Still Life with Cherry Branches

In this clip, Alice Waters speaks of her friend David Masumoto's gift to her each spring - a box of peach blossoms from his orchard to give her a sense of what's to come. This resonates with me. One of the great things I enjoy, is the flowers, branches and vegetables that I bring home from Mamaroneck. Enjoying them in my home not only connects me with the the gardening activities I enjoyed the day I brought them home, but also the social activites that same day with my friends who own the garden.

I rarely buy cut flowers for this reason- I don't have a connection to their provenance. The only exception is spring branches from the farmer's market. I go there often enough to feel a familiarity with the stalls and the vendors there and I like very much the spirit that underlies their enterprise. I love the simplicty of the presentation- tied bundles stacked on a table. And so I brought home a bundle of cherry branches and look forward to their dramatic transformation from bud to blossom.

Outside, a Witch Hazel blooms along Riverside Drive.

There will be Seedlings

I'm determined that there will be a lot of growing from seed this year. We have a new potting shed for peat's sake. I'm researching the subject like crazy right at the moment -it will happen. Meanwhile before Black History Month slips away, here is an excerpt from Paul Dunbar's (my apartment buiding is named after him) delightful ode to The Seedling.
As a quiet little seedling
Lay within its darksome bed,
To itself it fell a-talking,
And this is what it said:

"I am not so very robust,
But I'll do the best I can;"
And the seedling from that moment
Its work of life began.

So it pushed a little leaflet
Up into the light of day,
To examine the surroundings
And show the rest the way.

The leaflet liked the prospect,
So it called its brother, Stem;
Then two other leaflets heard it,
And quickly followed them...

Yesterday, I was Down by the Riverside.

Foliage Shadows

I love the work of Mary Temple. Apart from the genius idea to paint in the light and foliage shadows in rooms with little or no light, I love her recognition that these images stir an emotional response. I woke up early today to see that the increasing morning light was casting some interesting shadows which reminded me of her work. I stacked the geranium a little higher to see what the effect might be and thats what you see in the picture.

I was first considering maybe getting more and taller plants - a climber on canes perhaps to get more of this effect but an hour later and the light has already raced halfway across to the other side of the room. The scene is sort of reversed in my bathroom, the branches of the oak tree casting the subtlest shadows on the tiny window.

Garden Noir

I've noticed much interest, in the gardening blogosphere, in dark, black or chocolate plants- a taste I share very enthusiastically. There's also been an increasing interest in lemon/lime/chartreuse colored plants so I've put together a little collection of images of what I think works really well together- both of those colors combined. This is something I've been working on in the Mamaroneck garden but its something I also take note of in other gardens I visit - like this one in Provincetown.

What I find interesting about this combination is it creates a sort of Garden Noir- a high contrast, light and shade in the border. As a strict color palette, it works extremely well in a constricted space, and I like how the addition of bronzes like the heucheras and the euphorbias in the photos make it more complex- look at this for a cool riff on those colors.

In the Mamaroneck garden, I'm using this as a base palette- I like how it adds light and shade to what is sometimes overlooked- a lot of green. In focussing on flower choice it's easy to forget that a signifcant part of the overall color is - green. Adding this range of not quite monochromatic hues can really add visual depth and range. At Wave Hill I took note of plants like red perilla and chocolate stemmed sedums to break up the palette. In Mamaroneck the dark leaves of the Weigela Wine and Roses and Berberis Thunbergii 'Rose Glow' do a terrific job of this as does the lemon leaved Spirea and the Creeping Jenny. Some great ideas for plants here and here.

When it comes to layering flower colors on top of this, I prefer richer warmer hues - indigos,corals, fuschias, warm pinks. What I really have in mind is a vintage Madras plaid with dark rich colors mixed with spicier bright colors but more of this when I get going again this year.

Summer Floral Inspiration

I'm still working on designs for Summer 2009. Having done a few more masculine florals which are typically more tropical- things like hibiscus, I'm now ready to do some more and pictured are couple of inspirational images I'm looking at. The image on the left is a lady's handkerchief from my growing collection of vintage floral textiles. I scour flea markets for interesting fabrics and buy them if they are inexpensive, this one was a dollar. The image on the right is typical of something I might find in a collection of online botanical ephemera like the one at Kew Gardens here.

What I look for is ideas for color combinations -I love the combination of teal red and white in the image on the left or the peach ground and red tinged leaves in the other. What's important in a floral print is also how it 'moves' so I also look a for ideas on how to achieve this. The one on the right looks like it would move well on a larger area- say a voile dress whereas the other might look good in a constricted one like a cushion cover or as a border trim.

I have no idea or control what happens to a print after its sold- it could end up on bedsheets and greeting cards. There's no real telling how a print could develop either- I'm already thinking that the one on the right could be very prety as a monochromatic print-no fruit just leaves and flowers, black on white perhaps and the one on the left could look interesing as a single colored enbroidery on a heavy woven linen- maybe less leaves and a different flower. Who knows how this will end up - but here is where it starts.

