Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

What a day. What a life. What a family. What a world. What love. Thanks everyone.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Top Christmas Video of the Day

Looking back over 2008, I realize one thing I'm thankful for is friendship. Via a new facebook addiction I've reunited with many old friends who I had been missing and thanks to a new job I've come to know a new crew of quick and witty folks I've quickly come to adore. One of the new crew is Stephen, a positive and determined soul who's job position and shoes I have stepped into. Stephen stopped by the garden today for a final visit before going back to California at the end of this week to continue his schooling in agriculture and horticulture. Good holiday cheer was had and then Stephen told us he wanted to show us the Christmas video he and his friend Josh made. This was by far the funniest thing I'd seen all week. Of course, it would help if you knew Stephen and Josh, I understand that, but, I still think you'll get a kick out of it. Enjoy.

Warning: This video may cause spontaneous dance moves and lead to La Bouche being very, very stuck in your head.

Monday, December 22, 2008

meringue mushrooms!

At my work we have amazing volunteers and friends who have been stopping by and bringing sweets in all forms to get us through these cold and busy work days pre-holiday. The best came last Friday. While cleaning up the snow around the garden Sara H. came through and had me open up the office so she could drop off some goodies for us. What she created were meringue mushrooms, complete in their own compost and mushroom box. When we got it the box was full, so I knew I had to get these shots off before this spectacular rare species becomes extinct. So creative, not to mention delish!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I found Santa!

I was thinking and talking with friends the other day about how this year people don't seem quite as festive about Christmas as in some years past. Sure I've seen the increase in shopping bags and packages in peoples hands on the subway during the evening commute the last few weeks but something isn't quite the same. Where's that classic image of the multiple santas sitting at the diner counter enjoying their hot coffee break? In this politically correct day and age have we really banished the gluttonous obese jolly white man we were all raised on? Can the present economic state really be squashing our spirit that much?

Well, luckily for us we have Bill Cunningham from The New York Times. Bill Cunningham is known around town as one of the best social photographers and I might be one to argue he is the best. I have had the pleasure of seeing and talking with Mr. Cunningham at many a New York City soiree and he is one of the nicest and most sincere gentleman. Not to mention the places and people he has seen and photographed, no wonder he always packs a genuine smile and the crowds rush to stand in front of his shutter. So, thankfully for me, and you as you will soon see and hear, Bill was able to find the Santas we've been missing. Below is a link to a piece called "On the Street I Claused" by Bill Cunningham and The New York Times. You really must check it out. Whether you are urban or rural, I think you will be able to appreciate the tidings of joy and utter silliness that Bill was able to capture.

Pour yourself an eggnog, perhaps even add a floater, don your silly plush hat, sit back, and enjoy:

Friday, December 19, 2008

first decent snowfall of winter '08

Here are some pictures I took in the Conservatory Garden today at lunchtime before the shoveling and snowplowing commenced.Perhaps the best shot of the bunch. This is the semi-circular pergola where the wisteria grow.

My love likes to tease me about how much and with such excitement I say "pergola" on a daily basis. However, I do think it is an amazing structure in the Italian garden.

I think what I love most about this garden, as with other successful garden designs, is that the marriage of natural forms and man-made forms marry so well together. This time of year it is funny because I hear people in the garden say "oh, there isn't anything here this time of year", and I couldn't disagree more. I love winter because it exposes the structure of a garden, and especially the woody plants!

The above Lonicera species is on the slope behind the north terrace and is original to the garden, which would make it about 70 years old. This summer I was able to limb it up a tiny bit so you could really enjoy the fluted framework underneath.

By the north gate are two Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia). This is certainly on my list of trees to plant and enjoy in my own landscape someday. The "pseudo-camellia" refers to the cup-shaped white flowers that these medium-sized trees produce in the summer. They are in fact quite camellia-like although they bloom in a completely different season compared to their relative, the Japanese camellia (Camellia japonica), which typically blooms in winter. Both are members of the Theaceae family but the Japanese stewartia is more winter-hardy for us. And I'm glad it is, as the brown and silver bark of stewartia is up there among my favorites.

I forget what this guy is, but I love how horizontal the branching is.

The picture above is looking south from the English garden. Usually in summer people are looking down and focusing on the flowers so they miss all the trees around. I love how the big dark oak is emerging from the winter landscape in the background above the magnolias and mulberry and hedges.

