Completely random string of associations for this post. Last night I went to see There Will be Blood, the new Paul Anderson movie with a scorching performance by Daniel Day Lewis. The visuals were also mesmerizing, the dark viscous pools of crude black oil a visual metaphor for the black hearted protagonists in the movie. Scrolling through my photos today, I screeched to a halt at this one. I took it at the vegetable garden in Wave Hill and I remember being startled that day by how black this plant was, like a pool of tar that oozed out the ground or a patch of the garden charred by a zap of stray lightining.
If you took a look at the linked trailer, you'll notice that the soundtrack by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood is jarringly modern. The sense of authenticity created by the art direction - you really got a sense of the turn of the century, the plainess of the interiors and the clothes combined with modernity of the score was really powerful and for some reason made me think of this blog. I told you there would be random asoociations. Something about the digital-ness of this blog, the code, the software, the megapixel photos and HD video that contrasts so with the simplicity of the pursuit of gardening, the dirt on my hands at the end of an afternoon in the garden. Blogging about this is also a powerful new ability for us to connect a moment last summer in the Wave Hill vegetable garden with a sample of the music and performances from last nights movie with a random thought I had sitting there in the movie theatre. I'm rambling, enough of these musings, here's the facts: the plant is called Black Pearl an award winning ornamental pepper developed by a scientist.
I was really inspired on seeing these pieces of porcelain with botanical designs over the weekend which I found in an antique store in Accord, called Downtown. They are examples of brown and white transferware, typically imported from England. However aware you are of any aesthetic, sometimes it takes the interest or passion of someone else like the owner of this store to really trigger a closer look. Ron, the owner is clearly drawn to these ironstone pieces and had such an interesting collection of them in his store it prompted me to ask him if I could take pictures and then return to NYC to research the subject a little more. So I now discover there is wealth of material to discover and explore just in this small area of design, sort of a ceramic counterpart to Toiles which were popular in the same time frame. That time frame is also one which I particularly like myself -the overlapping periods of the Aesthetic and Arts and Crafts movement which I've referenced a lot in the design of this site. The jug is probably newer but the plate is definitely Staffordshire and I particularly like the richness of color and subtle crackled glaze texture of the actual plate- not white but a creamy mocha.
From Ulster County. Comfortably ensconced in the beautiful interior of a friend's weekend house in the Catskills, I shot these photographs, most of them from inside the house or the car. The red berries photo the only one taken while wandering the nearby village of High Falls. Now this is the way to enjoy the bleak miseries of winter- cold winds, snow, ice, rain, dead twigs and frozen leaves all rendered poetically in a forgiving rural setting.
Soundtrack: Angus Stone sings Joni Mitchell's The River from No Man's Woman
The New York Times reported today that Pantone has selected the color of the year for 2008 to be No. 18-3943 AKA Blue Iris.
A beautifully balanced blue-purple...A Multifaceted Hue Reflecting the Complexity of the World that Surrounds Us......Blue Iris brings together the dependable aspect of blue, underscored by a strong, soul-searching purple cast. Emotionally, it is anchoring and meditative with a touch of magic.
I'm not usually a fan of Pantone's choices for 'it' colors of the year but I have to say I really like this one - for flowers- particularly because its a color that I've had on my mind since spring when the wild indigo bloomed. I remember thinking then that it was the perfect blue to go with the color scheme of chocolate colored plants in the Mamroneck garden. I photographed examples of this color when I came across them, these pansies in the Shakespeare garden in Central Park, in the photo above on the right spires of delphiniums and on the left a gamut from blueish purples to purplish blues in a border, both in Provincetown. My gardening in vogue post last week strangley enough also used a more purple variant of this color.
I want to like winter more. I'm interested in general in seeing more in the simplest things, to find beauty in the everyday - like the image on the left, a view out of my bedroom window early one morning. It was daybreak and there were icy blues and these magenta cast pinks. I raced to get my camera.
By the time I took the photographs, something had slipped away- the complicated icy palette had narrowed. A few days later icy rain wrapped the branches in a translucent skin that glowed in the light of the street lamp. It was like looking at an x ray of the oak tree pinned against the night sky. It was late at night, I didn't think I would be able to capture it, but I went looking for my camera anyway. A red light flashed on and off when I booted it up. It might still be there in the morning I thought while I slid the exhausted battery into its charger and went to bed. In the morning it had all melted away.
Then a noreaster blew more wintry weather my way. I was woken in the middle of the night by the percussion of frozen rain against the glass windowpanes. Good, I thought, there'll be something to see in the morning, something to capture. The storm ripped the leaves, finally, off the Oak tree. I liked the black lacy branches it revealed but the density of the gray, gray skies, a grayness that lingered all day- well that was just...sad. I want to like winter more but its hard.
On the other hand back in September I was dazzled by a glorious Harvest Moon.
The November edition of Vogue L'uomo does something, as an interested observer of trend and zeitgeist, I only ever see once in a blue moon. Its editors almost as if frustrated by the knowledge that something is about to happen, but unable to actually get enough product that reflect these trends to fill their pages, they resort to the next best thing- set available product in a visual environment that conjures up this trend. This issue sets a variety of interesting men with connections to nature, conservation, the environment and gardening in - the garden. Potting sheds, lush borders all form backdrops for princes (not one but two), hunky microbiologists and environmental activists, eccentric englishmen and on the cover, Al Gore.
