Monday, June 30, 2014

Gardenista 2014 Design Awards

Gardenista is holding their second annual design awards for gardeners. The deadline for entries is July 7th. Residents of the USA, Canada, and the UK are eligible to enter.

The nice thing about these awards is that entry is open to reg'lar gardeners in most categories. Amateurs. The people who really know what they are doing. And folks who rent, rather than own their spaces are welcome to submit entries, too. (There are also categories for professionals.)

Gardenista considers a garden anything from a tiny city fire-escape planting, to an indoor houseplant collection,  to a rural estate set in dreamy surrounds. Fortunately, the first two two rarely have to compete in the same category as the last!

If you think your garden has what it takes, or know of one that does, read on.

2014 entry in Best Garden, Amateur. Good Dogs Farm, by Maria Nation

Submission requirements for each category (see below) are: six photos of your gardens space; a design statement - in other words a description of what you hoped to achieve. If you are like me, and garden before you think, you just make one up! See some more of 2014's entries to date, here, to get a sense of who is entering what. That Good Dogs Farm is quite a looker.

Winners receive a limited edition designer lamp, by Jielde, but I think the real win is having your garden and images featured on Gardenista.

After submissions are received, readers have till August 8th to vote for selected gardens, and winners are announced on August 9th.

2013 Winner of Best Garden, Professional. Alexander Tasker Marx Landscape Architect

Contest Categories:

Best Overall Garden (Amateur): The best overall outdoor garden designed by a non-professional.

My personal favourite:

Best Small Garden (Amateur): Indoor gardens, houseplants, window boxes, fire-escape gardens, container gardens, vertical gardens, and more.

2014 entry in Best Garden Amateur. Brooklyn Brownstone Garden, by Margaret Wilmerding

Best Outdoor Living Space (Everyone): Outdoor sitting rooms and lounge spaces, outdoor kitchens, outdoor dining rooms, outdoor showers and baths, and more.

Love this category, too:

Best Edible Garden (Everyone): Kitchen gardens, vegetable patches, raised beds, outdoor herb gardens, etc.

2014 entry in Best Small Garden, Amateur. The Backyard, by Joke de Winter

Best Hardscape Project (Everyone): Stairways, decks and patios, driveways, paths, fences, swimming pools, garden gates, trellises, and more.

One day, I hope there will be a category for best lawn, to help shine a light on that particular hotbed of synthetic fertilizers and herbicides. And I hope the best contenders will be lawns allowed to be more natural than the rigid and clipped version, top of page. Steven Schwarz should enter his lawn, when the time comes.

Submit your Gardenista Design Award entries here.

More questions? Check out Gardenista's FAQ's:

You have seven days to take pictures. Got git 'em, garrrrdeners!


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Dove tale, for two players

Horatio, (unseen) to Cecil, on fence: Yo Cecil, it's me, down here!

Horatio, aggrieved: Down here on the chair yo'. Dumb bird.

 Horatio: Yeah. What it is, the Woman left some seed in this bowl, yo.

Horatio: Yup, that's seed in there. 

Horatio: SEED!

Cecil, peering into bowl: I say, Horatio, my good chap, you are absolutely spot on. That is seed in there. I say!

Cecil, in bowl: Oh, this is delightful!

Cecil, occupying bowl: In fact, bugger off, Horatio!

Horatio, exiting stage R: Yo mama, Cecil!


Thursday, June 26, 2014

The city terrace

Yes. Do look up. Because that is what defines what I can grow. North, and the cut-off top of the townhouse we live in, are at the top of the image. But eastern (L) and western (R) suns are cut off, which makes for the midday blast. Plants have to sign waivers before being allowed to live here. "We understand the conditions as set forth in the blablabla and shall not hold the gardener liable..."

The Gloriosa lilies have opened much earlier than anticipated. The ones on the birch fence opened first, and seem very happy.

Down below, in the shadier recesses, are the Dicentra that Paul and Sonya brought up from Virginia last week.

The pink English rose (Boscobel) has lasted surprisingly well in warm weather.

Yeah. Houston? You know that problem everyone keeps saying we have?

It's h-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-re.

Black swallowtail larvae. I swear they followed me from Brooklyn. You want to know what I did? Really? Really???

I put them back. Yup. Right back on the damn parsley. Eat it, I said. I'm going to be away for a while and ain't no way no Frenchman is going to eat the parsley while I am gone. He hates parsley.

So, who knows?

The black raspberries are ripening as fast as I look at them. I baked some in little pies today, with cherries and serviceberries and apples.

The blueberries ripen from the tip of their clusters, down.

And bubbles pour out of the bottle, when you tip it. 

There it is. 

Dayeen. Dayoud.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Local Summer

Fava beans, the first cherries, the first tomatoes (!) and common milkweed buds.

Sources: the terrace (the beans), farmers market and the great outdoors.

And visit my previous post of you'd like to plant some milkweed of your own


Summer Botanical Walk Schedule *

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mo' roses

Am I overdoing the rose posts?

It's just that when these are kaput it will be a while before they re-bloom. Because of the the sun thing (not much of...).

