Bleak Beauty Redux

Last year, I worked on this winter hydrangea image which then led to a couple more in a certain palette of yellow/green/brown cast neutrals inspired by Andrew Wyeth's palette and then it picked up an indigo ink tinted scheme. The more graphic motifs/images created by a blank snow canvas against the stark winter flora started to take on a feel of Japanese Prints. I liked this a lot and this year decided to do a couple more and I've put them all together in one place- a digital book called Bleak Beauty.

I like how it captures an important strategy for the coming winter months- think beautiful thoughts. Freezing cold weather is much more tolerable re imagined as a few graphic ink strokes in shades of indigo. The images also track a year of developing this kind of image making process- textured, digitally manipulated photographs. Putting them in a book format on the Issuu platform is also a new way of creating short narratives or visual moods that I've been exploring.

I recently got an Android phone and Issuu just released a mobile version for Android, so this book is optimized to view on a phone. I've also made some of the images available as free wallpapers- mainly because I wanted some for myself. I'll post again on this subject but there's definitely a different world of media distribution that's happening on phones. This blog is slow and hard to navigate on a phone, can't watch the videos- the digital book- where you just finger swipe to the next page- almost perfect.


I recently ordered some Plaintain Oil to make some salve with. The oil is from the leaves of Plantago Major or Common Plantain. I've been reading many references to its use as a vulnery (wound healing), it's anti inflammatory properties and abilities to draw out bites. The latter is indicated in the 15th century woodcut of it above - I presume that's what the significance of the scorpion on the left is.

It's one of the 12 common weeds selected for the Quadra Medicinale project- which is when it first drew my attention. Then this post by a NYC herbalist intrigued me further. Although the claims by ethnobotanists and herbalist are strong the evidence so far that I can find are weak or considered insufficient.

Still worth a shot though and having trialled a few salve and ointment recipes and now happy with the actual base ingredient/combination, I'm ready to move on to adding the herbal ingredients. I do really like the weed/ common availability aspect, although using an oil now, I might consider trying out a fresh leaf version next summer when its pretty much everywhere.

+ OGMedia:Beth Chatto


At the farmer's market, this week there were beautiful evergreen wreaths, branches and trees to celebrate the season. The word evergreen is beautiful and hopeful, the colors, especially when things are getting fairly wintry, uplifting and the scent is transporting.

Evergreen trees immediately suggest landscape, not only as motif, but also scale- you notice the expanse of sky and the mountains beyond or whatever else is in the image. I went back to take a look at that image of the large pine at Wave Hill which then inspired me to work on another image of some snowy pines in the Catskills I took last year. I really like this waxy, blue green tint- I might have to go to the NYBG and take some more photos in their conifer arboterum to work on in a similar vein.

I recently discovered Juniper Ridge Siskiyou Cedar Incense. I love that the product is wildcrafted and as they describe it themselves- it's not perfumery- it just smells like a crackling fire in the great outdoors and in this case a particular California landscape. I also recently discovered Tallba Swedish Pine soap, beautiful scent and detail on the soap and the packaging is gorgeously vintage. Coincidentally I was intitally drawn to the Juniper Ridge incense at wholefoods because of it's elegantly stark packaging.

All this evergreen goodness is also put together as featured supplies to kick off the newly revamped supplies section of this site.

Contemplating Berries

I don't know what kind of berries these are, maybe Hawthorn. If they are then they are edible, full of nutrients,vitamins and minerals according to well known NYC wild foods expert Wildman Steve Brill. He also says they have medicinal properties and can be infested with insects. But I don't know if they are Hawthorn berries and in truth, besides my general lack of knowledge of berries, I also have a learned or conditioned response to these tantalizing, colorful things as - poisonous. Clearly these are not as I see birds eating them.

I wouldn't normally dwell on the subject but as the topic of urban foraging and the information about it increases, it's an interesting notion to think about the abundant availability of food and medicine, free- Central Park is full of them. In scarce times, not to mention it's relevance to local, carbon footprint issues etc it's a fascinating and timely subject. It would be fantastic if you could take a picture and something like Google's Goggles or some other app could tell you what it was, was it edible and whether it was ready to eat. In the meantime, I'm hunting and gathering as many foraging blogs and twitterers that I can to learn more.

+ GreenKraft:Fallen Leaf Plates

Late Autumn Walks

After months of not being able to walk in Central Park with my fosterdog because he was too dog reactive, the situation reverses. He's now come along with his training far enough to start exposing him to more dogs so we now take about four long walks a week- from 110th st to 80th st and back. He has mixed feelings about this new enterprise - half of him really likes all the interesting new stimuli, half of him is wound tight as a spring dealing with all these 'scary' dogs.

I, on the other hand am thrilled to be regularly immersed in the late autumn landscape. I watch gangs of birds feast on plump berries. I see Gingko foragers stooped to collect the foul smelling fruit that they prize. There is some pale yellow winter jasmine in bloom. The landscape is painted with a fairly broad range of colors still, there's greens and yellows and berry accents that keep the more sombre monochrome of dead leaves and stark branches in check.