The crabapple in the south garden, another original plant to the Conservatory Garden, is a crowd pleasure in every season.

Of course the little Tuskegee crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica 'Tuskegee') holds up pretty well too exposing its smaller structure and exfoliating bark through the winter. I think I have probably babbled enough about the four-season value of crapemyrtle trees - just plain fabulous.

I forget if this redtwig dogwood is a Cornus sericea 'Variegata' or not. But I do know that I love it when the variegated leaves drop to remind us that these shrubs are packing some heat underneath.

A pretty picturesque and classicly New York City winter scene if you ask me. And in true New York City winter fashion it never stays that beautiful for long before turning to a slushy mess.

...the lawn and hedged yews with the crabapple allees in the distance. There was a serenity in the air that was truly awesome.

...pergola, pergola, pergola, pergola, pergola...

The big amazing building outside of the garden is the Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center. Often the patients will come over for a little horticultural therapy and from the upper floors you can get a sensational birds-eye view of the garden.

The French garden and the parterres of germander (Teucrium sp.), the Three Dancing Maidens in the snow, the rose arbors, the crabapples, and yes, the reminder that you are still actually in New York City.

I'm always glad to see some people making the most of their snow days.

And last but certainly not least the south crabapple allee. The longer I live in this city the more this one little place becomes my sanctuary.

Merry Christmas everyone! Love, arborboy

(and as usual, these images have been uploaded full-size for your maximum viewing pleasure but they are still my personal property and are not to be used or reproduced without my consent. Thanks for not stealing other peoples artwork.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday comic relief

Robin Williams "across the pond" giving his take of our political process this time around. Damn funny, I think. A huge thanks to Robin Williams, some excellent videographers, and yes, youtube

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Easy Tree Info - pass it on!

(A Zelkova serrata street tree here in my neighborhood in Astoria, Queens)

In this day and age with everyone, or most everyone, in possession of a computer with internet access and cable television it absolutely amazes me that for some ignorance is still bliss. A good friend and neighbor rents a place like we do. They have a big fabulous shade tree out back of their place. Correction, they had a big fabulous shade tree out back of their place, until the neighbor convinced the landlord to cut it down because, get this, it shed leaves!!! I know, I know, how dare it inconvenience a retired guy and his wife opposed to a little cardiovascular activity, I mean, it's not like the tree provided numerous tangible benefits to the environment here in New York City or anything. ...or did it!?!?!?

I have worked alongside, been educated by, and advised a number of worthy local, state, and federal organizations devoted to combating the atrocious environmental changes we all, unfortunately, have had a hand in. So when I learned about the tree out back of Chez' place being taken down you can imagine how my blood boiled. Luckily it is down to a steady simmer right now so at least I can type again instead of just pacing while enraged.

I have errands to run, dinner to prepare, and too much other shit to take care of right now, but I must post this link if nothing else. After the latest street tree census in New York City (2005-2006) my good friends at the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation put together a few web pages and pdfs summarizing some of their findings. If you are not much of a tree buff like I am, or if you are and want a few fabulous factual references to show off to your friends (and idiotic neighbors) then I recommend you check out the Parks and Rec website. In particular check out the page and subsequent links that followed the last tree census - "Trees Count!". You will learn a lot about the benefits of trees in our urban lives. Trust me, check this out:

Trees Count! Notes from the latest street tree census in NYC, courtesy of the NYC Dept. of Parks and Recreation

Monday, December 8, 2008

I don't get it

I am a devout member of the Surfrider Foundation and I think they are an exceptional group of men and women. The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world's oceans, waves and beaches for all people, through conservation, activism, research and education. I am also a great fan of president-elect Barack Obama and look forward to the leadership he will provide in the coming years. And yet, I have absolutely no idea why Barack Obama could stand behind the notion of allowing increased off-shore oil drilling when any educated person can see that we must utilize safer and more ecologically sound alternatives immediately. If I have heard of things like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) then I would think perhaps Obama has too. Hell, he's surrounding himself with some genius people, and yet we as a nation are going to allow the same atrocities to happen?