So what does this mean? Trends aren't manufactured- not the real ones anyway, they're a reflection of desire and usually a desire for change after a cycle where the previous objects of affection are now no longer appealing. Does this mean the cycle of desire for Gucci, Prada, hummers and bling is soon to be ousted by the rustic, natural and conscientious? Quite possibly. As trends go the next big trend is almost always diammetrically opposed to the last one. From corsets to flapper dresses, from Studio 54 to the Reagan years. Apparently like Joni Mitchell says- we've got to get back to the garden and the tastemakers and creatives are currently crafting the imagery to seduce the luxury and celebrity fatigued consumer into a modern eden.
The spoof magazine cover is a photo from the New York Botanical garden taken this summer. Other garden trend sightings - Nicolas Ghesquière's riot of flower prints for the Balenciaga Spring 2008 Collection.
My potted basil that I moved to the front windowsill fully expecting the radiator there to finish it off, is putting up a decent fight. I get pretty good morning light through that window, there are no buildings in the way. There is a school across the street but its a low building, lower than my fifth floor eyrie. In its prime a previous tenant would have had unrestricted views of the nearby Harlem River from said window. I'm just happy I get to see a blue sky on a sunny day as opposed to a wall of apartment windows, like the last buiding I lived in. I was also on the verge of throwing out an old rickety side table when I decided to pull its legs off, and keep the table top (with drawer) and set in on top of the radiator cover. It fits nicely and I think provides a serious buffer from the heat of the radiator- hence the basil's tenacity. Ok, the other herbs are not doing quite as well but I think I may just go out and get some more- it still beats the fluorescent lit, clingfilm wrapped extortionately priced alternative from the grocery store.
Are you the head gardener or the head gardener of your estate? Head over to our shop then for your sartorial needs.
I'm usually of the Bah Humbug school of thought when it comes to Christmas Trees. Living in a five floor walkup in a city where christmas trees are a proverbial arm and a leg would do that to you. Besides I'm never really here anyway -Christmas is either vacation time or its at someone else's house.
I did however bring back some branches of Eastern White Pine from Mamaroneck a couple of weeks ago and stuffed them in a gigantic glass container I have. The container is one of those impulse buys that you wonder why you ever got in the first place. I remember being attracted to the scale of it and it had a strange silvery cast that seemd appealing when I saw it at the flea market. When I brought it home, the silvery-ness washed out and it turned out to be really cumbersome when filled with water so more often than not it rarely got used, idling up valuable apartment space.
Sitting back and looking at the combination of pine and gigantic glass bauble, and I swear I really didn't contrive this- the thought only occurred afterwards - that it was really quite an interesting modern take on ye olde Christmas Tree. Spare, fresh, unadorned the container suggesting a traditional ornament. I might have created myself a Christmas tradition for the years ahead.
O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum, Du kannst mir sehr gefallen.
Besides work being done on the barn as described in my last post the main house is also scheduled for some major renovation. The kitchen has always been disproportionately cramped, given the size of the rest of the house, which has always been a problem with the size of the family and the fact that its a major activity center. So finally the day has also come (in the new year ) for it to be renovated, but a few other things are getting a revamp at the same time- one of them being the porch.
Its a beautiful space, with a pleasing view of the back garden, on one side and the side garden- where the hostas and phlox are, on the other with an octagon thats covered with climbing hydrangea. Its a quiet place to sit and read and there's also a small dining table there where like most things out here is mainly used in the summer months. With the renovation, the porch will be properly winterized, which was a subject of discussion with Heidi the last time I was up. What's she going to do with that space? We had a good look at book called An Affair with a House by the interior decorator Bunny Williams - which had wonderful photos of many transitionary spaces like this, that are both about being inside and outside.
I've paired one of the images from the book- the one on the left of some old metal flowers on a windowsill with a view out of the porch that day- a wintry one because they both sort of visualize something else that's on my mind - what do you do in the wintertime when the garden is unavailable and more to the point when you have a gardening related blog to maintain. I'm going to muse and expand about this probably over a few posts but I'm definitely processing this whole idea of winterizing. I guess the images immediately suggest two solutions to me- you look out the window, enjoy whats there but more probably you imagine, plot or dream things up that you did or intend to do in the garden, how you'll improve on something-and additonally you recreate the garden with potted metal flowers or in my case drawings or painting or designs as I intend to.
I guess this also helps to explain how I perceive 'gardening' which to me is essentially about keeping a connection with the outside, which is most probably why you'll never read a decent gardening tip ever on this blog-I'm just not that enamored with the technicalities of it- I'm more interested in the experience of keeping that connection going- cutting flowers and branches to bring inside, tending a pot on the windowsill, cooking a vegetable I grew. As the winter encroaches on all those activities, I'll have to resort to my imagination and creativity to find ways to keep that same interior/exterior dialogue alive, not dormant waiting for spring. So do come visit, I intend to keep this blog like Heidi's soon to be porch, winterized.
The Potting Shed is under construction. The walled garden beds that I spend most of my time gardening are in front of what used to be the old barn and stable. The barn was demolished and replaced by the cottage like building that now stands there. It houses a large garage and storage area on the ground floor and above it a space that I've been using as a studio for the last few years. The storage space downstairs has always been designated as the potting shed. Jim has stored the wood slats that originally lined the walls of the stables and the living quarters upstairs to one day furnish this space- and that day has come. The slats which were different colors depending which floor they came from have started going up on the wall and the carpenter has arranged them in this intriguing variegated stripe pattern that is now under debate whether it should be left as is or have a light wash applied. A sink and work space will be installed so as you can imagine, I am excited at the prospect of the entire project. In fact earlier this year I took a couple of shots of the potting shed at Wave Hill to file for future reference. Lets see how our novice attempts at growing from seed will turn out for next summer in our new fancy quarters.
