Saturday, April 30, 2011

Things Grow

These are almost ready to bloom, even taller now than the day photographed.

Native honeysuckle survived a rough transplant from the front yard.

My favorite Dicentra, the eximia bleeding heart.

Friday, April 29, 2011

I Love The Smell...

Smell that? You smell that?


Cat shit, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that.


I love the smell of cat shit in the morning.

The system. It hasn't worked. I stepped out on my way to work this morning and all I could smell was the festering. They went in five spots last night, on top of the mesh, in a 40 square foot area. I'm now thinking the only way is to bird net the whole area until the plants fill in. Only then, it seems, the cats will go elsewhere -mostly. But enough for me to claim...victory.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Green Scent

The basic Geranium. Pink flowers in summer. But what is it that makes it worth growing?

Crush the leaves in your pale pink hands and lift towards the nose. It's the first green scent of the year -not like flowers, mind you, more like positivity, goodness, well-being.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Poll With Lilacs

I rounded the corner around 9pm tonight, and I was wondering just what is that scent suddenly ruined by the expulsions of an explosively accelerating SUV that also wrapped the corner? Oh, I see it, Larry's got flowering lilacs now. It only takes a one, on still nights like this one.

On the right, you'll see something new -a poll. The question is as inane as they come, so why not get everyone in on the action? Simply put, I am thinking about using a custom domain so that I don't have to garble the mouthful that dot blogspot dot com really is. I use the Blogger platform for the facility web page at work, and my experience has been that whenever I say the web address, students' eyes glaze over. Short and sweet is best, but NYCG has been taken in all its forms. The dot coms have already been scavenged as well, so here are the remaining choices:

  • Something altogether different
  • Don't change a thing


Cool Weather, Flowering Weeds, Beach Farm

These are the weeds blooming in our beach farm's plots this week, maybe this whole month, and year? Click on the pictures for monster size.

Dead Nettle, Lamium purpureum.

Pretty enough for a weed. Below, its flowering-at-the-same-time look-a-like. Both have tooth-edged, hairy leaves that purple at the top, upright growth habit, tubular pink-purple flowers, and the purple-green square stems of the mint-family. But, they do have significantly different leaf shapes, venation, and upon close inspection, dissimilar flowers. 

Henbit, Lamium amplexicaule

At first appears to be a chickweed, either Stellaria spp. or Cerastium spp, but the four-petaled flower says Whitlow Grass, Draba verna. Compare.

Likes dry sites, hmm. Like the sandy farm.

Quite probably Geranium robertianum, or Herb Robert or Stinky Bob.

This bloomed late late late fall too.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Foggy Mornings

And Angelique. As tulips go, these are pretty good. Double form -sometimes more so, pink, white, green, peachy, lightly scented, and returning year after year.

 It's atmospheric.

A Pea Grows In Brooklyn

It is well too soon to say for sure, but it is quite possible that sometime in mid to late May I will be speaking with Amy Eddings, host of WNYC's All Things Considered, in a segment which I believe runs regularly under the title "Last Chance Foods" -produced by Joy Wang. It was Joy who had contacted me after visiting this here blog. It's possible we will talk about growing peas and pea shoots, and now I'm thinking of growing every pea seed I have in my seed box. What is it about being interviewed that makes you wish you were an expert?

Speaking of peas, I noticed this pea growing not far from our stoop, sharing the nasty, nasty space with the utility poles. A pea grows in Brooklyn -indeed, but from where did it's seed hail?

These are the tomatoes, their growth stunted somewhat by sending them outside on sunny days. Some are beginning to yellow, cotyledons shriveled, and roots extending below their bond tube pots. Now they begin to demand potting up and whisper to hell with your peas.

I recently watered with more fish fertilizer, which I think instigated this bout with fungus at the pots' bottoms. I rubbed it off, filled the plastic containers with some soil, and shrug it off. Still a month before tomato planting time at the beach farm.

A painting I have been working on, with which I am finally hitting my stride. When it's time to plant the tomatoes, the park will look like this, and when the tomatoes are planted, this painting ought to be finished.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


For those of you who celebrate Easter, happy and rejoice. Spend a few minutes in the garden today, or in a park. Life is up and so should we.

I'm not a religious person -in the sense of participating in organized religious activity, but it is not a reach to see the Christian liturgical cycles as mirroring the natural cycles. The hope in Christmas, sacrifice and work of lent, the Resurrection of Easter.

It's springtime and today you will feel it -it's going to be quite warm and probably humid. Showers or not, get out there. I will be delivering a basket of Easter eggs and chocolate to my 96 year old grandmother to brighten her day at the facility. She misses hard-boiled eggs. Then off to my aunt's, deeper on the Island, for an early Easter dinner.

Incidentally, an Italian woman who works at a local breakfast joint told us last Sunday, Palm Sunday, that back in Italy, and here back in the day, people made baskets out of those palms, not just crosses -and that was special. Every year they would try to outdo one another, creating new, crazier basket weaves. Was this how we came to deliver eggs in baskets on Easter?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sunday Morning At The Beach Farm

The garlic is coming on strong now and the least weedy bed at the beach. Waiting for May's scapes.

Finally, with the recent rains, the chard has sprouted, but not before a thousand weedy competitors also sprouted. It wasn't too hard to identify the chard with its red colorations. Ack, that white thing is a paint chip from the scavenged fence.

