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! ;-)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Lichens on Storm King Wall, 2010"

After our wedding at the end of September we decided to take a "mini-moon" and climb north of the city up the Hudson to check out the Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, NY. I am still sorting through the 300+ photos I took of the magnificent landscape and accompanying sculpture, with more posts to follow, but this one I wanted to share right away. Andy Goldsworthy in 1997 and 1998 created the "Storm King Wall", a perfectly constructed stone wall that winds between a stand of shade trees and goes down to disappear into a nearby body of water. Originally introduced to the concept and the piece via the must-see documentary Rivers and Tides, my wife and I were both very excited to see it in person. And you might imagine my pleasant surprise to not only find the wall during our afternoon hike through the landscape but to find a ton of different lichen species growing on the beautiful gray field stone. Talk about mixing art and horticulture - I was loving it! Lichens are amazing characters in the biological world and I can't even begin to describe their complexity and value among natural ecosystems. Luckily I found a website created by the Sharnoff's, who wrote Lichens of North America along with Irwin Brodo (Yale University Press, 2001), so if you want to get your Sunday morning science fix on, check out

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pics of the Day: trampoline boarding!

It was May of 1996. Living in Colorado Springs and studying anthropology and art at The Colorado College I met an amazing array of people. One such adventurous soul was Robert S. Pokorney, or Bob for short. Bob was on the verge of becoming a full-fledged pro snowboarder, his skills only outmatched by his refreshingly positive and humble attitude, typically rare in the world of "action sports". Years later I would repay the favor by getting him hooked on my favorite board sport, surfing, and to date we remain great friends and travel companions. But looking through some old shots recently I realized in all the years since I haven't seen anyone do this. Behold, trampoline boarding!
It was a warm spring day and we didn't bother trekking into the Rockies for one of our usual slope-side jaunts. Instead after brunch Bob found a trampoline set up in the quad and instantly got thinking. An old skateboard deck, a pair of Simple sneakers, and a roll of packing tape later he had it, a perfectly good tramp'board.
Only someone like my friend Bob would....
But then again, it was because he had incredible skills, of balance, and height, and control,
and could pull off crazy inverted moves like this! Go Bob.
...crazy man, genius.

photos by Rich Feleppa

Colorado College,
Colo. Springs, CO
May, 1996

Song of the Day: "Paper Planes"

This is a genius tune by M.I.A. entitled "Paper Planes". It's been in my head all morning so I figured I might as well pass it on. Hopefully the youtube gods will allow this post to last.

Music video by M.I.A. performing Paper Planes. (C) 2007 XL Recordings Ltd. under exclusive license to Interscope Records

Monday, October 11, 2010

welcome to the world...

Welcome to the world Ulysses Rossa Sweeney Cole,
beautiful healthy son of Rossa and Lara of Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Born 10.11.10, at 6:52 PM
7.9 Pounds
19.5 inches

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Website of the Day: demotivational posters

Today I learned about and I've been laughing ever since. Mean but funny. Well, most of the posts anyway. If you need a little comic relief give it a look.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Back in the Saddle (...well kinda...)

A stand of spruce (Picea) at the Storm King Art Center up the Hudson River in Mountainville, NY.
After my wife (!) and I tied the knot out in Montauk, NY on September 26th we returned home with not really enough time or money to pull off the grand honeymoon we dreamed of. But we didn't want to fall back into the home routine too quickly so we decided to have ourselves a "mini-moon" instead. Part of it was an adventure north of the city to Storm King, the 500-acre state park and sculpture garden that we had both talked about curiously for years. The rain held off for a few hours and we were able to spend the better part of a day hiking and viewing and being amazed by the landscape and all it's features. We treated ourselves to a night at the Storm King Lodge, a wonderful local B&B, and it was wonderful to stay away from the couch, up in the hills and hiking among the meadows and the stands of evergreens and deciduous trees.
More pics from Storm King and more posts (old and new) I hope to create in the next couple days. After such a sensational wedding weekend in Montauk and the rest of the second week mini-moon I am still mentally in the clouds a little bit. But it is great to be back, and with so many images and so much inspiration to move forward into the next chapter. As Steven Tyler used to blast into my Walkman headphones all those years ago, "I'm back in the saddle again, ...I'm back!"

...but perhaps something a little more mellow for this morning, ...vacation isn't over yet.