Wednesday, October 29, 2008

see them before they pass

The Korean chrysanthemums are out in full force at the Conservatory Garden right now. They have just about hit peak bloom so be sure to get there in the next week or two to catch them before they pass. Trust me, after the 13th you'll miss them.

They are blooming in the French garden.

Take a 6 train to 103rd, north to 105th, and then east to Central Park. Enter through the Vanderbuilt Gate at 105th and 5th and go right to the north garden.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Just a friendly neighborhood reminder that the pomegranates are now in season so be sure to treat yourself. We picked one up and I de-seeded it for dessert tonight, so sweet and delish.

Pomegranates (Punica granatum) are small trees or shrubs, members of the Lythraceae family, native to North Africa, the Mediterranean, and east as far as Iran and India. Opposite, broadly lance-shaped leaves are reddish in spring and turn bright green, before turning yellow in fall. Hardy in USDA Zones 8-11, pomegranates do well in a coarsely textured soil with a good amount of organic matter, and need a really hot, dy summer in order to fruit up well. Pomegranates were introduced to the west coast and Central America by the Spanish in the 18th Century, and are now grown in California and Arizona, among other states.

Illustration of Punica granatum by Otto Wilhelm Thomé, 1885, found at

Monday, October 27, 2008

plant, baby, plant!

Tulipa 'Beauty of Spring' if I remember correctly, taken in Central Park a few years ago.

I came to realize recently that I miss all the crazy horticultural questions I would get posed with on a regular basis at my old job. So I was psyched when an old friend from high school wrote with a question of her own. She lives here in the city and mentioned that she was helping with a bulb planting at her local community garden and wondered if the date (mid-November) was going to be too late. I thought that was a great question. Most people know this is the time to get your bulbs in the ground, and certainly it is. But, is there too late a time to plant?

To that I responded:
"Foolishly I didn't make any note of the date you asked about for the bulb planting, but I do remember my instant reaction being that you are totally fine. And I'm sure you are. We have a pretty big window as far as fall bulb planting is concerned. Basically I am going to be planting bulbs between work and my private clients from next week until mid- to late-November. In the past I've planted bulbs as late as mid-December. It all ultimately depends on whether you can (and/or want to) dig and get them in the ground without it being too frozen and you killing your back and arms.

Tulips and daffodils and other bulbs we plant all have enough energy for next spring stored in their tissue already, so all you have to do is get them in the ground at the right depth (for tulips and daffodils you are looking at 6-8" deep - well below the frost line) before winter hits too hard. They would be much happier in the cool earth than being confused and pushing growth too fast while stuck at your local garden center or in your home. For that reason the obvious and ultimate answer is "the sooner the better", but if you can't quite respond that quickly, the bulbs will still do well. The only thing you really have to know is that once we have a serious frost planting bulbs becomes considerably less fun. But basically only because the top two or three inches of the ground can be frozen. Over the winter, when the temps are in the 40s and 50s, they will send out and establish roots in the soil to anchor themselves more, and begin taking in water and nutrients. In the spring when they push out leaves along with the blossoms that is when they begin photosynthesizing to re-store and re-energize for the following spring. For that reason smart gardeners that want their bulbs to stick around and get established let the foliage stay after they flower so that they can grow and multiply as much as possible. If planted in a good sunny spot daffodils will naturalize and keep coming back year after year pretty easily while tulips you might find will only last 3-5 years on average."

So, get planting people! With the temps getting down into the 40s and 50s on a more steady basis those bulbs will be loving it and will make you smile come spring.

Also, if you ever have horticultural related questions I'd e happy to take a stab at them. As a trained horticulturist working in the profession for a number of years now I love challenging myself and trying to help out others along the way. Whether it be ID, care and maintenance, or questions about plant selection and design, I'm down to talk about it all. Send your geeky hort questions to and we'll chat soon. Be well.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Korean chrysanthemums in Central Park

At the Conservatory Garden in Central Park (105th and 5th) the Korean mums in the French garden are beginning to bloom. The show is once again going to be amazing. Here is a little glimpse of what you might find among the thousands of blossoms bursting open as we speak. Take a 6 train to 103rd, go up to 105th, and left over to the park. Enjoy!
click for slightly larger image

(All ArborBoy photo and collage created and protected by Alex Feleppa and available for sale or lease in print form or web copy. If interested contact Thanks for not stealing.)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pictures from the Conservatory Garden, Central Park

