but in the summer it's always a hair cooler there. So these are just three cool things I noticed on Thursday while visiting. (Probably the coolest place to be temperature-wise and also for learning a thing or two is the Steinhardt Conservatory, where Uli's amazing pictures of native plants line the walls in a display celebrating both native plants and The New York Metropolitan Flora project. 20 years of scientists mapping what's growing wild in a 50-mile radius of New York City, now that's a project to celebrate.)

Clematis viorna (Vasevine) flower drying on the vine

Nodding Onion (Allium cernuum) blooming

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Nine Seconds with a Mason Wasp and Monarda punctata in the Garden

A few days ago, I was at Brooklyn Botanic in the heat and watched as a bumblebee made its way round the Horsemint (Monarda punctata) in the Herb Garden, stopping at each individual flower and methodically moving on to the next. Later, I thought how it was the perfect opportunity to try out the camcorder on my new phone and I'd missed it. But I got lucky at my own garden yesterday, only not with a bee this time, but with a wasp. A new one for me. The ID I'm gonna go with is Monobia quadridens, a Mason Wasp in the same family as Yellowjackets, Hornets and Paper wasps. It's usually seen in open habitats with flowers (in the Eastern and Southern United States), which sounds just about right for the community garden at Floyd Bennett. Because I took the video I noticed the white markings on the head, which I missed just watching it, so I might even be right in calling this wasp a male.

And so here it is below, my first video and first attempt with the phone's camcorder. It isn't National Geographic and I didn't quite get the video to sync properly, but I think my bug-loving nephew will dig it.

That punctata is something else. I'd plant it again and again just for the pollinator show, but I'd also get those amazing flowers.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Things Passed Along the Way

I garden in an abandoned airport in New York City with a little slice carved out for a thriving community garden and my bicycle is my transport to this slice of heaven. Yesterday, these are a few things I passed along the way:

A syprhid fly, a great masquerader. I swear I see more flies on flowers than bees, but lately all the species I see, whether fly, bee or moth, look like they're sporting cool sunglasses. It is New York City afterall, maybe they feel the pressure to be cool or maybe it's just part of their disguise.

Queen Anne's Lace, the current dominant weedflower (wildflower, I guess it's how you define it) lining the sides of the roads and something that's a getting a lot closer to prairie than pavement at old Floyd Bennett airfield.

And Linaria vulgaris (Butter and Eggs), a first time identification for me. I've seen it in books before and must have been riding blindly past it for more years than I'd like to admit now, but this year I not only noticed it, but I had a name to give it. And that's just one of the reasons I'm happy that I started growing vegetables and paying attention to plants. Now I have a name for the things I pass along the way while riding my bicycle. It's downright orienting.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Flower Harvest at Lizzie's

Brooklyn-grown flowers, from seed to table

Poor Lizzy. We went to her house to see how the test flowerfarm plot was growing and stole most of her flowers. Despite the limited sun, the Zinnias, Celosia, Gomphrena and Borage were all blooming. I was most happy to see the dark Scabiosa that we fell in love with in the Rose Arc at Brooklyn Botanic last year. The next flower harvest is all Lizzie's. Many thanks to her for a plot of land to play around in and for grilling up a delicious dinner in celebration.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

If You Can't Stand the Heat

Sea Rocket (Cakile edentula) on the beach in New York City

you've got to get out of the kitchen or in the case of plants down by the seashore, off of the beach and the sand. It's a hot week in New York City and though we've been blessed this year with a cool slow spring and early summer, mother nature's been kicking it up a notch since around the 4th. It's a good time to look around and appreciate those plants that grow in the cracks untended and without supplemental watering, or in the case of the Sea Rocket above, right in the sand at the beach. If you're a foodie or a forager or a foraging foodie, perhaps you admire this plant for reasons other than its ability to thrive in sand. But there's a long distance bike trip in my very near future and I'm looking at this plant for a little inspiration on what it takes to endure and thrive in an unforgiving environment.

