Friday, September 30, 2011

Riding Past the Last Blooming Thing of September

Groundsel Tree  (Baccharis halimifolia) near the Belt Parkway, Brooklyn

How sweet that the last thing I noticed blooming in September is a native. And the kind of thing you might find in the dunes or by the side of the road, two places I might go awandering to boot. I'm pretty sure I saw this species also known as Eastern Baccharis on Eastern Long Island in mid-September and noticed that it was budding, getting ready to flower soon.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Walk with Susan at The New York Botanical Garden

Salvia discolor, The New York Botanical Garden

It's like my oldest friend Christine always says, "wherever you go, there you are", an expression that can mean many things, one being that you cannot escape who you are no matter where you may run or how hard you try. I went to The New York Botanical Garden with Susan yesterday to learn about volunteering for their Citizen Science Tree Phenology program in the native forest after reading a post about the program on NYBG's blog Plant Talk. (Having an excuse to pay attention to the changes of plants throughout the seasons was an appealing idea and since we are doing this anyway, a spreadsheet might make us feel official in some way.) Of course, we got to the garden early so we could wander around in a botanical stupor.

Since wherever I go, therefore I am, I was drawn to the things and plants that capture my attention. So here, three things from yesterday's walk in one of New York City's most magnificent settings for learning about plants: Above, the beautiful Salvia discolor with its mix of contrasting light and dark colors and a visiting pollinator. The more you know about Salvias, the more you fall in love with these genus of plants, (well, at least for me this is true) and if there's something I love for sure, it is a late bloomer. Below, the leaf of a Sweetgum or Liquidambar styracifula, if one must use the proper botanical name. (I prefer this species' common name, if only because I don't have to google the spelling.) If I am my own citizen scientist and can mark the phenology of my own seasons, I can remember this day as the one where I saw my first red Sweetgum leaf of fall. Now I can go out and look for all the other colors this native tree will display this season.

And last, but certainly not least, the mix of the look of the wild with the cultivated, in a section of the new Azalea garden that aims to imitate a high elevation Appalachian bald through the mass planting of grasses and wildflowers.
While it is true that you will be yourself no matter where you are, it is also true that certain places and pursuits will bring you closer to the parts of yourself that you want to nurture. I owe a lot of the joy in my life (my current obsession with plants and gardening) to Joe and his insistance on us filling out an application for a community garden plot ten miles away from our home in Brooklyn. Building our first garden together four years ago and watching in fascination as our vegetables grew opened my eyes finally to the intricate world of the plants and pollinators outside around me. And getting to know that world more fully in these last few years by paying slow attention has made all the difference as I carry myself around to the places I need to go.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wandering South For the Winter

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

The wanderers are wandering. (Apparently Monarchs are called Wanderers in Australia) If you were lucky and were outside in a place with good habitat for them the last few days, you may have seen them in numbers. Last month we had a work day down at the community garden and one of the tasks at hand was deadheading the butterfly bushes for rebloom. The timing was right it seems. They are covered in blooms again now and I couldn't count the number of monarchs I saw perched on them as if roosting yesterday. The Common Buckeyes (Junonia coenia) must be on the move too. I had 5 or 6 in my garden at one time and I've never seen that many in such a small space at one time before.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What's Coming Up on Its Own

Some cilantro. Perhaps I will rue the day that I left so much in to flower and go to seed, but right now I'll take the volunteer seedlings that pop up everywhere. My thinking is that something will be coming up anyway, so why not a plant I could use or transplant or give away? And below, some oak leaf lettuce. I let the lettuce flower and go to seed, but wasn't thinking about using the seeds until my garden neighbor Julia got all excited about them. I wasn't sure if the lettuce was hybrid or not and if it would come true from seed, but Julia wanted some and said that it would. So she collected some and I sprinkled some in my garden and let others fall where they might. And they are germinating and coming up already. Of course, there are a lot of seedlings coming up crowded on top of each other, but so what? They can be microgreens.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Flowers in the House (Brooklyn Grown)

The flowers began their journey home from Susan's community garden in Brooklyn, making a brief stop on her roof, where we celebrated a break in the grey day as the sun came out only to set a little while later.

