Friday, April 30, 2010

Visi Magazine and 66 Square Feet

Visi Magazine features a four season, multiple age spread of 66 Square Feet in its April 201o edition!

Here's a taste of the Urban Eden (Balkonboer, in Afrikaans) article that editor Johan van Zyl wrote.

Choose your poison




Brooklyn Botanic Garden: Osborne Garden azaleas versus the Native Garden azaleas.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Spring flowers for a party

High above Fifth Avenue, at work. The flowers were: lilac, peonies, tulips, hyacinths, poppies, sweet peas, anemones, roses, cherry blossom. I realized how helpful another human would be to help strip the stalks and get them into water pronto.

Some of the bouquets...

I wanted just the teensy weensiest bit of blue to speak to the pillars. So the anemones did the talking.

Rhododendron austrinum plant pick of the week.

One of my favourite shrubs, a delicately-branched and yellowy-orange azalea, native to Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and North Carolina. In my plan for the park being made slowly on East Houston and 2nd Avenue, I included many of these, along with Rhododendron periclymenoides - the Pinxterbloom azalea. We'll see if they make it off paper and into reality.

This azalea is growing at the lower entrance to the Native Garden at the BBG, while its pink, afore-mentioned brethren are found inside. You will see them in bloom for the next week or two, I think. They are nothing like the virulent pinks, mauves and reds you'll see flanking the lawn in the Osborne Garden at the Eastern Boulevard entrance, quite spectacular in their own way at the moment. But where those loud, extremely floriferous azaleas are saturated with colour, these native shrubs are more beautiful than pretty, and seem to achieve that effect without slathering on eyeliner and lip pencil, and benefit as much from their context as they add grace to it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Central Park

Ek is moeg.

...means, I am tired. Long day. Flower District, then cab to Fifth Ave with boxes of hundreds of dollars of flowers in tow, making arrangements (fun but always fraught with performance anxiety - and huge respect for fulltime floral designers), back home, subway not working, so walking from Broadway Lafayette over the Brooklyn Bridge, quick bite of delicious pate and baguette, and slurp of prosecco before heading out to Molly's book launch party. Drinks, friends, strangers in impossibly expensive, high-heeled, red-soled shoes, home through the the cold, cobble stoned streets of SoHo, more subway (working this time). Brooklyn.

I had an hour to kill before my flower arranging this morning, and so took myself for a walk through The Ramble. Central Park in spring is gorgeous. Verdant, singing green.

Above, shooting star, below bluebells.

And violets.

I want to go back, early, with a flask of good coffee. Rusks would be nice.

I must make rusks.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Shelterpop Chives

How (and why) to grow Chives, at Shelterpop.

Just in case you didn't know...

David Austin roses by mail

They say by mail, but it's really UPS.

These two huge boxes arrived Monday from David Austin. One said This way up and was the Other way up. Panic. I hustled them onto the terrace, keeping the upside down one sideways.

First, Eglantyne. I had wanted Alnwick but it was sold out. The rose was in full bloom. In a box! From Texas!

I was really surprised. Talk about instant gratification.

Next, the sideways rose. I don't know what happened, but it hadn't been squashed. Either it had been packed upside down, or inspected en route, but whoever had handled it subsequently, had done well.

More luscious roses. It took one week, from placing the order last Monday to receiving the shipment, which left the Lone Star State on Wednesday.

I am impressed.

I had ordered containerised roses after catching sight of that option on the David Austin website at the last moment before ordering bare root roses. The $13 difference in price seemed worth the extra size, though I am curious to know what a bare root would look like after one season. I'll have to keep an eye on Deb's roses, which arrived last week.

I've just seen that standard roses are available, too, as bare root, budded at 3 feet. Rats! Perfect for the corner where I'm putting one of the roses. That rose's back will be to the walls and I foresee leaf loss and possible black spot issues there. It should get 6 hours of sun. Taller would have been better.

Desire, desire, desire.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Golden Gate, Eastern Free State

Photo: Vincent Mounier

Over at Coriolistic Anachronisms Vince's tale has overtaken my recounting of our road trip early in the year. For a sneak peak at the beautiful and beleaguered Eastern Free State, and gateway to the Maloti Mountains, pull on your riding boots and head over there.

Moths in the Karoo

In the chilly morning on Doornberg, at the Vleihuisie, I walked outside and noticed a moth sitting quite still on the stone wall of the little house. Then I saw another. As my eyes became attuned to moth pattern recognition, the walls turned into moth mosaics. There they all were: the indistinct flying objects of the previous night, beating softly against the glass door to get in to the light, now in perfect focus. They were absolutely gorgeous.

I was mesmerised, and very sorry that I had not brought along my mother's South African insect book. Put that on my wish list.

They looked like fur coat-wearing ghosts from the 1920's.

As the day warmed, their numbers dwindled.

If anyone is good with moths...

...please help me identify them.

A whole world to explore.

I'm falling in love again...never wanted to, what am I to do?

