Thursday, November 25, 2010

Notes from Around Town: NY Aquarium

For Thanksgiving my family gathered at my brother's place in Brooklyn as we've done for a number of years now. Much of the cooking was done the day before so once the turkey was stuffed and in the oven there wasn't much to do. My family isn't the kind of group to sit around so we decided to drive down to Coney Island and go to the NY Aquarium for a few hours.
The traffic outside was not ideal and it was the kind of day that staying inside and doing nothing was plenty inviting. But the folks were pushing for an adventure so my little niece Ea and I jumped in their car with them and in relatively no time we were down in the heart of Coney Island, just a stone's throw from the Cyclone, and entering the NY Aquarium. Open every day of the year my dad thought that it would be nice and quiet and he was right on target. Aside from a funny group of French speaking Canadians and a few hyper local teens excited to be away from their families for a few moments we had the place to ourselves and it was fantastic! We all had a wonderful time exploring and being wide-eyed kids again. Granted in the winter they have a few exhibits closed for renovations, but there was still plenty to see and marvel at.

Here are a few pics from our adventure under the sea. Of course in retrospect I wish I had recorded names and species, etc, but chasing after a very cute and very excited 2-year old I was clearly playing more the roll of uncle than geeky blogger guy. But I will definitely go back as my wife is now dying to go, and as I urge you all to check out. go to

it turns out my camera actually has an "aquarium" setting which I always thought was hysterical but it definitely helped me to get some great shots so I guess I'm not knocking it anymore!

Props to the Wildlife Conservation Society, the NY Aquarium, Canon cameras, and days off with family to adventure! Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Happy Thanksgiving

"Thank You" by Led Zeppelin,
Paris Theatre, London, January 1971
From the album "BBC Sessions"
(1997, BBC/Atlantic Records)
A must have album, either for you or a loved one, or both!
May your holidays ROCK!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

One of the best parts of my day...

In my 'hood we have a number of magnificent bakeries. One of the best parts of my day is right at the start of my morning commute, walking by places like Frank's as they are just opening up and beginning their baking for the day. The street is cold and rarely is the sun up yet and then I walk by one of these still-quiet little oases and that smell, oh that delicious, inviting smell. The smell of caring, warm comfort. Inhale deep, exhale, continue on, for we're just getting started.

I'll miss those sweet solitary city moments when we finally move out of this place.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saturday wakeup done right

I don't know what it is about waking up slowly on a Saturday, sipping that extra cup of coffee, and listening to The Specials on the stereo that is so magical, but that's exactly what it is. ...magical. Happy Saturday all! Time for some easy skankin' back to 1979. Cheers,

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tree ID: Carya sp.

This is a kind of Hickory, one of the many species in the genus Carya. I am still trying to figure out which particular species this is and when I do I will add more info. For now, enjoy the fall color.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tree ID: Quercus velutina

Quercus velutina is commonly known as the Eastern Black Oak, a magnificent tree.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pic of the Day: Feliz Dia de los Muertos

next year I'll be sure to get the traditional marigolds (called cempasuchil - the Mexican "flower of the dead") and cockscomb (Celosia sp.) before the markets are sold out!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Morning Tunes

Yesterday afternoon I found a wonderfully captivating documentary on Les Paul and Mary Ford on my local PBS station. Known for his innovative guitar playing and tone, Les Paul brought the world the solid bodied guitar and introduced multitracking, today an industry standard for recording artists. Teamed up with the voice of Mary Ford the two were so creative and years ahead of their time. Their music still sounds amazing today. Here is a short clip from the world of youtube, a tiny bit of insight into this most unbelievable couple and the music they made.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Korean chrysanthemums of Central Park's Conservatory Garden (2010 edition)

If you know me you know I can't get through October without plugging this amazing free show up at the north end of Central Park.
The Conservatory Garden is the only series of formal gardens in the Park, the main entrance located on 5th Avenue and 105th Street. In the north (French) garden every spring 2,000 Korean chrysanthemums are planted and tended to all season long by the staff of trained horticulturists. Eventually the ratio of daylight hours to night is copacetic and these gorgeous old-fashioned mums begin to bring forth the most sensational fall show for all New Yorker's and tourists to see.
The thousands of buds opening as we speak create a mixture of colors you couldn't even dream of, from soft cool whites and violets to hot vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds. Each flower you are convinced is your favorite and then you realize it is impossible because there are so many beautiful visuals and so much variation to the color and character of the different plants.
Korean chrysanthemums are perennial for us New Yorker's in zone 6b or 7a, and do best in a full, full sun application in a organic rich soil with excellent drainage.

However, the display doesn't last forever so you have to get to Central Park now and see them before they pass bloom. As true perennials their bloom time is only a few weeks long and personally I think the last week in October is always the best time to see this magnificent show. Not to mention by mid-November the staff of the Central Park Conservancy will begin to change out the displays to make way for the 20,000 tulips for spring so you don't want to delay.
The Conservatory Garden is open to the public free of charge from 8:00am to dusk every day of the year. For October the garden closes at 6pm and in November they will begin closing at 5pm. The Conservatory Garden, like the rest of Central Park, is maintained by the Central Park Conservancy, hence people often mistakenly call it the Conservancy Garden, which is of course incorrect. To learn more about the Conservancy and all they do for Central Park visit the official website of Central Park,

See you in the garden,

oh, and if you want to see more pics of the Korean mums from years past just click on the "Korean chrysanthemum" tag at the bottom of this post, cheers, -aef

Monday, October 18, 2010

Plant of the Week: Leonotis leonurus

All summer long I am asked to ID plants for people. As a public horticulturist I enjoy and take great pride in educating the masses but that's not to say I don't still get tired of repeating the same short list by the season's end. That's a Dahlia, that's Gomphrena, that's Canna which is not the same as a canna lily, and so forth and so on. But the ID question I've gotten more than any other the last week or two is linked to one of my all-time favorite annuals so I had to share.
Leonotis leonurus is commonly called lion's ear.
This fabulous plant is native to South Africa (Zones 10-11) and is therefore just an annual option for us here in New York. But the durable stems and lance shaped leaves and these unbelievable orange, tiered blossoms I will never tire of and never hesitate to spend money on, even if only for a few months time.
Plant leonotis along with your annuals in spring and in full sun watch it grow to be a few feet tall and wide and full of flower by late summer. It might take a little while to get situated and bloom for you but trust me, so worth it!
Above you can see that near a little dappled shade the flower is not quite as prolific but the plant still packs a valuable punch.
After all the tending and care, I can't tell you how much I love the small fuzzy orange blossoms that emerge slow enough for you to really appreciate every aspect of this South African gem. The late summer contrast of the rich green leaves and the bright poppy orange that explodes forth - Ooooh weee!
Leonotis leonurus, you're welcome! ;-)