Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Off in the Big Woods



Come on a trip with me to the wintry Minnesota landscape.

Sumacs on the edge of the yellow-grass marsh



Friday, December 19, 2008

That Snow Rose

We are having our second snow of the season today, and what appears to be over the next several days by the weather reports I've been viewing. But its lovely on the New Dawn rose.



But how bout this. Is this not the most Santa Clausian freeze-dried Knockout rose with snow on it you ever did see? He's got little stunted legs, a mop of white hair and beard, one red arm close to his chest with a little white cuff and another arm and white cuff raised in the air. Sware it, I didn't notice it until I downloaded my photos. This may be my most Christmas-y garden photo ever; red, white, and green and Santa too!


HO HO HO

Thursday, December 18, 2008

How Doth Your Broccoli Grow?

It groweth well, if ever so slow.


The broccoli that survived the pre-Thanksgiving freeze, unprotected, is now under tent.
And groweth ever so sloweth, yet groweth it doth.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tree Fairy

I woke up today, looked outside the window, and there they were. New trees. I didn't hear the jackhammer, I didn't hear the concrete saw, I didn't hear the trucks, I didn't even hear a shovel hit the dirt. So must've been the Tree Fairy in the middle of the night. Two trees right across the street. Another down our short block, and then there's another on the corner. Wait, around the corner there's another six trees! That's 10 trees dropped in the middle of the night, while our neighborhood slept. Maybe there's more on our little four block quadrant.




Thanks Tree Fairy, though not that we're not deserving. After all, the Tree Vortex stole many of our older trees two summers ago. That nasty Vortex.

Tree cut in two on Church Avenue by the Brooklyn Tornado of 2007

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

First Snow and the Camera Returns



Its not unusual, but always noted, and inspired me to pick up a Christmas tree on my way home from work. We don't always do it, and we're leaving in a few days for Minnesota, but how could I resist with the snow on the branches.



The garden is taking it well and so is my Canon A80 -back from the rehabilitation center. I'll remember this customer service, Canon, when it is time to invest in a new and better camera.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

If You're This Kind of Gardener (I am)

Now, and really for the whole month of November into December, is an excellent time to get deals on bulbs at retail nurseries. I went to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden the other day to check out what they had. Less than last year, but I still picked up some Allium Sphaerocephalon bulbs at 50% off. There are always bulbs left over from the selling season. Intrepid garden shoppers can get out and help clear those bulbs from the shelf for a discount. Yeah, its cold for planting -but not too cold to plant those bulbs.

Sale rack at the BBG

Often available are the stalwarts of the everyday garden -tulips, daffodils, hyacinths overstocked by the retailer. But the BBG had some different Alliums and a species tulip or two. So, if this is your kind of gig, stop by your local nursery and help them unload some of those bulbs. But don't do it unless its at a discount. Planting in the cold is only worth it when its backed up by a solid bargain. The nursery should be eager to let those bulbs go. And as long as your soil isn't frozen, and here in NYC it is not, you can get those bulbs in the ground.

Allium Sphaerocephalon


Friday, December 5, 2008

For Sale: This Plastic Christmas Tree


This tree is actually for sale. I found it online when looking up live trees! Some people! They just have to be different.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Long Live the Christmas Tree

When I worked for a NYC garden designer, it was a matter of business to be putting up Christmas trees and holiday decorations after the last frozen impatien was pulled out of the soil. I hadn't understood that holiday decorations were a gardener's business until then, or that it was in Manhattan, on certain streets. I thought, until those under-lit December days, that a family would be spirited into selecting their own tree, hanging their personal decorations with the kids, and generally enjoying the spirit of the moment. But for some, selecting and mounting a live-cut tree is a gardener's business and happy is the gardener to take in some extra cash before the long dry spell of winter.

J&L Landscaping, my local nursery, has brought in the post-Thanksgiving selection of cut Christmas trees. I like to smell them as I pass to and from the subway. It tells me what time of year it is, should I forget for not hearing 24 hour Christmas tunes on the radio. There were quite a few years where I felt I was a live, uncut Christmas tree kind of guy. Despite my feeling for this, it was largely a theoretical notion as I have never actually done this. Nor is it practical in the city or anywhere, really, as the tree will suffer going from a cold exterior environment to the warm, dry of the house and then back out again into the freezing landscape. I think I could keep it alive, but not without complete devotion.

