Monday, April 30, 2012

Emma's Bulbs

 The alliums are getting ready to go and most (but not all) of the muscari have passed. I'm not sure that she'll stick with the gardening. She's eight-years-old after all and there aren't a whole lot of things that really hold her attention for a long while. But that's ok, because you can't really expect every kid to have a profound and sustained interest in gardening even if it excites most of them in the moment. They're kids after all and their world moves fast and their interests flit and evolve. But if she remembers those birthday alliums and enjoys them when they finally open, it won't matte if she leaves her interest in gardening behind until she's older or perhaps forever, it will still have been worth the fun of planting those bulbs together last fall.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Perry's Newest Fig Trees

Since Joe and I caught the gardening bug, whenever we visit my parents we make it a point to stop in on Perry's yard across the street, just to see what he's growing and what he's propagating and have a little gardening chat. Invariably at some point during the conversation this means turning down a fig tree, one of the things Perry prodigiously propagates. One day though we're hoping we'll have room and can accept.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Mixed Bag

for me is a good thing, especially when it comes to lettuce. I tend not to know any of the greens I grow, by name of cultivar that is. I like the surprise that comes from sowing a packet of mixed spring or summer lettuce and then seeing what comes.

 I made it to my own community garden plot last night and it felt good to see that somewhat neglected space again (seriously this was a very good week for weeds and for growth in was that week in spring where everything grew tenfold). I really enjoy working in other people's gardens, but spending even the tiniest amount of time on a windy and surprisingly cool spring evening in a little patch of the earth that's mine to take care of was really grounding for me and familiar. I know there's a lot of emphasis in education in the schools on gardening right now, mostly food oriented, and this is all good, but for me the greatest and most powerful part of gardening, the good that in can can bring in terms of really caring and investing in the environment where you live, comes from getting to know, explore and tend a piece of the earth for yourself.

This is where there is room for the mistakes that will teach you, and this where there is the room for experimenting and playing, and this is the only place that is yours to make the decisions. It isn't the kind of experience you can ever get from a class or a book, an internship, a job, or a magazine article and as ever, I feel incredibly lucky to have stumbled upon a space in a community garden in New York City to call my own.

My lettuce seedlings looked good and colorful last night. I was happy to see them doing so well. It was so dry and warm when they were sown.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Things Left Behind (at the lot)

Someday in the future, when the foreclosure on this lot is finalized and it is auctioned most likely to make way for new condos with lots of glass, the new developers may find some remnants of a little dream before they bulldoze. Some blooms or my watering can. A shovel. A few bags of cut grass stalks salvaged from a work site meant to be lain as mulch. Right now though, the surrounding neighborhood lives with what's left behind from a shady investment and a stalled development site. Weeds and garbage that not only accumulate in the lot but spill out onto the surrounding pavement. (Even the owners or whoever was in charge of fixing the fence followed suit and left their own garbage behind in the form of the chain they temporarily put up to keep the "non-owners" out before repairing the broken fence.)

I think it would have been nicer temporarily filled with flowers. I'm still holding out hope that some of the perennials we moved in can beat out the mugwort with the help of a thin layer of straw mulch. The thought of those unused bags of grass flower stalks are killing me. If I'd known last Monday what I know now, I might just have been late for work and taken the time to protect those plants a little better. But I thought there was more time.

Monday, April 23, 2012


First look up and see the blue sky echoed in the windows of tall buildings and then look down to see where busy hands and trowels have just been. And while these two things, the skycrapers and the terrace, green with newly planted grasses and perennials, seem perhaps entirely at odds and of two different worlds, they are both really these modern, completely fabricated and fantastic creations. They are these ecosystems in the skyline, one filled workers and the business of the life of man in the city, the other a miniature manmade prairie. Perhaps in a way they could even be compared to the complicated systems only recently discovered that exist and carry out all the business of living up high in the canopy of old growth forests.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Blooms and Buds on the Outskirts of Brooklyn Botanic

You won't even have to enter the gates on Eastern Parkway before getting a taste of why this is traditionally the busiest time of year at Brooklyn Botanic. And this year, with so many things ahead of schedule and overlapping, I bet you won't know where to look first. The beauty of Baptisia buds getting ready to open or Silverbells in bloom?

