Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Where I'll be Six Months From Now

Colorado Potato Beetle Eggs

Probably, stooped over or squatting, checking the underside of my potato, eggplant and tomato plants for the yellow clusters of eggs laid by the Colorado Potato Beetle. That doesn't sound like a lot of fun and it isn't really, but the good part is that if I remember to start doing this a little before Memorial Day (or to put it in the gardening year, sometime just after the tomato transplants go in the ground), I can manage an important pest in the garden.

And in five months? Definitely checking out Cayleb's tulip and bulb display at Brooklyn Botanic. It's different every year, but it's always around the same time. (That's what's awesome about gardens, this fantastic mix of regularity and surprise, and the chance each time round to learn a little more, try something different or just get better at the craft.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Ladybug in the News

Harmonia axyridis (methinks primarily from the M shaped markings on the pronotum. Not native.)

I check out the insects to charm my bug-loving nephew and I check out the insects because I am curious to know what pollinators are visiting my garden, but I also pay attention because it's important to know both your beneficials and your pests when you are gardening organically. And now that I know that the nine-spotted ladybug has recently been spotted on Eastern Long Island, there's also the possibility of seeing this native species so rarely seen in the last three decades to keep me interested.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Arrested Development

What you see above becomes what you see below.

(as seen on The High Line in mid-April)

And a stalled construction site in the city could stop filling up with broken glass and garbage and become an urban flower farm, at least temporarily. It's not an impossibility. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has not only an opinion on this kind of use for stalled construction sites, but a policy report as well.   It's already been done with vegetables at Riverpark farm, where an "arrested development" construction site has been transformed into a temporary urban farm and green space.

It's an idea anyway, a seed if you will. Something to think about through the winter. And if nothing else ever comes of the idea, there will be briefly in the spring beautiful blooms.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

It's A Stretch

Recommended planting time for Crimson Clover is early fall or six weeks before first frost. We are nowhere near that time frame. But we planted some in the lot anyway and we'll see what happens. So far, no true leaves, which probably makes its survival through the winter a stretch. But right now there's no prediction of freezing temps even through next weekend and whatever we can add to the dry rocky ground the better it will be, even if it's just a little wisp of something that dies and decays.

Friday, November 25, 2011

What These Things Are and What They Are Not

They are not just pretty pictures of beautiful things. They are the practices of letting some vegetables go to seed to attract beneficials or collect seed, using covercrops and other means to build up the soil, growing herbs alongside vegetables, and adding diversity to a monocrop. They may look effortlessly beautiful, but they are in fact the result of the deliberate and thoughtful work of gardeners (and of course, the plants themselves). I'm not just paying attention here because I think it's pretty. I'm trying to learn something.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Naming of Things We Are Thankful For

Last year I gave thanks for my brother's turkey and roses, my nieces and their dresses (if these little gals think there's any chance that there will be dancing going on, they are going to change their clothes), most especially a year of wonder working as a horticultural intern at Brooklyn Botanic among some trees a century old and the beauty of some Camellias blooming in the cold. Because again it is the time to reflect on the graces of the year, I culled from some pictures throughout the year since last Thanksgiving, wanting only to choose images that defined for me something I could name and give thanks for in each month. There are only four images corresponding to four months above, from late November through February, the time through the darkest and coldest days until the first blooms of the year. That's as far as I got in one sitting.

To name those things above and give thanks: Top Left: November, For my garden neighbors, their plants seeding and for things that might wander into my garden. Bottom Left: December, For plants studied, remembered and revisited at Brooklyn Botanic. Top Right: January, For the year with Verbena bonariensis, my pollinator magnet and for prodigious self-sowers, the volunteers of gardens. Bottom Right: February, For all of the firsts of a lifetime, in particular this year, my first bike ride of winter and the first winter blooms. I could be briefer and just name my thanks for seeds, for decorative bark and the tree silhouettes of winter, what remains of the seasons growth that's interesting to look at when the tree canopy is bare and it's ridiculously cold outside, and for the promise of spring always evident in winter if you look for it.

Maybe later I will be inspired to wade through some more pictures to finish out all the months, but for now, it's enough to remind myself of the things that I'll need to keep in mind and seek out this time of year, the part that I find challenging to get through in good spirits. (And that's mostly because I am a wimp in the cold, overly sensitive to the weather and already missing the long bright days of spring and summer.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Because The Ground is Still Workable

we are still ordering bulbs (with sales galore at the end of the season) and still planting, and right now, if I could have one wish granted, it would be to plant bulbs day in and day out everywhere. I feel a bit like a mad squirrel, but there is something really satisfying about digging those holes and dropping bulbs in, and it's a different satisfaction than the one you get planting tiny seeds. Maybe it's simply because you get to dig deeper into the ground when planting bulbs.

