Saturday, August 28, 2010

one shot cropped five ways

Above is a shot I took of the Burnett Fountain at the Conservatory Garden in Central Park back at the end of July. I couldn't quite figure out the best way to crop it so I opted to go with a number of options.
In the fountain is a fabulous container of Colocasia and Acorus. The Acorus is a new experiment this year and I think it looks great at the base of the Colocasia. Usually you see the two in annual beds and container gardening but since they are water loving plants they can also stand to live in a fountain or pond, as long as the water is circulating of course. Stagnant water will rot and kill even the toughest of aquatic critters so you always have to make sure the water is flowing and fresh. Pot the plants in a soil mix that is more clay-like than what you would use for regular potting above sea level. But hey, if all you have is potting mix you can actually make that work too. If you fear that some of the soil mix will not hold then you can mulch your aquatic containers with pebbles or gravel as long as you do not bury the crown of the plant. This way the soil stays in while your plants stems and foliage continue to grow from the root system. Worse comes to worse you just have to skim your pond a little after placing your containers to remove unwanted floating peat moss or perlite. I didn't realize how easy aquatic gardening can be and yet people are always amazed and really love it, thinking you have done something so extraordinary.
The sculpture is by Bessie Potter Vonnoh. In 1924 Frances Hodgson Burnett passed away, author of The Secret Garden which was first published in 1917. After her passing, as the story goes, a committee was formed to create a memorial in her honor somewhere in the city. A place for the children of New York to be able to read a book, have an outdoor classroom, experience and fall in love with nature, the south garden was picked as the spot before the Conservatory Garden was opened to the public in September of 1937. Though the fountain is not titled as such it is loosely based on the two main characters, Dickon (above) and Mary (below). Even though the south garden is often described as the English garden within the six-acre formal garden many locals lovingly know it as the secret garden.

The tropical water lilies are grown like the Colocasia and Acorus. Potted in soil and mulched with gravel the lilies are placed in the fountain in early June and grow and bloom magnificently all summer. The only challenge is the huge crabapple tree that grows over head and adds a little more shade to the scenario every year.

Forgive me that I have been a real blog-posting slacker recently. With my wedding less than a month away and my fiancee and I uber planners there hasn't been much extra time for photos and freewrites and all that good stuff. Not to mention Hurricane Danielle is beginning to push some swells to our local surf spots so tomorrow we are leaving the technology behind to find the true knowledge. Wish us luck! cheers, AEF

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pic of the Day

Psychic readings, palm, tarot cards, and today's special, a free box fan with every purchase!
Crazy Claire Voyant, her prices are IN-SANE!!!

...and if you don't get the Crazy Eddie reference, check out this ridiculous ad campaign us New Yorkers were subject to in the 1980's, years before the real Crazy Eddie would be found guilty of major fraud.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Plant of the Week: Cynara cardunculus

Cynara cardunculus is commonly called a cardoon. Originally I learned it as an annual and fabulous textural addition to container gardens and summer annual displays. ...but recently have learned it is a sensational marginally hardy perennial to definitely consider a strong garden contender.
The large lobed leaves are usually the reason people choose cardoons. This picture doesn't entirely do justice to the tomentose (botanical for "fuzzy with tons of short wooly hairs") gray-green leaves that really stand out, both in terms of texture and size. In full sun, which is really what they must have, Cynara will grow 4' x 4' in the course of a warm summer.
this is one from Battery Park a few years ago

Some references mention that they can get to 8' x 8' but I doubt that would ever be possible around here. Usually when I have seen cardoons they are just used as a great foliage plant. But this year not only did this cardoon come back for the third year, it got bigger than ever and put up this amazing flower spike.
Native to the Meditteranean, the FLORA Gardener's Encyclopedia lists this plant as hardy in USDA zones 7-10. Over the years I have come to consider this part of NY where I am (Long Island, New York City) to be a zone 6b or 7a and I think this further supports that to be true. I am already very excited to see what happens next year. Will it come back again? Will it get taller than the 5' or so you see here? We'll see!
Plant Cynara cardunculus in full sun with regular irrigation, use surrounding plantings to protect for best chances of the plant coming back year after year. The gray green foliage contrasts really well with red foliage plants. Oh, and if you think this looks like an artichoke, or have heard people call Cynara artichoke, you are right on. Cynara scolymus (or the Scolymus group of Cynara cardunculus depending on the reference cited) is the globe artichoke that grows in zones 8-10 which we eat as a delicious veggie, the immature flower buds harvested and cooked to be paired with your best hollandaise sauce for dipping. Mmm, guess I'm hungry, that made my mouth water!