Sunday, May 31, 2009

flashback to 1987

I was looking for something else entirely but then Fleetwood Mac appeared singing "Little Lies". Forgive, for I am a child of the 80's.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

New Surfboards!

My new badboy, still in the shop, a homebrew by Rory Knight.

6'10" x 20" x 3"
A big ol' white Cadillac for my 32nd year.

Home after the first session, a perfect little late morning Napeague surf with Rory.

And on top of it I got to bring home Krissy's new board!

7'2" x 21 1/2" x 2 7/8"
Puck approved.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

peony panels

Paeonia sp.
Conservatory Garden
late May, 2009

There is so much in bloom right now out in the gardens. Us horticulturists are doing all we can just to keep up. Hands are extra dry, back is feeling it. Most plants are in, but much in holding we got to get in the ground. You know the routine. It's spring, it's summer, the momentum accelerates. We get busy. And in this case I don't have the same time to devote to all the garden photography and plant records that I wish I could get lost in. I don't have the time to share with you all the amazing forms and flowers and textures I am lucky enough to call my "office". It's a shame really. But alas, it's getting late by my early bird standards, hell, it's past my bedtime, and tomorrow is no break from the norm.

In bloom in NYC:
Paeonia (peony)
Rosa (rose)
Kolkwitzia (beauty bush)
...and so much more.

still holding on:
Allium (ornamental onion)
Nectaroscordum (formerly Allium) - a new plant for me this year. Love those tall nodding clusters.

Ok, have to crash. That's all for now. Be well. Get outside.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

urban camping

got a new tent to accompany our summer adventures. Marmot Limelight 2-person. psyched. had to set it up. hee hee. Hey, who doesn't still love building forts in the living room?

morning shuffle

"I never felt magic crazy as this
I never saw moons knew the meaning of the sea
I never held emotion in the palm of my hand
Or felt sweet breezes in the top of the tree
But now you're here
Bright in my northern sky."
-Nick Drake, "Northern Sky"

There is an Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven) that appeared outside one our back windows this year. This kind of tree was introduced from China in the late 1700's and has now become a very invasive nuisance of a tree in our urban settings. Going to have to do something about this guy, and soon.

In the works here at arborboy: overdue bloom blogs, tree ID, and much more. Stay tuned. Happy Memorial Day Weekend everyone!

Friday, May 22, 2009

summer containers 2009

This year I was originally thinking about planting tropical hibiscus in my containers out front because we had one that did so well last year. Over the few years of landscaping our front stoop I have come to realize we actually get a good dose of morning and early afternoon sun. With the success of the hibiscus last year I pretty much came to assume I can pull off full sun loving annuals. However, when I finally took the time to run around town the one thing I didn't find was the hibiscus I was hoping for. Some retailers had them in stock but they looked too neglected and beat up. I had a certain color scheme in mind and it just wasn't coming to fruition. So, as any horticulturist would, I bagged the idea of what it was that I exactly wanted (if you think about it a very human-centric approach to landscaping which can often get you in a pickle) and instead began looking through what was available, seeing if I could find a decent match (a much more logical approach).

Of all places I actually got a good idea at the Home Depot. They had mixed containers of annuals pre-made and sitting outside to be easily gobbled up by the slightly less adventurous, more instant gratification garden enthusiast. One had a dark purple petunia paired with a bright orange marigold. Hmm, I thought. I continued to roll my cart along, slowly cogs began to turn. I bet I could do something like that but better.

When learning color and composition of garden design you learn about how you can pick a few dominant colors to be your guide and base your design and plant selection on those. Often you might try and pick a few colors that work easily together because whether consciously or not they are comfortable to the eye and easy to digest visually. These might be colors on the same side or close to each other on the color wheel. Then perhaps you figure out a contrast color from the other side of the color wheel as well so you have some contrast and variety and something sparks a slightly more complicated aesthetic chord throughout your design. I love contrast in the garden so I often lean towards super pop.

