Warming up to 2009

Pantone recently announced their color of the year for 2009- Mimosa. I loved their choice for 2008 and I do really like this color but I'm struggling with the narrative around it.

"The color yellow exemplifies the warmth and nurturing quality of the sun, properties we as humans are naturally drawn to for reassurance......Mimosa also speaks to enlightenment, as it is a hue that sparks imagination and innovation."

I don't really see it as a yellow - it reads more as a yellowish orange to me which redirects the symbolism to something more energetic and ambitious. Even the word Mimosa doesn't seem right- I associate that flower with a much greener cast (freesias comes more to mind) and a Mimosa cocktail just doesn't jive with the sombre zeitgeist right now. A locally grown peach smoothie would probably be more appropriate, no?

In my image above I like the context, it was taken in the conservatory at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. A small burst of bold energy against dark unfamiliar perhaps threatening shapes. Just what we need for where we're at right now.

Shadow Features

Its cold and miserable here in NYC. The streets are wet and slushy, and all that pretty white snow is going through the ugly city snow phase. It didn't even go through a photogenic phase- it snowed when it was dark and its been gray and low light since. So I rummage through my photo archives for distraction and I find a photo from the Portland Japanese Garden of this beautiful shadow. Its like a lace fan, the circular shape echoing a clipped shrub near it. This then reminds me of another shadow photo I took at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden- stripes from a stand of bamboo. I'm intrigued by shadows and often curious when I see great examples like these if the designer did in fact take this into account, as they should, of how powerful an effect shadows can have on the overall visual design. In both these images, the shadows are particularly pronounced on a man made surface- the road/tarmac. I also have some great images of shadows on walls which I will save for another day.

The Potato Eater

I'm a fan of potatoes as a vegetable, less so as a side starch. Come winter this vegetable definitely starts to feature more prominently on the weekly menu. I like it in stews, in curries and used to flesh out omelettes and fishcakes, rissoles and croquettes. Meet my three favorites right now, Yukon Gold, Purple Majesty and Mountain Rose. I love their colors. Waxy yellow yukon in a fiery orange curry, blue purple majesty stirred into an omelette, pink rose stained with red beets in a salad. I will try to grow them next year despite the miserable failures this year. I had some in a big container on my fire escape but the squirrels got them and I planted some late up in Mamaroneck and didn't return in time to see what happened to them.

Moon over Manhattan

This weekend, I saw the full moon from my bedroom window. If you lived in this city you would know that this is no small brag as the moon is usually a fleeting glimpse, a momentary view as it darts and disappears behind a building or a skyscraper. With nothing but a low school building between me and the Harlem river I got to enjoy this giant moon in fact the largest moon in the Nothern Hemispere in fifteen years fully and slowly. Sadly it made the skeletal branches of the oak tree look even more bare than it is having finally given up its last leaf.

Winter Greens

Right after the winter monochromes described in my last post, I leave the south garden to immediately come across the diametric opposite. An alley of trees with their feet, trunks and lower branches smothered in verdant green ivy and immediately after a still green lawn and what looked like miles of green hedge. I guess this is truly what gardening is about, the ability to create extraordinarily different outdoor spaces, a few feet from each other but practically worlds apart.

The Undead

Straying from our usual route that clings to the north west side of Central Park, the dog and I decide on a whim to loop eastward and come across the South Conservatory Garden. There was a swarm of gardening park people, busy as bees although I wasn't quite sure what they were all doing, some were digging, some engaged in deep discussion about the task at hand. I was distracted, mesmerized instead by the strangely haunting tableaux of dead plants. So beautiful was their range of color and shape that I found them to be not dead at all. So strangely coordinated in their range of monochrome shades of color and appealing textures were they that I found them quite undead.

Winter Lights

Stripped of the competition from brilliant hued autumn leaves, the red berries in Central Park are hogging center stage. Strung like brilliant red winter lights on bare winter branches they light up the drab landscape. Not everywhere, just here and there, surprising and delighting the eye. Above, Harlem Meer provides an icy blue backdrop for these natural seasonal ornaments

California Dreaming

I dug out an old external hard drive last night and unearthed a stash of old photos. The ones above are shots from the Mission area of San Francisco. I lived in SF for a year in a tiny cottage on Portrero Hill, close to the Mission which was a regular haunt. I loved the colors there like the teal wall behind the orange flowers and the sense of almost being in a different country with terracota pots and front yards filled with yuccas and warm climate flora. Seeing these photos again are a welcome tonic for the soggy wintery days here in NYC. The photos were also tiny, pre my megapixel camera days and putting them here on the blog makes me realize one of the great joys of keeping this blog is the ability search and go back and look at what happened last year or the one before.


