Wednesday, April 30, 2008

New York Spring: leading the young astray

I don't remember the colour of the parks of my childhood. There was one red merry-go-round, which made me sick. The swings, the high slide, the see-saw, the ones I loved? - don't know.

The little park enclosed on three sides by the Long Island College Hospital is typical of childrens' play-sets, toys and parks in its employment of primaries. Red red, blue blue, yellow yellow. They are hideous, and I wonder if the idea is to feed children "simple" colours in the way that they are at first fed easy food. Is red better digested than burned orange? - blah blue than charteuse? - fuchsia? - new green? - sienna? - rust? - sky blue on turquoise, on Atlantic on aquamarine? - colours that have no names???

And then to cap it all, the poor little mites are surrounded by these puce-pink redbud trees at the moment, rendered hideous by early evening's orange lamplight... I had a very soft spot for a redbud once. I wrote a story about it. A paragraph, really. But if able to choose, now, it would be the white-flowered sort, and Forest Pansy, the cultivar with deep purple leaves.

Do children leave this playround with an aesthetic hangover? Do they grow more fractious as their playtime continues? I have heard screaming from this park. I have seen toddlers flinging themselves upon its sidewalk...

Bandage their little eyes, I beseech you.

New York Spring: of lilacs and leaves and long-ago things

The beautiful, grey, cool walk to the subway along Congress, the two lilacs on the way in bloom.
As I write Joan Sutherland is singing the Mad Scene from Thomas' Hamlet, now on repeat: it suddenly swept me up (or down) and back, as I sang along with her...and I was very sad. Weeping. I haven't listened to opera or Herself for a very, very, very long time. Because how does one describe it? The voice as soul, as unbidden power, and its leave-taking, and reasons. I'm not really maudlin'. It's just been a very long time since I listened to Joan Sutherland singing everything that I sang.

So thank God for lilacs.

They smell as lilacs ought. Which is the way the pale pink one in Bloemfontein smelled, at the front door.

The plane trees from the window at work. Very new. The Deathstar beyond. Also very new. But not in the same way.

Monday, April 28, 2008

New York Spring: Dean Street

Bye-bye crabapples, hello viburnum. There's a tall viburnum opposite Bar Tabac on the north side of Dean Street, outside a Confederate-style clapboard house ( is that enough detail?), which smells heavenly. Go and sniff it. My favourites, V. plicatum etceterum, will be blooming soon...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Working weekend

1. I visited Tony's Hardware on Saturday and picked up a mega-bag of potting soil, bought a push cart to put it in, and added a deep crimson Mandevilla. I couldn't stop myself. Otherwise his annuals are rather throwback: marigolds, alyssum, petunias.... Then I added four light bulbs and six parsley plants. Then pushed that lot along Smith, up Bergen, along Congress and onto Henry.

From work, on Friday, I had collected an unwanted, variegated euonymus (who would want variegated euonymus, really? But when one is in need one must disregard ordinary squeamishness), and a pot, and cabbed it back home: I couldn't stand the front of the building anymore. Plants were necessary. A neighbour had said I could use any extra pots they had outside the basement apartment, so into these I stuffed very exciting white impatiens. And planted the stripey shrub. Now our building looks a little civilized...

2. As a reward I took myself to GRDN where I bought an overpriced but lovely wrought iron tuteur with a poppy seed capsule detail and lugged that home with some totally unnecessary, very unusual little double, white begonias, stopping on the way to talk to a sweet black cat sleeping in a sunny doorway; also at Damascus for some babaganoush and taramasalata for lunch. The owner asked after My Husband. I told him his pictures turned out well - he had insisted on taking them of us some weeks ago when we stopped by together. Mystery. You can find one here. Be patient: it loads faster on Firefox. Explorer le sucks.

3. Back on the terrace I dug out my poor Veronicastrum, so recently risen, as well as some innocent violas and fennel, and planted the Mandevilla and Gelsemium together in their pot with tuteur, then replanted the uncomplaining Veronicastrum which didn't even wilt, despite resisting me at first, its roots being very well established. Repotted the violas and fennel and dragged the climbers' pot to a new spot.

The result: a conceptual mess: my terrace doesn't know what it is. Hot house or French patio. Casablanca or Paris (I flatter myself). It is confused. I have succumbed to plant collecting. I would never design a garden this way. I nearly bought another little boxwood which would at least have been forgiveable because I keep telling myself that the little round boxwoods keep the whole ("whole" - you'd think I had a thousand square feet...this is only a little blog after all) together.

Also, another problem: now that I know more about Gelsemium, I don't know that I want it near me. It's poisonous, that's fine, I'm not going to eat it. But it poisons honey bees! It can kill a colony if its nectar is taken back home by one bee. Do I get rid of it??? What an unfriendly plant.

I know. Next weekend I'm going to have to kill it, aren't I?

