Sunday, May 13, 2012

Auricula Theaters

The New York Botanical Garden has an Auricula Theater set up in its herb garden.  Auricula theaters were developed in the 17th century on Continental Europe initially to protect delicate exotics like tulips and auriculas.  In the 18th century, English collectors of primula auricula's started to produce these lovely theater-like cabinets to show off their collections.  These displays became more elaborate with trompe l'oeil curtains, arches and swags.

The NYBG Auricula Theater was designed by the Dowager Countess of Salisbury.  A little gift idea for next Mother's Day, perhaps?
Calke Abbey

Calke Abbey

Lady Salisbury at NYBG

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I said "Frieze!"

Last Sunday I visited the Frieze Art Fair on Randall's Island.  It is supposedly the biggest contemporary art fair after Art Basel.  Here are a few shots of works I thought were interesting, although if you asked me to extract any deeper meaning out of them, I might disappoint you....

Dolly Parton is a work of art in any context!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Vitamix Composting 101

Since Jim over at Federal Twist mentioned Vitamix composting, I thought I'd post some photos of my composting process.  I love the ease of Vitamix cold composting.  Easy to break down, easy to work into the soil and easy to clean the Vitamix unit itself.  What more can I ask for?

Here is a bowl of scraps to be composted.  You name it, it is in there...veggies, fruit rinds, tea leaves, coffee grinds and even organic paper towels.  You may also want to add some potash or other nutrients depending on what your soil needs.

Into the cauldron!  Almost to the top, but leave room for water.

I add as much water as the canister full of scraps will hold.

A few incantations i.e. turning the knob to full spin and....voila!

I pour the mixture directly into the soil around the plants.  You should also work  the mixture in so that it doesn't sit on top of the soil and get crusty. No harm done if you don't work it in, but the crusty green sludge on top of the soil may offend your highly tuned aesthetic sensibilities...

After mixing it in, the worms and Mother Nature do the rest.  Easy-peasy and about 7 minutes from start to finish.  What do you think?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My View from Federal Twist

Last weekend, I had the immense pleasure of visiting Jim Golden's country home, Federal Twist.  I have been a great admirer of Jim and his gardens in New Jersey and in Brooklyn, which he chronicles on his blog, View from Federal Twist.  Jim is my neighbor in Brooklyn, so I am very lucky to have established a friendship with Jim that goes beyond the four corners of my laptop screen.

Jim and I immediately fell into discussing all things gardening on our trip out to Federal Twist and he is a font of knowledge, trenchant observations, strong opinions and questions.  The garden itself is a wonder.  Jim will be the first to tell you that the soil is less than optimal, but what he has done in the way of skillful design via grading, paths and plantings is really a sight to behold.  Federal Twist, in my opinion, is a garden that is allowed to just "be", but not in a neglected or amateurish way.  Jim is an inveterate plantsman and has introduced many into Federal Twist.  Some thrive, some don't, some simply disappear.  That is fine with Jim, though, as he always has in mind some other magnificent specimen to install into the ever changing planting scheme.

I particularly enjoyed Jim showing me where he originally installed some plants, only to find a few years later that they moved to another spot in the garden, apparently disagreeing with Jim about their location. It is a gentle, steering hand that has made Federal Twist, but it is also a garden with a very real and loudly-spoken dialogue going on between the gardener and the garden.

Thank you Jim for sharing Federal Twist with me.  I am a better gardener for it!