Recently I heard an npr radio announcement for an ad man who wants to modernize the image of Christmas, noting with particular difficulty the modernizing of the "overly 19th century Santa Claus." I think the plastic tree, for a while anyway, lent the flavor of modern to home adornment during Christmas. Yet, I think the reason Christmas lands so squarely in the nineteenth century (or earlier) is, of course, the sentimental nature of the holiday. But isn't it also because the 19th century is a time far enough away for it to have the tone of simpler times -but close enough for us to be able to relate? Somehow, too, images and thoughts amount to 19th century life as closer to nature despite industrial realities and major resource depletion of, say -trees. Our live Christmas tree brings us closer to an image of us in spirit with the natural world, connected. Even if collecting our Christmas tree is a bit of ritual theater, the symbolism is overwhelming and might even be superstitious if it weren't so abstract, so truly distant from our lives.

My wife and I go to Minnesota to her father's place every Christmas. He goes out to a tree farm and cuts a grand tree every year. Its always set up by the time we arrive. We do not always get our own tree because we are never in our house for the holiday. But some years, we do head around the corner to J&L and pick out a short balsam or noble fir for our apartment.

My family has teetered between plastic and live-cut trees and have now comfortably settled into the "don't have to go shopping for a tree and don't have to vacuum needles" option that is the plastic tree. I don't complain.

I recently came across the National Christmas Tree Association Tree Types web page. Who knew there was an association for the Christmas Tree? And why not? I guess it would be more responsible, but less spirited, to have called the group the National Christmas Tree Growers Association. Anyhow, on their page they list the 10 Myths of the live cut Christmas tree- according to them.

Most of what they state seems reasonable enough, but in our urban world distaste for pesticides, fungicides, and the like is pretty strong. So the only myth they might not have succeeded in debunking is that one, in my opinion. Problem is that no-one wants bugs or unhealthy trees in their home, but don't want the residues of treatment either.

What of the environmental debate: which is better, the fake or the live?

The Council on the Environment of NYC has a local grower's list for pickup at NYC farmer's markets.
The Brooklyn Botanical Garden Christmas tree identifier.

Some different types of Christmas trees available locally:

Some images courtesy of the NCTA


Noble Fir


Fraser Fir


Balsam Fir


Colorado Blue Spruce

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Year Without Acorns or "Squirrel Nuts!"

Recently there has been a million posts here and there about the missing oak acorns. I can say with some certainty that most of these posts and threads grew out of this Washington Post story. It spread like post-Thanksgiving wildfire, popping up on every other person's blog. Like its some kind of signal of the Armageddon.


But I hadn't noticed a decline in acorns. I hadn't noticed them at all. Probably because oaks are not widely planted on my neighborhood's streets and because I haven't been in Prospect Park lately. And the squirrels, are they thin and attacking everything? No, they have plenty of goods to eat in our fair city. This is the city where squirrels will come up to you for a snack. Garbage is not off limits either, and neither is your garden. So the squirrels seem to be hanging in there- at least here in NYC.


As a child I grew up with acorns; all our trees were oaks. I cannot remember when they would begin to fall, but I especially prized the longer ones that held onto their caps. We would have so many that I would collect them in pails; have pails full. I had some idea that this was a good practice, saving the acorns. It was the only thing I had a lot of anyway and I like collecting them. Maybe I intended to be squirrel-like, though I don't remember my reasoning, pure speculation.


But I think I know where all those acorns went this year. All the banks are now on the acorn standard. Yep. The acorn standard. Now all your deposits are backed by the full faith of the oak forest. Yep. Sorry squirrels. Acorns now as good as gold. Maybe you should have saved more, maybe you should have been prepared, maybe a little less shady dealing Mr. Squirrel.


A vault at JP MORGAN, filled with the acorns. CITIBANK, tower of acorns. WELLS FARGO, Conestoga wagons cartin' those acorns west. Worth more than the dollar. I should have saved all those acorns from my childhood; just that I liked them green so much more than brown.


bronze cast acorn caps

Hardiness Explained

Straight from the New England Wild Flower Society website, Bill Cullina explains how perennials survive the winter. Its fascinating. Part II coming in January.