Sunday, October 26, 2014

Have Garden, Will Travel

What is one to do with a garden full of plants when moving in the dead of winter? Certain plants can be given away, but one gets attached to others. My large-ish Hydrangea petiolaris, Grandma's tea rose, the iris, Dicentra eximia? I can dig out almost any plant in my garden at almost any time for transplant here, but they need to travel. Far. To a frozen earth zone. It will already be below freezing in a week's time there, it may never freeze here.

Some cuttings will fly in Betsy's suitcase on this Tuesday's trip, although it may well be too late for them. Mulch will be applied. Others will need to be nurseried until they can be collected, driven, and replanted. This may very well be in the heat of summer. Not ideal, but I've been lucky before.

It would seem, at the moment, that moving plants should be of the least concern for anyone leaving their position of ten years, moving twelve hundred miles away from friends, family, a network of colleagues, packing an apartment and two art studios, and going about shutting down one's life infrastructure (bank accounts, utility accounts, mail, and all else). The plants, then? Really?

Yes. Consider it a way to carry forward a piece of myself, something familiar, all component to an identity built over a decade in one place. I will not see the neighbors from the garden as they pass, but the plants will remind me of them. I will not be able to smell the sea or listen to the cacophony of the fall migration, but the plants will suggest it. The plants become a memory bank, or rather a trigger to it. They help establish myself in a new place. This is nothing new to me. I have perennial sunflowers from my garden in New Mexico, and fifty year old iris and roses from my Grandmother's house, and asters and primrose from a field in Maine. If this summer's herbicide spraying didn't kill them, I will move Mayapple saves, transplanted from Van Cortlandt Park, and Seaside Goldenrod from a pier in Red Hook.

When we move there are always things we are eager to leave behind. These things go without saying, all the better to help the forgetting. Carrying forward and leaving behind is inventive, recombinative action. We aim to change, so we change something.

Chrysanthemum (your choice, could be Dendranthemum) 'Sheffield Pink' is the jazz hands of the autumn garden. A few stolons of these will travel, but might not survive Zone 4b.

I have many asters, I cannot even recall which is which any more. Rooted cuttings will travel. New York Asters are good within Zone 4-8.

'Alma Potschke' will travel, although it has not done well for me here (NE Asters suffer disease), Zone 4-8.

Gaura blooms long, is graceful, but I have a hard time believing it will travel well. Maybe. Unlikely to survive zone 4b.

Clever aphids, so well-matching the colors of the lily stem, won't travel. The lilies will, however, be shipping out with Betsy on Tuesday.

The autumn red leaves of primrose will travel. Zone 4-8.

Heuchera, or Coral Bells as above, will travel. Zone 3-9.

Well, no, not these. Although we can bag up the begonia for winter storage.

Hmm. The 'New Dawn' climber is a beast. It's blooming again and can tolerate some shade, in this case, underneath the Zelkova. It will get pruned hard, and will travel, but when? May need to be nurseried until warmer weather returns.

The shrub rose? Sure, it blooms forever, but I've never gotten attached to it, so it won't travel.

Today I will head out to inventory the garden. Some plants will be missed, it is mid autumn after all. And soon, very soon, a plant giveaway will be necessary. Interested? Email me:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Autumn Opus

Two weeks ago Betsy and I went up to Saugerties to walk around Opus Forty, sculptor Harvey Fite's dry laid stone project at the base of the Catskills. We had been by before, but always too near closing time or on the wrong day so that we never had the opportunity to wander around. If you go, plan to spend about an hour or two, and by all means, go in the autumn.

The frog pond. See below.

The museum has little to offer, but the video is worth it, if only for its ancient VHS quality.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


I visited Gettysburg for a new project. Below are some images from the first two days.

I arrived in the evening on Saturday, van camping at a state park in the hills to the west. In the morning, I opened my eyes to this.

The map, marked up as I explored, indicating forest or field.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Sandy Beaches

Life is more interesting at its boundaries, and here both a boundary between the sea and the land and the sports field and the dunes. The redistribution of dune sand, nearly two years ago, was quite a blow to the shoreline ecosystem GNRA is intended to protect. Keeping people off the dunes is a full time job, so the Fed made the right decision when it put up a tall chain link fence instead of trying to police the summer hoards. Now, autumn brings quiet to the dunes and beach, so I took some time after tomato picking to check in on its recovery.

Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, growing across the dune.

Solidago sempervirens, the hardiest of Goldenrod, tolerating salt and wind, drought and flood, poor soil and nearly zero nutrients.

It is hardly considered a garden plant, but its structure, succulent leaves, yellow autumn flowers, and downy late autumn seeds are perfect for the garden.

And insects love it.

In fact, ecologists recognize Seaside Goldenrod for attracting native bees and predatory insects.

The dunes, prior to Sandy, were easily 8 feet above the concrete walkway.

These are now beginning to rebuild with the help of snow fencing and simply keeping off.

I'm always impressed with plants that colonize sandy beaches. Is this because I had the darnedest time trying to grow vegetables in our Long Island sand when I was a teenager?

Cakile edentula, (American) Sea Rocket.

Kali turgida, I think, creating its own dune.

When we leave Brooklyn for another place, one likely known for draining water, not containing it, I know I will miss the beach and tidal marshes, even the scent of muck, the most. Appreciate, respect, and protect it.