Along with the wood slats, Jim also kept the original door to the upstairs living quarters, which will be the door to a small under stair storage space. The door is scrawled with a glimpse into the past- a tenant of that space clearly had a turn of events that he felt worth recording for posterity. It's hard to decipher all of it but it basically recants how he was discharged in 1911 after a drunken binge. I'll update if I find out more about this.
My day job is graphic artist, creating original t shirt and textile prints to the apparel industry. I work from home and sell my artwork through an agent to the design studios of large apparel corporations- many of them would be familiar names and surprisingly to a wide variety-from higher end designer sportswear lines to high street chains. Prior to this I worked as a designer and more latterly as creative director and consultant at some of these large corporations. Ultimately I kept reworking and rehoning my skills to be able to work as I do now - independently from home basically because the apparel design business- well its just nutty. Its also manic, stressful and surprisingly given that its an aesthetic and trend related business not as creative or able to really follow real trends as one would imagine. Not surprisingly I can vouch that profit and corporate structure really are a hindrance to inventive design.
A few days ago, I opened an online store on Zazzle- a print on demand operation, that does the printing,stocking,shipping and money collecting part- if you do the design part. Great concept but very limited offerings in terms of merchandise - iron on transfers on to white t shirts. Thats how it started but I've been watching and waiting to see how market forces and technology would impact this and its been improving steadily over the last couple of years. Last week I discovered that Zazzle have made a significant breakthrough.
I never thought in all my years of design that I could do what I'm now able to do- put together a small line of products that has a point of view that can be aimed at a customer that ranges from infants, kids through teens adults and grandparents. Their use of 'real' models allows any one to envision the product on urban hipsters to alternative generation X-ers to young at heart Boomers not to mention different ethnicities and body types.
I've been testing these products and have discovered that the method of printing used (digital ink jet)- which is fundamentally different from how most things are printed (silk screen)- can be used to great effect in recreating some of the more desired print effects- vintage, uneven colors, aged effects. So in terms of execution-with the right design material- there is little to differentiate a digitally printed product from a screen printed one.
I've thought about putting a line together using the aesthetic influences and materials that underscore the design of this blog- old gardening almanacs and seed catalogues, old botanical prints, natural and rustic colors and textures but it really didn't make sense unless I could print it on an organic or sustainable or locally sourced product- in keeping with what underscores my reasons for gardening and my interest in the subject. Zazzle now offers all three- they have organic and US made apparel from American Apparel and they have now added a line from Edun Live that is sustainable and ethically manufactured.
Its a little more expensive than what you might find in a chain store but this will change as demand grows and think about whats really happening here- the designer- me- the creative spark in the process is finding inspiration from a place that he really has a connection to, I'm designing something that I really want to design, not something the sales or merchandising team thinks I should be designing. Then these designs are printed (if you choose) onto local, organic, sustainable, ethically manufactured products. Even if you didn't pick one of those options the item will only be printed if you choose it- no waste, no trucking over to an outlet mall to be sold. Garments aren't washed, stoned, bleached- at a cost to the environment. There's also no need for this manic need to keep the shelves full and rotating with new 'fashionable' merchandise. If designs are succesfull,they'll just stay in the store and I'm only designing something new when I am inspired to or found something that triggered that process. The line will grow - organically.
So go take a look at my store- its a small offering but I'm proud to say its designed with real inspiration, manufactured with real conscience and retailed with real vision.
I brought back a couple of sprigs of crabapples back to the city - they look wonderful in the apartment-such intense dots of red. Here they are this morning creating an interesting still life composition with the shadows on the wall.
Just returned from an overnight in Mamaroneck where I enjoyed a great Thanksgiving meal. Heidi did pretty much all the legwork for the meal, the last time I was up she had shown me all the recipes she was thinking about. My contribution at that stage was to recommend a more savory stuffing (pork sausage, sage and onion) instead of the sweeter one (with apples) and then help with the finishing touches, like chopping herbs as pictured and I prepared the green bean dish (pan fried shallots and chopped mint stirred into green beans cooked with a little garlic and white wine) All the herbs were from the garden except the mint- which in our zealousness to remove from the beds this year where they had jumped ship from the pots they were in- we actually had a mint shortage. The fried sage on the right was sprinkled onto a pumpkin soup starter. The chopped chive and parsley was sprinkled onto the mashed potatoes, the mint in the beans and rosemary which was surprisingly quite abundant ended up unused not really fitting in anything in particular. The stuffing was spectacular- enhanced by Heid finding some Focacia breadcrumbs.
The rear of my apartment overlooks a garden courtyard - apparently one of the largest and earliest built in Manhattan. The building itself is a historic landmark built by Rockefeller. There is in fact a gardening volunteer group that works in the garden during the summer months which I've considered joining but never did mainly because the prime activity is planting bright colored annuals that are not terribly well suited to that situation - in the shade of all the trees there. Who knows, I might one day find the energy to suggest and execute the planting of some shade loving woodland plants there but, not yet. I do however enjoy very much the Gingko Tree that is closest to my apartment- the fire escape in the right corner of the photograph being mine.