I can't help it.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Flowers on Doornberg

Back to the Karoo. Put Brooklyn on pause, wake up in the Vleihuisie, smell fresh coffee perking, sit outside on the patio to eat the last of the fresh rolls we brought from Cape Town with my mother's apricot jam, watch the white horse and its boss arrive to work the lucerne field where the storks are already patrolling.

We made a quick stop at the farmhouse to see if we could find some lamb for supper. Of course we could. Hanna was in the kitchen, making melktert for some Dutch visitors at a nearby farm. The Aga was hot and the tarts were at the rolled-out pastry stage. These red roses were in a bowl on the dining room table. Melktert, Aga, red roses. Storybook perfect.

After our now memorable trip into Nieu Bethesda, we decided to go and look at the private airfield Peet had told us about.

Above, the Compassberg watches over the farm.

It was clearly signposted.

The veld around the rough strip was full of flowers. Daisy inside a Karoo bush...

Bulbine abyssinica, so similar to the bulbine in my mom's aloe garden. Beautiful, tall geophytes. Occurring from the western Karoo to tropical Africa.

Moraea polystachya, with its unmistakable 'butterfly' spots on the petals stood slender above the shorter mat of growth, its delicate petals easily ruffled by the light wind sweeping from the hills.

They grew every twenty feet or so, two feet high.

Green parts are poisonous, and can kill grazing stock.

But if moraeas were dresses, they would have been designed by Dior in the late 40's. And I would have liked to have worn them.

Kir Royale

Drinking in camouflage...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Paintbrush lily

Scadoxus puniceus, in my mother's garden in Cape Town. It grows in a pot beside a bench in full shade, near the clivias.

It is native from the Transkei on the south eastern coast to North West Province. It is used traditionally to treat coughs, stomach problems and headaches, but don't try it at home. The bulb is poisonous.

Trader Joe's flowers

Above: Waterless daffodils at Trader Joe's on Court Street

Dear Trader Joe's

I can put up with the Hawaiian shirts, though they are not my cup of tea. I can put up with the homely signs, which are designed to make me feel comfortable in your aisles of limitless prepared foods. I can even tolerate, for a short time, the awful floor of linoleum brown squares under the vaulted ceiling of your Court Street premises.

But I am sick and tired of the dying flowers. You are selling daffodils for $2.99 a bunch. A steal! Ten irises for $3.99 a bunch. A steal! Tulips for $4.99! When will the the madness stop? Cheap!

They are sitting in plastic buckets. You know, the kind designed to hold water? They are empty. Dry. The flowers are parched. Not a drop to drink. They sit in the warm air of the store, these hosts of golden daffodils, Dutch tulips and stately iris, crying for moisture. I can hear them.

Like bees attracted to free honey, we buy them, take them home, cut their stems, give them a drink.

And then they die.

Because they have been waterless for days.

It is not a fluke. I have been keeping an eye on the Situation for two weeks. I bought irises two days ago. In tight bud. By today they unfurled three unhappy petals and curled up. Before that, 2 bunches of daffodils. Crispy at the edges after they managed to open one eye. Before that? Tulips. Two days, then kaput.

The one exception? Freesias. Why?


Not a single human in a Hawaiian shirt thinks to fill the the dozens of buckets with water. Why? Why sell something beautiful, perishable, something that has been harvested hundreds, sometimes thousands of carbon miles away, that you neglect on your watch, at the top of the food chain?

I'll tell you why. Because you don't care. You don't care about the flowers, the customer, or the bent-over labourers who picked them, en masse, for pennies. Your flowers seem cheap, but they are a rip off. You are wasting my money. You are wasting every mile they traveled. They cost more down the road outside Key Food, and they last three times as long. You sell flowers whose care along every step of the way until they reached you is squandered the minute they are through the Trader Joe's door.

I have been suspicious of you for a long time. Nobody should sell that much snack food.

And Hawaiian shirts look good on Hawaiians.

Above: Happy daffodils in water outside Key Food on Atlantic.

Update: March 2011. No improvement.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Getting the Pretty Back

I was just sent a link to an interview in Wine Enthusiast where my friend Molly sings out about my bouillabaisse. Eep! as the cat would say.

Maybe it's time to make it again. Definitely a once-a-year deal.

I wish I had a bigger terrace. It's really best eaten out of doors, with good friends, candles and an evening breeze in one's hair. Or across one's scalp, in the smooth Frenchman's case...

Molly's new book, Getting the Pretty Back, complete with bouillabaisse recipe, and some, will be in stores next week. I have not read it yet.

It is a champagne day in New York and on the terrace. Crystal clear, cool. High blue sky, bright green leaves and promise. Dinner will be Roger Verge's Swiss chard and black olive tart. The dough is quick and made with an unlikely quantity of good olive oil. Think Provence...

Two David Austin roses arrive on Tuesday in 3 gallon pots. Pat Austin and Eglantyne. I was surprised at the size of the pots. Big. By mail.

I realized that I could not live without repeat-blooming roses on the terrace. Their old English petals and forms soothe the heart and mind more than one would imagine. It's all Bonbon's fault, anyway. She shopped there first. I am sorry not to have replaced the Abraham Darby. The poor thing put out two shoots this week. Now what do I do?