A few days later, the sunflower was giving up the ghost and some zinnias and wild pickings (one native, White Snakeroot and one invasive, Porcelain Berry) kept the bouquet going. I was so charmed with the delicate remains of the Spirea x vanhouttei flowers though that I clipped a few to save and they went into a bouquet of dried things.
You can save some money growing some of your own flowers from seed and simultaneously indulge yourself watching something beautiful and fleeting grow. You can save some space even in your vegetable garden for flowering things providing a safety net for your local pollinators and still have bounty for the table in a bowl or a bouquet. Or you could save some oil and grow or buy local organic flowers.
This post is part of a chain gang of flowers in the house with Jane at SmallButCharming as the leading inmate. My theme today is thrift. Follow the links and be inspired to grow something.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

It's All About Garlic at Saugerties This Weekend

Spanish Roja. Killarney Red. Polish White. Sicilian Gold. Rock and Roll Rocambole. Ok, that last one I made up, but the rest are all garlic varieties and the place for tasting and purchasing these different varieties for eating or planting this weekend is the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in Saugerties, NY. We took a bus there yesterday, with fellow community garden members to purchase some seed for planting later this fall direct from the variety of garlic growers on hand. We're only going on our fourth season of growing garlic, so there's still plenty to learn about the crop and master. We got the bug for growing it our first season at Floyd Bennett from watching Rocco's garlic and knew we had to make room for it in our plots that fall.

Some of next year's garlic from the area's growers.

Friday, September 23, 2011

If You Can Make it Here

Then, anywhere.

I know there's the term old field succession, but this is something a little different. It's old airfield succession. And this race belongs to the tough and the scrappy, the pioneers.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bedazzled at Brooklyn Botanic

In the Rock Garden, Brooklyn Botanic

It's still my favorite place in the neighborhood to go for a quick walk and be dazzled by plants. Although to be fair, it's hard to be quick when there are thousands of species and varieties to behold. Here, just a glimpse at the lives of three.

Annual Border, Brooklyn Botanic

Annual Border, Brooklyn Botanic

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cutting Flowers with Susan

Some Brooklyn grown flowers fresh from the harvest

After a gloomy and rainy first half of the day, the sky cleared. I got to visit 615 Green, Susan's community garden in Brooklyn and we harvested some flowers. We've been thinking about some of these blooms since winter along with Anne, so there is satisfaction and celebration in seeing them now before us. And of course, we're already thinking about growing next year's flowers. Virginia Woolf had it all wrong. You don't need a room of your own so much as you need a cutting garden of your own to tend and watch grow, and friends to work with.

Brooklyn grown flowers

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What's Blooming Bouquet of Summer's End

What's Blooming in Brooklyn at the End of the Summer Bouquet

Goldenrod, Woodland Aster & Pokeweed. Some natives in bloom now. I wanted to do a bouquet that a child could pick.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Day's Gleaning

Walking along the cove out East this weekend, searching for clues to what's growing by what's left behind after the flowering, the storms and a season in the sand off the water. Learning about plants is a process with clues gathered in moments of attentiveness outside.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

My Neighbors are Pretty Sweet

Eggplants courtesy of Tom & Lily, Yellow tomatoes courtesy of Vincent & Julia, spicy peppers and tomatoes via Hippy Joe. The meager leftovers? Me and Joe.

They don't look like rock stars, (although frankly, some of them wouldn't seem out of place as charactors in some sweet and kooky indy movie) but they grow some gorgeous and tasty vegetables that they share with me. And when they're not busy growing vegetables and sharing them, they're busy being featured in the Edible Queens Fall Issue under the moniker of the "Vegetable Fairy of Woodside" or they're busy writing web exclusives for Edible Queens about the Queens Botanical Garden's Children's Garden Program (Marilyn and Shari, respectively).

