Autumn Hydrangea

It's been a terrific year for the Hydrangeas at Mamaroneck, especially after the dismal showing last year. A few weeks ago I took a zillion photos of them there and around the neighborhood as they journeyed through their autumnal coloring which were just superbly complicated and inspiring. Dark purples and lavenders lift to reveal grayed limes underneath, bled pinks and faded magentas edging smoky purples. The colors of the flowers seemed to have splashed onto the leaves which themselves were a myriad colors. The complexity of this palette seemed right against its's neighbors, the dull stalks of spent summer flowers, the showy orange and red leaves of the distant trees or glimpses here and there of a crisp, blue fall sky.

Soundtrack: Max Richter, Autumn Music 1, Songs from Before


Just inside Central Park at the north end, there are these strange brain like fruits scattered on the curbside. Some roll into the road and get smashed by traffic. This is right where I usually cross the street with my dog and we both catch their citrus scent. Although beguiling, I haven't ventured to investigate, fearful of them being toxic or causing an allergic reaction, until yesterday. This was only because I had seen them for sale at the farmers market last week with a sign that said- natural roach killer. That was enough to get this frugal green Manhattanite to pick up few free supplies. Turns out this is an Osage orange and the claims of it being a natural deterrent are a little dubious. Oh well, they look cool on the dining table.

Pretty Tasty

I thought this currant tomato that I spied at the NYBG was just the cutest thing. Little tiny fruit and an interesting habit that looked particularly good up against the corner of a low fence. Not a word that I would usually associate with a tomato plant but this one was really pretty. Speaking of pretty, the Swiss Chard in the Mamaroneck garden has been a real joy to look at. I even put a few leaves in a glass vase one week just to enjoy looking at those blood red stems. Here at the NYBG vegetable garden they looked incredible with the sun behind them and a tumbling mass of nasturtium in front.

Mystery Rose.

What's in a name? that which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet

I was in total disagreement with Will at the BBG rose garden. I would be drawn to a beautifully lit, richly colored bloom and just be horrified at the name printed on the label. There are, I discovered a huge number of roses with completely mundane or inappropriate names. I thought the rose pictured above was called Taboo, that's what it said on the label right next to it which immediately triggerered a string of other word pictures, forbidden, exotic, dangerous. Strangely even the additional information, its introduction date 1988 added yet another layer. It made me think of the eighties soundtrack to Sofia Coppola's Marie Anoinette. Royal, electric, magenta, guillotine, aphrodisiac came to mind. Now there's an evocative name. But its not Taboo. I hope its not named after a celebrity or a comedian.

Green Ideas

As they say, it's hard to know what you want until you actually get a chance to see it and I had that chance a few weeks ago at the NYBG. I don't remember what section this particular garden was in but it was a stone walled garden very reminiscent of the one at Mamaroneck. I loved how this mix of green foliage created such an interesting range of color and texture especially in its location at the front of the beds and spilling over, and this was late into the season too.

The Watch Chain Crassula is probably the one I'm least interested in because its considered a tender perennial but the Sedum Rupestre is considered especially hardy and the Golden Poet's Jasmine is a terrific way to get that sharp color in the bed. The smaller leaves and sprawling habit I think is more suited in distributing the visual weight of this color which I find too much of can be a little jarring. I also love the bronze color of the newer growth.

Outside in

It was cold this morning. I pulled my sweatshirt hood up and hurried up the dog to get back inside from our morning walk. We returned to hear the radiators hissing and sputtering. It's here, the season of inside.

Last week in Mamaroneck I noticed that the garden bench had been moved from the vicinity of the walled garden into the oval garden where the hostas and hydrangeas are. Great idea I thought. It never really worked where it was, whereas we were always dragging a chair or two into the oval garden to have a chat because it felt like a 'sitting' room except outside. Too bad its October now, I thought and flashed back to a memory of an August evening pulling bindweed and admiring the hostas.


How about some exoticness with the season's fruitfulness. In the Bonsai room at the BBG, there was one specimen that was bearing fruit. If you've been there you'll know that the walls there aren't orange but gray- poetic license was required to oomph up the background for this exquisite specimen. Outside I was fascinated by the Hardy or Trifoliate Orange with small fruit and spectacular thorns. Quite beautiful also was the Japanese Persimmon which coincidentally I found on sale on the streets of Chinatown and bought a couple to bring home.


Now that the sedum has deepened to a rich burgundy and the shisoh is tall and prominent the color balance in the beds has tipped into a deeper darker hue. The effect is a summation of the maturing and increased size of the many other dark plants not to mention the dark flecks of autumnal color that some of the foliage is now acquiring.

