Sunday, September 25, 2016

Random Good Things

Behind the house right now we have  such a nice mix going on: (back to front) cotoneaster franchetii, Queen Elizabeth rose, calamagrostis brachytricha, tall pass-along purple asters, yellow rudbeckia, and Lemon Queen sunflower (front left).

Seed pods of southern magnolia

Erodiums, double and single.  They are in pots because they are tender and have to join the inside crowd for the winter.

Lablab beans on the trellis in front of the house.  At least they were happy with the heat.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

My Other 'Other' Garden

I'm almost always blogging about our home garden, with all of the troughs, the cramped front yard, the over-stuffed garden between the house and garage, and the backyard behind that.  A few times I've blogged about my 'other' garden at work, where I colonized a section outside of our Newark warehouse and made my own little version of the High Line, the famous public garden just outside of our Manhattan office.  I must confess that I have a third garden that I'm responsible for at my son's elementary school a couple blocks away.  Above is one side of the front border that we've been working on for a couple years.  Below is the other side.  The garden continues on the side of the building as well.

I have a real love/hate relationship with this garden as it's hot and dry, like all three of my gardens.  The expectation is that the PTA parents, with me as the chair of the gardening committee, will provide funds and volunteer hours to beautify the school grounds.  It works...mostly.  I love having an annual budget for plants and equipment, but I'm not great at gardening by committee.  I'm a dictator I guess, or to put it more kindly, I'd say that I have strong opinions.  I've always had help on the committee with the social parts of the garden like Facebook announcements about volunteering, organizing watering schedules, and such.  

The last couple years I've been trying to direct our plant purchasing to material that thrives in dry, hot conditions, because watering is a chore that few want to do while school is closed for the summer.  I've also tried to focus on plants that bloom in spring or fall, when the school is actually open.  This front border is planted with a mix of pre-existing Knock-Out roses, iris, lilies, barberry and juniper,  to which we've added miscanthus, pennisetum, various sedums, asters, mums, catmint, phlox, rudbeckia, coneflowers, Russian sage, bulbs, etc.  The list reads like a rogue's gallery of tough customers.

Right before school opened I redid the plantings in the pair of urns near the entrance.  The purple scaveola was left over from our spring scheme of pansies, ranunculus, and daffodils.  It loved the neglect of the dry summer.

The toughest part of this garden for me is still the fact that it's a public garden: plants often appear in it with no notice (but more often plants disappear), kids run through the beds in the elation of dismissal from the building, a lot of trash gets thrown into it, and the recently-retired school custodian would sometimes hack things back without conferring with anyone on the garden committee.  

It's definitely a labor of love.  When I get discouraged I remind myself that volunteering for the school garden is much more preferable to me than almost any other type of PTA activity available!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Chanticleer Living Room

The stone living room suite at Chanticleer.

It was too hot to sit on during our visit last week on a 90-degree day.

Imagine how nice it would feel on a cool autumn evening...

...when nothing's on TV.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Ruin Garden at Chanticleer

After years of talking about it, my neighbor Ray and I finally made the 100-mile trip to Chanticleer yesterday.  The garden as a whole is wildly creative, as I knew it would be based on everything that I'd read about it, but I kept coming back to how generous it was, how open and playful the whole collection of gardens is.  I could blog about it for a week (and I might) but I wouldn't be able to capture the endless sense of surprise and satisfaction of visiting.

I was looking forward to the Ruin Garden, and wasn't disappointed.  A purpose-built stone house in 'ruins', it's moody and mysterious and fun all at once.  Above is the side view as we walked around to the entry.

The walk leading up to the entry.  Oak saplings of various heights are in the front bed of the patio, lending a feeling of desolation and abandon.

The main feature of the ruin is this massive water feature, part pool, part table.  It must be 18-20 feet long.

The mantelpiece over the fireplace.

Detail of the mantelpiece.

One of the rooms.  The plants are pruned and tended to bring a feeling of abandon, of nature regaining control.  Large woody material is planted too close to the walls, as if self-seeded there.

This group of ilex felt like the family of spirits that inhabits the space.

Fireplaces and pockets in the walls are busting with plants.

The attention to detail, and the humor, is wonderful.

Conveyer belt of succulents.

A more formal planting on what would be the back patio of the house.

Weeping Norway spruces haunt the exterior like large dark spirits.

Haunted souls float in the fountain.

Creepy and satisfying.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Almost Too Hot to Blog Edition

Back from a week at the beach we find it's too hot to do damn near anything in the garden, but hey, that young crepe myrtle looks so nice backlit by the morning sun...and I love those white orbs of the rattlesnake master floating on the right.

Before I retreated to the (relative) coolness of the house, I unwrapped the last three hypertufa containers that I made 4 or 5 weeks ago.  They are the darker ones in front in the above photo.

If it doesn't cool off I'll be researching 'dwarf tropicals' to plant in them!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

What the What?

 Last weekend I spent hours dragging the hoses around the garden, slowly providing what Mother Nature had not.  The plants were on the ropes from too many days in the upper 90's with unrelenting sun.  Fast forward a week and the rain gauge has 4" from the last few days, with more falling as I type and even more predicted today and tomorrow.  

As gardeners we learn to adapt to the feast or famine cycle.  I'm so grateful to not be lugging hoses this weekend.  

The path past the garage is reaching its late summer overgrown best.  Each wet plant that escapes its stake and teeters into the pathway soaks my pants legs as I walk through, but I don't care.

The bed just behind the house has good things going on: perennial sunflowers, grasses, eupatorium, solidago, and monarda, but you wouldn't know it, as I never had the heart to pull the self-sown sunflowers at the front of the bed.  I hope the goldfinches appreciate them.  

I'm sure we'll be back to hot, dry summer soon.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sometimes I Make Things Other Than Troughs

I made this little wall shelf during the winter.  When it's too snowy and cold to be on my bike, in the garden, or casting troughs, I need an outlet for my busy hands.  The shelf is about 14" wide and 6" high, perfect for working on at the table while I drink coffee watch it snow outside.

The shelf started with a wooden armature, a few layers of 2" blue foam board (not visible), and Apoxy, a two-part epoxy clay (the gray part in the photos).  I form the detail by hand over a few hours.  The Apoxy is hard enough to carve, file or sand after it cures for 24 hours.  

Once I was happy with the final form, I painted it with a light tan acrylic paint, then glazed it with burnt umber and mica dust, which gives it depth and sparkle.

I've always admired the basket-weave form of early Christian capitals.  Above and below are photos from The Cloisters, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's medieval museum in the Bronx.

I like these two a lot.  Maybe next winter...