I had a few plants already in place out front and a few houseplants that I bring out for the summer. So I already had green (remember, green is a color in the garden!) foliage on the chrysanthemums in two different pots, and silver with a little shot of red on the succulent kalanchoe and the begonia I cut back hard before bringing out. Kind of a funny combination but in the same pot as the green germander is a Tradescantia which will produce silver/green fuzzy leaves that I hope will trail down. I decided on a color scheme of green-silver-purple(-a touch of red) with orange as the contrast color. And I give to you the arborboy summer containers for 2009.
On top to the left we have the Begonia 'Sinbad' which should push out new wing-shaped foliage in silver and purple/red to go along with the Kalanchoe on the bottom step and the trailing Tradescantia (to the right on the stair above the bottom), planted in the same container as the green Teucreum (germander). Above the Kalanchoe the Juniperus procumbens 'Nana' will continue to slowly pour out silver and green foliage year-round that will eventually begin cascading down the steps. On the top right I am hoping Oxalis 'Charmed Wine' will be protected enough and continue to do well, (it might want more shade to be happiest), but matched with the Petunia 'Supertunia Royal Velvet' you have great strong shots of purple up and down throughout the layout. And finally the poppy Tagetes (marigolds) are scattered throughout the pots and layers to provide that little bit of wow. In the big rolled-rim pot and below that with the marigolds the Korean chrysanthemum will bloom late in fall once the petunias and marigolds are on their way out. There you have it, green, silver, purple, orange. We'll see how everything does as the summer goes on. Remember too, horticulture is always a learning process no matter what your skill level. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

morning commute, headphones, warm outside

"Squeeky swings and tall grass
The longest shadows ever cast
The water's warm and children swim
And we frolicked about in our summer skin"
-The Postal Service

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Happiness is... Fluevogs! Angel Supervogs in black to be exact. And happiness is a wonderful birthday shared with friends and loved ones and delicious indulgences like new shoes (courtesy of overtime), martinis and ridiculous amounts of amazing seafood (courtesy of my love), and my surprise lemon meringue pie (courtesy of Diane at work)...

Not to mention being able to upload images to a computer that actually has working USB ports!!! A new machine sits before me and it is the most badass. I am excited to sort and organize and get caught up on all of these images and thoughts and be back in touch shortly, though I do have to admit there is a lot of catching up to do. Thank you all for the fabulous onslaught of birthday love and well wishes. Be right back.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Happy Birthday

Stevie Wonder (b. 1950)

Joe Louis (1914-1981)

Bobby Darin (1936-1973)

Bea Arthur (1922-2009)

Harvey Keitel (b. 1939)

George Lucas (b. 1944)

Peter Gabriel (b.1950)

Dennis Rodman (b. 1961)

and me! (b. 1977)

A big thanks to all those that read and enjoy the arborboy blog - your compliments are greatly appreciated. Be well.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

cool new project: Wildlife Watch by NWF

Campsis radicans (trumpet creeper) observed in Astoria, Queens, July of 2007.

A few months back I received an email from a woman at the National Wildlife Federation who was interested in some of my botanical photos. She told me about a project of theirs called Wildlife Watch. After checking it out I ended up letting them use the photograph of trumpet creeper I took here in the 'hood a couple years ago. I'm glad they liked it as I like this shot a lot myself, with the cluster of long, red hummingbird-pollinated flowers looking so natural and popping out in front of the man/mass-produced siding and windows.

Anyway, check out Wildlife Watch, a valiant attempt by some great folks at identifying different species around the country. In addition to awesome flora and fauna mapped really well there are many great photos and photographers represented and I am eager to see how it grows. I just got totally roped into some amazing bird photographs on flickr, complete with proper nomenclature - who knew!?!?