Do not Wither, Do not Fade, Do not grow old, implores Queen Elizabeth of the young nobleman Orlando, in Virginia Woolf's novel named after him. This is a notion that is at odds with the current moment as all around us things are doing exactly that. The season is currently delivering its annual reminder that things in fact wither and fade. And then I watched an Oprah episode which was all about the Blue Zones, pockets of civilisation with disproportionately higher numbers of older and very healthy people. Clips were shown of ninety something year olds whacking weeds, trimming shrubs, picking fruit. Wait a minute, I see a pattern here. Yes indeed, eating Pecorino in Sardinia and hand grinding your corn in Costa Rica were all coupled with gardening as part of the list of things that keeps these blue zoners perpetually healthy. Gardeners it seems have a better chance of remaining evergreen.

Still Holding

The Oak outside my window is going through its denial phase in a fight to hang on to its last remaining leaves. Like quite a few trees in the city, this one doesn't really do fall too well, its skips the fiery color phase that I enjoy with it's suburban cousins. Instead it goes from green to leathery brown and then dried shriveled up-ness. Most of the leaf 'fall' really being ripped from the branches by inclement weather. Here it almost seems as if a clasped budded hand might be about to offer a couple of leaves finally in surrender, but not quite yet.

Aqua Vitae

The window ledge in my bathroom has become a sort of glass and water garden. It began with a couple of succulent cuttings from an Indoor Gardening Society meeting. I never potted them, just left them in the glass container, refilling the water whenever it went down. Then a begonia bought on a whim from K Mart turned spectacularly ugly a couple of months ago. I salvaged the best part and it joined the succulents. The amazing thing is that they have lived for months like this. The Begonia has even flowered. I've since added random trimmings, there's taller stalks of Geranium and Purpleheart that you can't see in the vase on the far left. On the far right some recent clippings from the Cuban Oregano which I like to pinch evey now and then to release its lovely fragrance.

Autumn Gingko

I love the showy season of the autumn gingko every year. Leaves announcing its start fall just outside my apartment building. It's golden color contrasts sharply against the drab brick. It's pretty much done now, clinging on to just a few bright yellow leaves but the others in the courtyard are still going through their different phases, further down there's one that still has a little green. At night the courtyard lights showcase their arching branches and their golden display.

I saw a kid jumping onto the fallen fruit, popping them like bubblewrap and noticed a Chinese couple foraging for them in Central Park. "What do you do with them?" I asked the man. He was pressing the fruit removing some of the pulp. "We cook, with it, but it smells strong" he said. I peered into the lady's trolley bag full of fruit. This morning there was a Gingko leaf just outside my apartment door, having hitched a ride up with a neighbor. My dog sniffed it and I appreciated its single iconic shape against the dark slate floor.

The Road to Winter

Things are actually looking a litte worse than this photo from a few days ago. Wind and rain have begun to strip the trees. The path in the garden courtyard of my apartment building is awash with the yellow goop of soggy gingko leaves and the stench of the last of its fruit. A host of things keep me in the city and have made the last few opportunites for gardening up in Mamaroneck to disappear and now there's really no good reason to make the trip for a while. So my sights now turn to rethinking my indoor plants as they will be my only source of 'gardening'. I expect the indoor gardening society meets will be hopping at this time of year, I know I'm looking forward to the next one. And then there's all these botanical/gardening art projects that have been started and stalled, and all the new ones that I have seeds of ideas for. The road to winter in my case leads to the garden indoors.

More Pink and Purple too

The pink leaves here were probably flaming red and have now leached to this rich pink. They are a measure of the season, we are at the tail end of fall now. Some trees are barely clinging on to the last few of their leaves. But how about the smoky purple cast to those branches and the assortment of olive colors behind. The image on the left is just downright complex. I love the range and subtlety of all those color hues and those purple leaves just anchors the whole palette.

