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.

All Posts: