Fascinating Rhythms

I was up in Mamaroneck the whole weekend having gladly agreed to to dogsit Mayzie the family Springer. Maybe it was the luxury of time that allowed me to notice a very slight difference in the flower shapes at dusk in particular the Potentilla and the Geranium Johnson's Blue. I couldn't help thinking that the former looked bigger or more open while the latter looked more closed or smaller.

I didn't think anymore about it until today walking to the train station to catch the train home, when I noticed a huge patch of Buttercups, their faces all pointed at the sun. Of course, its Circadian Rhythms. I say of course because I realize that I had mentally filed away an article in the NYTimes that outlined the idea of a 'Floral Clock' meaning to go back and find out a little more about the subject and the man behind it - Carl Linnaeus.

It's not just shapes, and movement its also scents as they shift in their potency at different times of day. I noticed this walking Mayzie both in the morning and evening and how different the experience was. Fascinating to think that the stretching of the days ahead opens up a complex torrent of biological rhythms and not just for the garden, it affects the gardeners too.

May Bells

There's a huge square of Lilies of the Valley underneath a tree in the Perennial Garden at the NYBG. Can't quite remember if they fill the entire square but I do recall that there's a slight slope both of which make notable design elements - the somewhat invasive lilies are reined in by the path around it and the slope gives an impression of a lot of them which makes them look that much more striking. I took quite few photos as I'm interested in doing a graphic print of these May Bells coincidentally also for a couple of design elements- I like how the flat planes of the leaves seem to almost criss cross which would really work graphically - like a basket weave almost and then those delicate bells on a vertical stalk in contrast.

+ OccasionalOasis:Bicycle Days

Thrifty Gardening

There have been some recessionary measures practised at the Mamaroneck Garden. Outside of the already cost cutting new exercise of seed starting, I've also been doing a couple of other things. The first is just allowing some plants that came from who know's where a spot in the beds. In the picture is a nice patch of red dianthus that I found growing in one of the larger pots- who knows how it got there. There was also this Lamium.Both went in last year and are doing well and sort of working in the spots they are in.

The other is deciding to allow some plants like the bronze fennel, the red perilla, thalictrum and the euphorbia who are prolific self seeders more spots. I'm letting them do a little more filling in this year- down the road maybe they can be swopped out with something more interesting. On a side note, the fennel and perilla make for an unusually pleasant job of weeding since they smell nice. Additionally some perennials, the Japanese Anemone. Sedum and the Creeping Phlox got moved, split up and spread out a little more

Although there was some talk of heading out to Tony's and splurging on some Diascias which we really liked last year.

Last Days of May

"to have the clock stopped for six months on a fine morning towards the end of May. Then, perhaps I would have time to enjoy the supreme moment of the garden" E. A. Bowles

I used the same quote from My Garden in Spring last year but I can't think of another one that better describes the last couple of days gardening in Mamaroneck. Sunday afternoon was a little spotty, the light rain, interrupted the flow of things somewhat but perhaps it was a set up for Monday which turned out to be glorious.

The temperature was just right, not too warm. I dug in some compost and prepared the vegetable beds for it's last batch of tenants, hardly breaking a sweat. I had done a lot of work in the flower beds last weekend so it was light fare- moved a couple of things around, planted the last of the seedlings. This left plenty of time to photograph a surprisingly flower filled garden certainly more so than last year. It was a joy to look out at it from the house as the sun traveled through the day spotlighting different parts of it.

The star turn was definitely the Crimson Alabama Honeysuckle, covered in blooms but the soft light and the abundance of color in the background helped turn even the less showy blooms like these Physocarpus flower buds into painterly images.

Six months of days like this would be heaven.

+ OGMedia:Window Farming

+ OccasionalOasis:New Moon

Indigo Chronicles

I discovered the virtues of Wild Blue Indigo or False Indigo by accident. I bought a plant one weekend up in Rhode Island and stuck it into the front border of our shared summer house asking it to perform what every plant in that border had to do - survive on care and watering only once a week when we were there. It did quite magnificently so it was an easy shoo in for the Mamaroneck garden years later.