Pink Berries

I'm a big fan of pink in the gaudy autumn palette so I when I came across these pink berries at the NYBG I made sure to take a note of the plant. Its a Viburnum Nudum 'Earhshade'. The berries aren't just pink, they blush through white and some blue but the deepest pink ones catch your eye and the foliage is very attractive too. A little googling tells me there are other viburnums with similar pink berries, Count Pulaski, Winterthur and Pink Beauty.

+ Occasional Oasis:Fall Meadow

Down by the Water

Down by the water things are blurred, abstracted, distorted. The images are from a variety of places Central Park, New York Botanical and Mamaroneck but they all share the same sense of being counterpointed, clear shapes against ripples and blurs, organic lines against rhythmic ones. Something happens when you get close to the water and it changes in an instant.

Porch Chintz

I really love this chintz fabric that Heidi chose for their newly winterized porch. The word chintz usually conjures up stuffy images of traditional front rooms, but this one has a completely different feel. It has the traditional floral motifs, in this case roses and fuschias but printed on this coarse woven linen fabric in these warm aged colors transforms it. Then, using it to upholster a retro cane banquette gives it even more of a twist, modern and almost tropical.

A Bluer Rose

The rose is probably the most pertinent garden related symbol for this moment as the country is poised to make a choice of historic proportions. It is this nation's national floral emblem and coincidentally, its first president George Washington, also the country's first Rose breeder. The image above is actually named after a famous Illinois senator who became President, Mr Lincoln, except I tweaked the image and made this red rose a lot bluer. Lets see how things turn out for that other senator from Illinois tomorrow. A rose named after him should certainly also be a lot bluer.

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.

Can You Dig It?

I lifted the title of this post from a fashion report from Milan. Hot off the runways for Summer 2009, Burberry designer Christopher Bailey is smitten with the gardening muse. In July his menswear collection channeled famed British artist and gardener Derek Jarman. Now, for women he presents Garden Girls, a bluestocking-at-Sissinghurst kind of Englishwoman. Hello Vita.

All this of course begs some ponderance on the topic of fashion and gardening and where it all converges - in real life. In my case its a blur. I garden in whatever I'm wearing that day. From Seventh Avenue to the vegetable beds, the transition is seamless except for two things- my hat and my shoes. These red pumas and red baseball hat are officially my gardening shoes and hat. I've no idea why they happen to both be red- style can be a mysterious thing. There is function however in my choices, both have breathable mesh sides and they also can be thrown into a washing machine.


I was not aware of this exhibition so I was thrilled to discover Moore in America at the New York Botanical Gardens. Time Magazine's art critic has some interesting insights into this exhibition. I missed quite a few of the sculptures, might be worth a trip back to take in this exhibition a little better but I was particularly interested in these three pieces described below in reference to how they worked as part of the landscape.

Overall, the thing that struck me is the monumental scale of these pieces and how 'right' this was. The organic shapes of the sculptures allow them to co habit easily in their surroundings and strangely drew my attention to the scale of the trees and rocks in its vicinity. They also created strong visual cues that led your eye and then made you evaluate the scene, sharpening your impressions of the landscape.

Oval with Points was probably my favorite, the bronze surface reflecting the dappled light. It was visible from the path but in an intimate space surrounded by trees. Locking Point was higher up and looked majestic set against a blue sky and a perspective of trees. The material was dark and matte and seemed to grow out of the stone that it was close to. The light verdigris color of Hill Arches distinguished it especially since in sat on a stretch of green lawn in the darker shade of trees. It looked like a beautiful alien spacecraft that had landed unexpectedly.

Blood Red

Feeling uninspired yesterday I hopped on the train to The New York Botanical Gardens and what a treat that was. I saw some intriguing things that will be fodder for a few posts but lets start with this jolt of red. I still don't generally like bright reds, but seeing these two images, a Begonia with the light behind it and a Scarlet Tassel flower or Emilia Coccinea from the Aster Family, I have a couple of revisions to this. On a cool fall day when the light is lower, seeing this color was really invigorating. I didn't like so much the placement of the begonia in a long bed, but seeing the Tassel flower against the blue green foliage- I thought how beautiful that combination was and I imagined that begonia in a blue green or celadon glazed pot having the same pleasing effect. Back in spring I really liked those dark almost black reds (with white), that I saw at Wave Hill, now these blood reds in fall are another thing to ponder on for next year.