Fruit leaves

I love Tangerines and I couldn't walk by a box of them in Chinatown, still with leaves intact without buying some. There's something that cognitively suggests freshness and ramps up the desirability for me when I see leaves on fruit- I want them more. I grew up climbing fruit trees as a kid and remember the smell of the leaves that sometimes had a faint suggestion of the fruit itself. When I see them now, it somehow refreshes this memory and I'm investing in more than just the fruit. They don't last too long either. They get dry and brittle fairly quickly so having them still green and supple is a good measure of how fresh the fruit is.

Fleeting Green

After it's abundance all summer, green in the fall garden, as it retreats becomes an interesting color accent. Not the blue cast of evergreens that start to become more apparent now as things around them die down, but the chlorophyll pigment of leaf greens that won't quite let go and insist on being part of an array of autumn hues. I love this palette of greens and browns, and all the colors in between, as you can probably tell from this site. It's a palette I want to bring indoors to sustain me through the winter months until it re emerges next spring. I just updated the about section with some new videos about the Arts and Craft movement- see how predominant this palette is in their work.


At this time of year, Persimmons are easily found on the streets of Chinatown, I always buy a few, not for their flavor so much as their looks. Such a beautiful color and shape- and that dried calyx on top- like a fine carving. I love to have a bowl of them just to look at. One reason the flavor is an issue is I often mistake the two kinds- Hachiya and Fuyu. The former you can't eat until they are completely ripe and the other you eat while its still fairly firm. I never remember which is which and bite into the acorn shaped hachiya and spit out its bitter tanin that lingers for hours. The photos above are fuyu. The tree is also beautiful- there's one at the Brooklyn Botanic.

+ OGMedia:Plot

Autumn Palettes

Autumn is a great time to go foraging for color palettes. I find color juxtapositions, pairings, and contrasts that surprise and inspire. Here are two good examples, a few remaining fiery orange leaves set against a dusty blue background, cris cossed with neutral branches and a dusty pink hydrangea separated from a vibrant blur of oranges by a range of leaf hues from green to yellow. Both of these have information for textile designs but I rarely use them that directly. Mostly its subconscious, the information composts and feeds something down the pike.

Upside Down Tomatoes

No, not the growing kind. I tried this last year with good results, so this year there was a serious display of all the tomato plants still with fruits attached cut and hung upside down in the window to ripen. Added to this was also some basil plants and some chili plants. It was really pretty and since this picture was taken a couple of weeks ago, we've had quite a few ripened tomatoes and chillies that were pretty good.

Suburban Foliage

I've been to Mamaroneck the last 2 weekends, the first weekend my camera had issues and I ended up borrowing Jim's camera. I was only able to download the images the following weekend when my own camera became issue free and I took more photos. That's my excuse for a lull in posting.

Here's one image from each weekend that captures the much more spectacular foliage color changes that occur outside the city. The range of color is also terrfic and I have a series of autumn palettes that I will post but this first one is in the classic yellow red vein. Remember the pinks and purples from last fall?

+ OccasionalOasis:Building With Whole Trees

Urban Autumn 2

I managed to squeeze in a quick walk in Central Park a few days ago and enjoyed another view of an updated Urban Autumn except more biased to the autumn part. This time the Manhattan geometry was well in the distance framed by autumn golds, the human crush whittled down to a jogger or bicyclist or two and outnumbered by berries. Much better.


The sight of these bittersweet branches hung on a line on the side of a truck in Union Square market stopped me dead in my tracks. It wasn't just their stark sculptural beauty, it was the contrast of their organic curving forms against the geometry of the trucks rivets, the intensity of the oranges and yellows against their monochrome shadows and the flat white paint. There was also something ancient about them that contrasted with the industrial modernity of the metal wall and line. On a table in front of this uncontrived and thought provoking wall art a pile of them pulsated the vibrant yellows and oranges of fall. There is always this strange thrill about fall in Manhattan, and this was definitely one of those moments.

Autumn Flotsam

It's eyes down, here in Manhattan as the pavements get strewn with Autumn flotsam. Acorns, leaves, seed pods and twigs litter the urban floor. Sharp yellows of turning leaves decorate the dull gray concrete. The crunch of dry twigs and seed pods add an autumnal nuance to the urban percussion of foot traffic. I have some acorns left over from some twigs I picked up a couple of weeks ago. This morning I picked up a couple of seed pods from the many honey locust trees in the neighborhood. Their dry brown tones counterpoint the mauve blue flowers of the Plumbago that is now blooming quite profusely indoors.

+ OGMedia:Mannahatta

Small Mercies

Everytime I think today will be day I run out and indulge in a little garden photography, it clouds over or rains. My foster dog is highly dog reactive, walks in central park are out of the question but long walks are necessary since he is young and spirited, so recreation time is taken up by long urban walks where we can take refuge behind a parked car if we see other dogs. Work and volunteer work keeps postponing a day up in Mamaroneck.