Mea culpa: Tina Brown (art not food if you're compulsively Googling), the lovely lady and erstwhile client who gave me these wrought iron chairs, called me to say she had two more if I wanted to come by on Wednesday. I forgot. It was a crazy week and somewhere the information leaked out and disappeared.

Hothouse. No, no Photoshop was involved. Yes, I'm serious.

...meets woodland. Oy.

And today I invented, at least on paper, in prose and in a tiny 6 inch long detail-sketch, a new garden for a 40th floor, 2,200 square foot terrace. Several companies are bidding for the work, and one just never knows...It's funny to think that in my head this garden exists down to the distressed paintwork on the guarantees.

Tonight? Bath + bath salts. Wild pansy, from Lafco , one of the finest shops I know...

Candy store

The enchanted back garden at GRDN...


Small, interesting perennials (mostly)...tempting.

Saturday on the terrace

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Planting with George

I think, think, tomorrow is the OpenHouse NYC episode where I buy and plant spring flowers with George Olifant. At the lucid hour of 8.30am. On a Sunday. That just ain't right. Anyway, I'll suffer through it later, wincing at my every move, via the Web. Since this is not a TV zone.

The windiest terrace in the world

It's not even on a very high floor. I've been on 4oth floor penthouse terraces this week where the furniture doesn't move an inch. On this terrace it will, and does, and then tips right over. This is where I was blown from one end to the other on winter ice. Wheeeeeee. The crabapples are in bloom or just beginning, the catnip beds have only just started to sprout (no, no cats, but the blue flowers are very good as a relief for the pink and white lilies), and the liles, about 80 of them, are pushing up. Alliums have already made long, strappy leaves. I like alliums.

It's a very conservative garden, really, partly because it has a difficult sun-situation, and what works, works. Though open to the west (wind), it is shielded from midday sun by a very tall building across the way. So some parts of the terrace have sun early, then an eclipse-like effect, then sun late in the afternoon. Then the wind...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Inside out

I find this mozzie today, on the in-side of my mosquito net. No folks, this ain't the malaria belt, it's Brooklyn. It kind of summed up the way I felt about my day.

Long days

I started this blog a few days before my first Rose Party last year, so it's easy to remember that the Iceberg roses were in full bloom in the last week of May, 2007. This year, they have already begun to open, and will probably bloom fully in two weeks' time. The April days feel distinctly June-ish, and I am clinging possesively to cool evening breezes and the promise of temperatures in the 60's Fahrenheit. July cannot stay away long enough.

Last weekend's (it feels like last year's, this week has been so full) corydalis has settled into its pot happily, sharing with a chatreuse liriope ("Pee Dee Ingot" - uncomfortable name), a violet and three lilies already risen to ten inches. I think they are Formosas. The corydalis up close looks very Alien. Sigourney should grow them in her garden...

While I was watering this evening, a mockingbird, left, duked it out with a kestrel on the aerials across the road.

Two weeks ago I took this picure and labelled it Lily. Um. No, it was in fact the beginnings of the Veronicastrum I planted last, late summer.

That's not a bad growth spurt. Twelve days, sixteen inches.

The way the catnip looks at the end of an unattended day. And the reason little pots are a high maintenance pain. No, I like watering them. It's a good feeling.

The scary roses. I'm not really ready for them.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

New York Spring: Street Tulips

I would have loved to have seen the tulips in Istanbul - Bevan Ali sent some pictures, though not of the black ones on his little terrace facing the steep street on whose other side is a baker who makes pies that are carried back hot, flaky with phyllo and filled with lamb and feta, for breakfast. Sigh. They have more of the parrot kind there (tulips, not pies), pointier, spikier, sexier. Here, this week, the very tall fat tulips are open, very soon to fade, and are, I must admit, striking.

Below -Park Avenue with beautiful old crabapples behind.

East 92nd Street planters

Tree pits

Um. Loud tulips.

Loud tulips

Tall, fat Tribeca tulips.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

New York Spring: Boerum Hill Crabapple

I looked left down Douglass Street (which I'd never really paid attention to), as I was walking down Smith towards Stinky... and saw this huge crabapple. Taller than most. Packed with flowers.

New York Spring: Carroll Gardens

A trip to Stinky for some more of their smoked duck breast (very good but not in the same, unctuous league as the duck prosciutto of Granville Island), took me further south of my beaten path. I walked up through Carroll Gardens and found what one finds when one takes a different road. New things, revelation. Like, open lilac! Corner of DeGraw and Tomkin's Place.

A blue door and a pink cherry next to the little shared garden that was too shaded for a good picture: the difficulty of early evening in the grid: bright light slicing down streets running east- west, somber evening in the cross streets.

Clinton and DeGraw. A fruiting cherry. I know because I've seen it in summer. Full of cherries.

A very lovely magnolia, just when I thought I was magnolia-ed out. DeGraw between Smith and Clinton.

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