Thursday, May 22, 2008

NH born and NH bred

Michael and I are just back from a trip to NH; we're both from there. There was plenty of family visiting on both sides, but the highlight was seeing Greg (my cousin Peter's son), back from his second tour of duty in Iraq. He's decided not to re-enlist and we're all so, so happy about that. He's got a few more months before his enlistment is up but at least now he's out of harms' way.

When you're from NH, there are some nice ways to eat locally. Saturday night the MacDonald clan (Mike's side of the family) gathered in Rye to feast on steamers and lobster. I laughed out loud when Don (the chef) said we could each have two! Seriously fresh off the boat, plentiful, and delicious.

My mother's birthday is next month. Every year I agonize: what does she not have that she really wants? This year she was explicit: she wanted a window box herb garden, like I described in my book. So I ordered a self-watering container from Gardeners Supply and hung it over the back fence, just outside the kitchen door. As we planted I convinced Mum to pose for me. And now she'll have basil, thyme, fennel, rosemary, parsley, and dill all sumer long.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

welcome to my world

Today was an installation day on Central Park West. We started the job last week, moving the contents from 4 wooden boxes into 4 stainless steel boxes. It's heavy work, combining a little bit of gardening with a lot of strategic lifting. We're moving 15 foot trees with large rootballs, trying not to disturb them as we cut away the old containers, then twist, pivot, and heft the tree in a dead lift and drop it into place. I'm a little scratched, a little bruised, but the guys bear the brunt of it. And I am SO grateful!

Today we transplanted two large paper birches. (see above) The roots of one had broken through its container and grown into the crack between the terrace floor and the wall. We had to saw through it...2.5 inches thick. We also replaced an old crabapple that has suffered from apple-cedar rust for years, then moved a bunch of small shrubs and perennials: sandcherry, creeping juniper, black-leaf elderberry, elephant rudbeckia, and daylillies galore.

It was a glorious day: sunny, 70 degrees, a light breeze. When the work was done, we sat and looked out over the boat pond in Central Park and thought how much nicer life in the city would be if we had a terrace like this one to come to at the end of the day. Seventeen floors above the fray, listening to the sound of birch leaves blowing in the wind, the world looks a lot kinder and gentler.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

et voila!

As some of you may know, we've recently moved from the 4th floor to the 3rd floor of our building. Alas, the move was not to a bigger apartment (the new place is exactly the same size, just flipped over) and most people wonder WTH we went through all the trouble of moving.

The picture above is a big part of why I wanted to move. In NYC most pre-war studio apartments are dark dark dark. Why? Because they were the maids' rooms! Think about it. Would you keep a nice sunny room for yourself or give it to the maid?

People like me don't have maids, and apartments like mine don't have sunlight. The 4th floor apartment had one window that looked across at another window. So we had to keep the curtains closed all the time. But on the 3rd floor the single window faces a brick wall, in other curtain required! For someone like me, who can't live without plants, this was a major selling point.

After fitting the window frame with fluorescent grow lights on three sides, I hung two, 8-foot acrylic poles across the window and filled them with my Rhipsalis collection. (Ok, there's one Ceropegia in there. Can you spot it?!)

Next I went on line and found a template for making the window treatments. Bought the insulation board at the Depot, cut and glued (and glued and glued) the pieces, went fabric shoppping in the garmet district (that was fun!), hauled out the Singer sewing machine I got for my 14th birthday, et voila!

There's still a lot to do in the apartment: I haven't got a desk and we need bookcases. But now that the plants are in place, I can relax a little. When plants are in the house, all is right with the world.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

too many choices

It felt great to get out to the house this weekend. Even though it rained every day and the fog never lifted and the temperatures were in the forties and I had to go back to sleeping in my flannel nightgown and Charlie Brown hat. Because after two weeks away, home is where my heart is.

The lettuces grew like crazy while we were away and we ate salads so fresh Michael swore he could taste the chlorophyll. When you eat something that was alive a mere five minutes earlier...well it doesn't get any better than that. I heard Barbara Damrosch speak at the NY Hort Society a few weeks ago and she said you can cut off an entire head of lettuce and it will regrow. I've always picked a few leaves from the outside of each head, but I think I'll experiment with Barbara's suggestion next weekend.

As I walked around the yard I wondered how to decide what to blog about: the white flowers of Amalanchier (aka Serviceberry) dramatically covered with drops of rain? the young leaves of Tiger Eye Sumac and black leaf Elderberry, bursting forth with those bold red pigments in full force? So many choices and it's barely even May.

Since both the sumac and elderberry have edible parts, I'll be able to keep them in my garden when I start the renovation. (I'm re-planting my front garden beds to make them entirely edible.) With a little luck I can start digging up the non-edibles next weekend. And don't worry, I'm sending them all to a nice farm in the country where they'll have plenty of room to run and play.

And lest you wonder, there's plenty of action indoors as well. The houseplants are well aware it's spring, and I've got Hoya lacunosa,

Hoya lobbii,

and Hoya bilobata all in bloom.