The broccoli is finally growing under the tents, although they've taken a little beating with all the wind.

And there, too, the weeds are a sproutin'. The tented broccoli has a tender quality.  Those on the edges get whipped by the fabric rippling in the wind, but they're hanging on.

Compare the tented broccoli to the broccoli planted outside. Both are growing, but the untented row is tougher, more upright, and a little smaller.

But here is the real reason for the tents. This is last November's broccoli, over-wintered and growing. It's already been getting chomped by caterpillars. You can see the chomp-outs in all the leaves.

Pulling weeds from the mixed greens is fine finger work. We in-filled afterward with new seeds.

While weeding, multiple earthworms popped out of the ground. What must weeding sound like to them? The end of the world?

Notice the colorful sheen on its side.

The snap peas weren't worth photographing as they have changed very little. I feel that these may need to be pulled before producing anything, as they are in the line of the future rows of tomatoes. Wolf, one of our fellow gardeners, and one with three plots of his own, told us that we are serious enough to have more space and that we should get more space. He is right, we need it, and we are hoping it is just there for the taking as it was for him. Maybe our neighbor will never show up. He planted cabbages last year and never once seemed to return to check on them.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Gone Golfing

Last Monday was one of the few warm days since March one, and I intended to use it to photograph Van Cortlandt golf course for some possible future paintings. I was under pressure to get my shots under a cloudy sky, and only a few hours till the sun would burn off the clouds. Problem was that I couldn't find any visual access to the course from behind the fences and brambles. So, I followed the trail that followed the fence. 

I made my way around the southern reaches of the long, finger-like -err, what's the word, I don't play golf, uh, fairway? Throughout I found places where human desire and manual dexterity folded back chain-link so that I could jump on the green and steal a few shots.  And that's what it felt like -crime. The distinction between the course and the surrounding bramble creates a strong division, and I understood which side of the fence I belonged. If I am ever to progress toward making paintings of courses, I will need appropriate access, which I hope does not come with the 50 dollar tee fee, a permit, and a golf ball driven off my head.

Off the trail was a swampy pond-side vista. It struck me as a man-made pond that once graced a private landscape, but has since gone wild.

The willows' green is really quite remarkable, delivering such intensity that gray morning.

I crossed a ramshackle bridge covered with bird seed.

And the birds couldn't wait for me to pass.

The skunk cabbage was up, unfurling.

Maple flowers had littered the ground.

Ficaria verna, a buttercup, also known as Lesser Celandine.

It's a well known invasive. If you're out in early spring, you'll see this in wet woodlands.

Blue jay feather catches my eye.

I find myself between two greens, the liminal browns I suppose, on a path intensely dark.

A stream runs between the path and the course to the west.

Exceptionally flat and exceptionally straight. I start to think about where I am.

And the evidence of the old railroad makes itself known.

I realize that I must be on the Old Putnam Line, which I saw marked on a google map.

To the side of the trail, hundreds of trout lilies. The same were recently pointed out to me by my friend Jane, in who's garden they have formed dense mats under some trees. She hadn't seen them there in 40 years of gardening. I was aware of trout lilies -the flower, but never noticed the leaves, and then Marie put it all together the other day at 66sf.

When I approached the tunnel, I had to decide how much further I was willing to go. A little, I decided, and two hundred yards further I did turn around, and that was when I saw the rabbit.

My intention that morning was never to explore the park, so I made my way through a hole in the golf course fence, hustled up a green embankment, jumped over a section of fallen chain link, to the trail which we had been re-rerouting a few weeks earlier. From there I headed to the van, as I was beginning to feel ill, too hot, even for such a warm day.

I'm still not over the cold that developed that day, as it makes its way into the depths of my lungs. I blame the blasted winds that seem to be pummeling us daily, and especially on those days I need or want to be outside, such as mulch day at the Greenwood or yesterday at the beach farm. That post soon.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dead Man's Mulch

I arrived early, the line already formed for the free trees. There were four types -Kwanzan Cherry, Prunus serrulata 'Kwanzan', Redbud, Cercis canadensis, Bur Oak, Quercus macrocarpa, and Carolina Silverbell, Halesia tetraptera. I happened to think the Bur Oak had fabulously interesting bark for a young tree, but I wasn't there for the young trees, I was there for the dead -the chipped wood pile.

And I was the only one. At first. Like that empty restaurant you pull into, it seemed as soon as I was bagging up, the pile was mobbed. No problem, there was plenty, and what they were giving away for free, I might've paid for.

This is the leaf and needle mold mixed with partially decomposed wood. It is an excellent, pine-earth scented mulch where I was only expecting plain old wood chips. I bagged 5 large to the point of splitting, then loaded them in the van, where they will remain until I fix the cat problem.

The wood chips are good enough for my intended use on the paths at the beach farm, and I will be back for more.

On my way out, the tree corral was dwindling, but the line remained strong.

You do not need to wait for an event to pick up free wood chips or mulch at Greenwood Cemetery. Go during open hours to the 5th Avenue gate and ask the guard to direct you to the mulch pile. Bring sturdy bags or containers and a shovel.

Free wood chips and mulch in parts of NYC may be a direct result of the Asian Longhorn Beetle and the subsequent quarantine program. Tastes like lemonade to me.