Thursday, April 30, 2009

Plants at last

Last week's soil prep...

This morning, before I got there, the HWV crew arranged 450 perennials on the two cleared median beds.

Above: gardening in a time of Swine Flu. Or six lanes of traffic, take your pick. Two gardeners, Dan above, and Nicole below - who has been gardening for us for a month to see how she likes it as a career change - opted for masks. The rest of us found the air quite invigorating.

Halfway through planting we were surprised by the smiling Joseph, above, with a tray of iced cokes. He had brought them over from Chickpea, the newish, rather corporate falafel franchise on our block. We had never met him before, and he thanked us for greening and offered us a free lunch, which we accepted happily. Falafel and hummus in pita was an excellent way to reload. Thank you, Chickpea!

Ranks of echinacea. Please say a plant prayer for our perennials: let nobody yank them out and steal them. Let nobody stomp them. In July let there be a mass of pink blooms with orange centers. Let there be butterflies.

Note that we feed our plants only bottled water. Nothing else is good enough.

Hm. Yes. Watering was not easy. Lots of griping. This was the most innovative way we had of getting a lot of water from our offices to the median.

We found traffic to be remarkably considerate. Vehicles merely tapped us, stopping short of ramming.

Actually, again we had lots of encouragement. Two cops cars offered their compliments, so did Con Ed trucks and a sanitation truck. In fact, the sense I got was one of bonding with the civil service. The city workers. We were perceived as part of that body, and it was enlightening. On a frontline, together.

A passing sanitation truck actually stopped and collected our trash for us. And thanked us. And we thanked them...

The itea (sweetspire), in bud. Itea prayer: please let them not be stolen.

Iceberg roses, below, with catnip and geraniums beneath, and very vulnerable gaura, just breaking dormancy.

Watering will continue to be a headache for the first few weeks, but water them we must. The city truck will be able to water them sporadically, and I chose some tough plants.

For now we hope for the promised rain. Nothing could be better.

5/1/2009: click here for day-after update.
7/2/2009: and two months later...
8/04/2009: the hyssop heist

Mulderbosch pink

One of South Africa's nicest wine makers. This is a Cabernet sauvignon rose...2008. Bought at Bowery Wines, just under $13.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Looking forward...

As I write, on this Brooklyn evening at 7.44pm, I hear a robin singing. And singing and singing. Sitting at the very top of a tree across the way. Soon I might hear...yes, just did. The cardinals. It is their song time, before they go to bed.

It is still light out, and the trees are new and chartreuse. There is a vague white hum from the BQE. A very distant siren. A jet far away, on final approach. And the robin, above all, singing, singing, singing.

Guess what I'm doing this weekend?

Yeah yeah, looking for a bigger terrace. No. Planting new things. In new pots. With our SoHo rooftop purchases came some for me, too:

Nicotiana 'Limelight' from the Union Square Farmers' Market this morning.

Neutered chives from Jim Glover. Our client felt they might be too stinky.

These special-ordered, as I've wanted them ever since I used them in gardens last year.

Extra nip for the Don, and for its beautiful blue flowers.

A different calamintha: on the SoHo terrace this morning our client gave me her mom's recipe: tea from the steeped mint leaves, cooled, add half the amount apple juice, squeeze of lemon, lots of ice.

The beautiful Corydalis "China Blue". Blooms till the middle of summer, then disappears.

I must order some new pots from Tony's Hardware. And there's something wrong with my boxwood. White, papery spots on some leaves. Leaf burn from water droplets? I know. Take a picture.

Pots too small?

We start planting Median perennials today...They arrived in a big fragrant truck.. The geraniums and agastache like anise and lemon.

Combat swine flu: eat a pig

After my vegetable dinner I needed something to chew. I love gnawing on ribs. I love slightly burned bits.

So, a small rack of baby back ribs
A lemon (as usual)
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (I know...same old same old)
2 tablespoons dark Turkish pepper flakes. Ha!

Can't help you there. This might sound mad, but I still have jar, airtight, of the pepper flakes I brought back in bulk from Istanbul in...2006? And they're fine! Not stale at all - very salty, slightly smoky, not very hot, a little sweet. The only substitute I can think of is a dried Mexican pepper, like a poblano (ancho, when dried), soaked, chopped; but it will still be different. But good...

One day ahead I squeezed the juice over the ribs and sliced the garlic over them, covered and put in fridge. Evening of, I fired up the broiler and sprinkled on salt, and the Turkish chile mix. At a raging temperature the ribs cooked for about 12 minutes on each side. Then I just left them in there to rest for about 20 minutes, heat off. Sliced. Gnawed.

To drink: very good sippin' Tequila, Cointreau, dash of, a whole lemon's juice (I swear I support an entire orchard in Florida), stirred, over ice.

Begone Swine Flu!

Fifth Ave at 10th Street

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A vegetable love

Feta, Persian cucumbers, perhaps not from Israel, radishes, chunks of watermelon. A spritz of sherry vinegar, black pepper, some EV olive oil.