I will settle for some small respite I tell myself, just a little tiny something, and on cue my Euphorbia Milli blooms. Small tiny exquisite yellow flowers. I move the pot closer to my desk so that I can gaze intermittantly at it. Outside on the fire escape my Chinatown Chillis begin to bloom. They have grown from the seed of small but fiery Thai Chilli Peppers from Chinatown. Cleaning out the vegetable tray of my fridge in spring I found a couple of stray shrivelled up peppers. Why not I thought and took them up to plant in Mamaroneck. I brought a couple of the seedlings back to NYC and they have grown into fairly interesting plants- tall and fine leaved with delicate white flowers.

+ OccasionalOasis:Parallel Lines

Urban Autumn

The first signs of the approaching fall usually start with the arrival of Gingko leaves, delicate little yellow calling cards outside my front door announcing the inevitable. This year the signs were harsher, a week or so ago the pavement was littered with acorns and small oak branches ripped off in recurrung bad weather. Today, on the first day of fall walking around downtown Manhattan I noticed some crab apples on smaller obviously more recently planted trees. To be honest they didn't really look in the peak of health. Then there was the glimpse of a single red berry through a gap in a swathe of construction fabric. Fall is off on a slightly grim start this year and maybe all these visions of vertical gardens and skyscraper farms has made the actual reality of urban nature a tiny bit underwhelming.

+ OGMedia:Makoto Azuma

+ OccasionalOasis:Suddenly, Last Summer

The Price of Tomatoes

I've discovered that late in the season, if I go down to the farmer's market late in the afternoon, I'm able to buy heirloom tomatoes at a great price. There's a particular vendor that sells of all his tomatoes at a dollar a bag. I'd say each bag is 2 to 3 pounds. I came home with two huge bags, I've been eating tomatoes every day and even made two jars of sauce to freeze.

Two weeks ago when I came home with the half that amount from the Mamaroneck vegetable garden, the roundtrip train fare was fourteen dollars. Not exactly good economics and that doesn't factor in the cost of seeds or plants. Somehow it doesn't seem to matter but what's odd is price does matter at the beginning of the season as I usually refuse to buy the first tomatoes of the season which start off around 4.99 a pound and as high as 5.99 a pound.

I guess it's not the price of tomatoes- it's the price of experience. I won't pay a high price to experience the taste of tomatoes early but I will pay an exorbitant one for the experience of eating one I've grown.

+ OGMedia:Tomato Farmer

+ OccasionalOasis:Birds on the Wires

Summer Slips Away

Two things tell me that the summer is ending in Mamaroneck. The Judge's Hostas bloom almost precisely on August 15 and there's a realization that the long days are numbered. Then the autumn clematis starts to flower. I just about caught the very tail end of the hostas, their scent is exquisite mingled with the phlox, but they had already begun to look a little raggedy. The clematis was a mass of tight buds with a few popped blooms. Where did this summer go? It seemed to start well enough, early even, as I got my gardening on a lot earlier this year, and then in the middle there was that wonderful week in Rhode Island but there seemed to be no momentum. It never seemed to actually take off, and here we are at the end.

+ GreenKraft:Recycled Houses

+ OccasionalOasis:In Search of Wabi Sabi

Bean Harvest

'We can't eat another bean', Heidi said so the entire harvest was mine to take home. The Purple beans are prolific and its a pretty plant with pretty flowers, it will definitely be re employed next season. The Blue Lake beans, planted a little later are just getting going. I have to get my bean recipes lined up. I did poke around the interwebs to see if there was any way of keeping the purple color from reverting to green and, no, it's not possible unless you keep them raw. This weeks haul also included some tomatoes- a couple of Black Krims, a large head of chinese greens and lots of herbs.

Lush Window

I wanted to try something different on my front windowsill. I've had an assortment of terracota pots there before. This time I wanted something more lush, like an indoor courtyard in a tropical hotel. So I got deep square patio pots about 18 inches on all sides and I crammed whatever I had into 2 of the 3 pots. The middle one is still empty as I wanted to see what would happen - if the plants given that much more soil would get really big. They have. Both the Chaya and the Pulmoneria have hit the ceiling. The branches of the Chaya are somewhat gangly so I've trained the purpleheart up them. The pulmoneria clambers over the dogwood branches I had in spring.

The window is to my right as I work on the computer most of the day. In the morning, the light is strong, almost too strong, reflecting off my computer screen. So now there is more of a dappled effect. I like it, it's calming. I just have to plant the middle one and do a fancy wooden box cover/wrap around it. The ambition is to paint it black and paint some gold oriental lacqeur looking decorations, but that might take a while.

Frozen Green Tomatoes

A while ago I came across this Mark Bittman video for smoothies. It was life changing. I figured out what to do with all the extra bananas that inevitably spoil before I can eat them - freeze them. Then I discover - processing one frozen banana in my food processor with half a cup of kefir produced not a smoothie but a sort of soft serve frozen kefir that you eat with a spoon. That base could then be modified with the addition of any kind of frozen berries- raspberries, strawberries. I ate more kefir, bought berries from the market towards the end of the season and froze them. Healthiest, delicious most fun good for you food ever.