I now turn to a few exerpts from "Soup", Surfrider Foundation's weekly digital newsletter on the latest stories and issues concerning your oceans, waves and beaches. ...and I quote:

October 2008 Issue No. 1:

The Wrath Of Hurricane Ike

An assessment of environmental damages from Hurricane Ike has just been released (based on federal agency reports). At least a half million gallons of crude oil was spilled on to the Texas and Louisiana coastline (as well as in the Gulf of Mexico). The Coast Guard, EPA and other state agencies has responded to over 3,000 storm-related pollution reports since Ike hit. The storm destroyed 52 oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and damages and threats to local wildlife are still being assessed.

For more information please visit:,8599,1847378,00.html

December 2008 Issue No. 1
Florida Tourism Group Backs Offshore Oil Drilling
In a surprise move, the Florida Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus has flipped its stance on offshore drilling. Once opposed to it, the board is now supporting the idea of drilling 30 miles offshore claiming that the state needs the money (the federal government will potentially share royalty and lease revenue generated by offshore drilling).

For more information please visit:

December 2008 Issue No. 2:

Oil Spill Off California Coast

The Joint Committee on Emergency Services & Homeland Security
has just announced that a 1000-plus-gallon oil spill has occurred off the coast of Carpenteria in Santa Barbara County. The petroleum, which was spilled from "Platform A" was reported yesterday after platform workers discovered oil had leaked froma finger-sized hole in a pump line. The spill was initially reported by Dos Cuadras Offshore Resources as just a 33-gallon spill. However, after aerial surveys by the Federal Minerals Management Service, the spill estimate was increased to over 27 barrels.

For more information please visit:

This happened in the same area and is a scary reminder of the terrible Santa Barbara Oil Spill of '69.

For more information please visit:

End quote.

Oh yeah, did you catch that part in the middle, it was kind of subtle, the part where we as a nation elect Obama as the next president and no one makes a big deal of his stance to support off-shore oil drilling. Hmm, yeah, funny that. What ever happened to "think globally, act locally"? It's a hokey saying, I know, but isn't it about time we got real and stepped up to the plate to try and fix this mess!?!? Well, guess everyone can't win. Sorry environment!

...oh brother.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Imperial Advertisement, Life Magazine, June, 1966

Yet another scrap from the arborboy collage table that I have not yet figured out how to incorporate into a new creation. Sometimes things are best left the way they are. The icing on the cake is the caption, "Amphicar photographed at Watermill, Long Island", which happens to be very close to where I grew up.

And apparently Youtube never ceases to amaze:

"Early Sunday Morning"

Edward Hopper (1882-1967)
Early Sunday Morning
Oil on Canvas
35" x 60"
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
(image courtesy of

Hopper is without a doubt one of my favorite American realist painters. In addition to his work with oils he was also an exceptional printmaker, two art forms I wish I had more time to explore and practice myself. His slow and methodical depictions of "modern" American life put great emphasis on different every-day environments and the placement of human forms within those environments. His work provides for me a personal connection and sense of timelessness that I think is simply sensational. If the sky were the limit I would own many a Hopper painting and invite people over for afternoon viewings so we could all just stare and marvel and be inspired. Believe it or not Wikipedia actually has a great number of links to Hopper's paintings towards the bottom of his wikipedia bio.

Happy early Sunday morning.

On the stereo: Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas

Saturday, December 6, 2008

must. avoid. computer.

Felis Femina and I last night were talking about how we haven't written in a while. And it is true, short emails and tendencies towards facebook and youtube have been winning out these last number of evenings following hard work and cold days in the gardens. Today I have to focus on gift buying for the holidays. Last year I left it all to a frantic day much closer to the 25th and this year I am going to try and avoid that ...mentally losing my shit behind stupid teen tourists light-years away from the urban etiquette I and other New Yorkers take, at times, quite seriously. Move to the center of the car damnit! Trying to walk arms-locked, four across down Broadway in Chinatown, are you fucking kidding me! How can you actually walk this slow? Everyone just get the hell out of my way!!! So yeah, let's avoid that this year.

I have some extra daffodil bulbs that I will plant around a new street tree on our block, part of the Million Trees campaign I was once on the advisory council of. Narcissus 'Surfside' look to be a beautiful combination of a big ruffled cup of yellow changing to white and a clear white perianth, slightly reflexed. According to Brent and Becky they will be about 12" tall and quite a strong performer through the season. They ought to be a nice addition to the block. I should get on it so that I can get back here and do some research and/or cyber-shopping before my love gets home from yoga.

