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

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


At the 30th Annual wreath show at The Arsenal Gallery in Central Park  are 41 wreaths of the most nontraditional sort. Above, "Joy to the Whirl" by Denise Corley (wire, parchment and gouache).
"If You Walked in My Shoes... You Would Know" by Vivian Jett, Willie Serrano, Desiree Pabon, and Karen Gripper of the Brownsville Rec center (shoes, wood frame, shoe laces, shoe polish, glitter, shoe horn, fabric). Written pieces on the soles of the shoes.
 "The Almond Villager Wreath" by Leonora Retsas (whole almond shells collected from grandparent's farm in Greece). Perfectly simple, perfectly evocative. Other Ellen, FYI, these are for sale.
 Ed Gormley "Yetz is Ze Tzeit to Essen" (Chinese take-out boxes, aluminum rivets, wire, plywood). I'd like it better if the containers were recycled, not new.
See the whole exhibit FREE Mon- Fri until Jan10, closed holidays.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Wasabi Arugula (Diplotaxis erucoides) received the most acclaim from family and friends of any herb, any plant I grew this year and was entirely new to me.  I got a freebie packet of seeds, sent by Renee's Garden and in my careless way, I practically threw it in a container with a row of Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena). I've grown the  Nigella for years; it's an herb that's beautiful in both the flower and pod stages, with tasty little black seeds. The Wasabi Arugula isn't pretty in any stage, but is stunning in taste, with a spicy flavor highly reminiscent of wasabi paste that come in a little green mound with your sushi platter.
From that one pack of seeds I got my first pickings in about 5 weeks, continued to pick all summer, but left some to reseed itself, my favorite gardening activity. Treat the leaves and tiny white flowers as an herb for adding flavor to something else, not as the major part of the salad. Add a few leaves to any meat or cheese sandwich, dressing, or sauce for a zap of flavor. For poached salmon last summer, I made an oh-so-difficult dressing of plain yogurt and chopped Wasabi Arugula leaves.
It's now December 10th and I picked some for Charlie T. just yesterday, the perfect Hanukkah gift for this fine cook. I'm hoping to have a few fresh leaves all winter, as the packet says "frost hardy". I expect a crop in spring from the dropped seeds, though I've already gotten a new pack of seeds for insurance.
An advantage of this herb in city gardens is that it will grow in full sun or "partial afternoon shade"; that means for many of us that when shadows of a tall buildings start to hit our herb garden this plant will still thrive. If you cut more than you need for a meal, store the stems up to a week in a glass of water and keep cool.

Monday, December 3, 2012


When still living in Pennsylvania I hosted a holiday home tour to benefit the public library. The rose hips from the multiflora rose, considered a noxious weed by local farmers, were free for the picking in my tree line and by roadsides. When used by handfuls they're appropriately showy. I paired the rose hip wreath with peppers from the market, placed on an apple-stacker. (photo © Alan & Linda Detrick, all rights reserved)
My holiday wreaths are traditional only in that they use local materials, and my definition of local involves my grown children, hundreds of miles away where I have picking privileges.  No ribbon on this one either; evergreens from daughter Jen's place in rural NH. Birch bark from son Mike's place also in rural NH.  Osage Orange slices from my favorite tree in Riverside Park, dried in my NYC oven.
I adorned The Lost Mitten Wreath with stuffed mittens and gloves, toys, and clumps of saved yarn from another project, in the right color tones of course. Fresh greens from Jen's again.
And when you have no greens, do as Angela Chandler did for the Central Park Arsenal Wreath Show. She found a great use for the ubiquitous hangers from the dry cleaners. Fantastic!
Below, not a constructed wreath on wire but a simple placement of fresh greens, birch bark, cones and dried Osage orange slices enhance this corn/cranberry relish; it's mostly stuff left over from other wreaths.
As always, I save pruning chores for when I need the branches. Here an overgrown boxwood provided my greens, and the market all of my fruits and veggies. Notice how sparse the Winterberry; that was my whole crop the year I made the wreath. (photo © Alan & Linda Detrick, all rights reserved)
As author of The Ultimate Wreath Book, Rodale Press, 1995, I was well aware of my influences when I created this collage for my new book, Artful Collage from Found Objects, Stackpole Books, 2012. I called it The Crown Jewels because it seemed like an ancient royal necklace, although it was constructed with locust pods, acorns and cones found on city streets. A little gold and copper spray paint helps. So I guess this is the Ultimate Wreath Collage.

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