So I decide to do a food experiment with the two small green tomatoes I found knocked off the plant the other week. I cut and freeze them. One of my all time favorite sorbets is a lime and basil one that's on the menu of a friend's restaurant in Noho, a visit there always ends up with a glass of sorbet on the house. You can see where I'm going with this right? Some Basil leaves from the windowsill, frozen banana, frozen green tomatoes, kefir and some basil. Whirr. Not bad. Next time I would add lime- it needs a bite. My next green tomato food experiment will be another NYTimes recipes- green tomato marmalade.

+ OccasionalOasis:North Coast

Cool Reds

The temperatures have soared into the nineties which makes the indoors a cool air conditioned sanctuary. Not a bad thing as, I'm additionally confined indoors with a huge workload. Surprisingly, a color that I normally associate with heat has in fact been a cooling diversion. Ice cold cherries and chilled slices of red and striped beets. I blanked out my usual concerns about local produce to buy two incredibly cheap luscious pounds of cherries in Chinatown. The beets are from the garden. I ate the greens and even used the red liquid they cooked in to tint an old t shirt to right that wrong.

Early August Harvest

I decided to run up to Mamaroneck yesterday. I knew the tomatoes and the cucumber would be unruly and I was worried about the potato plants- they looked a little unwell last time I saw them and I didn't want that to affect anything else. So they were the first thing on list. Ripped them all up except one that looked quite different and healthy. There were a handful of tiny potatoes. I dug up the peas but didn't have time to plant anything else. I came home with a few tomatoes, don't know which kind, but dear god the couple I had were good as were the cucumbers. Purple Beans, huge carrots, quite a few Beets (and their greens), Chinese Greens, and herbs galore. Bliss.

Ashes of Roses

I've barely been outside, never mind gardening due to work deadlines and my new foster dog who's just settling in- so into the photo archives we go and here's a rose that I've been intrigued by that I've seen in a couple of places, Rosa Glauca. The photos were taken at different times at the NYBG, early on when it was in flower and then more recently when it had these amazing chocolate colored hips.

I've never read the book Ashes of Roses but for some reason the title sticks and when this Rosa Glauca caught my eye, those were the words that popped into my head. Perhaps because the shrub has an eerie gray cast even in bright sunshine, a cold color tone that explains it's recurring description as blue or 'pewter blue'. I think this description fits best for me- purplish gray. In any case, it's complex, as described here: bluish gray in full sun (with shimmering overtones of burgundy and mauve), or with an icing of silvery gray-green in part shade

For me, this shrub is intriguing not because of it's colors in their own own right but what it does with other colors- the hips look so interesting against the variegated grass it was growing next to. In central park, a clematis clambers all over the shrub there and the color combination with a mauve flower is striking. The photos which make it look a little livery don't really capture the real thing and its interesting to see how difficult it is too get a mental image of it from the descriptions in articles and catalogues.

Kitchen Window

My kitchen window is looking pretty lush and dare I say it, not been assaulted by the local squirrels. I am now cutting a chilli pepper here and there, Mint, Oregano, Thyme and Basil. There's a couple more young chilli plants that have grown from seed from chillis I bought in Chinatown. There's a celery too that I've just been harvesting the young leaves. And that's just half the space utilized as I didn't want to go through the heartbreak of growing more and attracting those durn squirrels. I might extend this in the next week and see if I can't add some salad greens and a few more herbs.

I recently read about the National Trust in the UK starting a vertical vegetable campaign to encourage growing vegetables in window boxes. The logic being that it could represent 600 acres of urban farming land. I have four large windows, maybe I might be hesitant to use the front two that are exposed to traffic fumes but it's interesting to think of the possibilities. I also came across these images of interesting enclosed window gardening spaces. As all the emerging ideas for vertical gardens, green roofs and window farms begin to populate the public conciousness, just imagine what an urban city could look like and what it could mean for apartment dwellers.

July Kitchen Garden

The July Kitchen garden is poised for it's second act. The purple beans have climbed to the top of its tower and has beautiful knotted purple stems and flowerbuds. There are flowers and little miniature fruit on the cucumbers. The tomatoes are not quite as tall but look healthy and some have fruit. There are tiny little fruits on the chili peppers in Mamaroneck, here on the Harlem windowsill, I actually harvested my first one yesterday.

The best part is that although we now wait for all this to get really going, we had for the first time a pretty decent first act. We had a good amount of snap peas which we had both mange tout and shelled. We have had beet greens, carrots, pacific greens and the Monet's Lettuce is insane. It keeps being cropped as young leaves and just keeps coming back. The arugula, a wild Italian version, is small and keeps bolting but I've found the strong peppery taste a great herb for noodle soups.

The not so good news- the eggplants seems to have stalled, the second batch of beets were badly sown- big gaps, and the potatoes are looking a little dodgy.