This time of year my new good friend and co-worker, a strong and gentle soul originally from Guyana, has a saying he repeats to try and keep the vibe mellow through the holiday madness. "Don't think about what you need, but be thankful for what you have", he laughs in a rich accent as we sit and warm up over hot lunches. So true, Earl, so true. Gotta remember to keep that in mind.

Off to projects and thinking about those I love, and how to make them a little bit happier if I can. I will leave you with an old clip of Heart singing "Barracuda" off their album Little Queen from the late 70's. It reminds me of my old days playing water polo in high school with the LC polo squad. Hard work followed by good times, and always much laughter, good goals to strive for as far as I'm concerned. Have a great day.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ea and Grammy

my kind of drummer

All you need to know is to focus on the drummer. We are still trying to figure out whether he and Gian Carlo were separated at birth or not. You decide.

...for comparative reference here is an old Mink Lungs show from Houston in 2003. Gian Carlo is the one all the way to the right.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Keith Haring balloon from the 2008 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, in partnership with the Keith Haring Foundation)

May we all be thankful for what we have and those we love, for the good things in life and our ability to get through the bad, and the chance to be a little gluttonous with friends and family. 'Cause we are all going to hit the gym tomorrow, right!?! Yeah, I'm not thinking that far ahead.
I don't know about you but I'm smelling pancakes and sausage and thinking about the bottle of Champagne I picked up last night. I love holidays...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ahmad Jamal Trio, "Darn That Dream", 1959

There's something about fall in New York that always makes me go back to jazz. The two go clearly and easily hand-in-hand to me. A perfect soundtrack while walking in the wind and whirling leaves and turbulent transition to winter. Lazy nights listening to the old Verve album "Ella and Louis" and dreaming about things like moonlight in Vermont. Amidst the barrage of nauseating Christmas music (CBS Radio, why did you have to start so soon?!?!?) I pray they might play a little Vince Guaraldi Trio, that classic "Peanuts" jam that you can't deny puts a smile on your face. Of course, my impatient ass bought "A Charlie Brown Christmas" so I don't have to necessarily listen to the radio at all for the next month, which I totally recommend doing by the way, but I digress. Among the other great jazz pianists of our day is Ahmad Jamal, below with his trio in 1959. I was introduced to Ahmad Jamal some years ago by my father while working with him at Florence & Son, in East Hampton, NY. Always a keen ear for excellent jazz and opera, dad loves Jamal's piano playing. And I must say, I'm a fan too. Two seconds ago I learned he just put out a new album in 2008. I should do more searching, but for now, Ladies and Gentleman, Ahmad Jamal...

(courtesy of youtube and thanks to my brother Tim for finding it)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"ice maidens"

Apparently winter is coming early this year to NYC...
...hence the "ice maidens" of Central Park.

Monday, November 17, 2008

jealousy (aka tree envy)

A cousin of mine is in his first year out at Humboldt State University and recently sent this pic along from a trip to Redwood National Park. I can't even begin to describe how instantly jealous this made me. Even though I lived on the west coast for a portion of time from 1999 to 2000 and was among these brilliant redwood trees it would be many years later before I would become such an arborifile (?) with dreams of being among these giants. Ah, well, someday I'll get back there.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

new Begonias

Begonia x 'Sinbad'
These past couple weeks I have been scrambling to save various annuals from an untimely trip to the compost pile before frost sets in. Before bringing them in I cute them back pretty hard, pruning back to just above the node(s), leaving a few stubs remaining. Thanks to the (now inside) heating up of their root systems, keeping the roots and soil slightly moist, and misting and trying to keep the humidity increased, I have seen the plants determination to maintain what us botany geeks love to call the "root-to-shoot ratio". These such begonias have been putting out tons of new growth and I am so happy to see them bounce back so well. You have to love species persistence to survive. Now the challenge is just to keep the humidity up through the winter months. Good thing I get up at sunrise every morning and can mist my new acquisitions as much as they like. And I love this one, with the comical white polka-dots:

Begonia maculata 'Wightii'

"Monthly Water"

"Monthly Water" (detail), collage on paper, 8"x8", aef99


Photograph taken from the dashboard of the old '94 Explorer while driving cross country in 1999. I think this is Nevada. Love that the clouds are level in contrast to the slope of the land.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

wood pile

Life Magazine, 1966

I've been wanting to use this in a collage for a while now but still haven't found the right images to match.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"It would take a dead man not to move on that."