Boscobel is above, Darcy Bussell, below, turning quite carmine after her blackly red beginnings. Both hold up well in the middle-of-the-day blast of heat they receive.

The one rose not doing too well is the new Abraham Darby - I placed it too far back on the terrace, closest our bedroom door, in the hopes that I could train it up 'n over. But the sun stays there not very long at all. I may have to do a switcheroo. The Brooklyn Abraham Darby is in the planter box at the southern edge of the terrace, and gets the most sun. It is happy, even though it is sharing with low life nasturtiums and strawberries and Echinacea.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The problem with milkweed (and a sidebar on ticks)

Tick check. Photo: Vincent Mounier which I check my ankles for ticks, on Staten Island. I had been walking in the long grasses, roadside. And yes, I wore white pants on purpose - to spot them, fast.

The tick thing isn't funny. They are tiny. And they transmit diseases with large consequences: Lyme disease, babebiosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis and the rare but virulent Powassan encephalitis.

We are drenched in spray for mosquitoes that transmit the occasional bite of West Nile virus, but the ticks, that affect thousands of people, march on (although there is now a senate-convened Tick Task Force). The Frenchman and I tire of the threat, neither of us having grown up in tick-plagued countries.

This really was not going to be a tick post

But there is no part of the great Northeastern outdoors that is free of their threat. Except, perhaps, for this pocket of Staten Island, where not a single tick did we find.

Photographing common milkweed. Photo: Vincent Mounier

I did find beautiful common milkweed, whose flowers were just beginning to open. I picked about 25 flowerheads from the hundreds, for a lavender-colored cordial.

If you have a garden, or own land, consider planting milkweed. Asclepias syriaca is the only one - that we know of - that is deliciously edible for humans (shoots, buds, flowers and pods). But plant any of the over 100 species of Asclepias on which monarch butterfly larvae feed.

Botanical Interests sells Aslepias incarnata seed. The plants are perennial, so wait two years after sowing to see your flowers bloom. Glover Perennials on Long Island's North Fork propagates and sells (wholesale) milkweed plants, so ask your Tri-state nursery to stock their products. You can order milkweed plants online, too.

The only way to spread milkweed is to demand it or to broadcast the fluff from the seed pods, when you find it. Most of it falls victim to roadside and railside herbicide spraying, and most farmers consider it a pest, like the one on whose land I was permitted to collect the shoots in May.

This Staten Island common milkweed colony (they rise from an underground series of rhizomes) is threatened by the relentless crush of invasive and exotic - and edible! - mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), which dominates the green area.

I doubt these acts of milkweed planting that I advocate will save the threatened monarch, whose forests far, far south have been depleted by logging (read Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior - whose rather dismissive review I will never forget, on NPR, the reviewer questioning the monarch hook around which the novel is written, as rather - I am paraphrasing - esoteric and inconsequential).

But it can't hurt to try.

To recap:

1. Check for ticks
2. Plant milkweed
3. Make cordials
4. And come on my wild edibles walk tomorrow, in Prospect Park!


Friday, June 20, 2014

Warm fruit

It was Marcella Hazan who gave me the idea, many years ago, in Marcella's Italian Kitchen, to grill fruit on the cooling fire.

"On picnics, after we were done with barbecuing fish or meat and vegetables, it seemed a shame to let the coals' last heat expire unused, so I would drop whatever fruit we had on the grill. Good as it was - and I don't think it can get any better - I accepted it as the fire's parting gift without thinking of it as a deliberate approach to preparing fruit."

I often look sadly at the beautiful warm coals after I have cooked on the fire, and feel sorry that I haven't any apricots or peaches ready for the hot grill. But this is also a dish easy to prepare on the stove, and that's what I did for our supper, searing these peaches in my cast iron pan, after oiling it lightly with olive oil.

A store nearby, on 125th Street, has been selling small peaches, ripe and perfumed, from a box. It is too early for local peaches and the cashiers can't tell me where they come from. But they are very good. Here, they are topped with the sweet, fresh serviceberries I picked the other day. We ate them with vanilla icecream.

The rest of the berries are being turned into a syrup, a compĂ´te and perhaps a small pie (recipe in 66 Square Feet - A Delicious Life, June chapter, of course), for our upstairs neighbor, Wolfgang, who requested one for his June birthday (one of their many names is Juneberries).


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

City terrace days heat up

I made supper last night for our friends Paul and Sonya who are on a garden-viewing holiday, with their baby daughter Maggie, from their home in the one-stoplight wilds of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. Paul is the nursery manager for Saunders Brothers, and Sonya is a botanist, so it's fair to say that they are plant people.

After spending a hot - very hot - day on the High Line they arrived in Harlem with a truckload of beautiful plant gifts, and then we stood around under the ceiling fans, sipping drinks. More about the plants, later. I snapped this picture from the roof of the townhouse before they arrived - so the wonderfully fluffy Virginia-bred boxwoods that are there now, are missing.

I braaied a butterflied lamb, and we ate cold ajo blanco, with pickled field garlic. Boscobel, a new David Austin rose, had just opened, and there is one ripe blueberry.

The uber-double red Darcey Bussell held up well in the heat.