+ OccasionalOasis:Solitude

+ GreenKraft:Willow Sculpture

Beach Roses and Milkweed

My last vacation post is about the local flora that I associate fondly with Rhode Island. Top of the list are the rugosas also referred to as the beach rose. They are everywhere with bright magenta flowers and at this time of year heavy with ripening hips. The old house we used to rent always had milkweed popping up everywhere and seeing it anywhere else always reminds me of them at that house. There's also the beach pea that often grows alongside the beach roses. I also think about the phlox that grew in huge drifts near that old house and the Queen Anne's Lace that is everywhere. Weeds, natives, invasives, escapees, all a powerful part of my memories of this landscape.

+ OccasionalOasis:Sea Sky Ocean

Summer Bonfire

You can just about see my friends' kid, Liam's outline as he stares enthralled by the flames, as we all were. In fact we all became kids, singing songs, eating S'mores, layering all our fond memories of campfires past onto the fiery spectacle of this outdoor hearth. We sat in chairs, in an ancient circle around the bonfire watching the sparks levitate into the dark. The fireflies in the trees echoed their response.

It's not difficult to see the primitive logic of smoke and fire as magical and capable of invoking spirits and communicating with gods but who knew in this modern day its immense power in forging community. My vacation was about a reunion with old friends and making new ones as they brought new family members to the circle. This summer bonfire welded our bonds, its shared memory as powerful as it's crackling flames.

Wild Boundary

My friend's property in North Stonington has an abundance of amazing features but particularly interesting to me was how the garden space is defined. Timbered fencing drew a rouqh quadrant around the property, keeping their two border collies in and drew your eye well into the distance.

It was incredibly peaceful to sit in a rocking chair on the porch and visually roam this huge outdoor space that was further sub divided by two stone walls. The wind chimes added an interesting dimension to this space, I could almost sense the ripples of their chimes fade at the perimeter.

The fence also kept the wilderness out. Beyond it, the forest was thick and mature. Coyotes yipped at night and hawks prowled during the day to remind us what lay beyond. I particularly loved how the wilderness was allowed to creep in, in places with huge drifts of wildflowers and ferns blurring that line between the two spaces.

+ OccasionalOasis:Kuroshio Sea

Salt Pond Views

The salt ponds that are a prominent part of the southern Rhode Island landscape, where I'm on vacation add a certain ethereal quality to the views. There's always a sliver of land beyond the shimmer of water, and it always looks slightly hazy, a blue gray blur in the horizon. Although there are tidy gardens that punctuate this view where we are, it's best enjoyed through the unruly tangle of an unmown lawn.

July Harvest Getaway

On Sunday we had the kohlrabi curried in coconut milk along with some beet greens for dinner. On Monday I harvested a variety of herbs and greens packed them up and and hopped on the train to Rhode Island where I am on vacation for a week. Hence the basic framing of this photo as I am sans computer. I'll probably be posting more photos to twitter until I return next week.

Three Lacecaps

At NYBG, these three lacecaps really caught my eye. The first one above, Maculata, had beautiful variegated foliage and the flowers were very pretty also combined in a flower bed with an assortment of blue and white flowers. I don't know the name of this unmarked magenta one but I love the color and I immediately processed an idea I saw earlier in another bed- tall lillies growing near and around a hydrangea shrub. It was a really great solution to propping up their slender stems and there are probably quite a few lily colors that would go well with this. Finally, this one called lady in red. I was drawn mainly to the bronze/ purple foliage, but looking it up online, it seems like the flowers turn a deep rose in the fall too


The poor weather has kept me indoors too long, I've become sloth like reluctant to venture out. I finally broke this hermetic streak and headed out to NYBG. What I saw and what I liked was unpredictable as ever. One reason being that the plantings change from year to year, another being, different times of day with different light situations shift the aesthetics. Today, in the late afternoon light, I couldn't take my eyes of the Echinaceas.

I'm usually a little biased against them, I don't like their scale in the beds in Mamaroneck and they're always in uninspiring clumps when I see them in gardens. But here, in large drifts interplanted in a busy cottage garden way with a lot of other dots of impressionistic color, lit by a soft late afternoon light, they look really great. As they should closer to a more naturalistic prairie setting which is their native habitat.

I loved the orange glow of "White Swan". I don't know which one the magenta ones were, but the buds were really pretty. My favorite was one called "Green Jewels" and it was also the bees' favorite

Mint Season

Is mint the summer herb? The ultimate yin for the yang of hot summer days? I picture a dish of new potatoes rolled in mint. I think of combining the potatoes that are still growing in the garden with the mint that is now flourishing in the pots and the moment that the two can go together and I realize - I've never really thought about this before. Growing food isn't just about produce, it sharpens the gardener's ear to the voice of the seasons, dulled by the seasonless availability of grocery produce. I can hear you now.

I'm on a mint trip. The imaginary resort staff have been garnishing my drinks with generous handfuls of fresh leaves. I inhale the pungent steam of mint tea and the soundtrack of Istanbul swells, I am in the deep shade of a cafe squinting out at harsh sunlight. I brush away the beads of condensation on my glass of lemonade to begin my visual meditation on the cool green submerged sprig and moments later dive into another past summer memory. There are two big pots in Mamaroneck and one on my Harlem windowsill to fuel this habit.