Couscous with a lot of finely chopped parsley and mint (from terrace!), lemon zest and raw onion. It needed dried apricots. Fat artichoke with lemon and garlic butter.

Something's burning

So what was the black smoke about? Something burned for a couple of hours while we were planting a garden on a SoHo rooftop. Seemed under control and then flared again. The pink building is the Julian Schnabel, pseudo-Venetian palazzo in the far West Village, where we designed a party garden (not a garden party) last year. And then there's the Hudson. Was it in Jersey? Did the Hudson ignite?

Terrace sky

Monday, April 27, 2009

Whad's wrong with this picture?

Today in New York

...spring sprang.

Bleecker between Mercer and La Guardia Place.

This was not a subtle spring. No dog tooth violets here...

These tulips were planted by The Garden Shop at NYU. That's what the sign said.

They were bright.

This was the first time I'd seen these crabapples in bloom, in the huge courtyard on La Guardia Place between Bleecker and West 3rd.

I sat here one summer and had strawberries pelted at me from a high floor. I heeded the sign.

The beginnings of blossom snow.

Washington Square Park, below.

Redbud - in a fibreglass planter on West 16th Street.

Union Square trees leafing out.

The lilac on Congress Street opened from tight buds on Friday.

Home, almost. Crabapples...

Gardener's tattoo

Viki, who has just started gardening for us, is an artist - photographer, floral designer, stylist - in her own right. I noticed her tattoo on Friday, when she rolled her sleeves up to dig the Median: it is an impeccable magnolia. "Elizabeth", in fact, she said. She sketched it after her favourite neighbourhood magnolia, four storeys high, was sawn down on Warren Street, when the brownstone's facade was renovated.
It lives on, on her right bicep.
The work was done at the Fine Line Tattoo on 1st Ave just north of East 1st Street.

Shopping in the 'hood

On Saturday I stocked up on small things that make me happy.

Fava beans from Pacific Green, artichokes from New Green Pea; mulberry juice, little cucumbers, French feta, Lingon berry jam from Sahadi's, since I am tired of eating my over-sweet plum jam: must decide what to do with it. The apricot jam and raspberry/red currant are finished and will have to wait for the new crops. Finn Crisps, the best crackers, and an avocado with an outrageous, $1.99 price tag. But I really wanted one to go with the delicious new chives on the terrace. Goat brie, roasted almonds; two shortbreads for afternoon tea. Tonight's salad will be radish, cucumer and feta. Chickpea curry in the packages - the only packaged food I eat, and it is delicous: $3. Can't be beat. The other Pride of India curries are not nearly as good.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Blood-dimmed tide

Or rosy glow...

I found it. The original colour. Perfect match. The bright pink is no more. The semi gloss is gone. I bought the paint at American Hardware on Court Street, where the garden section is dominated by Miracle Gro, Moss Killer and Roundup. The counter help, with food between all its teeth, leered at me when I asked about organic products and soil. I took my Benjamin Moore Roseate and ran.

I painted all four walls, covering the orange and the remaining cream, and, reaching between the vicious little prickles of the New Dawn, was nipped, bit, pierced, torn, scratched, lanced, sliced, ripped, gouged, hooked, slashed and cut. I looked like a chainsaw massacre victim - I was painting in a bikini and dripping with sweat in our weird little high summer today, but most of it was just paint. It's in my hair.

Estorbo spent most of today flat on the floor inside in disbelief, looking for the zipper to his fur suit. But as soon as the terrace was put to rights again he was out there, and seemed to approve. I like it too. This pink has more gravitas.

I bought this juice at Sahadi's. I'm not a juice person. But it was mulberry juice, which I'd never seen, and it was just over $3, which is really cheap. And I adore mulberries, mostly as a memory. I used to pick them from Mrs Du Toit's tree next door in Bloemfontein - a whole bowlful, for family dessert after family lunch (we were the 50's frozen in time). The juice bottle said product of PRC, which I had to look up, as I imagined it had come from Middle Eastern fruit, or ex East Bloc. Nope: People's Republic of China. Hm. Silkworm food?

OK, so the juice was doctored. It was 6 o'clock juice with a squeeze of lemon and a shot of vodka and lots of ice. Fat smile. It was a hot day.

Then I shelled some fava beans for supper with artichokes, and considered the week ahead.

Busy week: finally the planting of the rest of a SoHo garden that has been years in the making. Not a huge job, but with many twists and turns. Mostly perennials, which are being bought tomorrow and planted Tuesday: lots of Iris ensata, calamintha, gaura, geraniums, veronica, nepeta, interesting alliums, pennisetum, Japanese ribbon grass, and a little lawn; and roses and boxwood. Trees - maples, magnolia, lilac and cherries - were hoisted last year and planted, though the magnolia's colour is apparently not what was we'll see.

A couple of new designs to start thinking about, too, and then on Thursday: the Median!