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

Thursday, April 26, 2012

fresh from the park

What's on the menu?
violet flowers and foliage for your salads

spruce tips for flavoring salt, vodka, and simple syrup

lilac flowers for wine

all hail the noble poke 
chickweed: raw in salads, cooked in eggs

 garlic mustard (hurry, as it gets warmer, the taste gets stronger)

dandelion flowers for wine or cookies (or wine AND cookies)

Not that I'm suggesting you pick anywhere without permission...
Let the feasting begin!

Monday, April 16, 2012

The 50 Mile Bouquet

An inspiring new book written by Debra Prinzing and gloriously photographed by David E. Perry has just crossed my desk. Well O.K., I asked for a free copy to review but the first statement sounds so much more professional.
Prinzing interviewed small organic and sustainable growers and florists, mostly in the Northwest California and Colorado as they strive to sell their crops and their floral designs. She's captured their individual stories allowing personal voices to shine through.©David E. Perry, all rights reserved
We learn how the flowers are grown and harvested, and can smell the aromas and see how the natural look of the flowers please the eye.
It's an unusual bride who carries a mixed bouquet of local dahlias for her wedding bouquet, but Prinzing found one and Perry shoots her in her best running form. I wonder if she's wearing sneakers. ©David E. Perry, all rights reserved.
The author makes a strong case for buying local; one reason, the flowers will last days longer. When I had my own flower and herb farm I was astonished to find that my cut tulips often lasted two weeks, whereas those I had always purchased from florists or the super market looked good for no more than five days.
And the flowers look different, more individualistic, less perfect and manufactured. You can appreciate the heady aroma of the garden roses on the photographer's kitchen windowsill. © David E. Perry, all rights reserved
roses never smell or have the charm of these.
I love the tips Prinzing offers that home gardeners can use in their own arrangements. In fact I was so inspired that after finishing the book I ordered and planted 15 large dahlia tubers in my roof top containers, way too many for the space I had available. Prinzing and Perry are both to blame.

When I was growing for local resale using organic and sustainable practices, despite my care an occasional bug would wander out of the flowers onto the table top. I still wonder how other people prevent that in field-grown flowers without spraying. A lady bug is cute, but no bride wants a Japanese beetle crawling down her arm. Debra, care to weigh in?

For more on my own local and organic floral designs see post just below this one.

The 50 Mile Bouquet:Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers, St. Lynn's Press, April 2012 @$17.95

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The 18th Story Bouquet

Inspired by Prinzing and Perry's delightful new book, "The 50 Mile Bouquet" ( St . Lynn's Press, 2012) I surveyed some of my own bouquets, created since I moved to a 15th floor apartment in Manhattan; the building has an 18th floor roof garden that I tend. No longer having my flower and herb farm to feed my floral design habit, I buy in season from local green markets, or gather by the armload from Jen's NH cutting garden to bring home. I retrieve a few spring branches that have fallen on the street near my apartment (above), or I prune two stems from the crimson bark Japanese maple on my roof. Well... I have to prune don't I?Later in the summer I cut three branches of barberry and a few stems from the laden hydrangea from the roof garden, and cut five stems of Caladium from the tree wells in front of the building. Placed in front of the mirror in the lobby of my building, a modest, local, organic bouquet looks huge.Back to the streets in fall for Osage oranges, locust pods and horse chestnuts for a centerpiece.
Riverside Park is sort of local for me; it's within long-walking distance. or I find a few stems of green foxtail, a common weed grass. or another bare branch blown from a street tree. You can see I'm not very picky, but if I want something fresh and green, one stem from any conifer with cones, looks like an arrangement. I don't prune regularly but bide my time all year 'til I want something for my own use. Why just trash branches when I can have my own 18th story bouquet, local and organic? And finally, another arrangement for the lobby selecting from plethora of flowers and berries I've grown on the 18th floor.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Then. ( 2/25/08) Remember what snow looked like back in the day?
Now, or at least last Sunday in the Conservatory Garden, Central Park.
(Click on any photo to enlarge)

The two allees of flowering crab apple trees at peak bloom.
As a girl, this is what I thought Fairyland looked like.Tired of crabapples in bloom? Admire the bulb display. Next fall I must order 300 grape hyacinth to startle the larger bulbs in my tree wells .
Head north to the Harlem Meer, and see who's sunning themselves...and

Sunday, April 8, 2012

up up and away

The theme of this year's Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden is vertical gardens. Vertical gardens are all the rage these days (in case you didn't know) and Patrick Blanc, designer of the show's vertical gardens, is the green-haired enfant terrible of the vertical garden movement.

I think vertical gardens are cool, although they're often poorly maintained and can look pretty bad pretty quickly. (I'd still like to try one of my very own.) They don't have to worry about that at the orchid show, since plants are rotated in and out of the displays the moment they are no longer perfect.

I was at the garden today to lecture on Enticing Epiphytes. Epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants) are my favorite orchids, and seeing them displayed in vertical gardens was terrific. They were paired with other epiphytes (staghorn ferns, rhipsalis, hoyas), creating great swaths of color and texture. Vertically displayed epiphytes are glorious, growing upright, just as they would in nature but with more consistent grooming.

For those of you who haven't been to the NYBG Orchid Show, it's not too late! The show runs through 4/22.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Well, yes, impatient but probably not going to buy or plant any impatiens this year and here's why. This favorite of all shade annuals has been hit by a serious blight of downy mildew that's infecting and wiping out whole plantings. The Palm Beach Post reports on one wholesale grower that had to destroy 150,000 plants, and residential communities that spent thousands on mass plantings, had to rip out and replant with something else.
The downy mildew shows first on the underside of the leaves and has a powdery white appearance. Apparently New Guinea impatiens are not susceptible. I really don't know how far north it will spread, but nurseries here often buy starter plants from Florida and my spring budgets don't allow for a second planting. County extension agents in universities around the country recognize a serious problem.Long island and Upstate NY are two of the many places cited as having infections.
But whether you usually plant a whole tree pit with impatiens or only use a few , as in the planters above, a change might be in order. I plan to stick to one of three main choices.
Begonias, in containers...

or in a shady garden with coleus and grasses...
coleus in gold, orange and chartreuse shades...

maybe with a splash of red as here at Fuller gardens, NH

or pinks and purples that I planted at the base of a formal ivy tower
or big-leafed or small caladium in tree pits
by themselves or with coleus and Persian shield, with a little ivy thrown in...

caladium where the pot gives a color boost...
or caladium with rex begonias and coleus. Enough color for you?.
No spraying for me, even if organic: too cheap and lazy.
The symptoms of downy mildew on impatiens are : yellowed and pale green foliage, downward curling leaves, small buds that fail to grow, eventually leaves dropping leaving stems bare. ugh.

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