You know my neighbors don't all dress like rock stars, but they do rock.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Aristocrat, Again

I don't think I've looked on a Japanese Maple that I didn't like. This particular one is in the Japanese Garden at Brooklyn Botanic as viewed on an early evening walk this week, but I don't think I could count the number of times I've been inspired by one. (I've taken to calling them the aristocrats after Edward S. Barnard in his New York City Trees Field Book.)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Something Lost

American Persimmons (Diospyrus virginiana) lost to Hurricane Irene, Brooklyn Botanic

I'd bumped into Uli once or twice since Irene blew through New York City, so I knew that there was damage in the Native Flora Garden at Brooklyn Botanic and that the American Persimmon grove with that deep-fissured bark that I'd loved so had been lost to Irene. But still it was sad to see those Persimmon logs laid so neatly outside of the closed Native Flora yesterday evening. It's a lot of work, cutting down fallen or damaged trees after a storm and it hasn't been finished yet. These are not the only trees that were lost at Brooklyn Botanic, so the arborists and the grounds crew have been plenty busy I imagine.

Below, that beautiful bark while the trees still stood.

Bark of American persimmon, Native Flora Garden, Brooklyn Botanic

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mid-September Wednesday at Brooklyn Botanic, Last Year

Moonflower vine flower bud before opening, Cranford Rose Garden, Brooklyn Botanic, 2010

Wednesday mornings of last year were spent in the Rose Garden at Brooklyn Botanic along with my fellow horticultural interns and Sarah, the rosarian. On this particular Wednesday in mid-September, one year ago exactly, I remember standing with Ayana admiring the incredible beauty of the Moonflower vine and a flower bud getting ready to open, perhaps later that evening or the next. It was a day of bright sun. Dainty Bess, a hybrid tea I fell in love with, was blooming and some honey bees were visiting.

And over near the Children's Garden, the Nyssa was starting to turn. Perhaps it is the light of the end of this summer that has turned me nostalgic. But I have the feeling that I ought to visit Brooklyn Botanic to see what color that Nyssa is this year and take in some new moments of botanical bliss.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

On Sedum, in a Garden in Brooklyn

Bees on sedum, Brooklyn Botanic

Last year in mid-September, it was the honey bee I noticed at Brooklyn Botanic digging on the sedum. This year, the bee again, but so much more. For instance, the wasp below. At this time of year, those things that are blooming, (for me garlic chives, goldenrod, aster and verbena bonariensis, among a few others) are swarming with hungry insects and it's an excellent time to get to know a few.

Below is a thread-waisted wasp, perhaps Prionyx parkeri. It feeds on nectar as an adult, but it is also a hunter of grasshoppers, which it feeds to its larvae. Now I know that grasshoppers are sweet-looking and that my nephew probably loves them, but it is also an herbivore. So this wasp, a predator of a plant-eater is a good guy in the garden.

Thread-waisted wasp on sedum, Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn

Monday, September 12, 2011

Foreshadowing Fall

It's not quite fall yet, but some of our good old native dogwoods are starting to turn. And even the lichen on an old wisteria left a hint of the color that is soon coming, at least here in the northeast. It was hot today, but it felt like a kind of last hurrah before the seasons change again.

I Thought I Saw a Wasp

Lesser peachtree borer on Garlic Chives, Brooklyn

Keen to impress my bug-loving nephew with my mad bug-identifying skills, I pored over the shots of what at first glance I thought was a wasp in my garden. But the wings in the shot below reminded me of a certain hummingbird moth that I'm so fascinated by, so instead of seeking out information on wasp identification, I looked for a clearwing moth instead. Turns out that the insect visiting the garlic chives in my garden, is indeed a wasp imitating moth, but more importantly it's also an important pest for fruit farmers. Something to keep in mind, if I ever find myself so lucky as to own a piece of land with room for some fruit trees. If my research is correct, this is a male Lesser Peachtree Borer, Synanthedon pictipes, but as usual I'd be happy if I nailed the genus alone. The looking at bugs thing is similar to the looking at plants thing. The more you look, the more you will see and after some time spent looking hard at the small things around you, something does sink in.