Check out the awesomeness of the climbing frames, Jim built.

+ OccasionalOasis:Poet's Landscape


Here's how this visual delicousness came about. We got a few other vegetables from Noah along with our tomatoes and one of them was this Kohlrabi. Since space is limited in the vegetable bed I googled to find out who it would be the best companion with and discovered that it was no one where there was available space. Heidi had also picked up some Purple Calibrachoas, so I thought- might be pretty in a pot together.

This week, the swollen purple stem seemed to have come from nowhere and it's a beautiful shade of purple that the photo doesn't really capture. Behind it the dark purple tint of the purple bean vines slither upwards. Elsewhere in the garden purple is well represented - two shades of clematis, Wisley and Jackmanii and the black Viola is the darkest purple.

June Window

The monsoon subsided and we enjoyed a couple of hot sunny days here allowing a window of oppurtunity to do some gardening and get a last glimpse of June which seems to have slipped through our fingers. In the picture, note the nifty window tray that Jim had made from industrial aluminum. It's filled with gravel and water which helped the little pots of starter seeds we had there keep from drying out too quickly.

The vegetable garden is doing great, enough to make dinner that night and bring home a bag to NYC. The flower beds on the other hand were all over the place. There was a lot of weeding, some major pruning - the geranium Johnson's Blue got hacked. There seems to be a problem with the Japanese anemones in one corner of the south west bed. The fennel buds looked so different without their usual partner. The Cosmos are starting to flower but are disappointingly puny. The black violas on the other hand which I thought were a lost cause are flowering quite nicely.

It was distinctly odd to enjoy the hot sunny weather, usually the norm for June, instead its been gray wet and cool. The good weather followed me all the way back home and then it started pouring again.

Paranoia and Revenge

Those carefree days of pots on the kitchen windowsill are gone. It's now a scene of urban paranoia - my pots are wired to protect them from the neighborhood thugs who not only sticky finger vegetables but pull out herbs too, who knows why, frustration? kicks? I'm talking about those local hoodlums da squirrlz that terrorized me last year. Ok, I should be aware that they are part of the whole living creatures thing, so let's begin this civilly this way and I'm not growing anything tempting in there to get them all hopped up like last year.

Recently up at Mamaroneck, I found this guy dead on the lawn his neck ripped. The theory was he had been dropped by a local hawk- it had happened before. I must confess, I couldn't help letting out an inner primal scream for this token of bloody revenge for my lost harvest of 2008 - Yesss! Mayzie, who spends her life chasing squirrels outside, quite oddly didn't want to have anything to do with it. Weirdly, the squirrels in Mamaroneck are quite civilized, they take the odd tomato, take a bite and then leave the rest in the nearest terracotta pot.

+ OccasionalOasis:Nature & Numbers

+ GreenKraft:Grass Sleeve


My gardening days up in Mamaroneck usually involve a quick consult of the weather, a quick phone call to confirm the logistics of a visit and off I go. Until this crazy rainy weather hit town. Now not only are those single non rain soaked days becoming more fleeting, they've also become a moving target constantly slipping out of view into next week. Time keeps on slippin, slippin, into the future. It looked like there were some non rainy cloudy days ahead this weekend, that's gone. I didn't fully trust that it would be dry today, it was. My expectations are low- it doesn't have to be warm, the sun doesn't need to shine. Maybe one day next week, I might actually do some gardening.Fingers crossed.

Gardener, Heal Thyself

"go out in the urban fields of New York City and collect 12 plants growing in the streets of the Bronx that can be used as medicines by homeless people"

I was going to post something today about the medicinal properties of plants, more an intial post in a series since I think the subject is getting some interesting momentum. It's both getting some popular exposure by people like James Wong and the searchable internet is allowing for some interesting evidence based discoveries about these medicinal properties. I was going to write something about Oregano - after reading this interesting study about its antimicrobial properties. But I'll leave that for another time because that request above by artist Jeff Geys to ethnobotanist Ina Vanderbroek which she posted about on the NYBG blog pretty much puts the subject into a perspective and context that just blows my mind.

First of all I love the combination of scientist, inspired to think creatively and an artist formulating a project whose premise is both humanitarian and common sensical. The plants Ina selects are 'considered weeds' and 'growing in sidewalks and abandoned lots', which lends this endeavour called Quadra Medicinale a certain irony since physic gardens, herbalists and apothecarists knowledgeable about botanical remedies were the precursors of modern medicine. It puts some interesting new angles to the question 'what should I plant next?' It also makes you wonder what the properties are of plants that are already in the garden that are not what you typically associate with medicinal properties.

For example that image on the left from the Kew Herbarium is of Diascia Integrimma, you know that pretty coral annual, I just recently put in again? Well it's got some medicinal properties, I just don't know what yet but they have it growing in the Chelsea Physic Garden. I must find out. The guy on the right is Pierre Quthe, famous Parisian apothecarist and my current muse.