Some botanical facts about Sea Rocket (Cakile edentula not quite sure how to pronounce the botanical name, but is there a reason to use it when the common name is so supercool?): It's a native and it's in the Brassicaceae family like Arugula and Radishes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Yesterday's Pollinator: The Hummingbird moths are back in Brooklyn

Hemaris moth on Butterfly Bush, Floyd Bennett Field

It's about a month earlier than when I first saw them last year and this year they look like they're wearing sunglasses. For more info on this genus of moth in North America go here. Its caterpillar stage looks similar to a tomato hornworm, but is not a feeder on the solanaceae family as far as I know. The adult moths however love the Butterfly Bush for sure. You have to love a moth that masquerades as both a bee and a bird.

Monday, July 18, 2011

In The Shadows

Sunday night's experiment in the vase with flax and horsemint. (Also featuring coneflowers, yarrow, butterfly bush, oregano and nigella) On the vegetable front, the first tomatoes were harvested and the soy beans that were planted following the spring crops are up. It's planting time again.

On the wildlife front, Shari's got some great pictures of her adventure with dolphins in the Rockaways over at birdsbugsbuds.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

7:30 PMs, Mid-July

under a lily at 615 Green , a community garden in Park Slope, Brooklyn above and outside Marie's garden gate with the quintessential summer flower at Floyd Bennett Community Garden. As a lucky recipient of the work of those who went before me building these fine community gardens out of nothing, I couldn't have chosen two better places to spend my 7:30 pms this Mid-July weekend. The days are long and as the sun gets closer to setting, the intense heat of the day eases a bit and it's the perfect time to celebrate all that's good about the season. There's nothing like a summer evening in that magical last hour before the sun goes down.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Echinacea and Oregano

Echinacea and Oregano in the Vase

If I'm remembering correctly, Barbara Kingsolver writes in her book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle , about a year of eating locally, that people are surprised to hear that potatoes plants grow up out of the ground. I've found that people (myself included) are most surprised to see that potatoes plants not only grow up out of the ground but that they flower too. There's a lot written about how to make your vegetable garden more beautiful these days, as if these functional plants are somehow less striking than the ornamentals. But you know what I think? Rows of lettuce or kale are lovely enough in their own right and the oregano that makes your tomato sauce tasty is as gorgeous as anything in flower. Above, one of this weekend's bouquets featuring echinacea and oregano from the vegetable garden.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Monarda punctata in July, Brooklyn

is in the house. Monarda punctata, (Horsemint, spotted bee balm). I think it was Caleb who introduced me to it in Brooklyn Botanic's Herb Garden last year, although since it's a native plant, it also grows in the Native Flora Garden. But this year, it also grows in mine and I am completely and madly in love with it. It was a gift from Susan who purchased a bunch of small native perennials in the winter. Interesting historical fact from Peterson's Medicinal Plants guide about Monarda punctata: Its oil is high in thymol, which has antiseptic qualities. Though Thymol is now manufactured synthetically, thyme was once the key commercial source. During World War I, when commercial thyme fields were destroyed in Europe, Horsemint was grown in the US as a replacement.

You can learn a lot of cool things about plants in books and botanic gardens.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

From Susan

Bells of Ireland Bouquet by Susan (photo by Susan)

Technology brings sweet things in the way of this photo from Susan sent from her iphone. Only one of the Bells of Ireland seeds that Anne, Susan and I sowed back in winter germinated, but here it is lighting up the beautiful bouquet Susan made yesterday, alongside the Celosia, Zinnias and Snapdragon all tended by Susan through the end of a cold winter. Here's to more growing in the future and to good friends, building something and following your dreams in gardens. It all starts with a seed.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What's Biting

At the tips of some branches on 5th ave near Central Park, en masse in webs, the Fall Webworm Caterpillar (Hyphantria cunea). It's not anywhere near fall yet, so I think the common name is off just a bit, but I think my ID is right.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Building Something

There's more to building a garden than just sowing seeds. Down at the community garden, I love seeing how people with a natural knack for building things solve problems in their space. When Marilyn couldn't fit in her aisles because her green thumb grew tomato vines that impeded her path last fall, she built a quick trellis so she could walk under her tomatoes. Still building in early October? Now that's a lady who who really likes to build something. And Joe is always building something for vines to grow on, but this year's lima tepee is my favorite one of his so far.