There are a few Gingko Trees in the courtyard and they make their presence felt earlier in the fall when the female trees bear fruit and the stench of the fallen fruit is really quite something. I looked into the process of doing something with the fruit knowing that its a prized Chinese delicacy but discovered its the nut thats edible and its too laborious a process to retrieve. Thankfully the tree that's closest to me is male, which doesn't bear fruit, and around this time of year changes to this glorious yellow color. I also can't help looking at the leaves on the ground, they are such a beautiful shape with beautiful lines, its easy to see why they are so often used as a design motif- like this silver jewellry or this tile.
Its always such a pleasant surprise, shock even to see the visual power of the fall foliage, especially as was the case this weekend when I left the city for Mamaroneck. I've yet to take a good look at what's going on in Central park- must do that sometime this week, but elsewhere in the city the changes don't pack the punch of what I saw over the weekend in the suburbs. Walking around the neighbourhood, I was of course wowed by the huge brushstrokes of reds and yellows, I particularly liked this spotted leaf color but the colors that I found really inspiring were the ones pictured above. On the left those pinks against the dark smoky browns and olives, on the right those limes and purples with those pinks again. They immediately bring to mind ancient tartans- those muted ones that are less well known like Young, Connaught Provincial, Isle of Skye and County Carlow
I'm going up to Mamaroneck tomorrow after a long absence and I want to show Jim this photo of a rustic bean pole made of twig/branches that I saw in the Wave Hill vegetable garden this summer. He often trims the trees in the yard at this time of year and I want to make sure he remembers not to dispose of the branches so that maybe we can make these interesting structure for the vegetable garden. The bamboo teepees are starting to deteriorate after 3 summers so here's hoping we get to replace them with these.
This is the second apartment that I've lived in, in NYC, thats on the 5th floor and has a tree pressed up against it. This one, an Oak tree, is right in front of my bedroom window. Its presence, is a living energy that I watch change with the seasons, rustling in the breeze, swaying in the wind, casting soft shadows that flutter on the sheer curtains. I'm also aware of the sounds it makes as it filters the wind, mutes the traffic, or taps the glass like ghostly fingers in a storm. I love it in spring when the bare branches are bristling with the energy of new growth or as it is now when it changes color but slowly, unwilling to let go of its precious green leaves, reluctant to succumb to the inevitable chill of Autumn.
Music: Erik Satie, 3 Gymnopedies
Music: Erik Satie, 3 Gymnopedies
I think I heard a TV weather man mention something about frost so I moved all the herbs outside the kitchen window to the window sill in my home office/studio. An instant herb garden where once there was a lot of empty pots- no I never got round to doing anything about this. Which leads us to the second word in the title- feast. Well thats because things don't bode well for the refugees. If frost don't kill you, well the radiator will. So until the weather turns inclement, they enjoy a reprieve but a short one as I race to find ways to use them up. There has already been generous amounts of chopped herbs folded into omelettes and sprinkled on noodle soups. That oregano in the picture is destined for a big batch of tomato sauce. That wooden thingy in the bottom right hand corner is a rustic kitchen thing from India that's used to hang kitchen utensils from- but I never found a way to incorporate it in my kitchen. It's now found its purpose - as a decorous rustic prop to keep the window, which doesn't work properly, from sliding down.
Every year I go up to Mamaroneck for Halloween. Its a bit of a tradition, my friend Jim has his house rigged up with gravestones and a smoke machine and rope pulled tricks ( his theatre background skills). Its a lot of fun and its pretty much the scariest house in their neighbourhood and attracts a large crowd. Unfortunately this year we are forced to be quietly ensconced in Manhattan- my dog Eti is under the weather and has to take it easy for a while, so I'm dedicating this years Pumpkin - a sleeping French Bulldog- to him. Rest up little guy - get well soon.
Its been warm here in NYC this fall, and its only this last week that I've really noticed that the leaves are turning color. I shot some footage of the oak tree outside my bedroom window but haven't got round to editing it. Today on my errands run on a gray rainy Saturday afternoon I found some interesting images around Morningside Park and this is one them. I actually like the range of color here from green leaves to brown. So this is really a teaser for an upcoming short film about leaves and an upcoming slideshow about leaves in the city. Tomorrow I go to the Scholar's garden in Staten Island.
What you see in the photo above is a knot of Lemon Grass. I have a potted East Indian Lemongrass inside the front window, not particularly well tended I must admit so the harvesting of the leaves was also a mini intervention. I then put it outside the kitchen window for a chance to recoup in the fresh air. I've grown lemongrass outdoors too but it doesn't survive the winter and therefore never gets to grow into those large plump stalks that you see and are able to buy in Chinatown. Its those stalks that are generally used in South East Asian recipes. They are lightly pounded and bruised and tied into a knot to put into curries and spicy soups to release their unique lemon scent and then removed prior to serving. Unable to grow the stalks to that size in a cool temperate garden or a windowsill, the next best thing to do is to use a knot of their leaves as pictured but in a recipe with less demanding flavors than a curry or a Tom Yum. The perfect one would be to throw that knot into a rice cooker and when the rice is almost cooked to add some coconut milk to be absorbed by the rice in the last 5 or 10 minutes of cooking or steaming. Add some chopped mint at the end and you'd have lemon scented mint and coconut rice, which is exactly what I have planned.