In particular, the sedum and shisoh together make a lovely pairing, asking to be cut and brought indoors. In general this dark scheme works well for this time of year, it tricks your eye into not noticing that what else that isn't green is in fact dying. I like this but it also triggers the thought that there needs to be a little more brightening to balance the deepening and the darkening.

This would be the chartreuse colors and I note that there needs to be more positions of them in the beds to yin the yang. Thankfully I have been seeing and noting many great ideas for chartreuse/lime plants and combinations in the last few months and will post separately about them soon mainly to remind myself that I must address this for next year.

American Beauty ?

Tuesdays are free at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden so faced with a list of chores to do that entailed running around the city, I decided to start off the afternoon by taking advantage of this perk. It was a beautiful fall day, I wondered while enjoying my afternoon ramble why I don't just do this every week, its so easy to get there - it's on the subway that's closest to me.

Some of the best photos of the day were of this Beautyberry, and how could they not be. Its name could not be more accurate- this is one photogenic plant- a real beauty. I question if it is the native American Beautyberry only because there was no label for it. There was one for the Japanese Beautyberry that was right next to it and I could see the visible difference in the leaf shape but I can't tell if it isn't Bodinier's Beautyberry which is more common in Europe.

+ Occasional Oasis:Gourd Season

Too Little, Too Late

Timing, as they say, is everything. My delayed return to tend the vegetable garden resulted in unthinned carrot seedlings that had gotten larger than desired. I frantically pulled out an assortment of root sizes. Hopefully the remaining ones will grow to full size. The 'harvested' ones range from tiny to small with one medium.

The cauliflower looked odd. It was pinkish and the florets weren't tight and compact as I'm used to seeing. Not having grown one before I thought it worth checking. Isn't google just an amazing tool for gardening? Apparently this cauliflower is woolly and blown and has been harvested too late.

Thankfully neither of them were either too little or too late to enjoy eating. Both were entirely delicious. Half the carrots I ate raw in salads or as a snack. Half I poached with some other vegetables to make a light stew - they looked quite gourmet whole and tiny with a little bit of stalk left on. The cauliflower I was little more wary off, but turned out to be equally delicious. Half of it, I sauteed with bacon, garlic and chives, with sage and red chillies also from the garden. The other half went into the vegetable stew.

Love in a Cage

After a few weeks hiatus, I managed to go up to Mamroneck yesterday. The train ride up was a visual thrill, the autumn colors are so much more pronounced outside the city. When I got there, the first thing that caught my eye were the Chinese Lanterns that had shed their skin to show this interesting filigree encircling a bead of orange fruit- earning it's other moniker of Love in a Cage. I remembered vaguely that the fruit was edible and tasted one. It was tart and I decided this might not be such a good idea. On checking, the fruit needs to be ripe to be edible but contains more vitamin C than lemons.

Fall into White

Another notable visual theme I saw at NYBG a couple of weeks ago was - white. Both flowers and vareigated leaves. A spectacular tangle of Foxtails, clumps of Cosmos, Phlox and Nicotianas. Even more interesting were certain pairings like the Variegated Flax Lily and Euphorbia Diamond Frost that opens the slideshow. At the end - my favorite combination the arching stems of white anemones echoing the wave form of undulating grass behind it. I've added in images of other white flowers that coincidentally struck me around this time last year- the white asters paired with a bleached rustic fence in Provincetown and Autumn Clematis tumbling over the stone walls at Mamaroneck.

Soundtrack: Theme de Camille from Le Mepris

Vegetable Noir

Being a fan of dark plants, I couldn't help noticing in the market over the weekend the number of interesting dark vegetables that were available. Of course there were the usual ones that I know- the eggplants and the purple potatoes but the bushels of purple beans and the crate of black radishes were newer. I'm sure I've seen black peppers before but they looked particularly interesting framed in this collection of vegetable noir, as did the dark leaves of these interesting greens.

An omelette with slices of purple potatoes smothered in lavender colored chive flower I had ealier this year reminded me how much the way something looks can elevate how it tastes. Similarly the burgundy okra was not the most succesful vegetable-couldn't harvest it regularly enough to avoid the large woody ones- but boy did it look stunning-including the flowers. It made the vegetable beds look really attractive.I imagine those purple beans would do an interesting job of that as would some unusually colored greens. Color is an interesting device to bring visual interest to the table as well as in the vegetable beds methinks as I start already to plan next years garden.

Strange Fruit

I typed in the box "blue purple berry" and magically google images gave me some matches that quickly helped me to identify the Porcelain Berry I saw last week at NYBG. Visually this berry is stunning- the color ranges from turquoise blue through to bright purples. They looked strange and I assumed they were poisonous but apparently not. They are edible if not flavorful. So is the other fruit that I saw plenty of on trees and in wasted piles on the ground and paths. Its the fruit of the Kousa Dogwood which can apparently be made into a jam.

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