Monday, July 11, 2011


What your garlic will do in July if you let it. I forgot that I was going to let one go to flower this year and harvested all the scapes and the bulbs themselves last weekend, but I managed to snatch these out of the community garden garbage when an old garden plot was cleared out this weekend for new gardeners. The flower of garlic is about as fantastic as any decorative allium I've seen, though I've admitted before that I'm pretty much a sucker for most of them.

Update: Waiting on Joe's garlic scape to open to see what kind of bulbils they produce. The flowers above, while they smelled like garlic are probably from an elephant garlic plant. Joe tells me his garlic never flowers so spectacularly. Bummer.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Drinking Memories

Sometime in the winter I'll drink a bit of yesterday's bloom and remember a blazing hot day in the New York City summer sun and the community garden as it is now. I'll remember talking late crop potatoes with Michelle while watching the bees on Adriann's Black Cohosh, laughing with Shari and Mitch, and seeing Rocco back standing at his garden gate for the first time since his injury last year. The tea will be full of memories of wheelbarrows of compost, the wind off the water and the sun, bike rides to Floyd Bennett and the work of a season. There are a lot of memories that a tiny dried flower can hold.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Thursday Night Flower Harvest

The major harvest of course came in the eating kind, zuchinni, beets, two-days-in-the-sun-partly-cured garlic and some giant beets, but none of these would look so hot in a vase. Most of the flowers remain in the vegetable garden where bees and other garden beneficials can enjoy them. My interest in growing flowers for cutting is a recent one and I'm trying to figure out how much each plant produces grown organically, so I'm amazed at these sweet harvests which come from only the tiniest portion of my community garden plot. I'm guessing that a field trip to an organic flower farm is in order soon.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Today's Tiny Pollinators

The really beautiful white-flowering swamp milkweed around the corner was host to some very tiny pollinators this afternoon. It was hard to tell with the naked eye if they were wee wasps or bees, they were so miniscule. But I'm gonna go with a tiny native bee after looking at the photographs and doing some research on and a few other sources. The face markings resemble the Hylaeus modestus pictured on somewhat, at least to my eye. I wouldn't try for species, but might guess that the bee could be in the Hylaeus genus. The swamp milkweed host, a cultivated form of Asclepias incarnata, I believe, (possibly 'Ice Ballet') is pretty fantastic looking too and really graceful with its narrow leaves and perfectly white flowers. It's a native too.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Leaves, Seeds & Flowers

I'm not sure I'll ever get tired of looking at plants and their parts. All pictures from Brooklyn Botanic this week. (In the Herb Garden, Native Flora and outside the Rose Garden, respectively.)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Two Natives

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Buttonbush, Brooklyn Botanic

in one place. Brooklyn Botanic that is. A female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) was just one of the many pollinators digging the Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) flowers late this afternoon at Brooklyn Botanic. This native plant was also covered in bees. I took a quick stroll through the garden on my way home from work earlier and as usual, was not disappointed.

Monday, July 4, 2011

You Can Take the Boy Out of the Pumpkin Patch

Squash bug eggs
but still he may be searching for squash bug eggs on vacation. We visited the Fort Montgomery Museum while at Bear Mountain and checked out the revolutionary war garden that was replicated onsite. The theory is that soldiers in the revolutionary war supplimented their food supplies with gardens built onsite at forts. The gardener was keen to show us what he was growing (some familiars like the three sisters, corn, beans and squash) and even gave us instructions on how to make our own yarrow tincture. So we squashed bug eggs together and talked gardening. For news on a local Revolutionary War Garden in Brooklyn, go here.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Blinded Sphinx Moth and a Bridge Crossed

Blinded Sphinx Moth

You don't have to ride your bike to Bear Mountain to be wowed by the sighting of a spectacular moth (Paonias excaecatus), but there's a high that comes with a certain kind of physical exertion and being in a spectacular place with beautiful people that makes you appreciate the little things all the more. Anne and Mike got married. We rode our bikes to Bear Mountain to celebrate with them and inadvertently did a little hop on the Appalachian trail when we crossed the Bear Mountain Bridge. Supersweet.

Update: I had to update this post because originally I thought this moth was a One-Eyed Sphinx. The species look so similar. Now I think it is the Blinded Sphinx Moth because there is no black spot in the eye. Thanks for the distinguishing features.

Bear Mountain Bridge, cyclists can ride with traffic here