While we are on the topic, in 2007 I went to a celebration of Carl Linnaeus' birthday at The New York Public Library, complete with genius scientists and Linnaeus own copy of Systema Naturae, the work that would eventually catch the world on to binomial nomenclature. Binomial nomenclature is the system scientists use to classify all living things, originally developed by the Bauhin brothers but later popularized among scientists by Linnaeus. It's the use of specific Latin names and terminology to delineate from kingdom all the way down to genus and species, the way a pin oak tree is Quercus palustris and a red-tailed hawk is Buteo jamaicensis. At this celebration and book viewing I was introduced to the Encyclopedia of Life, an attempt at databasing all living species on planet earth. A bold goal and formidable challenge still in the early stages it too is worth checking out. The last neat link I will leave you with is for, a database of endangered species. I just checked that out for the first time and want to check it out a lot more, as it seems to have a lot of amazing images and is also wonderfully specific and factual. Happy geeking out fellow natural science buffs!

On a technical note, new computer is in the works so full arborboy image capabilities should be up and running in another couple weeks or so.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Tree ID: Larix sp. (larch)

A recent question from an old friend of mine I thought I would share:
I have a question for you...........OK....Our back yard has always been very wet and we were told that if we planted a willow tree it would soak up a lot of the water. Well long story short, we had a guy come and do some yard stuff for us and he planted us a tree. However I don't think it is a willow but I have no idea what it is. It looks like a pine. What ever it is it looks like a Charlie Brown X-mas tree. I have not been able to get in touch with the guy who planted it and don't really know what to do with it. Tell me what ya think?

To which I responded:
Thanks for sending these pics along - they're a great help. I'm pretty sure I know what you have planted there. It is a kind of larch, the botanical Latin name is Larix. I don't know exactly what kind of species you have there, but that is fine as there are not that many different types out there, only about 15 species or so in the trade.

A larch is one example of a deciduous conifer. This means that the tree doesn't produce flower and seed like a maple or oak, but does actually produce some kind of cone instead. However it makes sense that you might not have noticed them as I think they are usually not that big (an inch, give or take depending on species) and sit upright on the branches instead of hanging off like we often see on spruces, pines, etc. But since it is one of the few deciduous conifers out there it is actually supposed to drop it's needles after that yellow fall color. In the world there are only four types of deciduous conifers: larch (Larix), dawn-redwoods (Metasequoia), baldcypress (Taxodium), and believe it or not ginkgos (Ginko biloba). But anyway...

Even though quite different than a weeping willow or any other kind of willow (botanically known as Salix), the larch will definitely work in your space as it does best in a sunny spot with regularly moist roots, aka "wet feet", same as a willow would have. Looking at the pics you sent the tree seems to me to be in great shape. It's sort of a matter of accepting its form for what it is. I understand the Charlie Brown reference for sure as the natural habit of the tree is going to be pretty big with horizontal branches that spread out but it is never going to be super full looking because the clusters of needles will always stay pretty close to the branches. You can search Google images for "larch tree" and see a lot of examples. It is going to stay pretty conical (uh, you know, shaped like a cone) and will fill out well early in the summer, but obviously it will shed again before the winter comes. It will grow a couple feet a year, and then a little less as it gets older, but realistically it will ultimately get to be pretty big, over 50' at least. Luckily it looks like the landscaper did give it decent room to grow. Otherwise you don't have to do much to it at all. The older a tree gets the less you need or want to fertilize it. And when it gets much bigger you can do some pruning to prevent it from taking over the entire backyard, but I usually tell people to let it get established for a few years in the new spot before pulling out the saws.

While I am at it I might as well through out another idea. If you want to incorporate some more color back there you have some options as far as moisture loving shrubs. One of my faves is a plant called winterberry, Ilex verticillata. It is a kind of holly with pretty normal oval leaves, with relatively smooth edges not spiky, which actually also drops its foliage in the fall but the great thing about the shrub is that the branches become covered with tons of bright red berries that hold through the winter. They can be great to look at in the distance and/or on the edge of a property when most everything else is going dormant for the winter. But anyway, we can talk about other suitable plants for your sunny, wet spot out back more in the future. Hope this all helps.

