Black Pearls

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.

Brown Botanica

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.

Season's Greetings

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.

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Soundtrack: Angus Stone sings Joni Mitchell's The River from No Man's Woman

Blue, No. 18-3943

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.

Cold Views

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.

Gardening ~ Now in Vogue

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.

Fighting Basil

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.

O Tannenbaum

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.

On Winterizing

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.

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