Tuesday, March 20, 2007

North American Rock Garden Society

The Manhattan Chapter of NARGS met last night - my first meeting! There was a very exciting slide lecture given by Mike Slater about Dry Sand Plunge Beds.

(not all of the slides were upside down!)
As a city dweller with no terra firma, I will be casting my own hypertufa planters. Trough gardens were originally made out of old feeding troughs for farm animals, before steel. These mini landscapes were micro-climates for alpine, succulent, drought tolerant plants where you can grow almost anything even more difficult plants... The constant theme is dwarf or smaller plants. Dare I say "cute" (a word I have been banned from saying in my household due to overuse and abuse) plants...

These are hypertufa planters. You mix up:
2 parts Portland cement
3 parts of coconut fiber or peat moss
3 parts of perlite
This cottage cheesey mess is smushed between 2 boxes, sometimes reinforced with chicken wire, and dries into a super great lightweight trough!
So, in about a month, when it's actually warm out, I'll be spending my Saturdays cranking out a bunch of these babies! And where, are you wondering, in my urban oasis will they reside??? The fire escape of course! It gets beautiful bright western light!

I will also keep a shady one in the front, purely because I must have hosta "mouse ears" which could easily become lost in the "big" garden. At work I spend all day designing, installing, and maintaining meticulously stunning gardens in very restricted spaces. So when I come home... It's good to know yourself as a gardener, your habits, etc. My compulsion is to over-plant my personal gardens. This is partly because I obsess over and fall in love with new plants daily and must have them. Then I irrationalize any spacing advice given on tags, in books or by my own common sense and cram them together. This is "cottage garden style", no?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Look what's blooming!

From this....

To this! I LOOOVE amaryllis! These two are from the same batch from last year and are really stunning! The amazing week of bloom is worth the six months they spend recouping in the storage unit. I have four but only two decided to send up bloom shoots this year. I am thinking of sprinkling the no-shows with some bulb-tone. There is one I really want to bloom because it is a mini.

I freaked out at Whole Foods last week when I walked in and saw the seed carousel set up all full of seed packets. There is something so special to me about seed packets - like little presents. So much can come from so little! When I got home and laid them out to admire them, I realized I got all vines! I guess they will be going out on the fire escape!

It was funny because the same day I bought these vine seeds (Gourd Hard-shelled Corsican, Hyacinth Bean Vine "Ruby Moon" and Moonflower) my coworker Luke brought me some white wisteria seeds from a job he had been spring cleaning. I save all sorts of seed heads and pods from wherever I find them, usually at work, nurseries or public gardens (when no one's looking!) to use in my own personal guerrilla gardening efforts in my neighborhood. I only sow these seeds in abandoned lots, empty planters... I even heaved our Halloween stoop pumpkin over a chain link fence in the middle of the night hoping it might sprout!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Naughty Earthworms

My coworker, Luke, left a very disturbing article on my desk today that he had torn out of the New York Times about earthworms destroying forest ecosystems!
I have heard about fishermen throwing unused bait on riverbanks and these worms changing the soil content so that the native flora died out and more aggressive "weedy" varieties took over. It seems the worms destroy the forest floor by upestting the micro-fungal colonies that decompose the leaf litter and woody material. The calcium infused worm castings change the pH from acidic to more alkaline and also add a stronger dose of nutrients such as nitrogen.
I love the earthworms! The boys at work have teased me for sifting through soil we're trashing in order to salvage any worms and replant them... maybe from now on I should let them ride on into the landfill in the rubble bags to do their magic there? Overall, it is crucial knowledge for me as far as acidic, woodylandish plantings go since we spread earthworm casting at my firm in fact I did so today in 6 penthouse planters I was spring cleaning... And you know there are eggs in there!