I've been meaning to post something about Alice Waters. She's been on my mind. I'd seen a great little video recently about her on the New York Times about How to Work a Greenmarket. Then last night channel surfing she was on Iconoclasts with Mikhail Baryshkinov and I got to see footage about her project The Edible Schoolyard. Web surfing I tripped across an excerpt about the first night opening of Chez Panisse where I have had the good fortune of eating - how I got in there is a story worth telling another time. Needless to say I'm a big fan of hers. I couldn't begin to describe why or how so I searched through my photos for perhaps an image to trigger some ideas and this is what I came up with. A cucumber salad. The cucumbers were from the Union Square Market. The herbs are Mint, from my windowsill, and Perilla weeded from Mamaroneck- its growing all over the place. I poured a little live organic kefir over it and sprinkled it with some raw sunflower seeds. The bowl is from a thrift store, someone's failed ceramic experiment but one of my favorite dishes and it sits on a sustainable bamboo chopping board. All these details matter to me and for this reason I find it an appropriate image for this post. I think this is what Alice is about. Somewhere in the middle of the NYTimes video anothe fan asks her Are you? You're not. She says, Who? Alice? Yes. He says thank you.......for everything.
I've decided to work on a series of garden inspired abstract paintings. I've already explored it a little with a couple of studies, one of them pictured above. Its one of two studies I made shortly after an encaustic workshop I took a couple of years ago to study the proper techniques of working with this medium which I love. I love that its ancient, non toxic and most importantly has a denseness of surface and color depth that I'm drawn to. The studies only explore the medium on panel, with slight additions of oil paint and don't really show what I intend to do which is to combine it with mixed media- namely torn images of the subject. Hard to explain but here's an example- the subject in this case being night traffic. The medium is well suited to doing this as printed images can be layered and are preserved by the wax. It makes perfect sense to me to track this series here as part of the material I will be using is all the digital images that I've captured this year in the garden. It will be a new twist on harevesting things from the garden to preserve and enjoy in the winter months.
I'm sure I share this fantasy with a few other gardeners- designing a themed garden for a major flower show. One theme I know that will be on my list of possibles will most definitely be some kind of coastal natural garden. What would be my inspiration? The first thing that comes to mind is Derek Jarman's Dungeness Garden, but I also have mental notes for the clumps of fennel that grew wild on the edges of the beaches in Spain when I visited the Andalusian coast or the wild Sweet Peas and Rugosas on the dunes in Rhode Island. But most of all it would be what I see on this bike trail that takes you to Herring Cove Beach.
It would be easy enough to stage the sand and the bleached skeletons of trees, the lichen and moss and strewn pine needles, the fiery red of the devils ivy, but so much of it is also the movement- the nodding grasses and swaying seedheads and berries, the sunlight behind the leaves, sparkling through the branches and most of all the thing that struck me most the first time I came here a few years ago - the incredible smell of pine and salted air.
Soundtrack: Grizzly Bear, On A Neck, On A Spit from Yellow House
A still life of Marigolds grabbed from the flowerbox on my deck, a snapshot of the slanting afternoon light, a medley of textures- wood grain, dull brass, peeling paint, rustic ceramic, organic petals.
Here's an appreciation of gardens that abound with local character. The first-pictured above- an easygoing colorful garden with bric a brac and a cat napping in a rattan chair. The next- a garden only of dahlias and a ship in the front yard. A jumble of tubs, pots and hanging baskets on a wharf continues the waterfront theme. Finally a front yard only of vegetables allowed to grow and bloom freely -and it works, the tomatoes, unsupported ramble over metal sculptures, the cabbages create architectural shapes, the flowers of the kale and artichokes providing adequate color. Its a hit with the tourists who are intrigued by this bold design and hover outside it with cameras in hand.
Over here- another local attraction but a little more moody and poetic.
This a serious omission - Asters. There aren't any in the beds at Mamaroneck. Maybe I needed to be inspired by these images of lush color and substantial shape and mass at this time of year. I particularly liked the shade of purple of the ones pictured above and these white ones looked perfect against the bleached white driftwood and rustic fence. If it looks familiar to you its because I photographed it earlier in the summer when it featured a stand of Rose Campion.
One of my most favorite things is to find as in the photo above, a combination of plants, their colors and textures almost perfectly chosen to co habit together except of course in this case chosen randomly by nature itself. The combination of orange hued fruit hips with purple tinted leaves, the blue green leaves of some kind of wild spurge accented with bright yellow flowers of what looked like a dwarf golden rod- another view here-was all in a natural border on the road side along route 6A. All set against a crisp september sky. My textile designer head immediately extracted all those colors and wove an imagined richly colored madras. Another fall palette here.
The Days' Cottages along the road between Provincetown and Truro are an iconic image of the Cape Cod landscape-an oft captured one by artists and photographers (see cottage art on the link above). Something about their symmetry and juxtaposition aginst the open landscape with glimpses of the sea between each cottage is visually compelling. I wondered as I rode past on my bike, knowing how popular a subject it is, if I might ever use or interpret it when I happened to glance at the name signs on each cottage. They were all the names of flowers. There was the answer to my question- the image of 'Dahlia" (Violet and Cosmos are the other two I remember) here is the perfect establishing shot for my series of posts from Provincetown, as I vacation here for a week. Here's what else I saw on my bike ride.