Mimi and Richard Farina performing "Dopico" and "Celebration for a Grey Day" on Rainbow Quest with Pete Seeger (No. 16)

thanks Tim and YouTube!


Astoria, Queens, NY, 6:57AM

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

potting up bulbs for spring

Even though most of the annuals were still holding on in the containers out front, like the hibiscus above, I decided to take advantage of the day off and get my bulbs planted for spring. If you don't have a garden of your own this can be a great way to add a little green to your life. Not to mention it is really easy to do and your neighbors will be totally wowed. Then, once your bulbs are done blooming in late spring you can pull them and replant the containers you already have in place for your summer display. But let me not get too ahead of myself.

You will need pots, bulbs, and potting soil. If you are going to plant big bulbs like tulips or daffodils then you want your containers to be at least 10" or more in depth. This is so that your bulbs can be planted with enough room beneath them for their roots and enough room above for the necessary winter protection and growing room. Over the winter months your bulbs will take advantage of days in the 40's and 50's and will put out a lot of root growth and shoot growth under the soil so that they are properly anchored and ready to put on a great show come spring. Glazed terra cotta or fiberglass pots are less likely to crack if they are exposed to a lot of moisture and freezing and thawing temperatures, but they can be much more pricey too. I opted for basic 12" terra cotta pots (at only $10 apiece) and I think they will hold up fine for a season or two. For the bulbs, I am experimenting this year with five or six different cultivars, two different tulips and four different daffodils. Last year I got double tulips and double daffodils and although beautiful, I realized the over-petaled flowers were a bit too heavy and required a lot of staking. This year I picked based on some height variation and different color combinations that I hope will play well off each other. As far as the soil, a brand-name potting soil will be fine, as long as it has good drainage and won't retain too much moisture. Don't bother with some generic bags of pulverized who-knows-what. Bulbs need good drainage and it's always worth investing in good soil because that is the base of good plants. You might also want to grab a tape measure and sharpie.
Usually first I mark the inside of my pots. Putting your tape measure against the inside of your container, mark your pots 2-3" from the base, making sure you have at least 6"-8" of room above that marking. This is the level at which you are going to plant your tulips and/or daffodils. Put down your base of soil and then you can place your bulbs. In a garden setting you would space your bulbs a few inches apart, but for containers we want to max-out the space and the wow factor so you can place them closer against each other. Think about how the shoot and foliage of the plant will be narrow and upright and it makes sense that you can jam them together a little more closely. One container I did with the two different tulips, a yellow 'Big Smile' and deep purple 'Queen of Night' for a little contrast. The four kinds of daffodils I placed randomly in the other three containers. Then I slowly fill in the rest of the containers with the potting soil, packing it down some, but not with too much force. Remember the importance of drainage when it comes to bulbs.
Because of the flare of my containers I stopped before filling them up all the way. Minor bulbs are what horticulturists call the many different bulbs that you can find that are significantly smaller in size. These would include such plants as Chionodoxa, Muscari, Scilla, Crocus, and others. Here I have some Crocus corms from last year which did really well for me so I figured I would reuse them. For these bulbs I have measured down about 2-3" from where the soil level will ultimately be and leveled the soil around the edge of the container. In years past I have laid down a whole layer of minor bulbs but found that they put out enough roots of their own that it wasn't the easiest for the larger bulbs underneath to penetrate. Therefore this year I decided just to ring the smaller Crocus around the edge of the containers so that the containers are nice and full of foliage and flower from lip to lip.
Then top off your containers with soil and again pack it down just a little bit. Place them and you are pretty much done and ready for spring. I crumpled some leaves as a quick-fix mulch and during the holidays will probably recycle some Christmas tree cuttings to add some interest and protection to the tops of the containers so that we're not just looking at pots of soil. The mulch will also help absorb a little bit of the winter freeze so that the soil temps can be more regulated, which is why we mulch in the first place. If it rains that will be fine because I know the soil is free draining enough, and if it snows I will wipe off excess snow so that the pots do not get too overly saturated.
And then before you know it spring will be here and you and everyone around you will be psyched. Happy planting!