Probably with conditions that suited it a little better, lots of afternoon light but not as exposed as it was in Westerly, its been one of the star performers, returning every year for a spectacular show. It's become a source of inspiration- its color driving the selection of all other blue flowers in the flower beds - I've been restricting them to only blues with a lavender or indigo cast. I've made graphic art, photographed flowers in this color scheme, and made a flipbook called Mood Indigo that has had close to 5000 views.

The word search for this plant is probably the most frequent draw to this blog - when I occasionally look at the analytics- it's almost always in the top five. I've had success with not just it's name - one day this image caught the attention of the owner of Pure Life Soap who was looking for an image to put on their product Wild Indigo Shampoo and Conditioner. And there it landed. Last weekend, the deep indigo buds in the picture above kicked off a new season , a few days later, my parcel of goodies arrived. I bartered the use of the image for a supply of quite delightful organic, botanical shampoos, creams, conditioners, lotions and soaps - they're listed here.

What next for the fair Indigo, who knows, its been a pretty cool ride so far.

Violas and Vegetables

It was a gloriously warm sunny day today here in NYC so I decided to go the New York Botanical garden. For the first time, I took the subway and I don't know why I haven't done this before- it was actually more coveninet and a lot cheaper than the train. Once I got there I was bummed at the sign that said - closing at 3.00pm today - I had 45 minutes. It was really too bright to take any decent pictures although there were a few things that were great and this was definitely one of them - violas in the vegetable beds.

I didn't like it so much when they were in broad rows but in some beds they had them in diagonals like little rivulets of color between the vegetables- they looked great- such a visual surprise and different from their usual duties of edging or in pots. The black violas looked stunning planted with calendula flowers. I started some from seed ('Black Bowles'), which I transplanted into the beds but I have a feeling its a little too late for them to be planted out at this tiny seedling stage, have to start them earlier next year.

Through a Glass, Fondly

Sunday was the occasion of a reunion of our circle of friends that used to spend summers up in Westerly. We got together for dinner in Mamaroneck, the catalyst being Kelly who is visiting from San Francisco. The weather was cool and a little overcast almost perfectly evoking the idiosyncratic Rhode Island weather that we grew to love, cool foggy days were enjoyed as wholeheartedly as hot sunny ones. We had dinner on the porch at a long table surrounded by windows just like we used to on the porch of the Blue House. On the table, flowers from the garden- white Iberis and Rhododendron flowers with chartreuse Heuchera and Spirea foliage.

Dinners there were often simple barbecues dressed up with things that grew in the garden. This one was no different, there was oregano and thyme for the chicken, chives and chive flowers for the potatoes and the salad had thinnings from the vegetable beds- chard, spinach. The kids, toddlers then, now college age, put together the evening's playlist, uncannily remembering the eclectic mix from Tracy Chapman to Louis Prima that we used to play over and over, capturing the era and the soundtrack of all those summers. I don't remember all of Jim's toast that kicked off dinner, just the words friends, gardens and Rhodey. It's amazing how that place has provided and continues to provide us with such rare and vintage memories.

Shakespeare in the Park

I don't think I'm going to be able to get to BBG soon enough to catch the Bluebells. Glancing through my folders I notice that this footage I took last year at the Shakespeare Garden in Central Park must have been very close to this time of year since there's a clip of bluebells. This is the time of year that I like this garden the best- the dappled shade, the ferns and the blue palette of flowers is really calm and soothing. Yes those birds singing in the background are real although I did have to slice out a passing plane and someone having a sneezing allergy attack.