Baptisia buds in April, Border near Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Botanic

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Follow That Gas Pipeline, (Public Meetings on Rockaway Lateral Delivery Project- April 25th,7-9pm, Aviator Sports Complex, Floyd Bennett Field)

Image from paperwork filed in 2009 by Williams..depicting pipeline path and alternatives and possible metering and regulating station sites

It could still be a long way off before major media outlets start following the story of the proposed gas pipeline project through Gateway National Recreational Area, so if you wait to read about it in the paper, you may only hear about the project while it is under construction. Some of the first public meetings about the project are scheduled for April 25th, from 7 to 9pm, at Aviator in Floyd Bennett Field, yet recent documents filed by Williams Transco with FERC indicate that the company anticipates HR 2606 (the legislation that is necessary for the project to move forward) going to the Senate floor sometime in June. It must be nice to be a powerful corporation and have the heads up on when things are happening, as opposed to the people and interested parties in the area (link to Sheepshead Bites, an independent news blog and their coverage of the story) who've mostly yet to hear about, let alone get to offer input, on this use of National Park land. Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers have information about an additional public meeting on the 24th in the Rockaways. What's to say about these public meetings? Well, for starters, let's say they are long overdue. The first paperwork on this project was filed with FERC over three years ago. It seems pretty late in the game for the public to be invited in, but maybe that's just me. I know I'm pretty interested in the particulars of the metering and regulating station that is supposed to be housed in hangars at Floyd Bennett Field, as well as the construction of the pipeline and its potential environmental impact through the area.

(my gas pipeline posts here)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

If It's The End of A Dream

then at least the dream is ending in a bright splash of primary colors up against a red wall. (Something tells me the coffee spot, ( Coffee Bites) up the street isn't afraid of a little color in the vase. It could be their paint job.) Our somewhat mad and exciting experiment with growing flowers locally in Brooklyn in a dusty lot may be at its end. Though we found out only recently that the owner of this stalled construction site is in jail for mortgage fraud, (to the tune of $18 million), it seems someone has locked us out of the lot. Wouldn't you know it, it happened just as we were delivered flats and flats of native plugs (mostly prairie plants) and other drought tolerant species that would relish the space. With so many blooms still being waited on from what's already been planted, it's going to be hard not to find a way back in, if only just to harvest and not to plant and sow as we were getting excited and ready for. I'm having a little trouble adjusting to the cirumstances, though all along I knew it was a very real risk. It will kill me to watch the mugwort and garbage swallow up the plants we have in there, but that just may be the reality we are headed for. I'm pretty sure that though the owner is in prison and the property has been in foreclosure for some time that the lot will sit vacant for a while longer still. I'm going to give myself a week to think about what my next move will be and I think I'm going to need all of it.

Brooklyn Grown flower bouquet

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Because Nothing is Wasted

last year's leftovers from the vegetable garden become this year's food for bees and a brilliant splash of yellow. Some people are neat gardeners and already have a real jump on the season, others not so much. It's all good, as the surfers like to say. You know, people will seek out all kinds of ornamental plants with this kind of vertical impact, but in the vegetable garden sometimes it just comes easy if you just let something go. I kind of wish this was my garden right now.

Some Things Wild and Some Things We Grew

Because they're here now.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Little Native Lovin

Doubly so because it's some native pollinators on some native plants (A Redbud and an Oakleaf Hydrangea. The oakleaf is from a little further south, but if we include southeastern plants, it counts.) With just a cellphone, there's no way I can get close enough to capture any details that might make it easier to key out that tiny green metallic bee. Pretty sure it's a sweat bee (Halictidae). I'd love it if it were Augochlora genus because it would be a new one for me, but family is going to have to be good enough for right now (if I even got that right) and a sweet reward for a few hours of weeding today at the community garden.  And though I'm not sure if I ever even watched that whole movie, The Field of Dreams, I know that famous line from it and in the case of native pollinators, it is true. If you build it, they will come. But you have to build it with plants.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

When You See It

Lamium galeobdolon in the spring, Union Square Park

you see it. If you look long enough and hard enough at plants, even if you never have before in your life, you will begin to recognize the similarities of family members. (Here two members of the Lamiaceae, the mint family.) But only one is native and a real lover of sunny dry spots like the lot we are planting in and that's the Monarda punctata below. We're waiting on some plugs and hoping to introduce this native to that dusty lot. The other is considered a thug in some parts due to its success as a ground cover.