Photos taken by myself mid-September and early October, 2008. They have been uploaded full-size for your viewing pleasure. Please do not reproduce or use any images without consult. That would be stealing. Thanks and enjoy.
Up at 105th Street and 5th Avenue is the Vanderbuilt Gate, the main entrance to the Conservatory Garden, Central Park's only formal gardens. The Vanderbuilt Gate originally stood in front of the Vanderbuilt Mansion on 5th Avenue and 58th Street, where Bergdorf Goodmans is now.
For most people, this is the first glimpse you get into the Conservatory Garden, with the Vanderbuilt Gate just behind me. It's called the Conservatory Garden because there once was s huge glass conservatory that stood on this site. It was removed in the 1930's and replaced with this trio of gardens, open to the public in 1937. You have entered the center of the six-acres, and one of three distinct gardens. This is the Italian garden, complete with its formal hedges and perfect symmetry. On either side are lines of colorful crabapples.
In the distance the tiered yews and spirea lead up to the wrought-iron pergola covered with wisteria. The shaded benches up under the pergola is a fabulous resting place for locals and tourists alike.
From the Italian garden you walk north to the French garden. The fountain in the center is the Three Dancing Maidens, created by German sculptor Walter Schott.
Inside the oval hedge of Japanese holly are mass plantings that get changed out spring and fall of every year. Right now the annual plantings and rose arbors bookend thousands of Korean chrysanthemums about to burst into a sea of colors and sweet fragrance. Once those are done they are removed from the garden, donated, and the beds are replaced with over 20,000 bulbs for the following spring. Both plantings must really be seen to be believed.
The low formal parterres in the middle are germander (Teucrium sp.), hand-sheered and kept at the appropriate height in these magnificent forms.
Between the three gardens, flanking the north and south side of the Italian garden, are two allees of crabapples. In late April the trees explode white and pink and shower the mature ivy beneath. Both allees are original to the gardens design and each has its own charm. Above is the north allee and below is the south.

When you continue south you find yourself in the third garden, the English garden. Anchored by this mature crabapple the south garden is loaded with amazing combinations of annuals and perennials, grasses, trees, and shrubs.
Under the crabapple is the Burnett Fountain, a very special piece by Bessie Potter Vonnoh that depicts Mary and Dickon from The Secret Garden. Friends of Frances Hodgson Burnett, who wrote The Secret Garden in 1909, wanted to create a storytelling area in Central Park in her honor following her death in 1924. This was the chosen spot and the sculpture has been here since 1936.

Surrounding the Burnett Fountain in the south garden are ten tremendous flower beds, the interior five being mostly bulbs in the spring and annuals in the summer and fall, and the exterior a mix of spectacular perennials and shrubs. As was the intention, this garden is truly a four-season garden, with plenty of interest in every season. Every visit to the south garden brings forth some new discovery. Believe me, I go there a lot! ;)
Diane Schaub curates the garden with the help of four full-time gardeners. Her plant combinations and design sense is absolutely sensational. Whether you are looking at the rich texture of the different sun and shade loving perennials or the vibrant color combinations of the annuals and tropicals incorporated, if you are like me, you just want to know and remember every one. This garden is always teaching me about well done garden design and color composition. Without a doubt Central Park's Conservatory Garden is one of the best gardens in Manhattan, if not the whole city.

To learn more about the Conservatory Garden and the Central Park Conservancy in general you can check out their webpages. Or better yet, take a bus ride or a 6 train up to 105th and 5th and take a stroll yourself. The garden is open daily from 8am to 6pm this time of year. And if we keep having these warms days the mums in the north garden are going to be bursting real soon. Trust me, you will be glad you did.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

morning sky

Astoria, Queens, Wednesday morning, about 6:50am

The way our front door is situated I take a quick look east every morning before heading west to the subway station on my way to work. Although early I love having a perfect front-row seat for the sunrise every morning (at least these days). I might take a few extra seconds and survey the sky, as if it might give me some insight on the day. Since returning to garden work I realized that people look differently at the sky depending on their day. For many it seems that outside is just something to avoid on their way to their sheltered desk job. Weather happens and people freak out, as if after millions of years water is actually going to hurt us. I suppose I have fallen into some of the same silliness. But now that I know I am going to be spending my days outside, I look to the sky to try and understand it better. I have always been fascinated by the sky and the atmosphere. I think we have to try and understand and embrace this changing climate as best we can in order to make smart decisions moving forward. Growing up surrounded by surfers and fisherman and other seafarers the weather channel seemed to be the default setting on the TV for most households. We all got into meteorology as kids, though we never thought about it that way. We just wanted to know whether we were going to have smooth seas or chop, and how the tides might be affected. In high school excellent environmental scientists taught me to study weather patterns and their intensity as they related to climate change and global warming. One teacher knew the changing of the seasons so well he made spring sugaring (aka the making of maple syrup) a true art form. Aboriculture came naturally as I already had my head regularly stuck in an upward position, gazing at the trees and their backdrop. I love the subtly of the shades of blue during the sunrise and sunset, and the contrast of those warm oranges bouncing off the clouds. That is a good sky to me, the sign of a good day that was, or will be.