Shadow Book

Yet another day of rain. I decide to work on a project that's been on my list - do something with the shadow pictures I took back in 2000 in San Francisco. When I moved to Potrero Hill I began to notice the shadows of trees and large shrubs on the walls of houses I guess because there were more of them than NYC where I had come from. Also, there may have been something about the distance from the house, or the size of the shrubs and definitely the variety of wall colors. I began to notice some particularly beautiful ones, when the light was good, dreamlike impressions of trees, abstract splashes of dappled light and shadow. I liked how organic they were draped across the geometric planes of doors and gates and grills.

A few weeks before I left San Francisco to return to New York, I walked all around the neighborhood, photographing these shadows so that I could have a record of them. The photo of shadows on wooden shingles is particularly poignant as it's a view from my little cottage- shadows of Wisteria leaves, in my courtyard that had an Avocado tree and Jasmine. It didn't seem right that this collection of botanic shadows was languishing in an old hard drive, it's nice to see them, not forgotten, in a book, just about them.

Read on Issuu

Spinach Fail

Epic Fail. They sprouted and almost immediately bolted. I made it up to Mamaroneck this past Wednesday, a single dry day sandwiched into the monsoon weather we are experiencing here and I'm glad to report that, the spinach is the only real bad news so far in the kitchen garden. In fact dinner that night included a salad for five from the garden. Our first course was also harvested from there, pasta with shrimp and a variety of asian vegetable leaves and pea shoots and tiny little carrots- I think we had one each- all in a buttery lemon and sage sauce.

The directly sown Mediterannean Cucumber, Purple Beans and Blue Lake pole Beans have all emerged. I swopped out three of the tomatoes with the strapping new ones I brought up. Things look good and aesthetically too. The vegetable beds have not been quite as packed as they are now so they look quite lush. Some twigs from the lilac pruning add a little rustic charm as supports for the snap peas and I ended up using short lengths of 1 x 1 as labels which makes it all look organized. These labels were scraps leftover from Jim's excellent new frames for the climbing vegetables. He followed the design that I saw at Wave Hill to make them, I'll have pics up when things get going.


I quite like the tweet alerts from both @NYBG and @bklynbotanic that keep you updated on what's going on or peaking. I wish I could have reacted immediately to the latter's update on June 3rd - The Cranford Rose Garden is the most beautiful I've ever seen it. Rain, rain and more rain kept me away until a couple of days ago when I managed to squeeze in a quick visit. Although there was plenty to enjoy, many of the roses had just tipped over their best. I took a quick snap of the Veilchenblau which was already looking pretty tatty but looking at the photo, I'm reminded why I wanted a record of it. The blooms really have an interesting range of colors. I've learnt that it's called the blue rose- which it really isn't quite, but it does some really beautiful tones of mauves on the way to a grayish violet- and what I love is that all the flowers are slightly different shades and tones.

One of the climbers is really on its way out in Mamaroneck, it's got some kind of disease, and this might very well be it's replacement. I always thought that you couldn't plant a rose in the same spot that another had been, but on doing some research, that may only be true for the UK and not here in the US. There's also some measures to take to prevent any risk of this - so I'm going to be on the lookout for this.

+ GreenKraft:Stone Leaves

Lemony Dusk

These are a couple of images that I happened to take in the early evening. The Nicotiana was at the Conservatory Garden in Central Park and the Alchemilla in Mamaroneck but in the new rear section that has recently been landscaped.

These lemony lime colors are not only some of my favorite, I realize looking at these images that they work really well at this time of day when the light is low. Another thing is that the colors are flowers not foliage as I have been posting about recently, and a flower color that's missing in the walled beds.

I can't really have Alchemilla there as they are pretty prolific self seeders and I haven't found these green Nicotiana yet to buy, neither seed nor as plants. I must be more organized next year and order the seeds early. I'm going to get these Green Mist Queen Anne's Lace too. In the Conservatory Garden there was also this lemony Oak Leaf Hydrangea and something else in the background that I couldn't identify.

+ GreenKraft:Handmade Soap

+ OccasionalOasis:Nostalgia

Take me Higher

I was downtown yesterday when the sun came out, breaking a spell of gloomy wet weather we've been having. I decide on a whim that this was the perfect opportunity to go see the High Line. Past the Apple store, a left just after Alexander Mcqueen, there it is, right across the street from Helmut Lang, the stairway up to the much anticipated creation of the garden design world's star brand, Piet Oudolf.

Even in it's incomplete form, it's clear that the High Line is a perfect storm of, visionary concept, masterful execution and head exploding artistry. It's impossible to describe how this New Yorker felt to be taken up on a higher plain and be afforded a brand new visual experience of this city that felt futuristic and vintage at the same time. I couldn't take it all in all at once, I'll have to go back, again and again to savor what these first impressions promise.