Monarda punctata in July, Brooklyn

Thursday, April 12, 2012

All This Needs is Some Animal Figurines

and I'd believe it was one of those wee terrariums that are so popular now and not a test plot up on a roof in the Bronx. But perhaps what's really needed are some matchbook cars for taking a cruise around the rocky terrain.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Waiting on a Bloom

I know the trend in plant breeding is towards repeating bloomers, but there's something sweet about waiting on a bloom and seeing it and enjoying in it's own time. And I love seeing something from the vegetable garden up on the greenroof. Chives are a triple threat. Talk about form and function and a willingness to thrive in a tough environment, this plant has got it all.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Invitation to the Blues

the virginia blues that is. You gotta love a blue flower. I'm from New York, but I didn't grow up romping in the woods, so the first time I'd ever seen one was at Brooklyn Botanic.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Trendy Bouquet!

At Duane Reade today, this sign behind some tulip bouquets for sale amused me. "Trendy Bouquet". I'm not sure I've seen bouquets for sale at the pharmacy before, but then again, maybe I'm just not hanging around pharmacies enough to really be in the know. I'm not altogether sure that the sign really means that the pharmacy thinks that bouquets are trending now or if they perhaps mean to say that tulip bouquets are trending because it's spring or if they're perhaps just looking to unload the last of their tulips at some Superbuy! prices. I do however take my cues on the spirit of the times and what I should probably do directly from marketers in pharmacies, so I stopped at the lot we've been planting in on my way home to catch up on what's surviving there and harvest a bit for the coffee shop up the block. I only took enough to fashion some small bouquets, which I'll get around to after I let them chill out a bit in the fridge. I can't gaurantee the bouquets will be trendy though, (my degree isn't in marketing) but I can tell you these blooms were sweetly anticipated.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Baptisia Seed Pods in April

I'm a sucker for plants in the pea family (do you think they call the family fabaceae because it's so fab?) and a sucker for plants with pretty seed pods, so I'm doubly done in by our native Baptisia australis. Those rattling seed pods still looked beautiful standing stiffly after the winter before they were cut down this afternoon.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Roof or The Reef?

This roof in the Bronx isn't so much green as it is hued in the most amazing colors. There were purples and blues as well as these screaming oranges and reds and most things in between. Something about those sedums makes them look like they'd be comfortable living their lives in the sea off some tropical island, yet these plants are quite happy growing in quite the opposite environment, where it's dry and between gravel.  Do I have room in my life for some new favorites?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Getting Girly

Even if your hands are starting to look kind of scratched and beaten up and there are moments of gardening work that make you feel kind of manly in a good way, all it takes is the daintiest of flowers to make you feel ridiculously girly. The dainty ones make me think of my nieces, especially Emma, the gardening one and how we need to make a visit to a nursery together soon. The colors in this woodland phlox match this kid's world where everything is pink and purple.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Scene From Today's Window Sill

Joe's in mad propagating mode and he's beginning to take up more and more window sill real estate. His innovations continually surprise me. Today I noticed the new shelf and the mirror for catching some extra sunlight for the tomato, eggplant and pepper seedlings. I can only wish that I had some of the building and really fine motor skills that he has. Handling delicate seedlings kind of freaks me out (I still have to get past my tendency to be overly precious with plants), but he just pricks them out and transplants with the kind ease and steady hand that makes it seem like he's been doing it his whole life.

And below, some freshly harvested flowers in a little bouquet. (You know I don't keep bouquets on the window sill. It's just a source for capturing some daylight for pictures.)

Some of what's blooming now, grown in Brooklyn