The herbs on the kitchen window sill have been doing really well so for my last home meal in NYC before leaving for the Cape I chopped up a whole bunch of them for a tomato salad that I like to make-particularly when I've been eating a lot of fresh tomatoes. The reason being that this involves scalding the tomatoes to remove their skins- it's just for a brief 30 seconds until the skin comes away, but it also shifts the flavor of the tomato slightly. I then dip the tomato in oil and vinegar and then roll in chopped herbs and slice. The original recipe, can't remember where I got it from, maybe Delia Smith, has a specific blend of herbs-basil, chives, mint, chervil, parsley but I just do it with whatever herbs I have on hand. Today it was parsley, mint and basil. The tomato was the last Big Boy I had which was perhaps a little too big for the best aesthetic result -it was a little sloppy- but it certainly tasted good.
This nest of hen and chicks is something that needs to be expanded on. I love how this looks, Heidi- the garden owner loves how this looks -there needs to be more of this. There were all these great concrete/stone like tubs at Wave Hill filled with alpines and succulents-more succulents in the greenhouse for inspiration so its on my list of things to do.
By Wednesday. I'm leaving town on Thurs so I thought I'd do an inventory of the contents of my refrigerator. This is from the the fresh from the garden department. I also have a cabbage (what was I thinking),a bunch of assorted herbs some kefir and some lamb. The large tomato is destined for a herb crusted salad- more details to follow and the rest is going into one big pot - details to be decided.
The vivid orange background is a freebie shirt I got and have never worn- I finally found a use for it.Check back for more creative use of items from my wardrobe that have rarely been worn.
What a reliable plant this is- Sedum Autumn Joy, every year without fail it shows up to do its work of bringing color and shape to the fall garden. I'm not quite sure how this happened but we actually have four of them - one in each bed- here is one forming a nice trio with the Wiegela and fuschia. A couple of things I don't like about it is that it gets a little awkward when the flowers really start to color . It gets top heavy and loses the tight shape that it had and starts to tumble over. The other is that it attracts a serious contingent of bees- a little worrisome when you have a little French Bulldog shadowing you while gardening only because I've seen so many reports of their bad reactions to bee stings. I like them as cut flowers because they are so architectural- see the photo above where they cast all kinds of interesting shadows in the morning light.
The Sweet Autumn Clematis that seeded itself in the vegetable garden is in full flower curled like a wave, tumbling and crashing over the low stone wall, a swirl of white blossom. Last year I let it grow up the teepee reserved for pole beans that we didn't get, but this year there are tomatoes there so I pushed it towards the stone wall to see what it would do.
I have a strange sense of deja vu looking at this. A few years ago I made a painting called Autumn Shift, an abstract (encaustic and mixed media) where I imagined the shift from Summer to Autumn not as a blaze of fall color but as a cool white chill that swirls into our existence. And here it is a Sweet Autumn Wave.
So we had some Big Boys and a Brandywine, a Roma Plum and some cherry tomatoes to work with for our weekend reunion of old friends up in Mamaroneck. The tomatoes in our salads and our pasta on Friday night were fresh from the garden, we savored them on a dining table outdoors by tiki torch and candlelight. The next day a neighbour leaves a bag of heirloom tomatoes from her garden. Shortly after I take their picture above we have some for lunch. I come home with a nice collection of them yesterday. Tomatoes for dinner -plain sliced and lunch today - with tofu and spicy peanut dressing. I'm not complaining.
On Saturday I was set the task along with good friend Kelly to figure out the flowers that were to go on dinner tables for our good friend Jim's big birthday bash later that night. Here's our final solution. We bought three bouquets of mixed flowers from Costco- separated everything into piles favoring the lime green and blue-ish ones that we liked and added some Japanese Anemones and Clematis from the garden. Then we lined glass vases with lime green potato vine leaves-also from the garden and voila table flowers for fifteen tables.
Its September already- its been so long since I went on vacation to Provincetown-in June. I took a peek at my photos and realized I had quite a few that didn't make it to the blog - especially a series of images of slightly unkempt gardens and unfussy porches which I took because I actually loved looking at them. Something about their wildness and lack of order and pretense seemed almost perfectly in tune with being on vacation. Combined here with the well tended gardens captures the total visual experience of being there a little better. But the title of the album from which the soundtrack- Been So Long by Vetiver comes from- To Find Me Gone - is prophetic. Thats where you'll find me in a few weeks as I'll be returning to enjoy another short vacation there.
And I especially love it with green. My poor Purpleheart that I treat so badly-its underwatered, unfed - but still it thrives and even the gangly awkward pieces that I trim off adjust beautifully to their new home in a flea market vase. There's also something quite lovely going on here with this combination of Purple flowered Nicotiana and the purple tinged leaves of the Berberis Thunbergii 'Rose Glow'. More green and purpleness over here.
There is a vibrant corner in the North West bed with this combination of lime green potato vine and a bright coleus- but there's something not quite right. First of all I planted the coleus a little too far apart and the gap between them kind of bothered me -until now. The potato vine took forever to get going and now there's almost too much of it. So there's a space time dimension thing that didn't work here- next year I'll do the same but with one or two more things in the mix and a little more fine tuning.
I saw some great August/September flowering plants at Wave Hill that also had an interesting additional dimension. First this orange colored Milkweed. Love the orange and it was also swarming with honey bees. In fact the whole of the flower garden was just alive with all kinds of butterflies and bees which seemed to add an energy to the garden that was palpable. Then there were these Dahlias. Love the color and love that they were really tall- those rich magenta/maroon orbs brought dabs of color up really high. Noted.