Lesser Peachtree borer moth male, Brooklyn

I also thought I saw a bright green metallic bee and you know what? I did. Coud it be Agapostemon sericeus, one of our New York native bees? Perhaps. I'll call it at genus Agapostemon, until I know better.

Keep looking Aaron. There's so much to discover.

Female Agapostemon metallic green bee on Goldenrod, Brooklyn

Saturday, September 10, 2011

On Goldenrod

Solidago speciosa, a garden gift from Susan in today's what's blooming bouquet

The time of goldenrod is long. This year, I saw my first goldenrod blooms in late July on the road to Saratoga and just this week in September, the Solidago speciosa (Showy Goldenrod) from Susan in my own garden began blooming. (I clipped only a little, leaving most of it in the garden for the local pollinators.) Yesterday, while taking a flower break from riding laps in Prospect Park, I couldn't even count the species I saw visiting this pollinator favorite. But I saw a new Syrphid fly and a wasp I'd never seen before just standing before those sunny native blooms for a few minutes.

Syrphid fly probably in Genus Eristalis on Goldenrod in Prospect Park, Brooklyn

Friday, September 9, 2011

Lean and Loafe Like your Uncle Walt

You can reckon a thousand acres much, or the earth much, or the weedy patch of Brooklyn that you know and love well much. You can lean and loafe at your ease observing the flowering of a summer grass you pass. You can try to fetch the spirit of Brooklyn's own Whitman as you wander, missing him somewhere and searching another, and wonder if it isn't as true as ever that there will never be more perfection than there is now as the day he wrote his line. Rain or no rain, but we are hoping for a little less rain next week though.

*This post and a good part of its words and phrases were shamelessly stolen from Whitman's Song of Myself and tweaked into a little song of a late summer's day in Brooklyn with a break from the rain. (I'm not sure why I'm on an historic bent these days, but it will probably pass like all things.)

Where my  volunteer Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is at today.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The More Things Change

Farmland in the Taconic range, near the Hudson River Valley in New York state (LOC)
Farmland in the Taconic range, near the Hudson River Valley in New York state (LOC) by The Library of Congress, on Flickr.
Collier, John,, 1913-1992,, photographer.

...the more the issues of the day remain the same and there is nothing new in the world under the sun. (I could throw in some more idioms if you like.) These pictures are from the Library of Congress, circa the 1940's, of New York state farmland and a homestead in Pietown, New Mexico. When I look at those old pictures of New York famland, I wonder how that land looks today and if it's still being farmed.

Farmland in the Catskill Mountains, Richmondsville, N.Y. (LOC)
Farmland in the Catskill Mountains, Richmondsville, N.Y. (LOC) by The Library of Congress, on Flickr
Collier, John,, 1913-1992,, photographer.
Garden adjacent to the dugout home of Jack Whinery, homesteader, Pie Town, New Mexico (LOC)
Garden adjacent to the dugout home of Jack Whinery, homesteader, Pie Town, New Mexico (LOC) by The Library of Congress, on Flickr
Lee, Russell,, 1903-1986,, photographer.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ode to a Fallen Tree, New York City style

Tombstone tree stump, Brooklyn NY

My question was this: Did the epitaph writers count the rings in this tree stump to approximate its age (41 or 42) or were they going by someone's memory, perhaps in their own family, of when the tree was planted? Either answer would be kind of sweet.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

An Invasive in the Window

Porcelainberry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata) with Zinnias and Pokeweed (a native) flower

A what's blooming (and fruiting) bouquet with some serious seeds. My research tells me that the pretty blue and purple-hued berries of the invasive Ampelopsis brevipedunculata are better off in the garbage pail than in the compost pile when the bouquet is done. But just one look at those pretty berries will tell you enough of the story of how this vine made its way across the sea and into gardens of the "new world". The fact that I found it roadside in Brooklyn quite a distance from any cultivated gardens speaks to the power of this plant's abilities in getting itself around.
Varied colors of the Porcelainberry.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Something Past

What remains of a daylily seedpod

And something not quite there yet...
My dad's green tomato