And so here a quote from a book that quotes another book. From Robert Pogue Harrison's Gardens, An Essay on the Human Condition where he quotes from Karel Capek's The Gardener's Year, which I am now dying to read.

"While I was only a remote and distracted onlooker of the accomplished work of gardens, I considered gardeners to be beings of a peculiarly poetic and gentle mind, who cultivate perfumes of flowers listening to the birds singing. Now when I look at the affair more closely, I find that a real gardener is not a man who cultivates flowers; he is a man who cultivates the soil. He is a creature who digs himself into the earth..."

I'd like to think that we are cultivating both though, flowers and the soil.

Monday, November 21, 2011

From A to B, the Short Way

Here, some straight lines of vegetables and cover crops in the borough that used to be known for farming, and where the Queens County Farm Museum now preserves that legacy. We stopped in to look around and to buy some of their honey for my oldest friend who recently moved not too far away. We also ended up with a bottle of wine to go with dinner, made partly from the museum's grapes (the rest came from eastern Long Island). My phone camera did not capture the glory well, but still, I'll probably always be a sucker for the beauty of a nice row of vegetables.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

In the Rough, Diamonds

Goldenrod seed head in our weedy lot in the city.

In a weedy lot, beneath a surface strewn with broken glass and garbage, there are some bulbs waiting on the spring. And mixed in with the mugwort and buried pieces of brick, there are also some things worth preserving like goldenrod.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Moment's Occupation

Today, at Brooklyn Botanic, two moments: One occupied by the yellow leaves of a Japanese Maple, the other the stamens on a Camellia flower. What I like about gardening and paying attention to plants and the seasons the most is that they are activities where I find myself completely absorbed in the moment. These moments often seem to be made of the stuff of dreams, but they are in fact composed entirely of reality and the substance of life on earth. What looks like daydreaming is exactly the opposite.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Some Things We Save

Spring's Lavender dried for tea

There are some things saved from this year's growing season that will remain, for a little while at least. There is plenty in the cupboard dried for tea or for cooking, and a few momentos of the season's blooms and seed heads in vases. During the growing season, Joe's always got herbs drying in brown paper bags hanging from hooks or a rod rigged near the ceiling, and at this time of year, I'm glad for that.

Autumn's Goldenrod

Lavender bud before blooming, Brooklyn
When the Lavender was about to bloom this year, late May

Thursday, November 17, 2011

One Plant, Three Ways

There's more than one way to look at any one plant or species and I know I'll never come to know or ID plants by looking at them in only one stage, season or from one angle. Here: simply three photographs taken last month in Queens of one species from different vantage points (far away and en masse, up close and behind, and looking down upon, respectively).

The goal for me when looking at plants is always first to try and recognize what I'm seeing, and then to figure out whether the beautiful plant I see is a good guy, a bad guy or somewhere in between. Nymphoides peltata is labeled a noxious weed in some parts of the US, including states nearby. So noxious is one way to look at it too, at least in the environment nearby. When I took these pictures, I wondered whether I was looking at a potential aquatic invasive or not, but I did not know. And I do feel that the next time I come upon this plant, I will recognize it because I took some time to look upon it closely and photograph it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Latest Bloomer of Prospect Park

Hamamelis virginiana

I've only been following its bloom in the park for the last three years, but early November is when I keep my eye out for it. This week on a bike ride, I finally noticed our native witchhazel blooming. The blooms aren't as showy as many of the winter-blooming hybrids, but its delicate flowers make it a native to look out for in the fall.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Because Next Year is Coming

the garlic cloves were planted yesterday to take root underground and on an oak, leaf buds will ride out the winter on branches. Right now, outside, it's all about getting ready for the winter and for next year's leaves, though it's still feeling a little like spring in New York weather-wise.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Margaret's Mums

Joe likes to joke that we don't recognize people from the community garden outside of their plots. This is sometimes true. It's not true of Margaret, because we've talked many times and I wouldn't mistake her anywhere. But still, when I think of her, I can't help but picture her plants. Potatoes in long rows and Walking Egyptian onions especially. But also Columbine in the spring, and in the fall, her mums. Her mums are fading now in the coffee mug on our table, but I'm hoping to see them and her back again at the garden next year.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Quiet and Still

After the Flowers, in the Rock Garden, Brooklyn Botanic
"Quiet and still, but constantly and vigorously expressing the dynamism of life."