There was the almost a bowl of cherry tomatoes and then there was this motley crew of six string beans- count em, a bunch of chives, and some assorted tomatoes in varying degrees of greenness apart from one. That one reddish tomato ripened in a day or so and was eaten sliced, no fuss. The six beans along with two green tomatoes joined some green lentils, lamb and peas to make a curry - the green tomatoes worked well with tamarind to make a sourish South Indian style curry. I left the cherry tomatoes out on the counter and snacked on them one by one- as they turned color. The chives ended up on some braised pork- there's more that will go in a noodle dish tomorrow. Its a little difficult finding any enthusiasm for that last green tomato especially after seeing this- but I thoroughly enjoyed my first crop.
At Wave Hill garden I happened to take this photo of two gardeners at work- a perfect image to illustrate a post about the sidebar links to "Other Gardeners". They are of course links to two great blog directories- the first being Garden Voices - a great selection of posts from an interesting list of Gardening Blogs and the second being the Garden Blog Directory of Cold Climate Gardening- one of my favorite gardening blogs. Gardeners I've also found, are such nice people always ready to lend a hand, and this was no different with Caren of A Gardening Year and Karen of Cold Climate Gardening who were kind enough to include me in their directories mentioned above- so this a thank you to them for bringing many new visitors to this site and also for their kind and encouraging words.
I happen to know that the gardener on the right is John Emmanuel- the Assistant Director of Horticulture at Wave Hill. I know this because I picked up a copy of the Wave Hill News and there was a story and photo of him inside. I learnt that he was to retire at the end of 2007 and as an interesting layer to this post about other gardeners, on his very first visit to Wave Hill as a young man, he met by chance T.H.Everett founder of the New York Botanical Garden School of Horticulture, taking photographs in the Wild Garden- who advised him that he could make a good living as a gardener.
And in a really good way- the kind that you can only sort of plan on happening by putting certain juxtapositions of plants together and then nature does its own hocus pocus and you get a magical arrangement of color and texture that's just spellbinding in its balance and coordination. I love the dark Wiegela leaves, the long stems and fluttery petals of the Japanese Anenomes and the jade tint of the Sedum leaves. The flowers of the Bronze Fennel add a sharp citric accent. I can't wait to see what the Sedum flowers are going to do to this picture next week when they mature and turn a rosy pink.
I went to the Wave Hill gardens today and coincidentally I noticed that their Japanese Anenomes are paired with a darker wine colored sedum. The gardens of course had their fair share of magical combinations- I love the the colors of the red Penstemon and maroon leaved Perilla combined with the lime green Nicotiana or the texture of these grasses framing a colorful assortment in their Wild Garden.
My first real score of the season- a bowl of cherries, almost, and thats cherry tomatoes with plenty still on the vine. I'm never completely sure about cherry tomatoes- I love how they look but I don't know if I prefer a big slice as opposed to the flavor pop of them whole. Strangely I don't like them cut either- it sort of loses the point. While waiting for the train back to New York I snacked on a couple and it seemed almost the perfect thing to do with them. Nevertheless they are my first bounty and I want to eat them fairly simply with just oil and vinegar perhaps but maybe not that simply so I decide on a little maceration. I learnt to macerate a little chopped shallots in balsamic vinegar to spark up a dressing a while ago, thanks to Alice Waters and I decided to use the basil blossoms that I trimmed off along with some sliced garlic to do the same with my olive oil. That was yesterday. Today I had half of them for lunch with some Pita bread-perfection-the basil flowers gave the oil a little extra pungency that worked really well.
Finally after an unavoidable three week abstention I made it up to Mamaroneck. A lot happens in three weeks so I have of course lots of things to show and tell but I have to start with the Judges Hostas. Remember my photo of them back in May- yards of cool green pristine foliage. As you can see they are now in full flower or should I say almost past- the blossoms show signs of wear and the leaves are tattered and lacy their edges singed. In the weeks previous there was a small nagging thought that I might miss them- which I don't like to do. I like to see them every year- these white flowers in August-planted by the original owner of the house-the Judge- hence their moniker.
He planted them because they flowered in August -his wife's birthday- and there's a lot them so it makes for quite a show. This knowledge, that they were planted specialy for her, is probably why they are left intact - allowed to perform their yearly greeting. I am touched every year to see this gardener's sentimental gesture, appreciated and honored beyond his lifetime.
More herbs were added to join the lonely Thai Basil. An Italian Basil, a Greek Oregano and a Spearmint. And there's more to come -yesterday I got a peppermint, an Italian parsley and a Lemon Verbena- I'm all set. These are herbs I actually use - apart from the Lemon Verbena but I just like the smell of that. I've grown rosemary and thyme and marjoram here before - but they don't really feature in anything I make regularly. The peppermint's specially for Eti- it's good for digestion. That and oregano, fresh ginger and garlic are good to add to his food now and then. Its particularly nice to look at the fresh green leaves against a backdrop of NYC brick and fire escapes especially on a gray rainy afernoon.
The strange weather we're having here deterred me from going up to Mamaroneck this week so all gardening efforts were home based. First of all the picture above is the geranium that is thriving at the dining room window- the leaves do additional color duty when the afternoon sun turns them into all kinds of limey shades, perfectly complementing the magenta flowers. I would love to have the Geraniums in this window end up looking like these- in the kitchen window of a house in Provincetown. My first kitchen window plant of the season - a couple of different thai basils. Over at the studio window where I originally thought I might be doing something vaguely mediterranean has perhaps been sidetracked by this East Indian Lemongrass. I like how much the arching blades of grass look against the window grid that I might rethink this. In fact the first thought I had was perhaps adding one of these and going sort of South East Asian courtyard.
