Friday, March 16, 2012

Cornus mas (cornelian cherry dogwood) in bloom

Cornus mas is commonly known by most people as a cornelian cherry but it is not a cherry, it's actually in the dogwood family. Either way it is a great, easy deciduous shrub that can get to be a small tree if trained properly and one of the earliest shrubs in the landscape to make a real show before spring officially begins. Talk about flower power.

Berberis julianae (winter barberry) in flower

I love when people get fooled in the garden. In spring as people get to the center of the English portion of the Conservatory Garden they get a whiff of something sweet in the air and you can begin to see them look around. They look up at the massive crabapple to see it is just barely breaking bud, with no flower yet in sight. They get on their knees and sniff the first few patches of daffodils, but 'Peeping Tom' and 'Jet Fire' aren't giving anything away. They don't see that right in front of them the whole time is this prickly evergreen hedge that happens to have clusters of little yellow flowers. This is winter barberry, and thanks to a serious renovation of this hedge that my coworker Earl Munroe and I took on last year it is doing tremendously, and about to bloom it's head off.
It is a barberry so you want to beware, and this species has some major thorns to boot, but when it blooms in spring and that smell overtakes your senses, yeah, it'll make you turn around a couple times. Near our apartment there are some planted out front of a big, ugly commercial business and the smell the other day during my afternoon run was simply stunning. Not to mention you will see the bees will be in love too.

Magnolia stellata 'Centennial' breaking bud

For months we have been looking at the big fuzzy buds on the magnolias wondering when they would finally break. Star magnolias are one of the earliest magnolias to bloom in the northeast. This cultivar is named 'Centennial' and gives way to white, deliciously sweet blossoms.
Just a matter of time now.

the coming of the irises

The first of the Iris to pop are these little Iris reticulata cultivars. Of course shooting them with a macro lens is great fun, but don't be fooled, these little fellas rarely get above 4-5" tall.

And it is well before the bigger iris get going, like these Iris pallida which will look fabulous mid to late summer when they begin to bloom atop this stunning variegated foliage. ...but that's what it's all about, the promise, the potential of what is to come.

Helleborus (winter rose) in bloom

I have yet to meet anyone who truly dislikes hellebores, botanically known as Helleborus. Also known as winter rose or Lenten rose because of the time of year they bloom, hellebores are one of those genius year-round plants.
Well before the rest of the garden gets going these hellebores put up these fabulous nodding flowers and remind us of all the wonderful things to come this growing season. Thanks to the cool of spring the flowers can last for a long time, as far as a perennial is concerned, and they hold up very well. Then the plant goes back to producing their wonderfully durable, shade tolerate semi-evergreen leaves to add a good bit of texture to the shade garden for the rest of the season. Come late winter as the flowers emerge again you realize you can snip off some of the worst looking foliage, for it's already done it's job of protecting the buds through the last of the frozen temps, and let these guys really shine. You pay more for hellebores, no question, but I seem to think it is always worth it.
I am a sucker for green flowers.

This last one is a character named Helleborus x ericsmithii, I think the straight species. My friend and ex-boss Diane turned me on to this one. A precious thing.

Vinca minor (periwinkle) in bloom

What a difference a couple days make! The carpets of Vinca minor, the ground cover you either love or hate, were awash with their perfect little blue-purple flowers. If not kept in bounds it can become quite invasive but I find that you can easily control it and use it to your advantage. Not to mention the glossy evergreen quality is wonderful and you can have a lot of fun mixing it with all sorts of other plants.

Corylopsis (winterhazel) in bloom

A favorite Corylopsis of mine is already in bloom this year, a solid week or two early compared to the last couple years. Corylopsis pauciflora is commonly called a buttercup winterhazel, or just winterhazel.
This one is on the woodland slope within the Conservatory Garden in Central Park.
for more information on this shrub, from origin to cultural care, click on the Corylopsis label below and check out the post from 2010.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

best lunch spot in the world

I left my morning meeting and seemingly my day was done. I didn't really know what to do with myself so I put the car in drive and drove. As if on auto-pilot I would land down at Indian Wells, our grounding point during all of this home-buying and job-changing madness. It was windy but the surf was nearly flat except for these little peelers that would come in.
I texted my best friend from growing up that we were buying a house down the road from him and that I would be going back to work in Amagansett. His reply was short but all too poignant, "Yea, going back to your roots!" The smile was instantaneous because he was so right. As I took one last salty breath before getting back into the car and racing back to my beloved I concurred silently. Back to the best lunch spot in the world.


