June Foliage

I'm finishing something I started a couple of weeks ago. I photographed the flower colors that were in the garden in June, so to complete the story here are the foliage colors. They don't include all the regular shades of green - just the more unusual ones that are a 'color' like chartreuse, bronze and burgundy.

Starting from top left- Berberis Thunbergii, Bronze Fennel, Berberis aagain but the young pink shoots, Wiegela Wine and Roses, Physocarpus Diablo. On the bottom from the left Euphorbia Bonfire, Heuchera Obsidian, Lysimachia,Gold Thread Cypress, Spirea Mellow Yellow and Red Perilla.

Indigo and Lime and more

You know, white flowers are really starting to grow on me. Lime and Indigo are a combination I'm already a big fan of. The left hand image is actually from back in spring taken at the New York Botanical Garden where I noticed this pairing of Euphorbia and Grape Hyacinths. The image on the right is from Wave Hill, also Euphorbia a Bupleurum rotundifolium this time with Larkspur and I like that combination again of lime and indigo but the white really makes it quite interesting. Then if you want to get a really complex and sophisticated color scheme going like the Wave Hill folks have here, you plant behind this a blue Spruce hosting a purple Clematis.

Red Infatuation

I live for moments like this. I was at the Wave Hill garden and saw two plants in context there that triggered a profound infatuation - a Dianthus that was the deepest, darkest red and a Smokebush that went from a purplish red to blood Crimson. They are a Dianthus Barbatus "Heart Attack" (I'm pretty sure) and a Cotinus Coggyria'Royal Purple" (I read the label).

Anyone working with color will tell you- if you want to accentuate a particular color- manipulate the colors next to it. The richness and darkness of these reds are without doubt accentuated by the white flowers they co habit with. I'm not the biggest fan of white flowers but I like the work they do here and you can see how, mixed with intermediate colors in the red/magenta range, they tell a bigger story. The other thing I like here is how the greens look, they look sharper somehow for the same reason , they're next to the color that they are diammetrically opposed to on the color wheel- red.

So I have two plants to look for and the reason I live for these moments-seriously good new color ideas.

+ Occasional Oasis:Inside Out

A Time to Flower

The Potted Houseleek, here's what it looked like last year, has decided to flower. It looks quite spectacular nestled here in a bed of Potentilla branches. What's more surprising is that its not the only one, another succulent growing in the wall has also decided to do the same, sending up these tall flower spikes. Was it the milder winter ? - all the succulents that I planted here and there in the stone walls seem to be extremely happy this year. Although happy seems to be at a price, I looked for information about flowering Houseleeks and discover that they are monocarpic, that is, they die after flowering- but just that rosette which will have to be removed.

Purple Pillar

This week in Mamaroneck the Clematis Jackmanii is insane. The photo is looking up. There were a few blooms last week, this week the entire pillar is covered with flowers. The right hand pillar that is, the left hand pillar which has the same clematis is only half as prolific. This is probably due to very little thought being put into the proper pruning techniques. In fact there are none- we just sort of leave it and I tidy it up when it starts coming back in spring.

We originally planted an autumn clematis here too but that disappeared and remerged in two other places in the garden-in the vegetable beds and this year in the middle of another bed but it looks pretty good tumbling over the stone wall so I've left them. Lassez Faire gardening - my favorite kind.

Wild and Exotic Spinach

By coincidence I bought two unusual forms of spinach the other day from the farmers market. The first is Wild Spinach aka goosefoot or lambsquarters, which I discover via Googling that its a relatively common weed. So it was worth scanning and noting for future reference should I come across them for free. I've since eaten it and like it a lot- a little nuttier and woodier and longer to cook than regular spinach.

The other was Tree Spinach also known as Chaya. I bought it as a house plant- I really like the finely cut leaves. The vendor tells me that it is a Jatropha but all the information for that indicates red flowers and the plant has a couple of white flowers. Finally I track it down as Cnidoscolus chayamansa in the Euphorbia family and is part of the staple diet of indigenous people in Mexico and Guatemala. Not quite so keen to experiment with its culinary use since I bought it for aesthetic reasons- and its poisonous unless cooked but who knows, if its prolific enough on my window sill I might give it a try.