This post and the chosen images were inspired by Julian Velasco's lovely words today (and work) at Brooklyn Botanic's Bonsai Museum. He is talking about Bonsai, but I am reminded of some quiet and still moments spent focusing in autumn on what remains of a season's growth and flowering. These pictures were taken last year in mid-November in the rock garden at Brooklyn Botanic.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Riding in Circles

Red Maple Flowering as winter turned to spring, Prospect Park
You don't get anywhere riding in circles in Prospect Park, but getting somewhere isn't the point of every bike ride. I ride in the park to train primarily, and after hundreds of laps through the years, the loop is like an old friend. Now that I garden though, rides have another purpose and there are certain trees I keep an eye out for through the seasons. Here's one from this year: A Red Maple (Acer rubrum), one of the earliest blooming trees as winter gave way to spring this year (March 20th), and again, this week as the leaves on that same early bloomer are changing and falling.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Planting Bulbs With Emma

What beats planting bulbs with your second-grade, gardening niece on one of the best weather late afternoons of fall? Not much, I'd wager. I'm hoping the alliums and muscari come up better looking than the sad picture I drew to explain to her exactly what her birthday present was. I'm no artist, but I think they'll pass for symbols at least of the plants that she will be watching next spring, and I'm pretty sure she's gonna love them.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

At the Beech in Fall and Winter

Beech Tree, Fall, Prospect Park
I went for a ride in Prospect Park yesterday, breathing a little hard and checking out the fall color, and I ended up beside the same beautiful Beech I admired on my first fair-weathered winter ride of this year. On that mid-February day I saw my first blooms of the year as well. The park is pretty magnificent right now and this fall is turning out pretty well, despite the freak October snowstorm.

Beech Tree, Winter, Prospect Park

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Field Full of Dreams

Somewhere in the city, there was the dream of a real estate developer. To cover the earth, build up towards the sky and to erect a building. But that dream has died, and since its death what remains is just a patch of disturbed ground, a field of mostly mugwort growing on what really isn't soil, but rather a sort of rock-hard landfill. But I have a dream too. To build up that disturbed ground. To reclaim and use this small piece of earth to raise something other than steel and concrete.

Some seeds have been planted. To be precise though, they were bulbs.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Bouquet in the bathroom at Chanticleer

The picture above is of a bouquet in the bathroom at Chanticleer. It was taken on a Brooklyn Botanic horticulture intern field trip last year on a ridiculously hot day in early July. What was I thinking? I was thinking "this place is so awesome, even the bathroom rocks", and also "who needs flowers, when leaves and branches are so beautiful?". But probably mostly "I hope I remember how much I loved this moment." I do. The memories of beautiful moments studying plants remains. Essentially that is really the whole of what most posts of this blog contain. I didn't know it would be so when I started, but the act of focusing, photographing and recording these moments has proved to be an amazing tool for remembering and learning for me.

I couldn't tell you for certain if one of the talented gardeners at Chanticleer made this bouquet from plants onsite or not, but Chanticleer has a plant list that's accessible online and it's here.

Handmade Plant List Box, Chanticleer

Saturday, November 5, 2011

They Are Precious

The last of some Brooklyn grown zinnias
They are precious because they are the last ones of the season. They are precious because they can not last forever. But they are mostly precious to me because we grew them. I feel the same ridiculous way about the carrots in the fridge and the dried chamomile in the cupboard. I don't think we can help but fall in love with the things we tend.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Weedy Lot Wandering

What remains of Evening Primrose? I'm assuming these are fruit or seed pods.

You can either become completely overwhelmed by all there is to learn about plants throughout the seasons and get discouraged, or you can choose to be inspired by all the not-knowing and do a little wandering and exploring. I choose the latter. If I knew everything, there wouldn't be anything left to discover. And then a weedy lot in Brooklyn would have much less potential for adventure.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Something Witchy This Way

Fothergilla (Aka Witch Alder)

Two witches to watch in the fall. You can't always tell that plants are related simply 
by looking at their leaves, but with these two members of the witch-hazel family (Hamamelidacea), you can.

Hamamelis (aka Witch Hazel)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

180 Degrees

It's six months time from there to here and then back again. Above late April and below the first of November. I've got my eye on autumn but I can't help thinking about spring. I bought some bulbs today.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

They Used to Fly Planes Out of Here

but now the things that fill in the cracks have taken over and the pavement has given way to the power of seeds and roots and time. Wildness is not just found in pristine places. It stakes a claim wherever it finds some open space.