Its a busy time for me at the moment, work wise and I've not been up to Mamaroneck for a couple of weeks. So no gardening updates to report . I did however remember that I took some photographs at the Provincetown Museum of Art of a gardening themed exhibiton they had. I was delighted to see the watercolor detailed above of Rhododendrons by Constance Black. A couple of years ago I had taken a series of watercolor classes at the Provincetown Museum School. The artist teaching that summer school session- Constance Black. I do intend to work on some botanical themed pieces soon to feature on this site so this is a memo to myself to get going on that. Tomorrow I go to the Union Square market to see what I can find to do a last mintute planting of my kitchen window garden (its never to late for herbs right?) and on Thurs I'll go up to Mamaroneck to see if there are tomatoes to be had.
What a sorry sight this is. Proof of a window garden that didn't happen this summer. Most of these pots were used to grow herbs outside my Kitchen window on the fire escape. Didn't happen this year- never got round to it. But that's going to change, late as it is I intend to do something about this. The pots are all lined up in a new piece of gardening real estate that just opened up in my apartment. The front facing window. This window is usually filled with a huge air conditioning unit which I decided to try this summer in the window on the other side of the apartment. Works just fine over there too - so I now have an open window sill that gets a lot of sunlight in the day. All those pots are nicely aged, some with interesting shapes and markings that I got from a store in Chinatown and this is what I'm imagining they will be filled with- succulents. Maybe some gray leaved herbs mixed in with lots of granite/stone mulch- sort of a mediterranean desert or beach. Stay tuned.
The Phlox are coming into bloom on the other side of the garden. They always remind me of the weekend summer house we shared in Westerly, Rhode Island where they grew wild and in abundance all along the drive to the house and along the road that led to the neighbouring house. You could see them from the porch and catch their scent in the air at this time of year. They also eventually became a staple in the border that fronted the house as I transplanted clumps of them over to keep company with some hostas we dragged up there and random plants from the local nursery that were able to handle the lack of watering until we came up at the weekends.
I couldn't help but notice this shy Hydrangea blossom the other day. Like a powdered geisha, head tilted partly hidden by her green fan. A demure, modest beauty, half in shadow, mysterious and alluring.
How Green is the vegetable garden? Very. Green tomatoes, green basil and green beans are currently being featured. The beans-bought in a rush from the nursery have turned out to be bush beans although we bought them labeled as pole beans and planted them accordingly -next to poles. Oh well, they're certainly very prolific. The chives are past flowering and are now a huge mass of green.The chili pepper plant is also a mass of slim green peppers. The arugula has been decimated by rabbits and the sugar peas didn't survive. There's a single purple eggplant hiding shyly waiting to join hopefully a more colorful cast in the near future.
After being away for almost three weeks, there was no knowing what to expect in the garden. The story, as I discovered was one of wine colored leaves and rose and magenta red flowers. In particular the Achillea Millifoilum Paprika, planted last year as a late planting bargain from the local nursery. The color story is told here in a vase - a couple of stray branches from the Physocarpus opulifolius, a few magenta blossoms from the climbing rose and some leaves from the red tree that frames the left side of the beds. In other red wine colored news the Shisoh from last year has seeded it self everywhere- there are two pots of it and its growing in the lawn.
The final parting glance of Provincetown is a glimpse of Stanly Kunitz's garden. In the window of a local bookstore, I noticed a book called The Wild Braid. I discoverd that it was the reflections of a hundred year old poet laureate, a Provincetown local and made a mental note to come back and get it. I asked the landlady of my vacation studio if she knew of this poet and where his house was. She didn't but said that she would find out for me. And she did, and so I set out to look for it, and found it almost hidden from view in the west end of town. Although still well tended, it was no longer by the hand of the poet who passed away in his hundredth year. I never returned to get the book as I received it as a gift from my landlady in appreciation for my patience with her having to do some maintenance work on my deck. A wonderful surprise and souvenir of my vacation.
The Snakes of September by Stanley Kunitz
All summer I heard them
rustling in the shrubbery,
outracing me from tier
to tier in my garden,
a whisper among the viburnums,
a signal flashed from the hedgerow,
a shadow pulsing
in the barberry thicket.
Now that the nights are chill
and the annuals spent,
I should have thought them gone,
in a torpor of blood
slipped to the nether world
before the sickle frost.
Not so. In the deceptive balm
of noon, as if defiant of the curse
that spoiled another garden,
these two appear on show
through a narrow slit
in the dense green brocade
of a north-country spruce,
dangling head-down, entwined
in a brazen love-knot.
I put out my hand and stroke
the fine, dry grit of their skins.
we are partners in this land,
co-signers of a covenant.
At my touch the wild
braid of creation
Some of the gardens here in Provincetown artfully spill out of their confines, the gardeners intentionally planting outside the fences and borders of their properties. This outstanding one showcases a clump of Rose Campion against a wooden fence additionally decorated with some rustic branches. The colors work perfectly- the bright magenta drawing your eye and the silvery leaves echoing the bleached wood. I also really like this Rose Mallow, again growing just outside the same garden on the front side.