Green Hosta Leaves

The temperatures in the city are finally slipping downwards. While they were up in the nineties I was glad to have these hosta leaves to look at. I really enjoyed how green and cool they looked in the apartment. I particularly like them in this glass vase where the grooves in the glass echo the ribs on the underside of the leaves. As I discovered last year, they last for ages this way. I must keep bringing some back regularly - plenty more where they came from.

Color Stories

The workload in the garden last weekend was mainly about cutting things back. I pruned the Iberis, cut back the Indigo and deadheaded a bunch of flowers. Looking at the colorful pile as a result of my handiwork I thought I should really take a photo of the flower colors that were the main color story in June.

So I started with the reds to yellow- a volunteer dianthus (that I graduated from a terracota pot to the main bed), the honeysuckle, the diascia, an orange Calibrachoa, pale yellow Potentilla and yellow Iris. Then onto the Magenta flowers which I've already talked about previously. Lastly the blues- just the Indigo and the Geranium Johnson's Blue.

I also happened to discuss with Jim, the plants that will be part of the landscaping around the new patio area. The designer had two pots of cuttings from the intended plant list - great idea. I pulled out all the ones I thought would look particularly good for the back planting all interesting shades of green (love the lime alchemilla mollis) with an interesting range of leaf shape and texture- and that shot of color from the aquiliega

Having done that I realize I should do the same for the foliage color in the walled beds - so I'll be adding that next week. The titles will most probably be burgundy, bronze and lime. Overall its not a competely accurate list as I've missed some and I didn't't want to cut others but over time, if I remember to do this it will be an interesting way to look at what happened over the summer.

+ Occasional Oasis:Sweet

Cool Blue

The star turn in the Mamaroneck garden right now are these blue Irises. They are in the border at the front of the house so they are a cool welcoming sight as you enter the driveway. The color looks particularly good combined with the lime buds of the hydrangeas that they are planted with.

I've no idea what kind they are, Heidi tells me she got them as a gift from a neighbour and she planted them about four years ago but this is definitely their best year- there are a lot of them. Coincidentally Blue Iris just happens to be Pantone's Color of the Year so this is not just a cool color for right now while the temperatures are soaring into the nineties, its a cool color for 2008.

A Waterside Garden

The second private garden I visited this past weekend was Liz and Mark's waterside garden in Larchmont. It wasn't apparent at all entering the garden from the side that its location was on an inlet off Long Island Sound so there's a really dramatic impact when you first see it and your eye follows the long line of the flower border.

The border itself is rich in visual textures - water, stone wall, wrought iron Armillary and deft planting of varied plant and leaf shapes. There was an overall theme of blue and yellow (loved this pairing of yellow roses and blue salvias) with a backdrop of pink roses. More pink further down the border - where the rugosas frame a view of the dock.

The light was fairly harsh early afternoon sun, and looking at views like this one, I can imagine how interesting and varied it must be as that water changes with different qualities of light. As it was the scene was enchanting and timeless.

Noah's Vegetable Garden

This weekend up in Mamaroneck, I had a chance to visit a couple of the gardens in the surrounding neighbourhood. The first was an outstanding vegetable garden. On arrival we were greeted by Bob, hard at work, notice the tools on the paving stones. He tells us that Noah's been on his case to get the place in shape. Noah is Bob's young teenage son who apparently is head honcho of this outfit. He creates his own potting mixes and starts everything from seed. This year he decided not to go to summer camp so that he could be more hands on with what goes on here.

The garden is a wonderful design from the moment you enter and your eyes are directed to the focal center- a stone filled urn circled with topiary orbs and paths that radiate outwards. Looking left you see a patchwork of smaller beds ending with an area for fruit canes. Looking right the path takes you past more vegetable beds to a seating area with a bench and arbor seat. You can see in the photos that there are hostas, catmint, a wall of ivy, a hydrangea shrub - all of which add tremendous visual variety and interest to the impressive assortment of vegetable beds. The greenhouse, is command central, stocked with pots of seedling with a commanding view of the entire plot. I also really liked the simple but elegant design of the slatted compost bins.