The Turning Point

On my morning walk with the dog I pick up in the courtyard (gingko), the sidewalk (oak) and down the lane by the tennis courts (mulberry) a trail of clues that describes this moment in the calendar. It's one I really, really like. The apartment windows are open, I'm wearing a cozy sweatshirt but no socks, the sun is shining. This temperate, in between, not inclement place. Is the light more dramatic? Do sounds carry differently? It would be so nice to linger here awhile at this turning point.


I learnt from attending a couple of the Indoor Gardening Society meetings that the Union Square market is a surprisingly good source of interesting houseplants. I have since been on the lookout for plants to add to my windowsill assortment. A while back I found the Chaya which is doing really well. This weekend I found a Plumbago, not quite as unusual but a good size and a great price and in bloom. Four hours of sun and it should continue to bloom through winter says the vendor. I think I can offer three hours so let's see what happens. I've always liked this plant, love the pale indigo flowers but the name, like some awful malady or disease. Its alternative is no better Leadwort. A quick google tells me that Plumbago is derived from the Latin for Lead and that leadwort was believed to be a cure for lead poisoning.

Kitchen Garden Confidential

These mint flowers are from my 'kitchen garden' in Harlem, outside my kitchen window. The fact that they have been left to flower is a clue to the sad fact that I've been neglecting it. That's an understatement, I can barely stand to look at it. It's been an unmitigated disaster due to my own overeaching ambition.

This 'kitchen garden' in years past was just an assortment of terracota pots on a window ledge that I extended to accomodate as many of them as I could which kept me in good supply of all my cooking herb needs. This year I put four large patio pots out there. They fit exactly in the indented space outside the window on my fire escape. I filled them with more than herbs- some strawberry plants, an eggplant, a chilipepper, potatoes a couple of colard greens some assorted greens- just to see what would happen. I was also prepared to be asked to remove them knowing what one shouldn't be placing on a New York city fire escape.

That never happenened but, just as the the strawberries arrived and the eggplant bore a couple of fruit as did the chilipeppers, the squirrels discovered this little patch and began their regular raids. I could have dealt with just the taking of all the fruit and vegetables but the random digging up of plants- sent me over the edge. Why pull up parsley? Soon there were only about five plants left- they left a couple of mints, the chillipepper a dark basil and a collard green which disappeared yesterday morning.

Rather than engage in a futile war with these terrorists, I'm just ignoring it all, seeing what the worst can happen and I'll come up with an entirely different plan next year. Yesterday I saw one of my little anatgonists, banged the window and childishly enjoyed seeing him fly up in the air in fright.

+ Occasional Oasis:The Future of Trees

Wall Cover

Couldn't get up to Mamaroneck to do any any gardening this weekend but I did upload some images to an online resource that prints on good quality paper and also frames them. The gallery contains images from a series that I have been posting here which I'm calling Botanic Nostalgia. I started this series of manipulated images with this post. The choice of wall color and matting is loosely based on that image of Monet's interior.

Au Potager

Why the swanky french title? Just a couple of random associations. The watering can is such a beautiful yellow - one I associate with Provencal or French country. The Beet I threw into a Nicoise Salad of sorts. There's also just the overall worn timelesness of the elements- metal watering can, terracotta pots, stone walls it could very well be some potager in Normandy in the late afternoon. The cauliflower which I complained about to Noah has somehow recovered and is doing well. The mint in the terracotta pot, not so much. Heidi called this morning,"there's tomatoes and we're eating a lot of beans". "I'll be up on Sunday" I said.

Tomato Taste off

Here are the circumstances that led to the taste off. I was at the famers market and bought some Jersey tomatoes then came to a table of heirlooms all clearly marked and named- I couldn't resist - I bought a couple of Black Krims and Zebra Stripes. It would be good to remind myself of the flavor of those Black Krims and I don't remember having those zebras before- they were beautiful to look at.

Then when I went up to Mamaroneck, Heidi and I took a stroll over to look at Rick and Edie's garden. Rick and I had talked about his Dahlias so I was keen to see how they looked -gorgeous. Added bonus, we walked by their vegetable garden which was just full of tomatoes. So I helped myself to a couple. I've also been enjoying the Hanna's Tomato tastings series so that got the idea of a taste off started.

