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

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


On my rooftop garden I aim to have plantings of major interest from March through December: that means interest to ME, who designs, plants and tends the garden for my condo building. In winter only the desperate smokers face the gale-force winds and frigid cold of the 18thfloor. Here’s what’s making me happy today.

One bush of blue hydrangea is coming to peak form, a Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Endless Summer’ that blooms on both new and old wood. The H.m.‘Nikko Blue’ that were planted before my tenure rarely flower but I hate to rip them out because the foliage is still nice. The hydrangea is backed up by some modest yellow potentilla, enhanced by the bright blue.Also starting to bloom is the lacecap hydrangea ‘Lady in Red’ whose new leaves and stems are a reddish color as advertised and whose foliage will turn deep maroon in fall.

The lavender ‘Hidcote’
is really showing off
and I picked a few
stems for pressing,
but the ‘Provence’
lavender (Lavandula x
intermedia 'Provence')
is just getting started.

The brilliant chartreuse
foliage of the Sumac
‘Tiger Eyes’ (Rhus
typhina) makes it one
of my favorite plants
now and until late fall,
especially in front of
the deep mahogony
of the cut leaf Japanese maple. In a container this sumac is beautifully controlled.

Just going off stage is the climbing rose ‘New Dawn’ that blooms here but once a year, even when I deadhead assiduously. It earns its keep by the month-long show it flashes in late May. Other roses like 'Crown Princess Margareta', 'Oso Easy Paprika', and
'Graham Thomas'
have finished their
first big bloom and
are setting new buds
for later display.
(Below, the climber
'New Dawn' trying
to escape.)And in the herb garden,
not much color but in
teresting sweet flavor
from my one specimen
of Stevia rebaudiana
that is making its debut
this year. Stevia powder
is all the rage as a
natural sweetener, and
I wanted to see what
this semi-tropical herb
would do here in NYC.
In the fall I’ll bring it in
to winter over on my

Below, Wreath design Ellen
Spector Platt , photo© Alan & Linda Detrick

If you like to dry
hydrangea for indoor
decorations DON’T
NOW. Wait until they’re
very mature. That
means that every stem
you cut will have been
on the bush for 1-2
months, feel papery
to the touch, and have
started to change color
slightly, i.e. the whites
get tinges of pink
or wine color, the blues
get tinges of green or
maroon. If you cut too
early, the petals will
shrivel as they dry. Cut
when the flowers are
mature, then you can
arrange them immed-
iately without even
hanging to dry. And don't try to dry the flower heads that have but a few petals like the lacecap varieties. You'll thank me for this tip!
(Design Ellen Spector Platt, photo© Alan & Linda Detrick)


Cheval Force Opp said...

Sumac in a container, love the idea. Thanks for all the ideas to use dried hydrangia, printing out to use! Great blog...and I am not in NY! Cheval

Ellen Spector Platt said...

Not in NY but a great garden of your own!

urbangardens said...


Unknown said...

Love the cool blue flowers against the yellow sumac foliage!

I've been jonesing for 'Tiger Eyes' forever over at Gowanus nursery -- does it color up in the fall like a regular sumac?

Ellen Spector Platt said...

The 'Tiger Eyes' sumac gets more gold in fall, doesn't turn bright red like the wild ones.

Ellen Zachos said...

Hi Jim, I had to horn in here (even though Other Ellen wrote this post) because my 'Tiger's Eye' turns a fabulous reddish pink in fall, not dark red like regular sumac, but almost as if you washed red with chartreuse. It was an amazing color and one I've not seen in any other fall foliage. I've got the photo to prove it but how to show you?

Also Gowanus Nursery rocks! I was just there yesterday spending my clients money and loving every minute of it!

Unknown said...

Ellen and Ellen,

Thank you both for your comments!

Now, where to find room on the terrace for it??

Anonymous said...

I have a question about the Sumac - We bought one last year - planted it around the house. One of the reasons we picked this plant was the fact it was not invasive. In our yard - it has taken over. We have about 25 "suckers" growing around the main plant. Is there a way to move these to another part of the yard - and is there a way to stop the plant from doing this?

Ellen Spector Platt said...

Note for Anonymus,Suckering is natural to sumacs, so many people like it on banks or places where they need a fill-in. The new variety 'Tiger Eyes' that I show here is supposed to sucker less than the wild sumac, but I have no experience in-ground to know if that's true. of necessity all of my plants are of necessity in containers, and that's a terrific way to avoid suckering.

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