Saturday, March 10, 2007


I am thinking that I am going to put the composter on the fire
escape, so I am looking for something small and completely sealed (I
don't think the landlord would be too thrilled to have compost tea
dripping down their windows! Or to have rats visiting...) I am set on the tumbler type for their efficiency and usually they have a reserve on the bottom where
you can siphon off compost tea!

This looked so cute but then when I saw it full size it was really big and more like a scary pear from a theme park.
The website was also in Spanish, so I was lost!

This one looks cool but not really my style... Too fancy or something... "TheBluePlanetSMART ’s round shape
gives it a surface/volume ratio that is smaller than for any other
shape. The smaller the ratio, the less the impact of heat loss on the
total heat generated and the faster the decomposition."

This is a Happy Farmer Bokashi composter. "Bokashi" means "fermented organic matter" in Japanese, so this type of composter is actually a fermenter
which produces a nutrient rich soil conditioner, as well as a liquid
compost tea that can also be used to clear kitchen/bathroom drains! You
sprinkle a microbe inoculated sawdust and bran mix with your kitchen
scraps (including meat and dairy), filling the entire unit, and two
weeks it is ready! Odorless and amazing, it could easily fit under the
kichen sink.

This is the composter I am leaning towards... A
very basic tumbler.
They market it as "THE ENVIROCYCLE COMPOST/COMPOSTEAMAKER IS PERFECT FOR TODAY'S HECTIC URBAN LIFE STYLE." The "hectic" part is not so appealing but it is GREAT!

Monday, March 5, 2007

Garden Art

Susan Bradley creates these brilliant pieces. for indoors or out, she calls Outdoor Wallpaper. Available in all sorts of finishes:
- satin brushed stainless steel - a beautiful matt polished finish
- mirror polished stainless steel - highly reflective, like a mirror
- rusted mild steel - for an aged look...



How stunning as a backdrop on a boring wall! Or with an elegant clematis delicately weaving it's way through... YUM!

My boyfriend says that all he wants in the garden is a beer drinking gnome!

Sunday, March 4, 2007

My Front Yard

So this is my little front yard... Actually, this is the privet hedge in my little front yard! One of the first things to happen here is going to be wacking this beast back to about a third of its current size. When we moved in last October it was looking a bit sad and tired, so I'd like to give it a fresh start. It seems a good time to prune privet is late winter - so NOW!

I will also be taking out at least a dozen rubble bags of soil... These gardens often have very stale soil with little to no anaerobic activity. And the dog downstairs is old and pees in it. I have a big bag of supa dupa worm castings (with some babies inevitably riding along) to spread and will get more compost to mix in. Beside the privet there are 2 mystery hydrangea that I ruthlessly cut back to an inch and some purple bearded iris. These will be transplanted if they survive...

We face East with a huge London Plane Tree in front of our neighbor's house, (it is barely in the very top left of this picture) so it shades our yard a bit too... I'd take a big beautiful warrior street tree and a shady yard any day over a sunny yard with no tree! I love our tree! So the one definate plan is to plant a tree in the yard in honor of our landlord's mom, who passed away last year, probably a Japanese maple of some sort. Other than that...? Since I have obsessive compulsive plant disorder there will be a lot of randoms, but probably along a native plant theme. I like to think that when Babylon falls the right plants will be in the right places to reclaim the Earth! However, with the current global warming trend who knows!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Tweedle Bugs

When I was little I was obsessed with the Tweedle Bugs who lived in Ernie's window box. I think it was all about their miniature world and the window box itself. I grew up very secluded in the woods and did not ever have any firsthand experience with the micro-nature of windowboxes...

Then over twenty years later, I move to Brooklyn and start working in a great plant nursery (in Caroll Gardens). One of my major jobs at the nursery is windowbox design! As an urban dweller, this can be your only link to outdoor gardening! After many loft apartments in big reclaimed warehouse buildings, now we live in the second floor apartment of a cute townhouse in Clinton Hill, and I am very excited to create some window boxes for our front 3 windows!

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin. ~William Shakespeare