Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A showcase for annuals

A recent chance walk in the Conservatory Garden's English Garden, in the northwestern part of Central Park, made me think about annuals in a very different light. Annuals can be used very badly. In unironic rows at the edges of beds, for example.

And they can be used very well. See above, to illustrate the point. Bouvardia ternifolia is the bright orange flower, the purple sweet potato vine with the cut leaves is Ipomea ‘Bewitched’; the purple grass is Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum', and the lime green striped leaves are no longer Coleus, but Solenostemon ‘The Line’ or ‘Gay’s Delight’ (same thing).

Above, Perilla 'Magilla' and Melianthus major (yay, South Africa in the house!). 

I was very fortunate to be walked through the garden a couple of days after my first visit, by its curator, Diane Schaub, a very patient woman who rattled off plant names as I scribbled furiously. And it is she who responsible for the plant choices and pairings. 

I won't tell you more because you can read all about it, with lots more pictures (these are the leftovers), and lots more names, on Gardenista, soon. 

I am looking at my own terrace with a gleam in my eye, now. That's Perilla 'Magilla' again. 

Cardoons (Cynara cardunculus) and lime yellow zinnias ('Envy') are cool and silly together. 

The gorgeous leaves of Tibouchina grandifolia.

And in the outer beds, where there are more shrubs and perennials, the lovely, fading flowers of oak leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia).

The annuals will come out in three weeks time. In time for bulbs to be planted. 45,000 of them.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Picnic in Central Park

After doing a bit of this, yesterday evening, in the Conservatory Garden...

...we did a bit of that.

While we ate Vince remarked, It's been a very long time since we had a picnic. 

He was right. The Harlem move knocked the picnic right out of us.

It's been over  a year since our last picnic, on the roof in Brooklyn. And before that, there was this one, with our healthy, happy kitty (who has been rallying  over the last few days).

In fact, there were lots of picnics.

And it has been a year, now. 

Perhaps we'll picnic more often.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Central Park botanical walk

Central Park's North Woods
12pm - 2pm

Join me on an edible botanicals ramble through Central Park's North Woods. We'll spot and discuss weedy edible greens, from prolific pseudo-grains like lamb's quarters and amaranth, to easy-to-recognise pokeweed, and burdock. We'll see burnweed and greenbriar, sumac and spicebush, and talk about what to do with them.

We'll see fruit and nut-bearing trees, the plant that killed Mrs Lincoln, and a few others inbetween. If we are lucky, there may be a mushroom or two, but we need some rain!

It is migration season for the birds that use the Atlantic Flyway, and we are likely to encounter songbirds and their friends en route south, too.

We meet at 12pm at the  SW corner of Central Park North and Lenox Avenue.

What cows should not eat...

At last, a mystery solved.

For months I've been eyeing a plant in one of the planter boxes on the eastern side of the terrace. It came up near the jewelweed, and I had no idea what it could be. Now it's in bloom and it's obvious: white snakeroot, Argeratina altissima (formerly Eupatorium rugosum). Famous for killing Mrs Lincoln (mother of Abraham), by way of her cow. Milk sickness was passed on to humans and calves by cows who'd grazed on the plant,  and apparently killed thousands of people in the 19th century before they figured out the cause. I wonder if it still does, occasionally?

I know this silly plant. It's in bloom all over the New York City right now and crowds the paths in woodland areas. When I was Litter Mobbing in Prospect Park we were surrounded by it for weeks. It is all over the abandoned backyards on either side of us. But I wasn't expecting it in a planter box on the terrace, and had never paid special attention to the young leaves, and so failed to recognize it. This shady spot has inadvertently become the native corner. I like it.

(Speaking of woodlands: there'll be an edible botanicals walk this Saturday in Central Park, from 12pm - 2pm. Details to follow.)

Friday, September 26, 2014

East, through Harlem

Every few weeks I walk east, way east, through Spanish Harlem, to do some shopping.

If I had a garage for it and the gas, I'd be tempted.

Peppers, I think...

...I guess, after the divorce, you need the movers?

Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico, babee. Byoodeeful.

Which makes me think of Pablo.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sourdough focaccia

Sourdough sultana focaccia.

Yes, it's sourdough weather again (a few days ago the coconut oil in the pantry cupboard turned from liquid to solid and I knew the season had changed).

I made just one sourdough loaf in the summer, and it lay down and cried. Then I did. Boules and breads that call for a 500 degree oven belong to the cool and cold months. But the starter has been living in the fridge with weekly feedings, and the other day I suddenly craved - craved - the sour cherry focaccia that is served at Balthahzar, for breakfast.

In Harlem, sultanas had to stand in for cherries, and the first attempt is quite good, though not perfect. I added olive oil to the dough, and used the water the sultanas had soaked in. When the hot loaf came out of the oven, I sprinkled sugar over the top.

Later, I sent a hunk upstairs to Wolfgang, who told me it went very well with some liverwurst, which is what he served to his family of eight, long ago, in Germany, on Sundays.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Green-Wood botanical walk


Green-Wood Cemetery
27 September 2014, 12.30pm - 3.00pm

As I wrote in 66 Square Feet - A Delicious Life, some of the city's most beautiful trees grow in Green-Wood. I have sat under them in the hottest months and felt cool, and have rustled through the leaf litter in fall, sharing the grounds with no one but a stately ground hog, who is king of Green-Wood.

Join me on a quiet exploration of one of the most peaceful parts of the city. Also the most hilly. Rare, in New York City.

Image: Google Maps

After rain, the lawns are home to mushrooms and sometimes one finds maitake growing on the roots of the mostly stately trees.


It will be a walk with eyes trained to what grows in lawns and on trees. We may see little. We may see a lot. But it will be beautiful.

We meet on the sidewalk at Green-Wood's main entrance on 5th Avenue and 25th Street. Closest subway is the R at 25th Street. More details will be emailed before we walk.

Bring a sandwich and drink, and a sense of adventure.

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