So I had four contestants for a taste off and the winner is hands down the Black Krim. I'm so growing that again next year. We are waiting on the Black Trifele this year and its not very prolific. Then I'm liking Rick and Edie's Tomato (no idea what it is) and I'm surprised how the Jersey tomato stands up- the timing of peak season is probably key here. The dissapointment was the Striped Zebra much in part due to reading a description in the Tomato tasting series about 'a good looking tomato that fell apart'. Don't you wish sometimes that you weren't aware of these things? But thats what this tomato did, it fell apart when I sliced it and I didn't love it so much after that.

Where the Bee Sups

On mounds of blushing pink Stonecrop blossoms. There is a Sedum Autumn Joy in each of the four beds and they are all about to burst into full bloom and are crawling with bees. A little disconcerting to be completely honest as I try to remove all the ungainly stalks that have collapsed and stir them. I have however discovered a solution to this-the leggy collapsing stalks that is. I read somewhere that pruning them in early July keeps them compact. I tried it on two of them and indeed they do - no flopping at all with those two which means they will all be getting that treatment next year.

+ Occasional Oasis:Late Hot Color

White Roots

I've been buying these white carrots from the market fairly regularly. I'm getting hooked on their flavor - milder, less carrot-ty than regular carrots. Munching on one the other night right after coming home from Mamaroneck (where I had just been thinning out the carrots in the vegetable beds), I thought to myself - I should grow these.

So I looked around the internets and discover that carrots were in fact originally white or purple or any color but orange. Orange carrots are some new fangled sixteenth century Dutch manipulation to develop a carrot in the colour of the House of Orange, the Dutch Royal Family. I also learn that white carrots may contain other health-promoting substances called phytochemicals. This was my only reservation about these carrots that they didn't have the beta carotene that the orange color indicates. I now know that all the colors have a range of nutritional merits.

It looks like these white carrots might be White Satin and I like the look of Purple Haze too for next year.

Hips Don't Lie

They tell of fall's imminent approach.Walking in Central Park it was a tiny bit sad to see these rose hips and have the realization that summer is indeed slipping away but the consolation would be that they were the most beautiful thing I saw today. Maybe it was the wildy garish combination of bright yellow and red flowers along the path that preceded its view and made its more subtle color palette more appealing. The light was also good just at that moment and from another view the apricot blur you see beyond is in fact a bed of Impatiens in a color range I've never seen before-apricots and buttery yellows.

+ Occasional Oasis:Plein Air

Chaos Reigns

When the Japanese Anenome in the south west bed arrives, chaos reigns. This year with more flower stalks from the bronze fennel the chaos is amplified. The competition has made them both taller, bigger and more prolific. And yet, there is also equilibrium. Somehow even the untidy Golden Rod behind these two adds to the intricate tangle of buds and flowers and stems to create a mood and a picture of a garden in high summer exactly what it should be.

Summer Darks

The Sweet Potato Vine that was looking so good with the Geranium Johnson's Blue in the north east bed is now flowering of its own accord. Small pale pinkish flowers with a dark magenta eye glow in the dark foliage which is now abundent. Over in the north west bed the dark purple leaves of a second one contrasts with the Sedum that's now sending out flowers.

A new dark burgundy in the beds is the herb Perilla. The south east bed was desperately needing more plants in this color family and inspired by seeing this plant used in the Wave Hill garden, I planted a few here. I was hesitant as its practically a weed. I put one plant in a couple of summers ago and now it self seeds everywhere. Instead of weeding them all out, I left one or two and moved a couple of others.

In the south west beds the Weigela and the dark stems of the bronze fennel balance out and complete this collection of late summer darks.

+ Occasional Oasis:Rustic Daydream

The Potting Studio

I posted about the um potted history of this space here, right after Jim had put up the walls. The walls are now going to remain as they are, unpainted- I love the rusticity of this. There's a granite lip that skirts the entire wall- you can see it at the bottom right of the image and the stainless steel sink from the old kitchen has been moved here.

The space has been used by the construction team through the renovation which only recently completed. Last week was the first time I saw this space empty and with this sink installed in it and a train of thought roared through my head. Yes for sure there will the potting of all kinds of plants and all manner of gardening related activities but a new idea was suggested by that sink. I can wash a print screen. Underneath the stairs there's also a closet with a door, which could be a darkroom where the screen is created.

So I'm thinking botanical screen print studio along with the potting. I'm having a fantasy of myself as a latter day William Morris screening prints of Black Barlow and Chinese Lanterns. It could happen. If nothing else the space previously known as the potting shed is certainly somewhere I can entertain a grand idea or two while staring out at the honeysuckle and runner beans.

