Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Parks and where they come from

Sitting in the Brooklyn evening dark and sipping a pre-dinner mug of mulled wine. Steenberg Cabernet sauvignon, two bay leaves, two cloves, a cinnamon stick, some brown sugar and remembering...


Cold winters. Walks in the late afternoon with my mother and the dogs. Me wearing boots and the stripey poncho she knitted me. Going home, wood smoke in the brittle air, the fire getting going in the hearth in the lounge, mulled wine, even for child-me, in the pale brown pottery mugs.

In Brooklyn tonight, we have roast cauliflower, butternut and red onions with pan fried pork chops and red pears for dinner, not assembled yet. The cat is washing. Vincent is "setting up the colour scheme for[ his] Syntax Highlighting Text Editor" (jislaaik). We will get up early tomorrow to fetch my mom at JFK.

I was loathe to drag myself from work today - I have been working on the planting plan for the park on East Houston, and hate to interrupt it. Trace paper over the base plan; I am so into it, the feel of the soft mulch paths, the rustle of ferns (which ferns? cinnamon? interrupted? hay-scented?), the view from this bench to the pawpaw (Asimina) tree, or the smell of the elderflower in blossom. Whether the magnolia will shade the blueberries and if their fall colour will be as good with some dappled shade. Too many or too few North American rhododendrons?: Orange austrinum against shell pink canescens. When does Impact become Mistake? Will the (five varieties of) scented viburnum be smellable from the sidewalk and should I feel guilty about including (six varieties of) foreign viburnum at all ? Will the natives (five varieties) really attract birds and will their fall fruit and colour make up for their sedate flowers in spring? Will planting dodecatheon near the path tempt the lily thief (I SAW her the other day, wheeling her durn cart!), and will the bloodroot be lost on most people, and does that matter?

Will it be peaceful to sit on this bench and would  I want to see out if I were siting there, or would I want to be enclosed? Is this a good place to make a tent if I am homeless? Is there any way to avoid planting oakleaf hydrangea. Will there be more birds? When will I be able to harvest the elderberries, Hahahah! Mine mine all mine. In parallel green streams in my head are the Central Park woods in April, with ferns pushing damply from the pale brown leaf litter and white violets in a swath through the emerald trees. And the native garden at the BBG with modest trillium and deadly actaea sweetly in front of a native pink rhododendron, and the barren cast of summer where the may apples were in spring. And Inwood in late summer under the trees and every nursery catalogue I have read and every one I have ever visited.

Am I trying too hard or thinking too little. It's just a park. But it's one where I want to walk, and sit, and where scent and texture and colour are engaged to hold the maelstrom of New York City at bay while remaining inextricably part of it, and because of it.

And because of my mother, who gave me the first seed to plant, and who showed me how.


  1. Phew! That's a lot to consider all at once! But what a result you'll have if it all works out! I love to see how your plans become reality.

    I laughed at your covetousness of elderberries that aren't in existence yet.... just make sure they aren't near a roadside, as you shouldn't eat them if they are polluted by car exhausts. But you knew that....

  2. In the zone - sometimes hard to get in, usually hard to get out of, but a beautiful place to be, work and play. I'll be referring people here to explain my own, sometimes puzzling behaviour.

    And it's about time for mulled wine. And don't underestimate the importance of syntax highlighting.

  3. flwjane@smallbutcharmingOctober 15, 2009 at 8:14 AM

    something lovely to read before i dash out into the cold rain to catch the always late bus. will enjoy following the planning and planting of the park and will stop by in the by and by. and you can never have too many viburnum!

  4. Cleverness not functioning after long night.

    So, wow- sounds good.

    Mix the viburnums.

    Homeless, maybe, probably.

    How can one integrate the motion of the cars, the noise, with a planted landscape? Most elect to screen them out. Can it be open (inviting, less perfect homeless shelter) over enclosed?

    Last thought- surprise plants, yes! Seasonal flavor, yes- no more "green streets" planting lists!

    Thanks mom.

  5. I'm very excited for you and for this garden--park is the right word considering the size! It's amazing that you're going to leave a living legacy on the actual fabric of NYC.

    Not sure what the sun is like there, but can I put a plug in for Eupatorium?

  6. it's very cool to see you in the thinking/formation phase and how much you enjoy your work--that pays! you are very lucky.

  7. Rachel, does the proximity of 10 lanes of traffic constitute a Problem :-)

    jvdh - ja nee, gepraat van syntax, my typos were egregious :-( 'n Mens was moeg.

    Flwjane - can't wait for the viburnums to make good smells...

    Frank - permission to mix, thank you!

    Halloo Anonymoose, there is a patch with sun yes, where solidago and asters would be playing, and maybe we have space for eupatorium.

    Hey Donna - yes, this is a lot of fun. Not all fun (politics, for example), but much of it, and I am grateful that I can do what I love.

  8. It's very cool to hear your brain at work, weaving all those streams of thought together into a park. Only thought about the viburnums is that they shouldn't compete with each other...i had one carlessii that successfully perfumed my entire 1/3 acre lot... I haven't had any luck with native viburnums but the birds brought one which almost by definition fruits well!

  9. Just thinking out loud here, but shouldn't there be a garden syntax highlighting tool for your designs? ;-)

    You know, something like this: perennials highlighted in green. Annuals in purple. Entrances in yellow. Comments of designer to self in gray.

    And most of all, -moz-elderberries-opacity: 1; in red ;-)

  10. Wow - sounds amazing - go for it! (all?) Can so relate to all those streams of thought. Am currently churning about choices and layout for a Biodiversity Showcase garden here. (@ green point park) So much to show and tell, so little space....


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