And downstairs, our landlord's sour cherry ripened audibly. Just the other day it was in bloom. 

The candles managed to stay lit till the end, when our friends left to drive back to their Park Slope AirBnB.

It will be time for air conditioners, soon. It's extraordinary to remember the days when our bedroom thermostat never topped 60'F, indoors, and that was with $500-a-month heat. I actually thought the thing was broken and that at 60 it just maxed out (it went as low as 48'F). But as I type, it stands at 80'F. Terrace snow and the icicle-entombed roses (a leaky gutter made an ice cataract) seem bizarre hallucinations.

Viva extremes, viva!


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Double red

One of the new David Austin roses, Darcey Bussell (named after an English ballerina) is in bloom.

Some more plants will arrive on the terrace late today, brought by generous friends who have driven up from Virginia. Fancy Echinacea, and new boxwoods! As befits my usual personal gardening style, the terrace is rather haphazard and the trim, repeated evergreens will help to pull the whole thing together. 

We will eat outside, and perhaps we'll see the firefly that lit up over the Harlem terrace last night. We'll hear the duelling robins in the dusk, and the church choir rehearsal from the western end of our block. We'll eat milkweed minestrone to start, with preserved lemon sourdough bread, then a barbecued, butterflied sweetfern lamb, with our favourite cauliflower dish from Jerusalem (roasted, tossed with cinnamon, allspice, vinegar and...maple syrup!), and to end,  a pie - probably peach, with serviceberies.


Monday, June 16, 2014

New flavors

A weekend's long foraging outing yielded June treasure. 

So Sunday was busy:


Field garlic flower bud pickles
Common milkweed flower cordial
Elderflower cordial
Sweetfern butter
Bayberry oil


4 lbs of serviceberries frozen

To do:

1.5 lbs of serviceberries waiting to be turned into a syrup, and a pie.
Common milkweed buds to be blanched and preserved. I meant to turn some of them into tempura'd bites for last night's supper, but Life happened and they did not.

But I did manage to make some good lamb chops, basted with that sweetfern butter.

How was your weekend?

Summer Botanical Walk Schedule *

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Survivors of the move...

...and of That Winter...

Windermere is in bloom - the stems are very long and supple, searching for sun, so the rose tends to be top heavy. Not bad for the four or so hours it receives, but not ideal, either, if you are a rose. Re-bloom will be much slower than on the sunny Cobble Hill terrace. Interestingly, the rose blooms themselves are much more beautiful than in their previous, very hot position, where they tended to be pinched.

The Brooklyn-transplant strawberries are ripening, very sweet, fewer fruit than before (also to be expected) but happy enough to be putting out long runners.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Summer Foraging Walks

Quickweed - delicious in dumplings and green weed pesto

Prospect Park
22 June 2014, 12pm - 2pm

Come and explore the Eastern woodland edges of Prospect Park, and learn how to identify edible weeds and indigenous plants. En route we'll discuss their flavors, and how to use them in the kitchen.


In open meadow areas we'll find greens like quickweed, plantain, clovers, dandelions and mugwort. 

Mugwort and roast potatoes

There will also be burdock and pokeweed, with elderberry and purple-flowered raspberry on the wooded edges. If we are lucky, there may be mushrooms. 

Burdock stems and soy syrup

We meet at the Flatbush Avenue entrance opposite the Brooklyn Botanic Garden at 12pm. The closest subway is the B/Q at Prospect Park, a couple of minutes' walk away. From there we will move north, ending at the Grand Army Plaza end of the park, at 2pm.


Wild black cherries

Dead Horse Bay
16 August 2014, 12pm - 4pm

Dead Horse Bay re-match. After our spring botanical walk visit the dandelion pathways will have become wilder and woollier. Wild cherries should be ripening, and we may find sour sumac. 

On our way to the old bottle-littered beach we'll find lamb's quarters and other weedy surprises, and above the high tide mark there will be pungent sea rocket and hedges of bayberry. Collect ingredients for home made bitters and learn about infusing hooch with shoreline herbs...

We'll spend some time beach-combing slowly around the bay before heading back inland to catch the bus back home. Pack water, a snack, and sunscreen. There is a bathroom at Floyd Bennett Field, near the bus stop.

Brooklyn Bitters

We meet 12pm at street level on the triangle between Flatbush and Nostrand. The subway stop is Flatbush/Brooklyn College - the end of the line for the 2 train. Then it's a 10 - 15 minute bus ride to the wilds of Jamaica Bay. Please check subway schedules ahead of time in case of service changes. More details on sign up.



Central Park's North Woods
23 August 2014, 11am-1pm

In the hot and heavy days of late summer edible weeds flourish in the shaded parts of Central Park. Jumpseed, pokeweed and Japanese knotweed carpet the woodland floor, while plantain and burnweed pop up in sunny spots. Cornelian cherries, blackberries and hawthorn are hidden in plain site. As we walk, learn to spot these and many other wild edibles, and how to use them.

American burnweed

We meet at 11am on the SW corner of Central Park North and Lenox Avenue. Closest subways are the 2/3 at 110th Street, and the B/C at 110th.