Plum and Red Burgundy

Thats Plum tomatoes and Red Burgundy Okra - last weeks harvest from the vegetable garden along with other miscellaneous greens and herbs. The okra I planted from seed is really quite a beautiful plant- the lobed, red ribbed leaves that seem to mottle a little with age and the red stems and fruit are gorgeous. The packet says delicious and attractive, I've yet to test the delicious part- they may be a little past their best. The plum tomatoes on the other hand are taste tested and despite the fact that they are better used for cooking I couldn't resist having a couple just cut and salted- bliss.

Looking at Lanterns

Sometimes I do more than just look. Sometimes I'm inspired - I process, analyse, osmose the visual information and use it for something else. An allover autumnal textile print perhaps or maybe a graphic artwork- look at those bold orange heart shapes combined with those teardrop sedum leaf shapes. Or, I just subliminally store the palette- greens, blue greens, teals, purples, oranges, reds and a little yellow. And not just the actual colors- the proportions matter too and so do their placement and juxtapositions with each other. See the purple edges on the blue green leaves and the green veining on the orange lanterns.

I planted these Chinese Lanterns a couple of years ago- here's what they looked like then and then discovered to my dismay that they were potentially invasive. They hardly did anything at all last year- they put out some foliage and I don't even remember seeing any lanterns. This year they are a nice little patch but I'm going to have to keep an eye on them. Meanwhile, I'll just enjoy the view.

Anniversary Hostas

I was wrong about the Judge's Hostas last year. It's not on his wife's birthday that they bloom but on their anniversary. Today. August 15. The photos were taken a couple of days ago when the blooms seemed to be timing their display to the minute.

It was early evening when Heidi and I walked over to take a look at them, the perfect time as the flowers open in the evening and their scent is given an extra boost by the phlox that is also blooming nearby. I did a little research and it looks like these are Hosta Plantaginea also known as August Lily.

The Occasional Propagator

I joined the New York City chapter of the Indoor Gardening Society back in May. I went on a lark just to see what it was all about and found myself intrigued. It was a blur of latin names and descriptions of how many feet things were grown from a north east or south facing window. I've been tight lipped about it because, that evening the theme was propagation- I walked out with a plastic bag with six assorted leaves and stems, and a headful of instructions. I didn't want to say anything just in case I killed them all. I can report now that I didn't.

Well, not all of them. I did step on and crush the Streptocarpella Concord Blue which fell out of the bag without me knowing it. I did kill the Phymatosorus scolopendria, frankly I didn't love it anyway. The one I really wanted which wasn't in my bag was an Euphorbia Milii that someone had brought to show. I told the owner how much I liked it and towards the end, she beckoned me over and placed in my hand a thorny two inch stem with a wink.

The instructions for propagating it were different - let it dry out on a paper towel and then pot it, we were told. I did and entirely forgot about it finding it shrivelled a few days later. What the hell, I'll just stick it in a pot. Miraculously a leaf appeared, and now there are three.

The Plectranthus also lived and so did one other unidentified trailing thing but the Episcia Pink Panther pictured above is positively thriving. Yes I can - propagate. I went back in June for favorite plant night where I lusted over a Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow plant that had a wonderful scent and a Begonia Bonfire with beautiful red flowers. Meetings resume in September.

Return to Noah's Garden

I went back to visit Noah's Garden the last time I was up in Mamaroneck and got a chance to meet Noah himself. He was hard at work (look at those gardening hands) but took the time to show me around and give me some background to the garden and what he's been up to this summer, not to mention a tip or two on how to keep critters away. Gardening has become a way of life for him, he's been doing it since he was four after all. He's an old gardening soul, wise beyond his years about soil and compost and crop rotation but still enjoys growing sunflowers because he wonders how tall they can get this summer.

Soundtrack: Bright Morning Stars Jon Sayles

Rise Above

Where did the time go? Apologies for the radio silence but I've been lost in a whirlwind of demanding new projects and new circumstances- in particular welcoming home albeit a temporary one, a foster dog with some challenging needs. On one of our walks in Central park I saw this patch of flowers, the tall tall lilies looking a little like how I feel right now - finally, above the deluge of paperwork, vet appointments and work deadlines. I'm ready to pick up where I left off. Thanks for your patience.

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