Standout vegetables - some giant Rhubarb and a stand of Peas. We left with two of Noah's Tomato plants, three Hot Pepper plants and three Cauliflower plants. I planted them all and the tomatoes tower over the reluctant dwarves we currently have in the beds. I think we will be eating tomatoes a little earlier than expected this year.


I've always loved Asian Lacquerware in particular because it draws heavily from nature and botanic themes. The image on the right is a detail from a piece of furniture I own, a small black cupboard covered in golden birds, blossoms and boughs. Its interesting how it reflects and catches the light in different ways through both the day and night.

I recently discovered that there is an exhibition at the Japan Society called The Genius of Japanese Lacquer which has renewed my interest again in this decorative form. In fact enough interest that I've started working a little with the idea from the point of view of silhouette and color. On the left is a study I made of some plant silhouettes digitaly rendered in gold and black. Not quite sure where this is going but I'm definitely looking to photograph more stark silhouettes of leaves flowers and branches to work with.

Seeing Magenta

We're seeing Magenta in the Mamaroneck garden and loving it - and I know there's more to come as we've been picking it as a key color accent. Above are Chrysanthemums Robinson's Mix in the border and some Peonies I cut to bring home. The Weigela is about to bloom and the Achillea Millifoilum Paprika will be showing up in July as will the red climbling roses which have a magenta cast - see how they tone beautifully with burgundy foliage as does the chrysanthemum above in front of the Berberis. We'll probably get a flat of magenta flower annuals to add to that in the next week or two, as we always do.

But how can you love a color that doesn't exist? Try this visual test for starters - Magenta doesn't exist, its a figment of our imagination. We're imagining Magenta and loving it.


I took some images of some tall grass that was growing wild in Central Park and this random shot is my favorite. I was first drawn to the idea of this as a subject on seeing this, which reminded me Albrecht Durer's The Great Piece of Turf. This more abstract image above, which reminds me of Gerard Richters scraped Abstract paintings captures the sense of what I saw - lush, verdant green. Originally called Abstract, he renamed the series Wald or woodland suggesting something nature based. Interestingly in a recent NYTimes article something that people have done for centuries - walking barefoot in grass is something we should now apparently be afraid of.

Romp, Sway, Tickle and Cavort.

"Piet Oudolf likes kinetic plants......plants with purpose, that romp, sway, tickle and cavort". From Ketzel Levine's Talking Plants.

How fortunate then that my visit to the Battery Park Rememberance Garden was on a fairly windy day and I got to witness exactly this kinetic display. The truth is I know very little about Piet Oudolf having only discovered him last year via the NYTimes article with the extraordinary images of hedges and grasses and seedheads. I've since looked at a couple of his books, his website and I now find that he's pretty well represented in NYC with this memorial garden and the proposed high line. I was planning to join an organised walking tour of this garden, but it rained that day. So it was just me left to my own devices which may not have been the ideal situation.

With a strong left brain narrative about the detail of native plants and planting schemes and choices based on shape, movement, suitability- I might have not allowed my right brain's snap reaction to what I saw. I read the words natural and naturalistic repeatedly in the literature describing his work but my overiding thought looking at this particular garden was - it looked really unnatural. The plants were in drifts that seemed oddly large and in some unusual and pronounced shapes, in colors that were sometimes not particularly harmonious.

Its not that I didn't like it, in fact the effect was provocative and stimulating- I wasn't quite sure what to think except I must take a look at the planting lists. Looking at the video when your eye is zoomed in you do see the genius of some of the combinations and then of course there is the romping and cavorting that I confess completely does not factor when I'm mulling over a plant at Tony's Nursery. I will definitely be returning to see what else goes on here over the next few months.

High Resolution
Soundtrack: Dave Brubeck; Blue Shadows In The Street from Time Further Out

+ Occasional Oasis:C'mon People Now

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