I noticed the subtle references to what was originally there, the rail tracks. I loved the long fingered pavings that perfectly graduated the beds with the path that weaved organically to the left and right. I was thrilled by the photographic opportunities, the Manahattan views framed by berries and flowers, the long, long vistas translating into all kinds of possible random focus and blur compositions, the west side location lending unbroken access to the evening light from the setting sun.

I used the word brand with Piet Oudolf because he has very successfuly created one that sylistically is immediately recognizable. Something that I've seen over and over in books, magazines, photographs but which I found strangely uncompelling in the World Trade Center Garden. Here, the controlled wildness, the drifts and repetitions, the different chapters of sophisticated color palettes, the combinations of mundane and unusual plants was in a word - genius and uniquely in his vernacular.

The sensory high that this new Manhattan landscape is able to induce is sadly punctuated by the inevitable downer of having to share it - rowdy children, conversations yelled into cell phones, dawdling path blocking groups. This is nothing new for a seasoned urban dweller but I did, so wish I could have been like Joel Sterfenld walking the the High Line back in 2000 unfettered by all these intrusions. Maybe then I would have understood some of the descriptions used originally for this place, melancholy, haunting. It's certainly not that now, but as a creative venture built on that concept which now manages to evoke a landscape that suggests and triggers many thought processes about the fragile balance between the urban and natural, it's a resounding success.

+ OGMedia:The High Line

New Angles

The Iris is blooming at the front of the Mamaroneck house - again. Of course it is, as it should do every year. Going into the third year of this blog, this event illustrates some interesting aspects and challenges of maintaining a journal or record or blog. I've been noticing how I've been using it more to trace what I did last year or the year before- it's made me surprisingly more aware of seasonality and very specifically - I know exactly when certain things should be blooming. Another thing is, and the Iris is a good example, what do you do about things that happen again, and again. I reported the Iris blooming, last year. Now what? Is there a new angle that I can explore each year to the inevitable repetitions of the garden cycle?

I examined the photos of the Iris I took this year and one thing that is definitely evolving is what my interests are in terms of capturing or photographing the subject. This year, I was interested in the visual rhythm of the foliage. It's a new thing- I've been doing it more these days - like the lilies of the valley photo. I'm not quite sure which came first, my interest in it pictorially or my increased interest and awareness of foliage texture. As the flower beds mature, as more of the colors 'work', I now notice what may be missing in terms of variety in foliage. When I visit the public gardens, I notice more how cleverly shapes and textures are utilised by the designers and take note.

A ha moment: it's not just the garden that evolves and matures, it's the gardener too.

Get Black Krim

I planted a couple of Black Krims back in 2007 and loved their flavor. Last year I replaced them with Black Japanese Trifele, which were good, but tasting Black Krim again from the farmer's market underscored the decision to put it back on the planting list for this year. I started seed as well as getting Noah to start some - hoping for the ginormous plants that he's capable of getting.

Things didn't pan out that well. Although we got some awesome plants from Noah that were big and healthy as expected, we don't know what they are because Noah forgot to label them. The ones I started, turned out puny. I decided to plant all of Noah's substituting one of the eight plants with the puny black krim, with a plan B to maybe replace it if I came across a better sized plant from the market.

Out of the blue, I receive an email from Nanette Maxim who writes the Gardening 101 column for Gourmet magazine expressing interest in using one of my photos for an article she is planning about tomatoes called Tomato Maniacs. I'm thrilled of course that she did end up using the photo and included a lovely recommendation for this site. I'm also now a fan of this column, I learnt a lot from her article on soil science and that link to the tomato terrine blew my mind a little.

The photo was of those 2007 Black Krim plants which has now propelled plan B into - get Black Krim. Right away. Thankfully, my favorite tomato plant source Silver Heights Farm had a couple today and they were huge, healthy specimens. They'll go in this weekend - better late than never.

+ OGMedia:Tomato Culture

When White Clover Blooms

I've become slightly fascinated by the flora that live on the median that separates the avenue and path that the Mamaroneck house is on. This started with noticing that there was a substantial assortment of wildflowers growing there in early spring. One aspect of the fascination is with it's 'wildness', that despite the lack of any kind of cultivation it's a mass of blooms. Then somebody came a few weeks ago and mowed it all away, but that wasn't a deterrent everything is now back in full swing.

The flowering sequence is also interesting, first dandelions, then lesser celandines and claytonias, then violets and wild garlic and now white clover. Coincidentally I've become aware of and increasingly interested in a gardening calender based on phenology. When the dandelions bloomed, I knew it was time to plant the potatoes. When the forsythia bloomed it was time to plant peas and prune roses. What a great concept - must put together a pictorial chart at some point.

So now that I'm thinking this way, my first thought on seeing the huge patches of clover flowers, was- what does this mean? According to Poor Will's Almanac- this means flea beetles come feeding in the vegetable garden. Noted. Here in New york City, a walk in Central Park yesterday evening revealed that when the white clover blooms it's time to sit on the ground outside and enjoy the warm weather late into the evening.

+ GreenKraft:Plastic Fantastic

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