Soundtrack: English Suite No. 6 in D Minor, Gavotte in D (minor) J Sayles

+ OGMedia:Shakspere Flora

Flora Obscura

A couple of mysterious but ultimately mundane scenes from my apartment. My geranium is flowering, I didn't even notice since it's tucked behing a curtain. It's been rainy and gray the last few days, the sun finally appearing again today. Usually the afternoon sun casts an assortment of botanic shadows on the white curtain, today the magenta flowers almost as if they were bleeding into the fabric added an unusual color accent to their usual monochrome.

The dogwood branches are still alive and flourishing. It's been a couple of months now - go dogwood. I've rewarded their tenacity by moving them to a larger glass vase and moving them closer to the window. The morning sun sent a shaft of light through it and lit the roots unexpectedly giving me a slightly eerie glimpse of something that's rarely on view.

The Green Border

The article in NYTimes yesterday about Absinthe, with all the descriptions of its color from pale celadon and shimmering aquamarine to extra virgin olive oil to dizzyingly garish shades that don’t exist in nature had me thinking on the subject of green foliage, in particular of course that other color also named after a French liqeur, Chartreuse. Because its on my mind.

These images are actually from June last year at the Wave Hill flower garden. There is a section where the borders are all shades of green. The photos were taken in early June which is pertinent only because it's actually a great way to approach May when there's more foliage than flower - having an interesting visual assortment of foliage like this is a great start.

In the right image, there's an interesting contrast in size and texture, the large leaves in the rear contrasting with the finer branched foliage in the front. I don't love large leaved chartreuse foliage though- it just seems too much in the space I'm working with. In the photo on the left, the color really stands out, contrasting sharply from the other plants, except I already have something really similar going on with the Spirea and the Cypress.

I'm thinking aloud because I have to find a couple of chartreuse-ish plants for this summer and this is making me analyze the choices. I do however really like that Caryopteris. It's Worcester Gold but I know from reading Hayefield, Nan Ondra's blog that the one I really really want is Sunshine Blue which is similar, retains more of it's yellow color, flowers later and with richer purple-blue flowers. Her blog is probably the best, certainly the most interesting source of information about foliage color, her current post is all about Yellow. Another plant I liked at wave Hill was the Ornamental Comfrey. So many choices, so little time.

+ OccasionalOasis:Sansula


I bought a plant yesterday at the farmers market a Solanum Jasminoides Aurea, says the label, which I could barely find any information about on the internets probably because it might be more often referred to as Solanum Jasminoides Variegata, that took a while. Then I went and checked again the zone information for Mamaroneck which is somewhere between a 6 and a 7, I forget, I have to go back to this article that reminds me that it might be more a 7. Which doesn't help because Variegata needs zone 9 maybe 8.

Anyways all this left brain activity made me parched for something completely the opposite so I dug up a couple of photos from Wave Hill last year and messed with it. Flowers lost all their botanical names- they just became little impressionistic dots, the zoneless weather is caught eternally between hazy sunshine and dreamy mist. That's better.

In fact, I really have to keep all this in perspective, yes I must compost, sow more seeds, remember to prune the phlox and the sedum in the coming weeks but, I mustn't forget to sit back, squint my eyes blur all the colors and sort of do nothing at all- especially anything that resembles a chore. That's what i really like about gardening, the pointless impractical daydreaming part that I squeeze in between the practical bits.

I'm not alone, this early report on the Chelsea Flower show confirms that ethereal charm and magic and mystery are essential trends. I'll drink to that, nothing better than a little whimsy and some poetry to balance all this talk of compost and vegetables.

Mint and Mesclun

When I started seed in back in March, I included one experiment. I took the tips off a bunch of store bought mint and filled one of the trays with them. The experiment worked, they all took and I transplanted them last weekend- we now have two large pots filled with 5 mint plants each. Mint was a complete failure last year, can't let that happen again.

Pretty much everything that I sowed directly has come up except for the potatoes. I thinned out the snap peas. There's two kinds of carrots, two kinds of beets, swiss chard,mixed asian greens, and the image on the right is Monet's Garden Mesclun. Things are looking pretty good.

