Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

Monday, January 5, 2009


I’m a woman of a certain age, a grandma, dignified, polite, law-abiding. You wouldn’t think I’d go dumpster diving. You’d be wrong.
Stepping off the number 10 bus on Central Park West, minding my own business, I spied a woman throwing a large flower arrangement in the corner trashcan. It had probably once decorated the lobby of a grand apartment building. Like catnip to a cat, it lured me. There among the browning Star-gazer lilies, the limp roses and the curling callas, were five gorgeous stems of blue hydrangea, mature and crisp and just ready to complete their drying in my warm livingroom. For the result, see above.

©Alan & Linda Detrick

Piled in front of a neigh-
borhood grocery store
were crates and baskets
ready for the trash man.
I retrieved this mush-
room basket, sprayed it
with yellow paint and
made a grand container
for pansies. No need to
cut drainage holes be-
cause water seeps
through the cracks.

©Alan & Linda Detrick, Ellen Spector Platt design

Philadelphia where I grew up, was a proper city with alleyways behind
houses. Residents put out their garbage cans in the back, and trucks
could drive down, grab the garbage, all properly hidden from street life.
New York isn’t so dignified and mountains of plastic bags with both
garbage and recycling form on front curbs several times a week.
The great part of this system is that people display their larger items
and reusables for all to see. No need for FreeCycle.com. Two years ago
I snagged a fabulous green metal chair sans seat, to serve both as plant
stand and trellis for a climbing Hoya in a containerized succulent garden.
It’s still serving with honor on my rooftop. (above, center)

Last spring a storm pruned large limbs of a flowering pear on Second Ave.
Rushing to make a meeting, I had enough time to snap off some pieces
and stuff them
in my ever-
present canvas
bag. Later at
home I clipped
the stems and
watched the
buds bloom in
tepid water.

My New Years Eve gift below. See the explanation in my comment to Judy Lowe, at the bottom of the post SHOWOFF on 12/29/08.


Unknown said...

I enjoy reading just the title of the blog entry and guessing which Ellen wrote it. I guessed wrong today!

Anonymous said...

Such an artist! Yes, someone's trash can become someone else's garden decor!
Well done.

Ellen Spector Platt said...

Thanks Shirley. The last thing I picked from the trash was not for the garden, but the book 'Infidel' by Ayaan Hirst Ali, a memoir of a woman's flight and survival. It was on top of the paper recycling near my bus stop, obviously meant to be part of a pass-along pile.
Once I pulled this book, another woman made a selection, murmuring 'I guess it's OK to take these books. permission garnted!

Anonymous said...

Ellen's watchful eye extends beyond "found" items on the streets of New York to awareness of possibilities for whatever she encounters wherever she may be. There lies an important life lesson from the gardener for all of us every day. Thank you my friend!

Ellen Spector Platt said...

D.H. I'm blushing.

Frank said...

I have thought about the back-alley garbage versus the front sidewalk garbage, having lived with both styles. What does it say about us NYers that we arrange to smell eachothers garbage? What do guests who come over on the night before pick-up, think? And what of garbage in the alley?
Should be relegate our waste to the rear, hidden to all but the trash man? What does that say about us? Maybe its only fair and good to present our waste to the eyes and noses of our neighbors? Does this embarass us into less wastefulness? I don't think so based on the amount of trash on our sidewalks. Something doesn't feel right about hiding it in the back, though I suppose it is more pleasant if a little bit of theater.

What is this about Garden show tickets????

Ellen Spector Platt said...

NYC Garden, I'm definitely a front curb garbage picker. It's part of my multitasking, walking to my destination and surveying good stuff as I go.
Not pleasant, especially during a garbage strike, but as you say, it reminds us how monumental the city disposal problem is.
Someday I'll write my indoor worm composting, a tiny attempt to reduce the piles. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

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