Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Saint Luke in the Fields, Chelsea

I was early for an appointment in Chelsea yesterday, so I wandered for a bit and found a garden.

Right off Hudson Street, with an entrance on Barrow, too, it meanders past old brick buildings and is quite unexpected. Finding a naturalized planting of ferns like this is a happy thing. They are such peaceful plants, so serene, so unforced.

They are in such contrast to the cops I passed on the sidewalk yelling at a gold-chained Noo Yawk-Italianate-looking man, Show me your hands, show me your fucking hands!!!!

I turned left, away from them, forgot about them, and found plants.

The largest, square part of the garden is delineated by flagstone paths and graced by several roses beginning to bloom, as well as Dutch and Siberian iris, and some unfortunate caladiums. They have to be used so carefully if at all. Sorry little spotty-stripey things.

I have become intensely interested in public gardens. How they make you feel. What it is about them that causes the feelings. What is underfoot, overhead, to the side.

A rainbarrel catching runoff from their shed, possibly making baby mosquitoes, but a nice idea. It just needs to be used!

Walking further back, so that you are in the center of the city block, is an old wall, and another world.

This is New York City...

Through the window is an old, old rose. I resolved to find my way to it. Not easy. I had to go back to Hudson Street and in through another entrance.

Chionanthus virginica...someone knows plants here, or is at least very interested in them. Not always the case in a garden, oddly. You don't see this tree in New York. It is a lovely little thing, with gossamer flowers just opening.

An iris, with iris scent. When I wear perfume, it is Chanel #19...and I read in a New Yorker article years ago that one of its foundation scents is essence of iris root. Which is very expensive to make. Explains the price.

Another old rose, I think. Gallica, Bourbon, Centifolia-shaped (??), and sweetly perfumed. A large bush about 4 feet across and 5 feet high.

And then I found the one I was looking for.

Almost as large as my hand , with the acacia-like leaves of its yellow cousin Rosa x primula in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens...

...it was at leat 10 feet high and its stems 4 inches in diameter. I have never seen a rose like this. I need Gwen Fagan's book! Except that is about the Cape. I am on a rose book quest. A big one, with good pictures.

Its buds were prehistoric-looking.

I'm posting so many pictures in case clever people want to tell me what it is.

Update, 5-28-10: Sandeep Kumar Singbabu identified it, and kindly let me know that it is Rosa roxburghii 'Hirtula'. Thank you, Sandeep!

An innocent, pale pink over an arbour.

And another mysery, with those leaves. A delicious scent, quite spicy.

It's exciting and rather humbling to encounter in one garden not one but several plants that are new. Below, I have never seen anything like this! What is it? The flowers look like pink witch hazel petals...

And for the final mystery: qu'est-ce que c'est? Little upside-down tulip flower in burgundy-brown, appearing singly from the branches! I can't wait to dig into my encyclopedia.

Here is its leaf.

On the sidewalk, the man had been cuffed. Imagine a cop saying sternly, I say, Sir, do please be so good as to display your hands...?

"...a place of sanctuary and respite".

That is a garden.


  1. The pink one is a rose??? Not very rosey looking to me... But then again I've no idea of what defines a rose. It must be owned by a little prince? ;-)

    How's: I say, sir, do please be so jolly gracious as to provide me with a good and slow display of your both your open hands?

  2. Starting almost at the hind-end...your witch hazel-y flower looks like loropetalum (Chinese fringe flower) which also has a creamy-ivory cousin.No scent, but tough as a boot.
    And the roses...hmmm...I KNEW I should have kept all of my rose references (I donated them when I moved to the tropics.Idiot!)I think you are are on the money with a Bourbon. The odd one with the mossed sepals? I'd really like a closer look;I'm guessing a very early cross or maybe even a sport.
    Gwen Fagan's may be about Southern Africa, but she's a wealth of solid information. And I'd suggest contacting any of the Heritage Rose Societies. I squinted at St.Luke's sign for a phone number...maybe you could leave them a note.
    I am sure they could be useful people when you plant the Jardin de Marie ;-)

    Jeepers! Long comment!

  3. Beence, it begs the question how do I recognize a rose, or how do we recognize anything? All those little synapses firing away, making associations, cross-referencing, withdrawing from archives...

    Hm, yes, the police. I am not anti-cop by any means. I just wish ours would stand up straighter, cut their hair shorter and act more like Bobbies. You didn't know I was a Fascist did you??? I'm just a bundle of contradictions.

    MIT - now that's very useful information. Loropetalum...off I go :-)!

  4. oh, ....wow......that beautiful pastel Iris is amazing..... never seen one like it.....

    what a lovely sanctuary in the middle of the big ol' city...

  5. What a find, this garden! Well done, Marie. I'm sorry I have no help to offer in identifying the magical, mystery plants, so I'll just say thank you for sharing the wonderful views of St. Luke's.

    Keeses to the Cad ...


  6. And that iris...is it the beautiful Beverly Sills, named for the opera singer? I had one once;similar colour and , like BS, brilliant.

  7. what a treasure! I agree with moreidlethoughts, i'm pretty sure that iris is Beverly Sills. The mystery rose's flowers look like my rugosa rose (although the rugosa doesn't have those spiny buds or acacia like leaves).

    I'm thinking the tree with the interesting brownish flowers is a pawpaw.

  8. Eeek! I have the perfect book for you but it isn't out yet - not until September. It's called Right Rose, Right Place, and the author is Peter Schneider. Peter grows 1,200 varieties of roses in his Ohio garden!
    Stay tuned to the Inside Storey blog for more news of it...www.insidestorey.blogspot.com

  9. The brownish upside-down flower? I can say it is NOT a pawpaw;still puzzling over that one!

  10. Heavens, QC, I think you're right! She's right MIT...papaw/paw paw, not what "we" southerners think of as pawpaw which in the States is papaya. And very good for breakfast with a squeeze of lime

    Look at this link or pawpaw aka medlar. Wow!


    So that's a medlar...interestinger and interestinger

  11. thanks for sharing the garden is so gorgeous and mysterious~!

  12. That brown flower is a PawPawl


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