Back on January 22nd we took a long walk on a snowy beach and committed to the idea of getting ourselves out of New York City in 2012. Knowing the process of buying a house can take some time, not to mention the idea of both my wife and I changing jobs, we gave ourselves a year and figured that we could make it happen. I drew the proverbial line in the sand and so it began. The first step would be the house hunt. We quickly realized that there were homes available within our modest budget, and that was mind blowing. The next step would be figuring out the work front. As a trained horticulturist, and with my wife being a licensed veterinary technician, we knew that we had the skills to take the show on the road but we were still unsure as to what we would find. Back in Queens we scoured websites and job boards and began to get a lay of the land. Luckily for us we not only have the skills but also the articulation to sell our services well so the cover letters began to flow. Right away I got some positive responces which was reassuring. My wife would not hear back so quickly, as the vet field is not quite as time sensitive in spring as is the horticultural world out there, and that proved to be pretty frustrating. We accepted that I might find work before she would, and that ultimately we were still in good shape to figure this all out, so we kept plugging along. Well sure enough my wife would arrive home from work in Manhattan one day to an email from a local practice out east in Wainscott that was very interested in her resume and wanted to have her in for an interview. This coincided with a few interviews I was able to set up so we felt really good. Funny enough, it would turn out that Krissy would be offered a reliable and good-sounding job before I would, thus once again reminding us that we really had no idea how all of this was going to come together. At the same time the house hunt was moving more quickly as we found one house that did not look so good on paper but in person was the size and amount of work that seemed perfect for us. Soon thereafter I would get another offer, one that seemed much more suited to my training and abilities as a horticulturist. However, I was unsure if it was the best I could do. The pace was accelerating and so were my nerves. Thanks to Facebook I was able to find and write a whole contingent of my horticultural colleagues from back home and get their opinions. I could not have been happier with the response and invaluable advice each friend provided. Some gave me a reality check and said that I was shooting a little too high money-wise. Others knew the operation and job offer I was pondering and supported my hunch that there was still time to find something better. All would conclude that even though it was understood that I had to consider pay and job security, it was just as important if not more to consider happiness and longevity and going with your gut. ...again, invaluable information from every one. With a bid accepted on the house and a contract in the making I knew I still had some time, but the window was definitely closing. Friends going to bat for me kept suggesting other people to call and reach out to and I took full advantage of every opportunity to network. My calendar was full, talking to big places, little places, places out east, places that want to be out east, those with money, those without. As my father would attest in his peaceful tone, "you can learn something from every interview". That didn't help the building agida but I did get really good at making the pro-and-con lists and weighing all these options. And I would receive options as my friends suggested I would, and certainly I would be thankful that these years of making a name for myself were paying off. I gave notice at work the same time we got a fully signed contract for buying our first house and now the final time frame was not only sent, you could see the few grains of sand left in the hour glass. The house was definitely going to happen and we could not be any more excited about that. All our folks and friends backed us up with their unbelieveable love and support and needless to say that meant the world to us. Back to the job search, there was supposedly a contract in the mail from one place but it never got to me. Another said, "let's get you in on Saturday so we can talk about your future". A third place that was a distant third was all of a sudden a major contender after a strong meeting on the first day of my new-found unemployment. It was literally down to the wire but finally I felt like I had explored and extinguished all possibilities. All this in the course of a month and a half.

Cut to a beautiful Saturday morning in Amagansett, the little village where I grew up thirty-plus years ago. I sat across from David Seeler in his quaint little stand-alone office. The terms were stated and after a short phone call to my wife I re-entered the office and exhaled silently. For the first time everything felt right so I accepted and we shook hands with genuine excitement. After a very trying number of weeks there it was, a final decision, and better yet, the best one I could have made. I am going to be going to work for The Bayberry in Amagansett, NY, doing a little bit of everything, from sales to production to landscape design. In short, I couldn't be happier. It is going to be a ton of work but I think the right match and another important part of a next great chapter in our lives. The meeting turned to candid conversation and a walk around to marvel at some of David's sensational trees and projects. We shook hands one final time and I began to walk back to my car. I was so anxious to tell everyone the fabulous news, but I stopped and took a moment to let it soak in. Finally there it was, the sigh of relief, and it felt so good. The natural smile that had been lost amidst all these emails and calls and exchanges returned and I knew I had to capture the moment. So this is it, closure.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ulmus americana

Entering the park for my last day of work. That's a huge Ulmus americana, one of the last great American elms found in the north end of Central Park. This tree is one of the most beautiful specimens of American elm, and a joy to pass underneath every morning. Here we go folks, one last time...

last urban commute

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

the new Higan cherry on the Woodland Slope

Prunus subhirtella (in the center), commonly called a Higan cherry
Galanthus (underneath), commonly called snowdrops, one of the earliest bulbs
assorted others: Hydrangea quercifolia, Leucothoe, Spiraea thunbergii, Ilex crenata, etc.

crapemyrtle bowl

Lagerstroemia x indica (don't remember the cultivar, sorry)
Euonymus kiautschovicus 'Manhattan'
hedging shears (not pictured)

Conservatory Garden, Central Park

Monday, March 5, 2012

last office in New York City

The Blockhouse is the oldest building in Central Park, dating back to the War of 1812 when it was built to fend off the British should they try and invade Manhattan from the northeast. My last job in the city was working for the Central Park Conservancy helping maintain and improve the North Woods of Central Park, and I tell ya, what an office it was! It has been such a treat to be part of such a piece of New York history as Central Park. For the full info sheet on the Blockhouse check out this Parks & Rec link. And if you love the park don't hesitate to support the folks who keep it so awesome, the Central Park Conservancy.


Today begins my last week commuting in New York City after a major life-changing nine years.

The song is "Doubt" by Wye Oak, and it was on my headphones when I took this shot.

It's gonna be a heavy week.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

one of the things I will miss...

We get to watch some of the best sunsets over New York City every evening from our place in Astoria, definitely one of the things I will miss when we no longer live in town. There's a lot of that recently, realizing what we will miss and not miss about city life. I will miss my friends and mentors in Central Park, the best volunteers in the world, all my horticultural connections around town, and the invaluable people watching that NYC offers, though I have to say I don't think I'll miss the packed mass transit and steamy concrete jungle soon to be back in effect. It will be hard to go, in part, but we know we will return to get that shot in the arm when we are getting a bit too stir crazy in the country. I imagine once you have lived in a place like New York City a little part of it will always be in you.

packaging genius?

Came across Biofeel this afternoon at our local grocery store. Great to photograph, as I am a total sucker for bizarre packaging, but I can't say I'm necessarily dying to try it. Hmm.