May Foliage

Usually at this time of year it's hard not to be a tiny bit anxious. There's a nervous survey of whether things have made it through the winter and some sobering reminders of gaps that need to be filled before its too late. This year however there is also plenty to enjoy in particular the foliage.

Last year at this time I was really happy with the Spirea and the Berberis. This year they are established and beginning to really work with some of the other plants that are also filling out more this year. I particularly like the Euphorbia Bonfire's much larger presence, it's color almost perfectly echoing both the chartreuse in the spirea and the burgundy in the Weigela behind it. I sort of knew that this would ultimately happen when I put them there but its still surprising to finally see that it actually does. I'm also happy to see that it's sent a couple of volunteers to the other beds.

This year the Potentilla is also very established and the contrast and combination with the Berberis that it is next to is quite something. I can really see what's coming through in the seed trays that 's going to look good accenting these two well developed sections.

Last Impressions

The Sakura Matsuri festival was last weekend, and spring blossom time is pretty much over. The frequent complaint here in NYC is, what happened to spring as as we seem fast forwarded into summer weather and then it's been rain, rain rain. The season moves on.

I can't help thinking back on the artist I saw at the BBG painting cherry blossoms overhanging the pond. I had just walked under that tree and taken a gazillion photos of the same blossoms. The combination of water and flowers, reality and distortion. I squinted my eyes blurring everything even more and thought of Monet. Then I saw the artist guy and somehow this realization of our human nature that eternally tries to capture these fleeting moments, to remember them and process them through our own imagination.

There were plenty of others there with cameras, some with huge lenses, I could hear the whirr and click of their shutters, all of us doing the same thing, capturing what is now probably our last impressions of spring.

Soundtrack: Valse Symon€ n°2 by Symon€ from Le Bal Sous la Pluie

+ OGMedia:Crack Gardens

+ OccasionalOasis:Wave Field

Lavender and Lime

The creeping phlox is in flower, patches of lavender carpet spilling over the stone wall. What I'm noticing this year is how well it complents all the lime/chartresue foliage like the new leaves of the shrubs in the distance in the image on the left and the Creeping Jenny in the image on the right (I also like the feathery blue green foliage of the Achillea and the sharp blades of Iris leaves breaking it up).

Soon that purplish blue bloom color will be echoed by the False Indigo, already fast unfurling. If I remember, a bulb that I would like to get into the beds in the fall would be the grape hyacinth that is flowering elsewhere now- I loved that combination I saw with the euphorbia. I have seeds for a lavender Scabious and a purple Nicotiana to try planting directly in the beds and I also have a tray of purple Allysum thats looking pretty good and is hardening off in the cold frame.

I didn't' get round to ordering seed for the Bupleurum rotundifolium which I also mentioned in that post- it would have been perfect next to the Geranium Johnson's Blue which looks really well established this year. Maybe next year. I also realize there are two spots in the beds that really need this lime/chartreuse color element, must do some quick research and scout the farmer's market for a suitable candidate before next week.

Smells like something I Know

I was milling around the lilac grove at BBG and like most everyone else there, was transported, eyes half closed, nose lifted enjoying the aroma of the lilac blooms. I couldn't help being struck by a recurring comment by three different groups of younger teens/twenty somethings "wait, that smells like something I know". "It's the Lilacs" said a helpful stranger, who then engaged the young couple in conversation and encouraged them to go enjoy more examples in the fragrance garden. Three more teenagers stopped, wondered aloud and walked on. Dude, there's labels right there underneath. I was surprised how quickly their curiosity dissipated. "I know" said a voice from the third party", "I've smelt that in the Body Shop". I was just reading an article that said too many children don't know where vegetables come from. I guess some also grow up only knowing fragrances via retail stores. Well at least they were outside.

+ OccasionalOasis:Urban Nature


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