The Park in Winter

I woke up this morning to bright sunshine streaming in through my bedroom window and I thought to myself- I must go to the Park.

Central Park is just a hop skip and a subway ride away. Exiting at 110 th street takes you to the north end of the park where the ice rink is. Today I walked all the way from there to the Ritz Hotel at the southernmost end and I was on a mission- I wanted to look with new eyes at the landscape thanks to an inspiring article in the New York Times about Piet Oudolf.

I was surprised to see a fair amount of green in the park, a lot of buds, and a decent amount of shoots. I enjoyed the stark silhouettes of bare branches, long rippling shadows, soggy patches that glittered and the visual chaos of dead grass and tangled branches which I must admit did look a little better back lit or contrasted with a berry or two or a rich brick wall.

Helianthus Remedy

I am in desperate need for some kind of antidote or winter remedy. The temperatures have dived downwards again. Last night we had snow and sleet and I am nursing round two of a slight but annoying winter cold. Just working on this photograph of sunflowers I think has helped. Anything with the word sun in it is therapy and the color yellow is definitely sending some kind of vibrational healing energy and I'm putting myself right there in that moment when I took that photograph - bright sunny late afternoon in September in Cape Cod riding home on my bike.

Scholar's Garden

I could have timed this a bit better and posted on Chinese New Year- but here is some footage I took at the Chinese Scholar's Garden in Staten Island when I visited last September. It was my first time there and I had a similar reaction to the place as a couple of the friends I was with - overcome with utter serenity. Unlike a typical garden, I barely noticed the plants, instead, the artistry of manipulation of space, views and light worked like some kind of mind altering drug. The line between inside and outside is consistently blurred and your eye is drawn repeatedly to look at framed views of the sky, another garden beyond or some combination of shadows and light. I must go back in summer to see what the flowering plants there look like in that context.

Soundtrack: Autumn Moon on Lake from Chinese Traditional Music on Biblio.


Rhodey was the summer house in Westerly, Rhode Island that I shared with a few friends over a period of a few years in the early nineties. It was also known as the Blue House but Rhodey is what we all knew it best by. Not just the house but the whole experience of our weekly escapes. Its the name of all our summers there and for many of us a defines an era that we've been hard pressed to recreate since.

I grew a garden there- a border alongside the house, filled with whatever I could find at the local stores that weekend and whatever survived the dry weeks without watering. Somehow it managed to thrive and welcomed us every week and provided us with herbs for our extravagant dinners that we prepared and ate amid great laughter.

This cool new site-issuu, allows you to create a flip book of images which I thought would be perfect to do a test piece - I'd love to collect more images and do something more substantial-in the meantime, here's a little Rhodey for you to enjoy.

Une Memoire du Jardin

Interesting how the filter of another language can immediately romanticize a phrase. For a photograph, I've discovered lens blur, light leaks from old Holgas, sepia, and a slew of other techniques all do something similar they tell a slightly altered truth of what the eye sees. Take a look at some of my favorite photos on flickr and you'll see what I mean and also what I have an interest in pursuing occasionally.

The photo above of Clematis taken in 2006 is what they call post digital processing, not caught by the camera lens which is something some photographers are puritanical about and I really don't know why because regardless of whether you do it by virtue of the lens or with your hands by dodging or burning in the dark room or by actively choosing a Lomo or Holga camera- its all still manipulation. In this case its photoshop and a lot of people think using a tool like photoshop is cheating. The truth is it can be, there are definitely scripts and software that can make your images holgaesque at a click of a button but thats certainly not how I like to do it. I like to do it just like I would do a watercolor, adding and subtracting the layers like washes, scrubbing away parts, intensifying others. The process is long and as laborious as a watercolor and just as satisfying.

I also add layers that render the image with scratches, waterstains, shadows and stir memories of other images. In a way thats what the ambition is- to render the feel of a memory. When I hear the word roses, I picture the juddering frames of a my dad's super eight cine camera movie of me and my sister in a rose garden as children. The bright colors are leached, the edges blackened, the image grainy, like the memory itself.

I like the idea and the power of beginning with an image that started out, not spectacularly and finding a new expression for it, like this one of Roses and Ferns or this one of A Tree in Autumn. Is it wrong to alter the mundane truth and tell beautiful lies? Je ne regrette rien.

Compostucino ~ Manhattan Blend

I stumbled across this random piece of information and thought - great idea, I'll keep all my used coffee grounds (in fact not Starbucks but Wholefoods Organic Pacific Rim) in a jar right next to the coffee maker. Surprising how quickly a two cups a day habit can add up. The story doesn't end there, I then went to the compost stand at Union Square Market where they sell bins and worms and enquired all about the NYC Compost Project. I think it might be doable, a plastic bin tucked under the sink, with a bunch of worms in it, but I wasn't completely ready to commit to it that day - but I did walk away with some very well priced, beautifully packaged, already composted compost. I'm stoked. I hate those white vermiculite things in commercial potting soil that I always buy in a desperate last minute effort-they just don't look right.

In other NYC news ~ Spring is being shipped into Manhattan.

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