Oh, lastly there is one other thing I just noticed. Someone cut off the top of the tree, the main central leader going up. That unfortunately was not a smart move.

Some inexperienced people will do that, what arborists call a "topping cut", thinking that the tree won't grow any taller, but then only grow wider. Well, that's pretty stupid as the tree is naturally designed to grow quite tall and upright and it is going to do whatever it can to continue to do that, regardless of how humans try and alter the natural process of things. Therefore, over time you will find that a branch or two from below that cut will begin to grow straight up in an attempt to become the new leader. It means that the tree might take on a funny shape from that point upward as it matures and has a crooked top, but you should definitely never make more topping cuts like that. The tree simply has to be allowed to grow tall because that is its natural growth habit. That aspect of the tree is not great, but there isn't much you can do about it by this point. Over the years I've seen that happen to landscaped trees as well as trees near wetlands that get topped during bad storms and they still end up looking ok in the long run so I wouldn't stress it too much. As they say, "c'est la vie!"
Be well,

Butterfly Gardening (a quick intro)

Lantana is one of my more favorite sun loving annuals for the garden

I recently got an email from a good friend who is the Executive Director of an organization in Manhattan that I am on the Board of Directors of, asking if I could help her with a new project. I thought I might as well share with you the information I put together for her. It might be a help if you have ever wanted to start a butterfly garden but didn't know where or how to start.

The question was:
We are having a work day at the mid-May. part of this day will be planting - I am going to try to get native plants that attract butterflies. this garden has a group of 15-20 preschool bilingual head start kids that walk to the garden several times a week and we thought they would like these plants and it would be educational. Any suggestions on what I should buy?

To which I answered:
A butterfly garden sounds fabulous. I can definitely suggest a number of plants. One catch is that most butterfly plants want full sun or at least not too much shade. I think I saw that garden and remember it being pretty bright, the stretch you were talking about planting, so I hope the site doesn't give you grief. Another important thing to know is that there are two kinds of butterfly plants, those that the larvae (caterpillars) feed on, and those that the adult butterflies are attracted to. In an ideal world you would have both, so that might be something to shoot for in the long run. Usually the plants that the larvae feed on are more straight-forward trees and shrubs so perhaps some of them are already planted in the space or nearby. I found a website that seemed pretty great in terms of listing the two types of plants and the butterflies attract. You might want to print up a copy or two if some of the adults really want to get into it. The link is:

As far as what you should plant, here are some suggestions that I know are pretty safe. The list is a mix of some natives but also some non-natives. In the interest of time and budget I don't think you should limit yourself to solely natives at this point, although that too could be a good ideal to strive for over time. Just wanted to clarify in case anyone chimes in that some of the things aren't native:

tall plants for the back:
butterfly bush (Buddleia) - you know, shrubby, but can be pruned yearly to control size, late summer flower, purple often
Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum) - 6' or so if happy, purple clusters atop in summer, likes to be well watered
perennial hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos) - the big hibiscus flower you see late summer, can get 4'-6' depending on sun and water, red, bright colors
ironweed (Vernonia) - also tall and thin like Joe Pye and hibiscus, tall cluster of small purple flowers, great in fall

medium plants (many of which can tolerate dry conditions once established so that helps):
butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) - a major attractor with orange flower clusters, full sun,
goldenrod (Solidago) - late summer yellow bloomers are reliable attractors, but not sure how easy to find for sale this time of year
dogbane (Apocynum) - also more of a meadow plant but perfect if you can find it, smaller white flower clusters in summer
milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) - probably too hard to find at a regula garden center/retailer
coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) - purple
black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) - yellow
bee balm (Monarda didyma) - red, white, pinkish, depending

low plants and/or annuals:

I hope that gives you a decent shopping list to work from. If you want even more suggestions I found another link that seemed pretty good, and that is:

Good luck and let me know how it goes. -Alex